Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Hello shrunken heads goodbye Ecuador

As we got on our 8 hour bus to Cuenca we knew that we were in the comparatively small Ecuador and were heading for the much larger countries of Peru, Argentina and Brazil so we better get used to long bus journeys.  To keep ourselves entertained we watched the film Larry Crowne on the Blackberry, it was only marginally better than the terrible action films they normally show on the South American buses and they are all badly dubbed into Spanish.

Cuenca is a beautiful town full of pretty squares with colonial architecture.  When we arrived at the bus station it was getting dark so we asked the taxi driver to take us to the hostel we had reserved.  We settled in and then went to a little local cafe that served some very tasty Columbian food.  It was only a couple of days later that we realised we were not actually in the right hostel and that the taxi driver had taken us to a place with the same name but on the wrong street.  By that time we did not really care as the place we were in was comfortable and friendly.

On our first full day in Cuenca we went to the big museum and inca ruins in the centre of town.  The museum focused on the different cultural groups in Ecuador.  There are exhibits on the different dresses and musical instruments.  While it was fascinating to see how many different cultural groups there were I have to admit that I was most fascinated by the exhibit at the top of the museum which held a collection of shrunken heads.  We learnt how Amazon tribes captured rival tribe members or members of their own tribe who had committed a crime, cut their heads off and then applied a special technique to dry and shrink their heads.  Seeing the actual heads staring out of their cabinets was a strange morbid experience but undeniably fascinating.  The museum made sure to point out at the end that the pracice is now illegal and the only shrunken heads allowed to be made these days are those of sloths, although I still felt very sorry for the poor sloths.

Our one important job we had to while in Cuenca was to meet the British consulate to collect Katie´s emergency passport.  We were told that the British embassy did not have an office in Cuenca and the consulate was just a British businessman who lived in Cuenca and agreed to help British citizens in distress.  When katie phoned he told us to meet him at one of the big malls in town outside the KFC.  We thought that maybe he was going to be this suave James Bond type but when he said meet outside KFC I then thought it was more like a scene from a Graham Greene novel.  When  he turned up he was neither the Bond lady killer or the Graham Greene decrepid ex pat but was very charming and helpful.  We were also very relieved that the passport did not specify which dates we had to leave each country giving us a bit more flexibility  to sort out our travels.

As Cuenca was our last stop in Ecuador we were sad to leave but were excited about the fact we were heading to the beach to soak up some Puruvian sunshine.

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