Cuenca – Panama hat shopping

The journey from Loja to Cuenca took 5 1/2 hours and ranks up there with one of our worst bus journeys – there was air con instead of windows that open and we were both feeling rough before we even got on the bus. With high speed and bumpy windy roads most of the people on the bus were sick – but we made it.

IMG_3766Cuenca is Ecuador’s third largest city with pretty cobblestone streets lined with modern amenities. It’s a great place to hang out for a few days. We found a hostel on San Fransisco Plaza with cool views of the monastery, cathedral and square and then headed off to explore. The city is very charming and has every shop imaginable (except for a decent camera shop – more on that in the next blog post) so we enjoyed wandering around.

The following day we did the rounds for a Panama hat for Marie’s brother (Panama hats actually come from Ecuador). We found an old man who was taught by his grandfather how to make them from the age of 6. Now almost dumb to the point of a slight whisper this little old man guided us through a passageway and up some stairs to his ‘store’ and showed us a wide selection of hats all handmade by him and his assistant. It was amazing to see how many different shades and textures there are and with lots of gesture and laughter we bought one.

We spent the rest of the day walking by the river, sorting a bus ticket for Macas (our next destination) and getting some supplies from the market.

IMG_3774The night was spent out on the roof terrace of the hostel with a Danish couple (one of whom is coming to study sustainable power in NZ next year), an American guy from North Carolina and an American couple who are basically doing a similar route to us in reverse (without Colombia and Venezuela, but with Patagonia). We swapped stories for hours (we won the most skanky toilet story for the Cusco to Lima bus which we’ll tell you if you ask) and really enjoyed the company as we looked out across San Fransisco Plaza, watching the festival fireworks.


  • People don’t drive on their own side of the road, they weave down the road to avoid the potholes, which is not much fun on windy roads!
  • People make a real effort to dress smartly.
  • Cuenca has to be the quietest city we have been in at night.
  • There are no dodgy taxis in Cuenca, probably because all the taxis are nice new cars that dodgy crims probably can’t afford.
  • Bus drivers always have sick bags and newspaper available for good reason

Click on any image to enlarge and scroll through


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