10th January 2011

Travelling from Pasto in Colombia, crossing the border near Ipiales [1], to Quito [2] in Ecuador involved 4 busses.  We flew the next day to Cuenca (Santa Ana de los Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca) [3] in the southern highlands to work our way north.


Charming Cuenca with its cobblestone streets, wrought iron balconies and steeple filled skyline is a World Heritage site.  It was originally an indigenous village, conquered by the Incas and settled by Spanish in 1557.  It lay on the Inca highway that connected Cusco and Quito. 


Sunday is market day in some of the small villages outside of Cuenca.  In Gualaceo women in brightly coloured skirts bearing an embroidered pattern across the bottom sell fresh fruit and vegetables.  The smell and colour of the fresh produce was overwhelming.  As it was raining many women had their hats carefully covered with plastic bags.  Down the road was the food market.  Although it was only 9a.m., and we had already eaten a big breakfast, the sight and smell of rows of whole succulent pigs was too tempting.  The tender meat is pulled away by hand and served with a salsa of onion and chilli.  Chordeleg is the centre for beautiful gold and silver jewellery production.  The road to Sigsig snakes around a river gorge.  Gardens and houses are scattered on the slopes of the fertile hillsides.  After more pig we returned to Cuenca.


“Panama” hats don´t come from Panama, but Ecuador and are made from a special straw (toquilla) native to coastal Ecuador.  The best weavers live in these villages around Cuenca.  The hats are partially made in the countryside and then go to Cuenca for finishing.


The Inca ruins of Ingapirca (at 3100 meters), Ecuador´s most important archaeological site, lie 2 hours by bus north of Cuenca.  Before the Incas it was a sacred site for the native Cañari people who worshipped the moon.


The new Cathedral (1880), the biggest in South America

Cathedral domes

One of the many beautiful churches in Cuenca

17 th century Church & Monastery of El Carmen de Asuncion

Building made from local stone

Lady flower seller at the flower market

Indigenous market at Gualaceo

Two ladies preparing corn

Potatoes for sale

Typical skirt with embroidery on the bottom

Cheese filled corn tortillas straight off the hot plate - yum

Tender whole suckling pig at the market food stall

Pam getting stuck into the pork

Locally made jewellery at Chordeleg

Countryside outside Cuenca

The trumpet flower is used to make an incapacitating drug

Bundles of toquilla straw for hat making are sold at the markets

Partially finished

Jeff tries on the hats ...

... and selects this locally made beauty

The Cuenca cholas favour the men´s style hats with a black band

Lady in traditional dress

Ingapirca ruins - Temple of the Sun

Ingapirca ruins

Llamas in the Inca baths

Inca face in the rock