[Editor’s Note: The following starts a new series of posts from veteran travel writer Deke Castleman and photographer Shirlee Severs. The blog of Deke and Shirlee’s first two weeks in Ecuador ran on this website in April. This series covers the month they spent in Cuenca last October.]
In February 2010, Shirlee and I took an initial exploratory trip to Ecuador, looking for a place to expatriate and retire to.
We liked what we saw enough to return in October, when we spent three and a half weeks in Cuenca, getting a feel for what it might be like to live there full-time and working on a travel project. Together, Shirlee and I gathered an enormous amount of material on Ecuador in general and Cuenca in particular.
Cuenca, not surprisingly, doesn’t have a travel guide. (Heck, up until last October 17, it didn’t even have a map of the bus routes — for a city with a couple dozen bus lines serving a half-million people.) All it has are 8-12 pages in Ecuador guidebooks. It’s a small city in a minor country. Still, it’s the world’s number-one destination for gringos like us — desperate to expatriate and looking for the coolest place to relocate.
So, in order to provide information for its first-ever travel guide, Shirlee and I researched and photographed Cuenca with a vengeance.
We found an “apart hotel” with fridge, stove, microwave, cable, and wifi for $12 a night, in a nice central location, and settled in for our 24 days in our temporary new home.
We viewed rooms in several dozen lodgings, from $6-a-night hostals to $185-a-night suites in renovated colonial mansions.
We ate at almuerzos, cafes, bars, markets, hotel restaurants, pizza places, barbecues, fast-food joints, gringo-run haunts, ice-cream parlors, roadside stands, even the mall food court.
We shuffled through the city’s major museums; viewed churches and attended services; rode buses around town; shopped for food, crafts, kitchen utensils, DVDs, jewelry, T-shirts, Panama hats; took day trips outside the city; spoke a slew of Spanish, attended gringo nights, socialized with new friends; and pounded more ruts into the cobblestones of Cuenca.
And we documented all of it, me into my trusty 15-year-old Olympus Pearlcorder L100 microcassette tape recorder and Shirlee with her Canon Eos Rebel XSi digital camera.
Currently, I’m making the final arrangements — conjugal, financial, familial, professional, material, and logistical — for emigrating to Cuenca in mid-February.
Between now and then, this series will provide travel content and information from the guide, chronicles of our adventures that won’t see the dark of print, explorations of Cuencan and Ecuadorian themes, and descriptions of the challenges and rewards of expatriating.
Here on CuencaHighLife.com, we’ll post a couple of episodes a week. We’re also popping up more prose and photos on our own website, AccessEcuador.com. Drop by when you can.