Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Brian's Not Allergic to Ecuador

Miscellaneous

Cost of Food, etc: you can eat a steak with potatoes and cold vegetables (they serve them that way here) for $4 to $6. A latte coffee or cappuccino costs 60 cents to $1.50 - we're paying an average of 80 cents. Brian had lunch the other day, pig cut straight from a whole roasted pig, head still on, with 3 roasted potatoes, salad and beans for $2. He couldn´t finish it all! Our hostel (hotel) rooms are costing between $19 and $24 with breakfast included. A dozen roses in the flower market cost $1, but electronics, like a lap top cost more - around $1200 for the most basic laptop. Furniture, solid wood, hand made in factories here is very reasonable, a four piece living room set, couch, loveseat, two chairs and a coffee table was $800. The same thing in Canada would likely be around $3000. We figure we could completely furnish an apartment with brand new hand made furniture, superb quality for under $5000, including the linen's and cutlery. You can rent a very nice apartment for between $300 - $400. We're talking West End quality. If you want to go a little more native you can get something for $150 - $200.

We've found out you can get health insurance through Miami for about $150 per month. It's supposed to be completely comprehensive and price depends on your age and health. We found this out when we went to a restaurant/bar on Friday night that caters to a number of ex pats who get together on a weekly basis to trade information.

Some stores will sell motorcycles, furniture, laptops and appliances all in the same store!

Just like the guide book says, ladies always pack toilet paper. Most places have it on hand but some don't. KFC's abound - they're like Starbucks or MacDonalds back home. There are Payless Shoes outlets and just about every other kind of fast food you'd find in Canada. We stay away from them though - what's the point - but they're there if you get a hankering for a Mac burger.

We kind of thought there'd be a lot of old American cars around but nearly everything we see are small, newer imports.

We've been "ripped off" twice - once a waiter gave us back our change less $2 and once, despite knowing we were supposed to negotiate the cost before we get into the car, a taxi driver ripped us off for about $4.50. He told us we had to go by the meter but the meter jumped 75 cents then 60 cents then $1.20, etc. so a $1.50 trip ended up costing us $6. Generally, however, everything and everybody is very good to us despite the language problem. They truly don't speak much English here; again just like the guide book says. We've quickly mastered such things as, "where's the bathroom, how much does it cost, please bring the bill, is this the bus to .....", etc.

We've bought a couple of things at the public markets, a sweater for Shelley that the guy wanted $18 for and Brian bargained down to $12. Brian's getting pretty good at it; the bargaining that is!
Not a surprise I guess, being a Catholic country, but there are babies everywhere! Sort of related is the fact that the churches inside are incredibly ornate with tons of gold leaf and marble, etc. Any clergyman in Canada would give their left arm for the attendance these churches get. We saw a very neat thing on Sunday - a traditional mariachi band playing during a church service. We were just walking by and heard it and so poked out heads in to have a look. The quality of the music was extraordinary.

Cuenca

We started out planning on staying in Cuenca for 4 days, but changed that to 8 because we liked it so much, plus we were playing tourist too hard so we needed a break. We thought Brian was allergic to Ecuador for awhile but it's resolved into a laryngitis - so that's good news! There are bakeries on just about every block in Cuenca. This is very hard on Shelley with her new low cholesterol diet! We spend a lot of time in the main square in Cuenca. They seem to have entertainment on a regular basis. Little girls dancing, men singing semi opera, lots of parades (we've encountered 5 so far on our trip). The city offers just about anything that we would need and it's clean and very civilized. The weather is odd though. In the middle of the day if the clouds are absent you're down to a t-shirt, but if it clouds up over you then you need a light sweater. Fairly cool at night.

The place we're staying is a delight and most of the people staying there are here teaching at the University or here taking Spanish lessons. We´ve noted that most tourists are either young backpackers or retirees.

Brian asked the lady where we're staying why no one seemed to wear panama hats as Ecuador is the place they originated.
She told him only tourists wear them and we've now noticed that this appears to be true. We visited a panama hat factory. Another one of our serendipitous encounters. It appears the same family has operated out of this location for generations - they even have a small panama hat museum.

We went to Ingapirca for a day trip. It is Ecuadors most significant archaeological site. Apparently the stones and the sun temple are set up to align with phases of the moon, etc. On our 2 hours trip there we commented that the country around here looks just like Kamloops - only greener (it's the rainy season after all) and there's the odd cactus or succulent
plant. We've been told the scenery goes semi-tropical when we descend to the flat lands on the coast. Everywhere along the road during our various excursions there are small crosses and shrines.
Interesting tid bit: llamas sound like cows - they moo!

As far as Brian is concerned we don't have to go past Cuenca, we both love it here. However, tomorrow we're off to Loja. We've been told that the weather is a little warmer there and that it's even nicer than Cuenca.

Cuy (guinea pig) is one of the local delicacies. We haven't tried it yet! Likely won't.

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