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Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Other Side of the Hill

I may have mentioned this before, but Cuenca is so named, due to it resting (at least partially) in a bowl of mountain ranges that surround the city. (The Spanish word for bowl is el cuenco.) This particular situation makes the central part of Cuenca (el Centro) seem like it is the be all and end all of the city, which is just an illusion. That would be like equating Central Park to the entire island of Manhattan, downtown Vancouver as the city itself or Prince Edward Island as the Maritimes.

The steps BEFORE the steps!
This fact is very easy to forget, as the soaring peaks of the Andes cut your line of view and you forget about all the barrios (neighbourhoods) beyond the hills.

In preparation for our hike up Machu Picchu, we've started getting back in to taking long walks which invariably lead us to the outskirts of el Centro. Yesterday, as we've done a few times in the past, we hiked up to Mirador Turi, a charming little church on one of the lower surrounding hills. Now, be that as it may you must, walk through half the city, climb a steep set of stairs and cross a highway just to get to the starting point of the hike up the 439 stairs that lead to a church and the village that surrounds it. (But this certainly isn't an 18km, 9 hour hike that we'll be attempting in Peru. Did I mention we hike like that for five days???)  Anyhow, usually when you get to the top of the stairs, you turn and admire the stunning view of the heart of the city, perhaps enjoy some of the local cuisine, admire the church, if it's opened and then truck back down the stairs and head home. But this, we did not do.

Mirdor Turi
As we wandered the small road that surrounds the church, we noticed a small road down the back side of the hill and seeing what seemed to be a rather bucolic view decided to follow the road wherever it might lead. While still within the city limits (or so we believe) we encountered cows (vacas), horses (caballos) and even sheep (ovejas) including a very new lamb. (So sweet.)

We also noticed that the dogs were very mellow here. They were enjoying their sueñacita ( meaning "little dream", not siesta, as in Mexico). Not a single one barked at us and very few even bothered to lift their heads. We were the only gringos on that side of the mountain and our visit was met with cautious welcome. (Head nods, but very few vocal greetings, despite our offer of "Buenas tardes" (good afternoon).
View of El Centro
Surrounding hills
 Needless to say it was a very lovely day and we enjoyed the "stroll". We aim to repeat the experience climbing other hills and discovering the little communities that make up Cuenca in the upcoming days and months. That's one of the beautiful things here, you never know what's around the next bend or hiding in plain site. It's truly a place of wonder and discovery.

Stayed tuned to hear about our first Cuencano fiesta. (Sin fotos or without photos)

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