Sprint race at 8,000 feet
We fly from Quito to Cuenca today. Departing the Patio Andaluz Hotel for the one hour drive to Quito's new airport, we decided to put our guide Fernando through his paces. A quick fire question and answer session follows, with a multitude of topics ranging from politics to education to health, building and planning laws, driving techniques (!), agriculture, tax, energy policy and the milking of cows.
Arriving at the airport we check-in for our short flight with TAME, one of the local airlines. The airline staff inform us our take-off is delayed by 90 minutes and suggest we walk over to the adjacent terminal building and have a coffee or visit the shops to fill some time. Richard and Fernando go off to the airport offices to set up a fast track service for Dawn and her guests who are conecting through Quito on Friday. Richard notices our Cuenca flight is now showing "on time". Surely not, we've only just been told about a delay and there has been no announcement. But sure enough, our flight is back on schedule and the first announcement we now hear is "final call at gate B2". Oh, thanks! Fernando heads for the security control and Richard sprints to the next building to rally guests. Teas and coffees and left on tables as we walk promptly to the departure building. Richard is seen rushing in and out of shops and toilets, and at one point running the wrong way down an upward traveling escaltor in his effort to ensure all the group get on board. It is unusual for airlines to lave without passengers that have checked in but better be safe than sorry. Once on board the aircraft a head count proves positive! Richard gives TAME some polite feedback later on! We take off AHEAD of schedule and land in Cuenca early too!
On the flight we can see part of the Cotopaxi volcano and a very clear view of Chimborazo Volcano too. The flight is only 30 minutes but we are served a drink too.
At Cuenca Airport our long-time tour driver, Nepatali is waiting to greet us. And he has a very new and very nice coach for us too! The transfer to our hotel, El Dorado, is just 15 minutes and the hotel has (again) managed to get all the bedrooms ready for us despite our arrival well ahead of official check in time. We settle in and suggest guests have a wander around the centre of the city. We are just one bloack from the pretty main square. There is a good selection of cafes and some very attractive ice cream shops.
Dinner this evening is in a private room at our hotel. The food is great (complete with a fresh pasta station) and the El Dorado staff are excellent.