Customs at both borders were very friendly and the paperwork took less than an hour. Since Ecuador uses US dollar as its currency we immediately changed all our Peruvian soles and also decided to use our backup cash dollars too. Just before and after the border the hills are dotted with rice fields.
Further on, the mountains get higher and you see besides grass land, field of potatoes, maize and vegetables. Everywhere there are houses and small villages in the valleys and up the slopes. It sometimes feels like the Alps except that the mountains are not as dramatic. You drive up and down between 1800 and 3500 m.( A welcome change of climate after the flat, dry and warm coast of Peru). There are not much trees on the slopes so they must have been removed/cut down over the years.
Our first stop was in Loja. We manoeuvred through busy narrow streets and parked in front of the music theatre. In the evening there was a performance of a singer singing famous songs from Camilo Sesto. He was accompanied by a full orchestra of Loja. At 20:00 the unreserved seats were released and after a scramble we found ourselves 2 seat way up at the top balcony. It was a great experience. And good music.
The next day we drove further north to the historical town of Cuenca (16th century). Along the way the break clamped dropped and was rubbing against the tire rim. In order to find a new bolt, Rudy went back to Loja by bus and returned with some new bolts and fixed the problem.
The streets of Cuenca are wider than Loja, so driving in the old city was much easier. We first stopped at the modern Pumapunga museum which is built next to some of the few remaining Inca ruins. There they have dioramas of the various indigenous cultures. Most interesting are the shrunken heads from the Shuar culture.
In the town centre we again visited several churches and wandered the streets which are lined with old colonial houses. As it is now our routine, we look for a small local restaurant to have lunch. Mostly 1 set menu ($2,5) for the 2 of us is enough.
We slowly drove on up and over the mountains to the Inca ruins at Ingapirca where we stayed the night (cold) on the site parking lot (3200 m). This site is a combination of the Moon temple from the original Cañari tribe and the sun temple from the Inca who conquered the place in 1470. Both religions coexisted.
In town there was a sort of a rodeo festival on-going. So instead of visiting all the nearby Inca ruins we sat on the fence at the rodeo. After some 2 hrs of speeches from the local dignitaries and the introduction of all the riding teams still not much was happening. We decided to drive on.
We made it to a lovely lake next to the main road to Quito just in time before the park gate closed. Along the way we had to make a short stop to change a flat tire. On the lake we spotted some ducks with blue beaks. We could not see what the colour of their legs were.