Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Acclamation to 8400 feet elevation in Cuenca, Ecuador is a slow process!

Well it is November 30, 2011 and the long wait is over. I sold my car and delivered it to its new owner in Santa Clarita, CA on my way to LAX. Lucky for me my Nephew Kyle who is stationed in Hawaii with the Navy was visiting CA and offered to pick me up and drive me to LAX. Thanks again Kyle I know you had to fight a lot of traffic and handle some heavy luggage!
Anyway to my surprise we ended up at Olive Garden where the rest of my family were waiting for a Birthday dinner for me! Thanks to all of you for taking the time and fighting the traffic for me!
Well I finely ended up at LAX about 10:30 pm for a 1:30 am flight on TACA Airlines. I ended up waiting outside in a very long line to check-in due to a power outage earlier that night, but I finely arrived at the check-in counter where I ended up paying $325 in over weight luggage! And was informed at that time that I would have to pay again when I changed planes in Quito.

Fortunately for me I acquired a couple of e-mail friends over the last year and a half from people who were settling in Cuenca and one of them George, who unfortunately had to have a heart valve replacement and moved to Houston, he is doing great and just starting a new job in Texas.
George introduced me to a Ecuadorian friend of his Bryan Vidal who speaks great English thanks to his Southern American Aunt who lives in Cuenca. Bryan has worked in the Hotel industry for over six years and at this time works at the San Juan Hotel in centro Cuenca. 

Hotel San Juan

 He did offer me a discount, which would have been $70 per night to stay at the San Juan but I found staying at his friends home for $17 a night including breakfast more appealing! Marcia has a few rooms she rents out to vacationers or people re-locating to Cuenca.

By the way anyone who might be planning a vacation or move to Cuenca and would like the assistance of Bryan Vidal who now has his own travel agency CATSA, you can reach him at:

I was prepared to make the move to Cuenca on my own managing to plan everything on-line! But after a few months of e-mailing with Bryan I felt secure that I could rely on him to help me with my relocation. And it turned out to be a great choice on my part.
When I told Bryan about the over weight luggage charges $250 he offered to fly to Quito and help me bring my luggage on to Cuenca so I would not have to pay another $250 more. His airfare at $108 was a much better option for me as it turned out.

Bryan in the picture, was waiting for me outside of customs in Quito and we proceeded to the Aerogal Airline check-in.
Fortunately for me Customs was slow and they just ran my luggage through the ex-ray machine, asked me what the big square thing in one of my suitcases was, which was my 21" monitor that did survive the trip!  And I was out and on my way, slowly at 11,300 feet! 
When we checked into Aerogal, Bryan struck up a conversation with the guy at the counter and after a few minutes he let all my luggage go with no over-weight charges. Guess it helped that the flight was not full!
After a 5 hour flight from LAX to San Jose, Costa Rica and a 1 1/2 hour lay-over and another 2 hour flight to Quito plus a 3 hour time change I was pretty shot, especially with no sleep for over 24-hours.
So I was looking forward to getting to Cuenca to my room for the night.
Another 45-minute flight and we arrived in Cuenca ! By now I was very happy to have Bryan with me to lead to way. He hailed a taxi that was large enough for all the luggage and we were off to Marcia's house. Greeted by Marcia with a Birthday cake and of course in Ecuador you always kiss the women on the cheek when greeting them and when departing. Bryan also gave me a phone card as a gift so my Blackberry became an Ecuadorian phone.
About this time I was ready to find my way to my room and at 8400 feet I found myself stopping half way up stairs to get my breath! Having asthma was a concern of mine when I considered moving to a higher elevation, lucky I spent the last year in CA at 5500 feet. Also I read that at 8400 feet there is 21% less oxygen then at sea level but with the lungs working at total capacity the blood stream gets pumped up with lots of red blood cells which delivers oxygen to the body. And the water is like bottled spring water from the faucet, seems Cuenca is the only city in Ecuador that you can drink water from the faucet. Bryan was on his two week vacation and he showed up every morning with a new agenda for the day! Day one was get acquainted with the city.

The main Cathedral in the photo is not finished due to poor construction and it will never be finished.

So off we go on a 2 hour Double Decker bus tour of the city and Turri, above the city.

After the bus tour we met Jimmy, Bryan's cousin for lunch. Which was a typical meal of rice and shrimp for me. They usually eat rice with most meals here.

Jimmy works for an appliance store which I ended up taking advantage of at a great discount!

Well enough for now I will continue with more tomorrow!


  1. Dear Gary, thanks for the most interesting info provided on your blog. I see little info however on the quality of the air in Cuenca. Friends having visited Quito (quite a while ago) complained of the poor quality of the air and the fact that cars had no anti-pollution devices. What is your comment on this issue ? Thanks for the consideration you will give to my request. Best regards. Maurice Rheaume, a French-Canadian considering moving to Cuenca.

  2. Maurice, Yes Cuenca does have an air quality problem, but I have been reassured the air here is much better since we started using propane for cooking. I guess before that people cooked with coal and wood the city was full of smoke from that! A major problem for El Centro is the diesel buses plus lots of car traffic leaving exhaust stuck around the narrow streets. Also until the refinery is build here we continue to buy gas from the US and they send gas which is high in sulfur! The cars here do have smog devices on the engines and the annual car inspections are tough! Right now the tram is being installed which will take two years but will illuminate buses and cut down of car traffic in the El Centro. Also with so much cloud coverage I think that also holds the exhaust down over the city. Inside I find a mixture of dust and suet from car exhaust which sticks to the floors and counters. Hopefully within two years with better gas and the electric tram the pollution here will improve. I have asthma and avoid going downtown as much as possible.