Wordless Wednesday: Yard House - Linq

April 30, 2014
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"Hmmmm"

April 28, 2014
We left Cuenca early in hopes of getting to Alausi to ride the Nariz del Diablo train (11am), but we had such heavy traffic it was after noon by the time we arrived. We stopped for lunch in Alausi, instead. The drive there was breathtaking, from the beauty and the close calls. Passing slower traffic in Ecuador is an experience. It happens with regularity, and at the least opportune times... at least, it seemed that way. Eventually, I numbed relaxed a bit and started to simply let out a "hmmmmm" when I wasn't quite sure how the oncoming car was going to pass successfully. Everytime it worked out, but there was never a second to spare. As for the beauty, I'll let the photos speak for themselves, but they don't do the 360 degrees of gorgeousness justice.

Drive from Cuenca to Baños

Drive from Cuenca to Baños

Yes, livestock was leashed and would occasionally have enough slack to wander into the road.

Drive from Cuenca to Baños, yes, livestock are tied off on leashes on the roadside.

Drive from Cuenca to Baños

Drive from Cuenca to Baños

Drive from Cuenca to Baños

Drive from Cuenca to Baños

I don't recall the name of the restaurant we stopped for lunch but it was in the mainsquare it occupied the first space in the first building. It was small, with two tables outside and four inside. It was our first time have Almuerzos (lunch) is found in restuarants all over Ecuador. For $2.50, you get juice, soup, meat, rice or plantains and vegetables. The chicken soup here was very good, I also enjoyed the beets.

Almuerzos (lunch) is found in restuarants all over Ecuador. For $2.50, you get juice, soup, meat, rice or plantains and vegetables. This chicken soup was very good. Restaurant was in Alausi. This town is famous for the Nariz del Diablo train, we intended to ride it, but we experienced traffic delays and were unable to go.

Almuerzos second course is typically a protein, carb and vegetable.

We drove to Riobamba which was supposed to be our home for the night. But when we arrived in town, there was heavy construction and we choked on exhaust, which was off-putting. I booked our night's stay on Expedia at Hotel Glamour. Check in was a real shitshow, no one manned the desk and diners of the restaurant kept coming up and taking random keys which made me uncomfortable leaving our belongings in the room. After a lengthy wait, we were led up to a room, but it was dirty. Then, they found us one that was clean on the same floor. The room was very worn and the towels were threadbare.

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When we laid down to rest the bed was so uncomfortable. The walls were paper thin, we could hear people coming and going, the pipes sounded like the room would flood any second. After an hour, we were over it. So, we decided to see if the hotel we booked in Banos had availability, it did; we booked it. We returned our key and remote for the tv and we were gone. It was better to lose out on the $34 I prepaid, then stay put and be miserable all night long. I had only chosen the night in Riobamba because if we got on the Nariz del Diablo train, it wouldn've been too dark to continue on to Banos. The only sight I had jotted down in Riobamba was Chimborazo, an inactive volcano, and Ecuador's highest peak; it's also the highest peak on Earth in relation to the equator. However, it was cloaked in clouds so I never even got a photo of it.

We had less than two hours of daylight left to get to Banos, this made me a little nervous, our ETA was 1:20 so we figured it would work out. Little did we know that GPS led us on the "shorter" route, but it was off the main highway on mostly dirt roads and completely desolate. We actually wondered if everyone had been evacautated due to a volcanic eruption. This connector took us over a series of rickety bridges, I was nervous. This was the nicest of them all.

One of the nicer rickety bridges along the connector between Riobamba and Baños, on the backside of the Tungurahua volcano.

Did I mention I was nervous? So, much so I didn't take photos, I was too focused on the road and volcano ahead of us. Eventually, we did meet back up with the Pan Am Highway. I was so relieved! We were in Banos minutes later, just as the sun began to set.

Ingapirca

April 26, 2014
Located in Cañar, the Ingapirca Ruins are the largest in Ecuador. They are from the 16th century, the Inca had conquered the Cañari, but eventually they lived together peacefully. Remnants from both can be seen here. The Cañari built temples in round and moon like shapes, the Incas had rectangular buildings. Both used lunar calendars and studied astrology. It was a great day trip; the drive was very scenic, but the roads were congested. It is supposedly an hour's drive, but it took us over two because of slow vehicles and construction.

Near Ingapirca, Cañar.

Near Ingapirca, Cañar.

An underground aqueduct system was used provide water to Ingapirca; terraces were used for agriculture.

An underground aqueduct system was used provide water to Ingapirca Terraces were used for agriculture.

