The zoo here in Cuenca is a very worthwhile experience! We had heard and read good things, but we did not realize the treat we were in for! First things first, the zoo is on the side of a mountain and is absolutely not stroller friendly. The paths are rugged and steep. Fortunately, Maeve’s favorite mode of transportation is the ergo and we didn’t even bring a stroller. If I was going to this zoo with a 2-3 year old, I would want a back pack carrier for sure. The zoo is one big loop of one way paths so all of it needs to be experienced if you want to make it to the exit. A lot of families passed us! We were soaking up our first visit.

One of the first animals we saw was the Andean bears and lucky us, when we arrived at their very large enclosure, they were about to be fed. A female bear came lumbering down to the spot the keeper throws the food. He threw her some mango and papaya. Then the keep called the male bear’s name to get him to come and have something to eat. And sure enough, he made an appearance. It was pretty cool! 

There were a ton of snakes and frogs and other animals native to South America. The condors were a neat thing to see and the monkeys were one of our favorites! Near the end of our visit, the rain hit pretty hard for 5-10 minutes. We somehow lucked out and were back near the covered lunch tables and managed to stay reasonably dry. But after the rain, the trails were pretty muddy and slippery. We had to be careful as we descended.

Lunch at the zoo was seco de pollo (rice, chicken and a small salad) for me and hot dogs for the girls and a sandwich for Conor. I love seco de pollo. It’s so simple and so reliable and so Ecuadorian.

Once we finished at the zoo, we walked down to the highway where we thought we would be able to hail a taxi, but I guess it’s illegal for taxis to stop on the highway? So that was a little tricky but eventually it all worked out. Just a part of the experience! 

One of our most favorite parts of the Amaru Bioparque Cuenca Zoologico (Cuenca Zoo) was this one pathway through a thicket of trees in which small monkeys lived. We almost walked straight through without realizing just how close we were to these adorable animals. And then we all lost our minds when we saw the teeny-tiny monkey on it’s momma’s back! Seriously, go watch this video Conor posted on his Instagram account. We totally wanted to tuck that baby monkey into our backpack and bring it home with us. Obviously we didn’t. I think one of the amazing parts of this experience was that there was no fence separating us from the monkeys. They were right there so close! Holly and Greta both have a new found obsession for monkeys (they started playing “monkeys” before we left the zoo!) and Maeve was like, “meh, I’m cuter.”

I wish every day was Saturday.

This past week, we visited a couple of museums with our tutor, one of which was the sombrero museum. I have been told and read so many times that panama hats are not from Panama, they are from Ecuador. I didn’t anticipate the cost of some of the hats. While there were hats for $25, there were also hats for $800! I’m not ashamed to say we left the museum empty handed.

There is a beautiful view of the city from the cafe. I really liked the re-purposed hat molds turned planters. 

This week we were big spenders at the Artisan market (same place I was cleansed at). Holly, Greta and I went while Maeve slept and Conor worked. The girls have both been pining for Ecuadorian dolls and when we were initially packing our stuff to come here, we promised to get them some jugetes de Ecuador (Ecuador toys). So 5 weeks in, I finally made good on my promise. Holly and Greta each got a doll, a clay pot and a miniature spoon. I bought a couple of wooden spoons, a tool for mashing potatoes/plantains and I couldn’t help but expand Maeve’s musical instrument collection with a set of maracas. It was lunch time at the market and cuy was on the menu with many people eating it. We bought plantain chips, popcorn, salad of tomato and green onion with a tomato juice poured over it and lime juice. Oh my goodness it was delicious! There were two other ingredients that are typically mixed in, but Greta only wanted what was familiar to her. Next time, I’m getting it with all the fixings! 

On the walk home, the rain came down hard and we got pretty wet!

We were super lucky to have made friends with a family from Cuenca. We met the wife in the airport in Quito and they have been so kind and generous towards us. This past week, we invited them over for lunch and I made soup that didn’t have enough salt! Our friends adore Maeve just like every other person in Ecuador. Her bottom scoot is so unique and endearing. 

We’ve generally found that the men here in Cuenca are more friendly than the women. I’ve had a harder time making friends than Conor has, which could just be because of me? I don’t know. The woman at church are kind but they aren’t as warm and friendly as the women in Quito. We are hanging on to the friendships we have and working to forge new ones. 

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