Cuenca

3 nights in Cuenca, Ecuador’s well-preserved colonial city in the south. A large grid of old buildings, many churches and religious institutions and some grand public buildings. Many bars and classy cafes.

The main museum, theĀ Museo del Banco Central Pumapungo was excellent. An entire floor showing the clothes, tools and handicrafts of a range of native peoples. The museum shop didn’t reflect the designs and ideas of the past, instead setting off in its own direction. The display ended with a collection of shrunken heads and a notice saying that the Ecuadorian government doesn’t permit this sort of thing anymore.

A guinea pig spit. Four guinea pigs at a time can be impaled on those stakes

One of the better meals: Tiesto’s in Cuenca. More fillet steak than I could eat and lots of homemade pickles

The local folk art museum had a decent collection too, but it was entirely Indonesian. The archaeological museum has an impressively large collection of anthropomorphic pots but not much else. But there were various craft markets, local markets to visit. We were invited to an evening reception at the otherwise empty modern art museum.We turned up later for a presentation and display of some op-art in the ex-asylum building.

Hat museum

Cuenca is the centre of the Panama hat industry and one of the largest producers has a museum next to the bus station. Not being in a group they let us wander around on our own. Most of the actual weaving takes place in villages but there was woman on hand to show us. Otherwise the processes of washing, dyeing, forming (in old steam machines) and finishing took place here.

Dip dyeing

Demonstrating the weaving

Washing

A large shop ended the tour with a bewildering collection of panama styles and a collection of more modern designs in a range of weave densities from $40 to >$300.

Ikat

The guidebook had tails of busy Sunday markets in local villages. We took a bus to Gualaceo and found lots of busy streets but no market. Quite a few women in the thick skirts and colourful belts that indicated their village but no obvious crafts on sale. Ended up takingĀ  taxi to a local makana (scarf or shawl) weaver. They showed us their dyes, their backstrap loom and their ikat technique.

Dyed with indigo and litchens

Ikat on the loom

Walked back to a row of BBQ stalls set up for the Sunday visitors. They had some pricey and large guinea pigs (cuy) over the grill with large stakes stuck up their bottoms. A woman came up to check the crispiness of their skin and the meat on their thighs. A convention piece of pork and chicken finished us off.

Guinea pigs roasting

A light lunch

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