Quito to Cuenca
This morning we leave the Patio Andaluz Hotel in Quito and drive to the airport for our flight to Cuenca. Monday is "changing the guard day" at the Presidential Palace in Quito, and road closures in the city centre are commonplace. We therefore leave in good time to beat potential diversions. However, as we turn the corner from the hotel an official car with police escort passes by. The car windows are blacked out but Richard and our guide Santiago recognise the President (or at least that's what they claimed).
The flight from Quito to Cuenca is scheduled for one hour duration but rarely takes longer than 45 minutes. Today is much as normal. We barely reach flying altitude before we start descending to Cuenca. There's no time for in-flight service but we are offered a sweet! The landing at Cuenca is quite fun. The airport isn't that large and it's situated in town, surrounded by houses. We're flying in a fairly large Airbus 320 aircraft so the pilot needs to touch down as soon as possible to use all the runway. As we approach the airport the views over the roof tops of Cuenca is beautiful. The pilot brings us into land perfectly and then slams on the brakes. As we hold tight we notice how close the houses and gardens are. On disembarking we reclaim our luggage and join our privately chartered coach. Richard and Dawn hand pick transport and drivers, and we're introduced to Neptali who will drive for us until we leave for Galapagos. Neptali has driven up from the coastal city of Guayaquil to be with us.
Its only a short drive to our Cuenca hotel, the El Dorado. The hotel is perfectly situated, in the centre of the city just one street from the main square, and surrounded by lovely shops! This is, of course, a major bonus for ladies and a potential nightmare for their partners. Sorry.
Although we're ahead of normal check-in time, the hotel manager Romeo has all our rooms ready and we're quickly settled in and luggage delivered. City maps are distributed and guests head off to explore the centre of town. This evening we enjoy a wonderful buffet dinner in private banquet rooms at the hotel. The menu includes salads, chicken, sword fish, and vegetable souffle, plus a fresh pasta station. Desserts and tea and coffee follow. Guests remark how much they enjoyed the food and the impeccable service. Richard is not surprised. The hotel has an excellent reputation and is led by General Manager, Pedro Vasquez, who is always most obliging.