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Turning 30 South American Style With the dreaded 30th birthday looming, I ran away to South America to celebrate the landmark birthday in style.

Into Ecuador - A whirlwind trip through Loja and Cuenca

ECUADOR | Wednesday, 9 July 2008 | Views [1869]

New month, new country. We skipped through the north of Peru in a whirlwind of bus rides that left us in Loja, southern Ecuador in a bit of a daze. Exhausted from the trip, we entered the city through a surreal Disney version of a medieval German moathouse. After finding a hostel for the night and splashing out extra for cable TV only to find it was only Spanish language channels we headed out to find some grub and found the local team Liga were in the finals of the Libertadores cup. This was great luck, except that anyone in the food service industry was watching the game and not cooking us food. We swallowed a few beers in a beatiful jazz cafe bar, cheering them on, but had to skip away at half time to fnd something to eat before we passed out. We woke the next morning to find that inexplicably, they had won (the first Ecuadorian side to win for quite some time judging by the TV coverage) and will now play Manchester United in a freindly. Not much else to do in Loja but as we left the hostel owner rushed up to us and gave us an owl pendent each to wish us luck in our journey through Ecuador. We have absolutely no idea why - we only stayed one night and did not talk to her all that much bar the usual few pleasentries. Think she have mistaken us for another couple or maybe she just is incredibly freindly to all her guests.

Back on the road we headed for Cuenca in one of the most annoying bus journeys ever. The bus drivers here we have come to realise just love to slap some sentimental rock pop South American ballads on the stereo, crank it up full blast and subject all passengers to it for the duration of the journey. It was so loud that it even drowned out the Prodigy, turned up full volume on my Ipod with a hat and scarf tied around my head to try and block out the noise.

But Cuenca itself is lovely, all colonial houses and churches on cobbled roads in various states of repair. We have been in a bit of a daze due to the heavy travelling recently so we just wandered around for a few days, nipping into churches, art galleries and coffee shops as we passed by them without any real plans to anything. Spent long leisurely afternoons sipping coffee and reading the USA papers. Strolled by the river and saw a very old man making Panama hats by hand, using an old flat iron to bind the glue and drying them on stands on the florr outside the shop.We even managed to find a few bars which were quite nice if spectacularly empty. Had one bar entirely to ourselves at 9pm on a Saturday night. Great.

Tags: churches, colonial, cuenca, ecuador, equador, galleries, libertadores cup, loja, panama hats, restaurant

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