I woke up and found a bus from Alausi to Guaranda, the city was a lot bigger then I expected and it was bustling. I was excited to experience my first dose of Andean rural life. I got dropped off in the city centre and then I walked around to find a place to stay. There were loads of shops and street vendors everywhere. The city had old run-down buildings with markets set up in alleyways but the plazas (little square parks where people hang out) were beautiful. They were so well kept with lovely patterned floors and they had WIFI!! I couldn’t believe it, I took a seat and Googled a good place to stay.
I managed to find Hostal de Las Flores, it was rated the number one hostel there and about $16 per night for a single room but I got them down to $10. The hostel has a courtyard type of space and then all the rooms are built around it on 2 floors. I got to my room and it was huge 🙂 It had a bunk bed AND a double bed AND a TV. I realised how much money people must save travelling together but then proceeded to spread my things out across the room and take a selfie haha, I wanted to remember that moment of happiness because it was the first time in ages that I had a double bed and I was planning to sleep like a starfish.
Food in Guaranda
It was actually the middle of the day and I should have started exploring but I decided to kick back and enjoy my space for a few hours so I backed up my camera, watched some TV and had a nap. I got up at about 4pm and headed out to explore. I found some markets and the locals told me there wasn’t much to do. I was recommended a restaurant on the main plaza so I went there to eat a late lunch/early dinner, it was a chinese, or Chifa as they call it and it was really good food! I walked around the markets and then it started getting dark.
I remembered I had read about this cafe/bar called 7 Santos where they had live music and it was meant to be a really artsy place so I went to check it out. It was the weirdest place I had ever seen, I have never tried hallucinogenics but this place made me feel like I was tripping, their were psychedelic paintings on the walls and weird devil pictures, scribbles of spiders and masks hanging on the wall. It was a really big place but there were only 5 people in there. I walked into the other rooms, they were creepy too, I felt like someone was following me and I went back found some books, ordered a tea, read a little and left. I still think it was the best place in Guaranda to go out but I would never go there again.
I wasn’t really feeling Guaranda, it was a market town and people were very work orientated, I don’t feel I really had anything to gain here, not a bad place at all but one day is enough there. I decided to go to a small town called Salinas where I could really experience Andean rural life. It was a salt mining town but after building cheese and chocolate factories they became the cheese and chocolate capital of Ecuador.
Andean Rural Life
I got to where they said I could find transport and found people climbing into the back of pick-up trucks, I asked the driver and he said it was a Collectivo (shared taxi) headed to Salinas so I climbed in. As soon as we left it started raining really hard and we were sitting in the back of an open pick-up 🙁 The driver pulled over and got out, he asked me to come and sit with him and I was sooo happy. I felt a little bad but not bad enough to offer it to anyone else so I hopped in. He told me a little bit about Salinas, basically that I should visit the chocolate and cheese factory and that I wouldn’t need more then 2 hours there. I was fascinated on the way, most of my pictures are from those drives and I tried to capture Andean rural life.
I arrived and was starving, it was 10am, I found a little place for breakfast and my god it was to die for. There were 3 Americans in the cafe who got chatting to me and we ate together. It was basically cheese, with cheese and more cheese and then some chocolate 🙂 I cannot tell you how good real cheese tastes after four months of Peruvian cheese. Peruvians do not do cheese, their queso is no bueno and even when they rant and rave that you have to try a particular cheese…I am telling you now it will taste like paper.
I was in cheese heaven and if I went back on the next truck I would have been happy. I decided to torture myself and walk through the village in the rain. It was so small, 1000 inhabitants, I practically walked the entire village. The chocolate factory was closed. I bought some chocolate…it was not the greatest. I went to find the cheese factory which was a little out of the village and that driver was still there, again he took pity on me and took me there and I was grateful to be out of the rain. They didn’t let me inside the actual part where they make cheese, you have to watch from behind a glass window and nobody was there to explain anything. To be honest the factory looked chaotic, I watched them for about two minutes and saw water all over the floor and I decided to just buy cheese before they put me off it so I went to the cheese shop. I was going to meet some friends in Montanita who had been working with me in Peru and I knew a cheese feast would go down well.
Visiting Guaranda and Salinas was a nice way to see authentic rural life, even on the road I saw some interesting places and indigenous communities. The Andean region is definitely worth exploring while travelling South America, I opted to get off the beaten track but of course there are options where you will be more entertained,
Bedtime for me now!