Tuesday, 25 March 2014

17) Further exploration

Wednesday came round all of a sudden and I made a determined effort to see more of the city because Alejandra was due to arrive the next day. I found a cafe with pictures of pancakes on the door and that sold it for me. Inside the place was totally bizarre, consisting of royal looking sofas, a large American jukebox, an assortment of things on the walls ranging from guns to license plates, and in the middle a cage containing two pampered budgies. I plonked myself down (though not on one of the sofas), the only person in there aside from a young girl behind the counter. I ordered myself an American breakfast, not really sure what would come out and wandered around the place finding more oddities including a boxing challenger thing and a billiards room. When it did arrive I was impressed. Coffee, fresh pineapple juice, a stack of pancakes with a bottle of syrup and a separate plate of scrambled eggs and bacon. If every American breakfast is like this it's easy to see why they're notoriously large.
Quirky place for brekkie
Waddling out at midday I made my way back to the river trail and followed it down to Parque Pumapungo. Through the fence I could see llamas and hear all sorts of birds and it looked pretty cool. What I couldn't see was the entrance. A woman walking the opposite way approached as though I was going to explode, and I asked where the entrance was. She quickly replied that it was up around the corner before hurrying off and I double checked that I wasn't wearing a hockey mask or wielding a machete. By "round the corner" she actually meant a kilometer or so up a hill around two corners, behind the Ministry of Culture building. I decided to check out inside first, because entry was free. They took my bag and passport number and I set about exploring the building. It's really fantastic in there, 4 levels of Ecuadorian history and culture charmingly exhibited. The first floor contained interactive pre-colonial exhibits in English and Spanish, and even braille, and across the hall were lots of very weird art models of people with some drastically enhanced features. Some had massive hands, some had huge saggy boobs with babies hanging off of them. It was all very strange. Upstairs was back to normality, lots of stuff about the people through the ages and the indigenous in the Amazonian basin. I was suprised at how empty the place was of people because it was all very cool. Maybe I'm just a massive nerd, but they had shrunken heads on display, who doesn't find that cool?
Part of Pumapungo
On the top floor there was a cafeteria, public library, and lots of glass walled offices where you could watch people work on items for exhibits and such like.
The basement level was all about Ecuadorian currency since the start of coinage, but was all in Spanish. I read the bits I could and it was pretty interesting. Before the US Dollar, the Ecuadorean currency was the Sucre, and you could see throughout the 20th century the increasing rate of inflation through the bills displayed. The final bill displayed was the 500,000 Sucre note, common come the end of the century. In 2000 they finally broke and switched to the buck.
These latinos can GARDEN
I spent a lot longer than anticipated inside and moseyed out into the afternoon sunshine into the park. Considering it is only just outside of the city centre it is enormous. Perched on top of a hill are more stone ruins of temples to Sun Gods and whatnot that the ancient cultures worshiped. Though these are just really the foundations it's still neat to stand amongst them and soak in all the ancientness (definitely a word). At the foot of the hill down a winding track there is an area dedicated to growing the various native crops of the Andes, and a wide variety of ornamental shrubs and trees. The park attracts lots of wildlife, and I sat on a bench for a while watching the many birds and insects darting about the foliage, convinced I'd seen a couple of hummingbirds (Green violetear are the ones here). They didn't reappear so I followed the track through a wooded area and that's when I spotted one again. I tried for ages to get a decent photo and at one point it was in the tree directly above me. Staring upwards and trying hopelessly with my cheap digital camera to hold it steady for it to move into a better position, I watched as a cascade of poop splattered onto the plant next to me and across my left shoulder. He knew what he had done, and with that sped off again leaving me cursing the sky, photo-less. The rest of the park was equally as beautiful and well kept, and included several big aviaries housing parrots, toucans and other exotic birds all of various species. It was a short walk from the birds section to a hill covered in llamas, each tied to a post and quite happy just chewing the cud. I didn't fancy petting one though because they stank, so made my way back up to the culture ministry and out of the park.
The way back to the old town took me past the university of Cuenca, where I was met with interested stares from students - a lone gringo wandering through their patch. Their uni only has one bar bless them, though to be fair to them it was packed out. I made my way back into the old town and stopped of in the Cultural Museum of the Indigenous. It's a privately owned affair, and the lady buzzed me in and handed me a booklet to read as I guided myself around their collection. Personally I don't think it was worth the $2. There were a few interesting articles including one ancient groups obsession with making statues of deformed children, but it was mostly pots and all the typical stuff like bits of flint and things, and it wasn't long before I was on my way back to the hostel.
That evening I ate "Seco de pollo" at a resturant beneath the grand central cathedral and it was as beautiful as the city it was constructed in. Another early night followed as Alejandra was expected at 9am so no 10am lie in for me!

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