Added 21 Nov 2012

What a day! First thing, even before we set off on our tour, eight of our guests get stuck in the hotel lift. Not surprising really - the limit is five people! The alarm is raised and the hotel come to the rescue prompty. Given that the lift is quite small, we are still trying to work out how eight people managed to fit in. Anyway, all is well, and we depart on our tour to the Inca Cañari ruins at Ingapirca. A little over half-way we make a comfort stop at a community centre that we know from previous trips. Guess what? One of our guests gets locked inside a ladies toilet. Richard is asked to help, which is fine after checking the coast is clear. He will resort to climbing into the cubicle to release the lady in distress, but fortunately (for the lady) he is able to explain the strange door catch and the door opens!

There are no further catastrophes and we arrive at Ingapirca on schedule. Ingapirca is the most important archeological destination in Ecuador. Ingapirca means Inca Stone Wall and the name was given to the site by the Cañari people. The ruins we see were originally built in the 15th century on the royal highway that ran from Quito to Cuzco and the high quality of the stonework ­indicates that Ingapirca was an important site. Our visit is interpreted by our local guide and we also enjoy some free time before rejoining Neptali and our coach. From here we drive just a few hundred yards uphill. The road is winding and there are some difficult turns but Neptali makes it look easy - and he's saved us a walk uphill. Lunch is served at the Posada Ingapirca, a typical local inn with a few rustic rooms, a restaurant and pretty gardens. Following three courses and complimentary beers or juices, we start to head back to Cuenca. We're taking a different road to rejoin the Pan American Highway, and after around 15 minutes drive we encounter some fallen rocks blocking part of the road just before a bridge. Many thanks to Trevor and Santiago for helping to clear the way.

The scenery today is spectacular. We're in the heart of the Andes high valleys - which are lush and green and clearly support a great deal of agricultural activity. We see ploughs pulled by cows, manual crop sowing, and hand milking. 

Back at the El Dorado Hotel we enjoy a buffet dinner featuring typical dishes from the Cuenca area. This includes a local potato soup, fried trout, goat stew, and fried pork. Desserts include figs with sugar cane syrup and cheese. The food is very tasty and the hotel team once again give excellent service.

In a final note for a rather exciting day, one of the waiters must have thought Christmas had come early. A guest, who's identity cannot be revealed for contractual reasons, purchased a beer to accompany his dinner. The cost was around $3. When it came to pay, he only had a $20 bill so he wanted to apologise he had no smaller notes. However the waiter interpreted his "no change" comment differently and trundled off smiling broadly. This could have been an expensive beer, but the misunderstanding was sorted out and an amicable compromise reached.

Off to bed before anything else happens.