The round structures were used to store grain.

Ingapirca, largest ruins in Ecuador. They are from the 16th century, the Inca had conquered the Cañari, but eventually they lived together peacefully. Remnants from both can be seen here. The Cañari built temples in round and moon like shapes, the Incas had rectangular buildings. Both used lunar calendars and studied astrology

Ingapirca Ruins

The holes in the rocks held water and were used to view the stars

Ingapirca Ruins, the holes in the rocks held water and were used to view the stars.

Ingapirca Ruins

Construction was done the Incan way without mortar, instead the rocks were chiseled with precision.

Ingapirca Ruins, Construction was done the Incan way without mortar, instead the rocks were chiseled with precision.

The Temple of the Sun was built in such a way that the sun would shine at each window during the various solstices.

Ingapirca ruins, The Temple of the Sun was built in such a way that the sun would shine at each window during the various solstices.

On either side of the temple were huge elliptical terraces. These were used for worship, spotting the enemy and communicating with tribes as far as Cuenca.

On either side of the temple were huge elliptical terraces. These were used for worship, spotting the enemy and communicating with tribes as far as Cuenca.

There are doorways at opposite ends of the temple, you can communicate while standing in them with only a whisper.

Ingapirca Ruins, there are doorways at opposite ends of the temple, you can communicate while standing in them with only a whisper.

One the way back from the ruins we stopped for lunch at one of the many roadside restaurants with roasted pig or Hornado

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Roadside were restaurants with roasted pig or Hornado.

The pork was perfectly rendered and dripped with deliciousness. This here was our favorite meal in Ecuador.

Hornado is typical Ecuadorian fare served Mote (hominy) and llapingacho (potato cake with cheese). The pork was perfectly rendered and dripped with deliciousness. This was our favorite meal in Ecuador.

Cuenca

April 25, 2014
Cuenca is a charming city nestled in the mountains at 8,200 feet, four rivers run through it. It has a number of historical buildings and it is home to many US expats. Weather is mild year round. It reminded me a lot of coastal California. It's no wonder many from the US choose to retire there (plus, you can live like royalty for $2000/mo or so we were told). We spent two nights in Cuenca, I would've liked to stay at least one more.

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We stayed at Hotel Casa del Aguila which is a restored colonial mansion. It's only a few blocks from the New Cathedral so the location was very good. Accomodations were comfortable, we loved the shower. It had such great water pressure. Our room had a balcony overlooking the city. It was a task to find cigars, but we eventually did, we enjoyed sitting on the patio sipping Pilsener, while Frank puffed away.

New Cathedral

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Old Cathedral





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Finding specific places was a struggle. We could not grasp the system used for addresses and google maps was little help. Tripadvisor had plenty of restaurants with great reviews, we tried to seek out so many, but we were led on one wild goose chase after another. We were only successful at tracking a few down, and when we first found them they were closed... Our first night we took a siesta when we should've been eating. When we wandered out about 7:30 we found everything closed. We wandered the street for 1.5 hours in search of food. I really thought we'd be eating snacks from the tienda. We never found our lunch choice and only ate a Chilean empanada before returning to the hotel to nap.

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Later, we were starved; I was so happy to find Mansion Alcazar open. It is a gourmet restaurant, the fanciest in Cuenca. We were led right back to a table beside the garden, which was beautiful, by the way. We figured we were meant to celebrate the eve of our 17th Anniversary. Dinner was great, we enjoyed the bottle of Chilean wine even more. Compared to prices at home, our dinner seemed like a steal at $62, wine was a separate bill for $27. We started with quinoa and onion soups, entrees were lamb chops and seabass, and dessert was strawberry carpaccio and basil ice cream, and chocolate cake & mousse.













Our other dinner was at Restaurante Todosantos which is located in a convent in the heart of city along the Tomebamba River. The chef, Mauricio, is warm and friendly, and from Chicago's north side, oddly enough. A new menu was being introduced the following week, but for now, he recommended the steak for two, and we wanted to try the pasta so we also ordered cheese ravioli. The pasta was better than the steak, but overall dinner was quite tasty.

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A couple things to note about Cuenca: The water is safe to drink. Rather than begging for change, at intersections you'd find performers like this guy who juggled machetes to keep drivers entertained and to earn some cash (we later found this to be the case all over the country except for La Mariscal in Quito).

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We took a daytrip to Ingapirca, but I'll share those details in a seperate post. I wrap up Cuenca with a few other sights.



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We had to laugh when we were given a large key for our room, much like hotel's Italy, we had to keep tradition and name it, meet squishy.



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