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Wednesday, September 19, 2012 Guayaquil Cuenca
Oro Verde was just for sleeping anyway, as we were up, had a great breakfast and met our guide, Wilson, and driver, Marco, at 8:15. Wilson explained the geography of the area wed be visiting in Ecuador, from Guayaquil to Cuenca. A huge variety. To begin with, Guayaquil is hot, humid and cloudy most of the time. It is also at sea level. We passed fields of sugar cane, cocoa trees, bananas and rice as well as various types of fruit trees and grazing animals as we left the city and drove toward the mountains. We stopped at a cocoa farm, where the lady of the house showed us how the pods are cut from the trees and hacked open. Scary operation with very sharp knives!! She also pointed out a number of other kinds of fruit trees she grows and we watched two men extracting the cocoa beans and spreading them to dry. We met her great-grand daughter, Juanita, a cute little 3-  or so-year-old. As we drove up through the transition area into the beginnings of the Andes, we were right into the clouds. The road was not bad, but twisted and turned its way upward. There were a few crazy drivers and the visibility was limited. Suddenly, though, we were out under blue sky and warm sun. What magnificent vistas we saw. We stopped at Tres Cruces, the highest point of the highway at 4167 metres above sea level,  and gasped our way up to the overlook point well worth the effort for sure. The sign informed us we were 2 degrees, 46 minutes south of the equator. This is also the continental divide, though the Atlantic is 5000km in one direction and the Pacific only about 80km in the other. A little farther along we had a pit stop at a nice little restaurant called Mirador de Los Andes with amazing views, as well as pigs, and ducks and a shrine across the road. At Toreadora Lake in the Parc Nacional Cajas, at an altitude of 3978 metres above sea level, we walked down a flight of steps and along the Camino de Garcia Moreno that used to be the only way to travel (on foot or with pack animals) from Cuenca to Guayaquil or Quito. Indeed, in the 1860s when it was built, it was a great improvement over simply walking uphill and down through wild country. Wilson is very knowledgeable about the flora of the region and pointed out many interesting plants. We caught glimpses of one of the unusual local birds. Our last stop on the road was for a very late lunch at another lovely spot, Dos Chorreras trout ponds and gardens, lots of light and great food. It wasnt too much farther to Cuenca, a large and busy city with a wide variety of architecture. Our boutique hotel, Mansion Alcazar, is just lovely. Larry and I lucked into the best room apparently. Its very big and luxurious, and there are rose petals everywhere. I guess its the honeymoon suite. The hall party was in our rook tonight. Everyone wanted to relax a bit, so we met in the bar for our free welcome drink Cuenca Sunrises then came back to our room to share peanut butter, twizzlers, nuts etc. and lots of wine. Another long day!

The sign informed us we were 2 degrees, 46 minutes south of the equator. This is also the continental divide, though the Atlantic is 5000km in one direction and the Pacific only about 80km in the other.

 

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