Arriving in Cuenca, we checked into a hotel and telephoned our friend whom we had met in the Miami airport between flights. We had been at the gate waiting for our plane to Quito, sitting next to some people who were passing around snapshots. As we looked over their shoulders, we could hear/see that they had been to Europe and were on their way home to Quito. We struck up a conversation and learned that they were from Cuenca. After boarding the plane, one of the men walked back to our seats and gave us his card, telling us to be sure to call him when we got to Cuenca and he would show us the town.
He came right down to our hotel, picked us up and drove around the town pointing out the things of interest. We stopped to visit a kindergarten where the children were having their picture taken. I took one, too!
Then he took us home to meet his wife. His house turned out to be a four-storey building with the first floor being his wholesale business of distributing grain and other staples. When he took us back to our hotel, he invited us to come to his house that evening. We were more than pleased.
That evening we took a taxi to his home and were greeted by him and his wife, and escorted to their second floor residence. It was a large area with about eight rooms. The living room had many davenports and comfy chairs arranged in a semicircle.
During the visit we learned his story. It seems that he and his wife (another woman) were married very young and had three babies during the first three years of their marriage. He said that he did not think that this kind of life would be successful since it was very hard to earn a living at that time. So he and his wife left her sister in charge of the three babies and moved to Chicago, USA. This would have been in the ‘60s. They got menial jobs at first, but managed to learn English and work their way up until he was a bartender in a nice Chicago bar and his wife did housework. They saved their money prodigiously, but spent some of it each year when they came to Cuenca on vacation to visit their children and the children’s aunt.
After twenty years of this life, his wife suddenly died. So he came back to Cuenca and married his sister-in-law out of obligation, as she had successfully raised his three sons. His savings bought the building and business here, and they now had four apartments in the third and fourth storeys of this building, which they rented. What a story!
One interesting thing about their apartment was the number of American pictures/momentos that were displayed. There were several of JFK and his brothers, the Statue of Liberty, and other American icons.
We really enjoyed our visit, which ended with coffee and dessert and driving us back to our hotel. What a lovely encounter.
The main structure is called the Temple of the Sun and was thought to be ceremonial or perhaps used as a solar observatory. It may also have been used as a stopping place along the royal road leading from Cuzco to Quito.
In a few days we traveled northward, again, to a country resort called Tinalandia, situated
in the northern highlands. It was a little-known place, but I discovered information about it in the AAA book. We had a dickens of a time finding it as it was in an isolated rural area. When we stopped in a coffee shop in a nearby village and asked directions, it was clear that it would be difficult to find, and it was already getting dark. A young woman customer (!) offered to go with us and show us the way—it was only about five km, she said. So we took her up on her offer, crowding Jeanne in the back seat with the two big suitcases, allowing the ‘guide’ to sit up front and direct me.
We arrived in a clearing with a number of bungalows and many barking dogs in the dark without a reservation. There hadn’t even been a sign pointing the way. Obviously we would never have found it if the young woman hadn’t gone with us. Now, how to return her to the village—no taxis, no buses. Well, I would have to bring her back, but then how to find my way back? No problem, one of the maids was dispatched to go with us. But that left Jeanne with no room in the car—not to worry, Jeanne is a complete dog lover and so didn’t mind staying here alone at all! We set off, dropped off the ‘guide’ and the maid and I found our way back to the resort. Since it was dark, we did not meet the proprietor but were simply taken to a bungalow and told we could check in the next morning. The bungalow was very rustic, but spacious. We fell into bed after all our stress about finding the place.
The next morning we awoke to beautiful sunshine and as we opened the door, looked out onto paradise! Everywhere we looked we saw the most beautiful flowering shrubs, flowers and greenery! Birds were singing, butterflies were everywhere—wow!
After a bit Tina, the proprietess came to our door and apologized for not greeting us the evening before. Since they never got customers ‘off the street’ because they mainly did a ‘conference’ type business (which is why there was no sign) she was not used to being disturbed in the evening. She had a strong accent and said she was “a White RRRRRussian.” She had come to Ecuador after the Russian Revolution forty years earlier, had married an Ecuadoran, and they had been running this resort ever since. She wore large diamonds on her fingers and was nicely dressed. She was most cordial to us and invited us up on the porch of the main building for breakfast.
Later in the day she and her husband took us around the extensive grounds (there was also a golf course) to show us some of the local, beautiful flora. She would comment that a particular stand of bamboo had been a gift of the Ambassador of Indonesia, or that another particular flower had been given her by some other important person. It was a lovely place to stay and chill out for a few days. The weather was perfect and the grounds were beyond beautiful.
We’re having such a nice time—-more later!