Tour leader stressed?
Our Cuenca city tour this morning starts at the Modern Art Museum. The current art show is not to everyone’s taste but the building, courtyards and gardens are attractive. After our visit we walk through the city streets to arrive at the central covered market. It is busy here. There are vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, cheeses, chocolate (of course) and much more. A whole section of the market is devoted to herbs for medicinal purposes. On a Tuesday and Thursday a few local elders carry out a cleansing and healing ritual in a shaman-like way. Sadly for Richard today is Tuesday! Our guides ask if anyone may be interested in participating. Naturally no one steps forward. Eventually Richard volunteers (and this is definitely for the first time, not an annual event). What follows amuses both our tour guests and the many locals who watch closely to see if Richard survives. Firstly some herbal water is poured over what can only be described as a bunch of grasses and herbs. These are pushed into Richard’s face presumably to inhale the aroma and for relaxation purposes. The same bunch of grass is then used to thrash the evil spirits out of his body. In no time at all his shirt is lifted and his trouser legs pulled up. Various herbal concoctions are then poured into his hair. An egg then makes an appearance! This is pushed into his forehead although fortunately it doesn’t crack (the egg, not Richard’s head). Spitting comes next (by the elder, not Richard). The egg is then cracked into a glass and the elder reads the glass (rather like reading the tea leaves?). The diagnosis follows: Richard is stressed! Ho Ho. Apparently he needs three more cleansing sessions and all will be OK. He makes a quick exit.
From the excitement of the central market we continue our walk via the flower market and on to the Cathedral and Independence Square. Our coaches meet us here and we head for the Homero Ortega Panama Hat Company. We enjoy an interpretation about the manufacture of the Ecuadorian Straw Hat and we end up in a shop. Numerous hats are tried and purchased and, naturally, it takes ages to get everyone out of the shop. Our last stop of the tour is Turi Hill, a natural viewpoint over the whole city. The weather is stunning, clear skies, sunny and warm so the view today is particularly wonderful. A few yards from the top of Turi Hill is situated the gallery of a famous Ecuadorian ceramics artist, Eduardo Vega. This proves another popular stop (or should we say, shop). Suffice to say our transport back to the hotel is loaded with Panama Hat boxes and ceramics!