Ecuador – Cuenca & Vilcabamba

After being informed that our contracts ended early, we decided it was time to take a break and relax at our place in Cuenca. It had been about five years since we last visited, so we spent the first couple of months doing apartment renovations. We will not bore you with the details, but we gave the place a face lift and its now much more comfortable.

Just as the last bit of work was being finished, Becky’s parents joined us and we actually got out and did a few activities. Our first outing was to the area near Cuenca known as ‘Baños’. This area is popular because, due to past volcanic activities, there are hot springs galore that have been tapped into, and mineral spas have been built around those springs. This area was a nice way to relax and get rejuvenated after all the housework.

Next we made a trip to Vilcabamba, which is known as the ‘valley of longevity’ with many locals living to be well over 100 years old. The valley is amazingly beautiful and makes a great getaway for some hiking, horseback riding, yoga or just some lazy relaxation.

Lastly, we were also able to celebrate Carnival in Cuenca with the locals. The city hosts a lively parade and everyone has lots of fun dousing one another with water and foam spray. It is quite the event to experience. Some cheeky locals get an early start a few days before the actual Carnival by squirting unknowing pedestrians with water guns and pouring buckets of water from balconies. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! We saw lots of gringos stocking up on water guns in the days leading up to the festivities, ha ha.

Three months was just enough time for us to take care of necessary renovations and have some time for exploring and relaxation. We plan to use the apartment as an annual base for our travels, and are also looking into applying for residency and citizenship in the near future. Viva Ecuador!

Panoramic view from the livingroom of our apartment; Cuenca One of several warm outdoor pools at the mineral mineral baths of Piedra de Agua Fuente Termal & Spa; Cuenca Because it is supposed to be good for the skin, Robby, Becky, Bob and Ann slather on a coat of local red mud at Piedra de Agua Fuente Termal & Spa; Cuenca After the red was dried, we showered off and applied the blue mud for additional minerals that are good for the skin; Piedra de Agua Fuente Termal & Spa, Cuenca Robby, Ann and Bob prepare to enter the underground cave pools; Piedra de Agua Fuente Termal & Spa, Cuenca It felt a bit like we were trapped in some ancient torture devices, but these are steam boxes in the underground caves at Piedra de Agua Fuente Termal & Spa; Cuenca Ann, Becky and Robby relax in our robes on a shaded terrace after about 10 minutes of sweating in the steam boxes; Piedra de Agua Fuente Termal & Spa, Cuenca Entrance to the Yoga Shala where we were able to do a few free yoga session during our stay at Hosteria Izhcayluma in Vilcabamba Ann and Bob enjoy an amazing 5 hours of horse riding in the mountains around Vilcabamba Becky and Robby go for a chilly dip in the pool at Hosteria Izhcayluma; Vilcabamba Bob, Ann and Becky stop for a quick breather during our three-hour hike around Vilcabamba One of many great views we encountered during an 'easy' hike around Vilcabamba Robby strikes a silly pose at one of the awesome viewpoints while hiking around Vilcabamba One of many amazing views along the hiking trails around Vilcabamba Becky and Ann walking along a narrow, deep-trenched horse trail surrounded by plush greenery; Vilcabamba Bob and Ann pose in front of the church  at Parque Central after after our 'easy' three-hour hike in the mountains around the town; Vilcabamba A nice local cowboy stops in the street for Becky to snap a photo; Vilcabamba Becky relaxes in a hammock with a pleasent breeze and amazing views at Hosteria Izhcayluma; Vilcabamba Dancers perform during the Carnival Parade in Cuenca Robby becomes a victim of celebratory foam spraying locals during the Cuenca Carneval Parade The streets around Cuenca's Parque Calderon become packed with celebrating spectators and Carneval Parade participants Cuencanos love to dress up in their colorful costumes for the Carneval Parade; Cuenca Multi-talented stilt-walking flame blower was one of many interesting things to see during the Carneval Parade in Cuenca Some funny local children dressed up in costumes for the Carneval Parade; Cuenca Dancers in traditional dresses flawlessly show off their dancing skills admidst all the foam spraying from celebrating spectators at the Carneval Parade; Cuenca Cuencanos love to celebrate Carneval by spraying parade performers and spectators with cans of foam spray; Cuenca The Cuenca Carneval Parade was filled with a collage of colorful costumes and celebrating people Bob, Yalena, Rene and Ann saying goodbye at our apartment in Cuenca dreamweaver lightbox gallery by v6.0m

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