Cuenca: Shrunken heads, ruins, llamas, and waffles

We walked the 3km to Museo Pumapungo today. A fixture on top-things-to-see-in-Cuenca lists, Pumapungo comprises a modern museum, Incan archeological ruins, and a botanical garden/aviary. Entry is free and they are open Tuesday to Sunday, but check hours before you go.

The big drawing card at the museum (at least the one mentioned in all articles about it, and even highlighted when expats suggested we go) are the grapefruit-sized shrunken heads. Not a high point for me, but that exhibit is the only indoor one that provides interpretive notes in English. Maybe it’s the only one that non-Spanish-speaking visitors learn enough about to discuss? The interpretative signs were clear that human head-shrinking is no longer practiced (good to know) but the lead-up to humans–sloths–is still part of the ritual (not so good to know).

The museum covers all of the different indigenous cultures from around the country. We had been to a similar museum in Quito so the information wasn’t new, but the displays are quite good. On the lower level is a historical currency exhibit, with displays of Ecuadorian coins, paper money, and other currencies dating back several hundred years.

Out on a hillside by the gardens and aviary are llamas sleeping or grazing. From high up on the ruins, they look like they are just hanging around because they like it there. Close up, you see they are tethered so they are really just another display.

p1190664p1190665p1190675P1190670.jpgThe museo has two access points. At the top of the grounds at Calle Larga y Huayna-Capac is the museum entrance. At the bottom of the grounds, in the south-west corner, off the river pathway, is a gate to the botanical gardens and park area. Also here is a fantastic little Belgian waffle shop open Thursday to Sunday. Plan your visit so you’ll hit that corner when you are hungry. We started at the top so we could have waffles for lunch. We went all out and ordered a waffle completo for each of us–a belgian waffle with fresh diced strawberries, ice cream (choice of flavours) and syrup (also choice of flavours), for $2.50. Jan, the Belgian proprietor, loves to chat, and we learned, among other things, that he makes his batter fresh (apparently not often the case), and that his waffle iron is authentic from Belgium.p1190667p1190668


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