Quito to Cuenca
We are checking out of our Quito hotel this morning. The luggage boys are busy collecting bags from our guests rooms. Our last breakfast in the pretty courtyard of the Patio Andaluz, a hotel we’ll remember fondly. Santiago and Fernando turn up to guide us for a last time, from the colonial city centre to the airport for our onward journey south to Cuenca. On route to the airport we’re lucky. The skies allow us a clear look at Cotopaxi. We can see a steam trail from the top of the volcano just to prove it’s currently active!
At Quito Airport we enjoy probably the quickest ever group check-in for a flight. We are flying with a local airline called TAME, and the staff at the check-in desks are eager to attend to us. Passports are passed over, boarding cards printed and main luggage labelled for the entire group in ten minutes! Just shows it can be done. The new Quito Airport has plenty of space and the facilities are “as new”. When the flight is called, we walk across the tarmac to the aircraft and board quickly. Taking off towards the north we do a quick 180 turn and head south towards Ecuador’s third largest city, Cuenca. No sooner is the aircraft at flight altitude, we start our descent. Flight duration around 35 minutes! Cuenca Airport is rather smaller than Quito and as we approach the runway it is apparent we land in the middle of town. The runway is fairly narrow and either side are buildings and homes. It all seems quite close. Luggage is brought to the one bag carousel by a tractor and trailer, and we’re soon exiting the arrivals hall to meet our local guide, Franco, and our regular coach driver Neptali. There’s not a great choice of transport in Cuenca so we charter a deluxe coach from Guayaquil and Neptali has driven 4-5 hours to meet us. Suffice to say, his new coach is the most luxurious in the whole of Ecuador.
The transfer to our hotel is only a few minutes but we have to traverse various closed roads due to the local council’s decision to install a tram system around the city. The works have overrun so it is quite challenging for Neptali. Unfortunately the road immediately outside our hotel is also closed but the hotel staff are ready to greet us and we are soon retiring to our rooms, with luggage being delivered shortly afterwards. A free afternoon allows guests to explore part of Cuenca city centre in advance of our full city tour tomorrow. This evening we enjoy an extensive dinner buffet in a private room at the hotel. The cooked-to-order pasta station proves rather popular.