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Cuenca. Ecuador. 7.5.16

May 12, 2016

Cuenca, Ecuador. 7.5.16

Teddy Roosevelt has had a lot to answer for as far as the naming of one of Ecuador’s main exports is concerned. That is the Panama hat. It appears he was given one while visiting Panama and called it his Panama hat and that name stuck. The correct name is paja toquella or ‘straw hat’ Cuenca is the centre of their manufacture most of which occurs in the villages surrounding the city. Straw is brought up from the coast and through a series of processes the basic hat is produced. From there it comes into the hat shops in the city. It is then made to the purchases specifications in the more upmarket shops while the cheaper ones are more mass produced. Entering a hat shop is quite an experience. Straw hats in all shapes and sizes are on display while the more finer ones are in a separate room. There is such a range of quality from the $30 el cheapos up to the thousands of dollars. We were shown one worth over a $1000. Not the type of thing you would leave behind in an aeroplane’s overhead locker.
We watched is my hat was steam pressed, modelled to shape a little more, pressed again, more fine tuning then the rim was cut to size and the band of my choice fitted. The weaving on mine was very fine and soft. Joan bought a crocheted model with nice colouring on the crown. The whole process took well over an hour although that including the press getting a head of steam.
Cuenca is a beautiful city. The old part has so many churches most dating back centuries. The Spanish built this part of the city and it hasn’t been destroyed by earthquakes or other acts of god or man. Though there was a bad flood in the 50s that washed away a few of the bridges that span the four rivers flowing through the town. Streams really.
Tomorrow we leave and start to head towards the capital, Quito. It is Mother’s Day, the same as Australia. The flower stalls are doing a roaring trade. It s a big thing here.

Lago Colta. Near Cajabamba. 8.5.16
Ecuador has a reputation of being one of the more expensive South American countries but with diesel at 25c a litre and good food very reasonably priced we think it’s not too bad. They use gallons here, not sure if it’s US or Imperial and it took us a while to work out the litre price. This country is an oil exporter
The high country we passed through today is more of the vivid green we experienced a couple of days ago. Very mountainous at the beginning but the last hours drive took us on to a plateau where the road has less twists and turns and the driving easier. We drove through cloud off and on but being day time and the side of the road marked it was very different to our experience in Bolivia.
Lago Colta is a bird haven and part of it has been made into a park for the locals. Being Mothers Day the park was being well utilised. Lovely walks, islands connected by wooden walkways, cruises on launches. Normally overlanders aren’t allowed in until 5.30 but Pedro opened the gates for us and found a quieter place metres from the edge of the lake to park. The crowds have left, it is just the birds and the two of us.

Quito 11.5.16
Our son Adam, ever the fatalist, has warned us not to dangle our hands in the water as the canoe takes us to the lodge piranhas may be lurking, check our shoes for tarantulas of a morning and keep an eye on the rafters for the python that may be eyeing us. Tomorrow we are off to the Amazon Basin. The river is a tributary to the Amazon. Getting to the lodge entails a 2 hour ride in a motorized canoe. We hope it is as enjoyable as Galapagos and Cabo de Horno.

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