Monday, 13 July 2009

Loneliness and Cuenca

So I have encountered some of the realities of solo travel, positive and negative. Leaving Piura on Saturday night, I met two fellow travellers, in fact volunteers who had been working in Trujillo. We got on really well, spent the early hours of the morning waiting for it to get light in a bus station ( a South American classic). Then walked up to get a view of Loja, an Ecuadorian town nestled in the Andes like a miniature, chilled-out Cusco. Then I went - straight on to Cuenca, leaving them to follow their own route to Quito. A mistake? So I came to think on the 5 hour bus journey, overwhelmed by the sense that I was on my own and would be for another month, in unfamiliar and far-away places.

By the time I got to Cuenca I was feeling pretty miserable, to put it bluntly. But then other things happened, as they tend to do. I made a comforting phone call home, and set out to find a hostel. I found one - El Cafecito, a restaurant-cum-hostel that was full of friendly travellers (a relief). Another plus was the fact that Cuenca is probably the most beautiful place I have been so far. The city centre seems entirely made up of white-washed or brick old houses with red tile roofs and little balconys, lining cobbled streets. It is also filled with churches, including the "New Cathedral" which is monumental and inspiring. Most importantly, however, the place seems relaxed - a world away from the eternal noise of Cusco. I met a group of Canadians at the hostel (including two Québecois - whose French I could understand some of!), and with them went up to a viewpoint over the city in the late afternoon. The dinner we had afterwards at the hostel's cafe was lively and delicious. The more Canadians I meet, and the more I hear about the country, the more I really, really want to go there.

I have heard that because of swine flue, all school in Peru has been cancelled from Wednesday until the 3rd of August - which will make life pretty difficult for Projects Abroad!

Unrelated thoughts - I just read an article on the Guardian website about the British people's lack of faith in government, institutions, or anything representative of our country. It is a slightly depressing thought, but probably true. I know at least that I would take our cynicism over blind faith any day. It's just a shame if the cynicism becomes so enveloping that we are reluctant to see anything in a positive light. I think one of the greatest things about Barack Obama's presidential campaign was that he brought back an optimistic tone. Sadly I wonder whether the tone of his speeches would have worked in the UK - or whether he would have been shot down by the media.

P.S. I have been doing some other writing while on this trip - poems and the like. I might put some up - though I better get a move on, as Internet in Cuba is not easy to come by, from what I hear.

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