|Church in Banos de Cuenca|
|Little gold hummingbird|
|One of the many rivers|
The first surprising experience was having a woman demand that we give her $5. ("Soy pobrecita, deme cinco dolares!" - "I'm a poor woman, give me $5!") I, conveniently, never have cash if Ron is with me, so I apologised and kept going. ("Lo siento senora, no tengo ningun dinero" - I'm sorry Madam, I have no money".) It's unusual for beggars to be so bold, and to be honest, she came around from the side of a fairly nice house that she insisted wasn't hers - which is entirely possible.
The next surprise was finding a beautiful little French restaurant in the outskirts of town, called Le Petit Jardin. I had a gorgeous fried trout in lemon butter. The only thing missing was vegetables, but we are in Ecuador, so allowances must be made.
The third surprise is how far you can get on a quarter; choose the right bus and you can ride for an hour on a thin 25 cents. You wend through the city and into the suburbs (a rather loose description of the little towns that are slowly expanding to meet the city limits) and go all the way to the end of the line.
Then you disembark and hope like heck that someone in the group knows where we're trying to get to or has a smart phone to find our way. It's always fun to try and get directions from the locals, who seem astounded to see gringos, let alone one's that can speak at least some Spanish. (I call it the "talking monkey" phenomenon.) At the end of the hike, we usually try to grab a meal, or at the very least a beer.
We also talk of many things, inane and profound and generally enjoy each others' company. It's a great mix of people from different backgrounds and places, but we manage to get along.
|Some of the crew on the hike|
|Fresh from the set of Vikings|
one half of our guide team - Axel
|Sample of some of the easier trail|
|Shahbaz coming up the hill|
So, yes, we've found something to fill our time, at least for a day of the week, and for that we're grateful. It's a good gig, if you can get it.