Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
Cuenca is a small city with a lot of history and set between two fast flowing rivers. It has a cool, wet climate being elevated at 2,500m. We stayed in Cuenca for 10 nights, a long time for The Pack Track to stay in one place, and learnt a lot about this bustling city for example in 1999 its historic centre reached UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
When we arrived in Cuenca we knew we either had a short stay or long stay. We had arranged, weeks earlier, for a replacement credit card to be sent from Australia to a friend (Michelle) of a friend (Daniela) in Cuenca. Postal endeavours in the past had not gone to plan for us, in fact we could describe them all as a tad disastrous, but we were hopeful this time it would go smoothly. We made contact with Daniela through Facebook but the parcel had not arrived.
Okay then, we could be in Cuenca for two weeks. We needed cheap pet friendly accommodation that was flexible. Booking.com helped us by locating the Check-Inn Hotel, only 3 blocks from the city centre and within easy walking distance to most historic sites, shops and parks. The staff were very friendly and really enjoyed having Weeti around. They didn't enjoy having our motorbikes parked in the lobby so much, but were very polite about it and insisted we put them there for safety.
Cuenca is host to a large US expat community and is renowned for good dentistry, these two characteristics as well as good cheap medical often go hand-in-hand. Janell was well overdue getting a crown for the Root Canal Surgery she had back in Texas so we took this opportunity to sort it out.
Next on the list was getting a nose-job for Weeti. Only joking!!! It was far more serious that than, she needed to be desexed (spaded); the possibility of Weeti getting pregnant scared us, if she were to somehow get impregnated, the pregnancy or birth could kill her with the permanent damage done to the rear part of her body. Weeti needed 10 days recovery without movement and definitely no riding and it looked like the credit card wasn't arriving any time soon. The procedure went smoothly, we paid $500 to get the very best vet available as we wanted the process to be as comfortable and safe as possible and in no way traumatic. Our baby girl had to stay with the vet for 3 nights of monitoring, cleaning etc. and was happily discharged to us with antibiotics and detailed instructions for the next 7 days recovery. Honestly you don't realise how active your dog is until you have to keep them still. We can't even go to the toilet without Weeti getting excited upon our return!
Let's not forget about Stu's fragile chain and sprocket that gave us problems when we first crossed in to Ecuador. We needed to source new parts and possibly get an oil change on both bikes depending on costs. There were plenty of motorbikes around town and we had noticed a few 'big' bikes.
Our first attempt was an epic fail. We found a guy who said he could source all the parts and fit it all for $170. We paid him up front in order to purchase the parts and we hung around to watch. He left Stu's motorbike parked in the kerb out the front of his shop and removed the sprocket. Alarm bells started going off but we remained calm and positive. He then hopped in a taxi and disappeared. Thirty minutes later he returned and revealed a rear sprocket made from Aluminium and said the front sprocket was impossible to buy here! For those who don't know much about motorbikes, an Aluminium sprocket feels like holding a piece of paper compared with a steel sprocket which feels like a brick. Aluminium sprockets have their use in racing because they are light and replaced quickly. It was a joke to even think about putting that on a heavy adventure motorbike. We told him to put everything back together, demanded our money back and Janell gave him a real piece of her mind for wasting our time. In the end we were only able to get back $150 due to the "labour" and "taxi" costs.
Eventually we found a good mechanic who worked on big bikes. His workshop was full of KTM's, Moto Guzzi's etc. and had worked on the odd 650GS single, good enough for us. He said it would take a while to get the parts but time we had. Before long though he'd located parts in Quito and had them delivered in a couple of days. While in the shop we also had a few little issues looked at such as the steering head bearings which is a little problem but usual with the miles we do and the terrain we cross.
Janell did a lot of sigh seeing in Cuenca. She went running every day along the river, walked around the shops and museums and did an open-top bus tour while Stu volunteered to stay in the Hotel with Weeti (and the internet). We found some excellent vegetarian restaurants, food markets and a highlight was dinner at the Jazz Society Cafe.
In between all these things going on we also went a bit branding crazy. We got t-shirts, hats, beanies, jackets and vests embroidered with The Pack Track logo as well as getting a new canvas for Weeti's Pillion Pooch. Apart from the aluminium sprocket guy, the workmanship was excellent and very affordable in Cuenca. In the interest of keeping you completely informed, we better not leave out that Stu also got his motorbike seat reupholstered, raising the seat height by 5 cm for added comfort.
We had a really enjoyable and productive 10 days in Cuenca with the credit card arriving on day 9, to our relief. What really struck us about this little city was the skills and workmanship of the tradespeople and the fashion and culture. Everyone just looked so beautiful, the shops were always busy and there was a huge variety of restaurants, cafes, real live music and a number of museums. Cuenca is an absolute must for anyone visiting Ecuador.
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