When the sun emerges from behind its veil of clouds, Cuenca, Ecuador, is painfully beautiful.
The blue domes of the Cathedral mimic the blue of the sky. The Tomebamba and Yanuncay Rivers welcome walkers, joggers, and bikers to enjoy the paths running alongside. The old colonial Spanish buildings are charming and glorious; masons used animal bones, tile, and ceramic in their mosaic floors.
But there is a danger lurking on the streets of this beautiful city, a nightmare far too many expats and tourists have fallen prey to. Because of this evil, I have taken it upon myself to inform all visitors of The First Rule of Ecuador.
First Rule of Cuenca, Ecuador: No Multi-Tasking Allowed
The First Rule of Ecuador is: When you’re walking outside, do nothing but walk! Don’t look up at the patrimonial mansions that dot the city.
Don’t text or look at the maps app on your phone. Don’t fix your hair or zipper your jacket. You may not even want to talk if you’re uncoordinated.
The sidewalks and streets in Ecuador are full of perils.
Random poles stick up from the middle of sidewalks. Uncovered gutters lay in wait-like traps, hungry for victims.
Cables stretch across walkways without care of the height of walkers. There are cross-walks in which drivers ignore walkers’ right-of-way. The sidewalk tiles become dangerously slippery when wet.
The least hazardous of these dangers is dog poop. There is dog poop everywhere.
Too many expats wear the battle scars of the dangerous streets. Shins don linear marks left by metal-rimmed holes or protruding pipes.
Ribs and wrists crunch and break from falling on slick curbs. Uneven cobblestones cause trips, twists, and bruises.
First Rule of Cuenca, Ecuador: Breaking the Rule
When you see a Gringo wearing a sling, hobbling with a cane, or sporting purple and yellow marked skin: you know they have broken the First Rule.
They were too careless, felt too comfortable, and probably believed “It’ll never happen to me.”
And just when they were at their most confident, they unwittingly became their most vulnerable. SMACK! SLAM! CRASH! Searing pain and throbbing bones rattled them back to reality.
When you move to a foreign country, you will walk a lot. Bring several pairs of comfortable and supportive sneakers and walking shoes.
You may even want to use a walking stick. Always pay attention to what’s around you.
And for Pete’s sake! Keep your eyes on the path in front of you and remember the First Rule of Ecuador.
Have you encountered any pitfalls? Any actually falls? Share your pain.
by: Rachel deSalvo