Calle Gran Colombia

Jan 25, 2018 | 10 comments

A couple of years ago, shortly after moving to Ecuador, we took an apartment on Calle Gran Colombia. It is a busy street, in the middle of El Centro, that is also the home of Cuenca’s unfinished Tranvia system’s west bound rails. Many storefronts abound in this area and Mercado Nueve de Octubre is just around the corner on Hermano Miguel. Gran Colombia is a great place to have your digs as many useful stores and tasty restaurants are nearby. Yep, how about sashimi for lunch while you get new soles on your shoes next door.

This was a time before our 4×4 Toyota HiLux, El Fantasma as he is affectionately called, entered the fold. We were working overtime trying to secure our Ecuadorian driver’s licenses and so had not yet purchased a truck. Not really a big deal except that most of what we wanted to do in Ecuador required certain equipment and a truck rigged for off-road use was second on the list under our camera gear.

So, with sparse patience, we waited, completely unsure that either of us would ever drive in Ecuador since our state from a previous home had never been in Ecuador’s “system.” We were left to explore the city of Cuenca and its surrounding areas on foot and by bus.

I’m a guy who’s used to hitting the key and rolling in seconds on my own wheels, outbound for adventures carried on four big tires. I carefully assessed my most recent challenge of international relocation. I cut my eyes at those loud and stinky diesel buses simultaneously reminding myself of the worn adage beginning with, “When in Rome…”

Well, I laugh now because there’s much water under the bridge of my life in Ecuador. We became well versed in using buses. At the time, there was a paper publication that described Cuenca bus routes. It was quite helpful, but soon enough we were using phone apps like Moovit to direct us. We were already used to walking and hiking so no biggie there except the 8,200’ elevation gain from our previous home required a brief period of transition.

Edie and I spent the first year in Cuenca and its vicinity traveling by bus and by foot. It turned out being a great experience and one that I would likely repeat. I learned a lot of things staying in the streets so much and it kept my Spanish skills pressed to the hilt as I used my studies in a real world context. When not taking the buses to the countryside for hiking, we used our legs for locomotion in Centro and beyond averaging almost eight miles a day on foot. But, I so yearned to go up into the bigger mountains on my own as I had always done.

One day, I made this photograph of lower Gran Colombia early on a Sunday morning. Pigeons, disturbed by the passing woman, wheeled through the hazy morning sky choreographed by an indistinguishable leader. At a distant intersection, two Transito officers had arrived, beginning a day of directing traffic along the busy street. Warm yellow light of early morning fringed the edges of buildings lining Gran Colombia. The street curved out of view heading into the brightening eastern light. I looked up and was rewarded by the rising Andes, shrouded in their early morning mists.

That view of the mountains affected me in an odd way and I returned to view my photograph numerous times. It became a companion who waited with me, even accompanied me, in the year-long quest of getting my drivers license. I’m still fond of it, it makes me think of many things not the least of which is that the act of waiting often brings good returns. Like finding out where to eat sashimi while you get new soles on your shoes!

Brian Buckner

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