In the book of *disturbed sleep* exists a photo of an angry, bleary-eyed mom, on her knees, praying in earnest for the off-key drunk girls next door to suspend their karaoke antics. The photo shows a prominent thought bubble over her head, with the caption reading “Karaoke is no longer cool. Karaoke and I are breaking up!! Karaoke can kiss my a**!!!” So yeah, that was me last night.

Never EVER book your hostel next to duelling karaoke clubs. Just trust me on this.

We eventually “woke up” — using the words loosely — to go explore the town of Cuenca with Joaquin. Cuenca sits at an elevation of 2,600M and enjoys spring-like weather year-round. But it’s quite deceiving. The morning dawned cool and cloudy, thus I, ever the vigilant mom (over-protective, says Alvi) insisted my girls wear their long fleece pants and fleece sweaters. Twenty minutes into our jaunt about town the sun came out and we all were sweltering. At this altitude the sun is SERIOUSLY strong.  So we went back to the hostel to dress more appropriately, this time in layers; all members of the Plavins Gong Show mocking me for my original edict to wear only sub-zero appropriate clothing.

Today we walked about 10 km in and around the Old Town of Cuenca. The churches blew my mind, each one more magnificent than the last. There’s just no disputing the charm of this town. Quaint little shops, friendly people, cobblestone streets — a small-town feel in a city of 1M. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.


Empty streets first thing in the morning.


I want to rent an apartment here!


Creative graffiti …


This town loves its VW Beattles! We taught Joaquin how to “punch-a-buggy”


Not sure if you can see the look of enthusiasm on Saffy’s face. All she wanted at this point was ice cream.


Total contrived smile lol.


Capturing some of the street.


Insane church. It was the biggest I have ever seen!


I wouldn’t lie. Not about a church.


Flower market. Roses are the fourth most important export of Ecuador.


The colours we saw were captivating.


Street meat!!!

Also on the agenda was an effort to get my main man a haircut. It only took me about 3 solid days to finally be able to pronounce the spanish word for “hairdresser”… you go ahead, try to say “peluqueria”. For some reason, Alvi insisted that his hair be cut by a woman so he and Joaquin went on a mission to locate one reasonably-priced-female-run-hair-cutting establishment. While they did this, the girls and I enjoyed some crépes at our favourite ice cream shop, then hung out in the park doing surveys with university students.


Taken with my iPhone. Alvi showing me how much his haircut cost. That’s right… $4!!!

In the afternoon we made our way to the Panama Hat Museum/Shop. I regret that we didn’t actually purchase any… I know, I suck. But I’m super conscious of our budget and the practical side of me kicked in — they will get ruined, we will stand out even more like touristas (poor argument given the pasty white nature of my skin lol), we need to save money. Nonetheless, we thoroughly enjoyed learning how they are made. These hats are somewhat of a “thing” here in Ecuador, and I believe they might have actually originated here and not in Panama. They range in price from $15 to $700 — the latter of which take months and months to weave.


Panama Hat Museum.


Any style! Any size! Customize them while you wait!


My little Pippy Longstocking.


Pick your colour, too!


So mad I didn’t buy this hat!!! Photo credit: Joaquin Andino


Hot damn you are looking fine, Alvi! Photo Credit: Joaquin Andino


Trying to take it all in and biting her nails. Photo Credit: Joaquin Andino

It was a lovely but long day. Everyone eventually headed back to the hostel for some rest while Joaquin and I went on the hunt for ear plugs. Our original mission was to change rooms, and if not that, then hostels. But we realized that any hostel in the main core of Cuenca was going to be surrounded by loud bars, many of which were the karaoke variety. So ear plugs it was! Finding them, however, was going to prove a challenge. There’s no “Shopper’s Drug Mart” here, and though one would think you could find them at any pharmacy one would be dead wrong. We needed to find a “ferreteria” which is Spanish for “hardware store”. The first one we found was a total bust — “sorry! Fresh out of ear plugs!” Thank GOD we found another and they happened to have not one, but five sets available. Rejoicing in our successful mission, Joaquin and I practically skipped back to the hostel… thinking to ourselves, “in your face, KARAOKE!!!!” Along the way, some more randomness…. These guys:


Random stilt walkers encountered on our way to search for ear plugs.