The Panama hat comes from Ecuador.

Made in Luton, U.K. around 1900.And the reason I know this is because we have just visited Rafael Pareded e Hijos Cia. Ltda. in Cuenca, Ecuador. Here the finest Panama (Toquilla Straw) hats are finished. The "factory" also includes a small museum and soon a restaurant and bar. Recommended!

The device being demonstrated (made in Luton, U.K. around 1900) used to be placed on the client's head and the exact shape of the head recorded as a series of punched holes in a paper disk. When the client required another hat, the disk was inserted into the device and the ribs adjusted to match the punched holes. The device could then be used to shape the new hat.

We (K-Nine, Mel and Mog) are camped at Cabanas Yanuncay on the outskirts of Cuenca. It is a hard place to describe (and to find). There are six houses, two cabanas, and a small "hotel" surrounding a "village green" all within a walled compound. Scattered around is an abandoned swimming pool, a large vegetable garden, several llamas, a couple of very mature cars, and lots of dogs. Multilingual Umberto presides over the establishment with considerable panache. (To find Cabanas Yanuncayturn East off the main Cuenca to Loja road at S 02.907033 W 79.033587 then follow your GPS to S 02.905722 W 79.028150. If you don't have a GPS, give up or hire a taxi!)

Since leaving Otavalo a week ago, we have driven south for about 725km visiting the Equator (three times), Quito, Saquisili, Banos, Riobamba and Ingapirca.

Mick and Mo drove thru the centre of Quito on their journey North to Otavalo from Guayaquil. It took them several days, and several litres of wine, to recover from the trauma of being lost in the narrow steep lanes of the old town.

So when we all drove South from Otavalo we chose to drive around Quito to the East via Sangolqui, then head back North into the suburbs, stopping at a large shopping mall. From here we headed into town by taxi, returning in the evening to sleep in the mall car park. A plan that worked well. (The mall is called El Recreo, the man in charge of security is Ing. Edgar Cherrez. When approaching, like us, from the South you need to pass the mall on your left, and then do a "U" turn at the next roundabout. The mall is at S 00.252723 W 78.524492.) The centre of "old" Quito is well worth visiting, the rest is well worth avoiding.

Saquisili is noted for its indigenous Thursday market. We camped on the Wednesday night at the nearby Hosteria San Mateo Camping, by the side of the Pan-American Highway at S 00.796510 W 78.617605. The campsite comes complete with grass, a restaurant, llamas, goats, sheep and a volcano! Only Internet access was missing.

Banos is famous for being right next to the (very) active Tungurahua volcano, and is a great base for many adrenaline sports.

Three things the guide books fail to mention are

  • You can camp in the bus station car park (S 01.395647 W 78.424322)
  • You can not see the volcano from the town.
  • The local men urinate between parked vehicles in the bus station car park at night.

Riobamba is the sort of town you drive round if you can, and drive thru without stopping if you can't. We stopped for a couple of hours whilst K-Nine's fridge was repaired (again).

Ingapirca is the finest Inca site in Ecuador. (Having said that I am glad that we are going to Peru and that we are not visiting Ecuador's second finest Inca site).

Stephen Stewart.

Home - This page last changed on 2006-06-22
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