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Friday, September 21, 2012 – Cuenca
This was an action-packed day for sure. We travelled a large circle out from Cuenca through villages and towns in the valleys and slopes between the Eastern and Western ranges of the Andes. It was an opportunity to see the people, their lifestyles and their beautiful surroundings. The countryside is more densely populated than I had expected. Most of the people are subsistence farmers, in essence. They have small plots of land and raise vegetables, fruit, herbs and some livestock. We saw cows in fields, yards and on the road. The roads we travelled ranged in quality from “good highway“ to “poor logging road”. Wilson pointed out many large houses that he explained are built by local people who have gone abroad, usually to the U.S. and sent back money to build the house. Often these people have travelled illegally, at great expense and risk, and work as illegals for years. A large proportion of them never come back to Ecuador to live in the houses, and they just sit. Some are unfinished. At our first stop in St Bartolomé. We visited a home where we saw the garden and guinea pigs. They have a clay oven to bake bread, which they also rent it to others who wish to roast a pig or other large job. Inside we were served coffee or tea and cookies that were made of cornmeal and molasses. Very nice! In the main square were interesting decorative fountains, with no water, featuring guitars. The area is famous for the manufacture of guitars. Our next stop, in fact, was at the workshop of José Uyaguari who makes beautiful guitars with meticulously detailed inlays. Wilson played one of the guitars and sang some Cat Stevens for us. He’s pretty good! Next we visited the main square of Chordeleg, a jewellery-making centre. In the little museum we saw examples of weaving and tatting as well as silver filigree jewellery. We wandered and admired but there were very few purchases. The jewellery is lovely, but most of us already have more than we can use. In Gualaceo we visited the food market. Most of the food is either cooked ready to be taken home or served on the spot. Some of us sampled pork but some of us passed on it. Outside the doors there was a fish market. From there we drove to Hosterie Uzhupud where we enjoyed a very nice meal in the courtyard. We backtracked a bit to Ecuagenera Orquideas for a tour and explanation of the process of raising orchids. They had many beautiful specimens. Our final stop was Turi Mountain for a view over the city in the twilight. Then back to the hotel for a hall party in our room.

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