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Cuenca, Tomebamba River, Jefferson Perez

For almost a year, she’s been right at my side. She’s steadfast, always there to greet me in the morning and never failing to put me to sleep at night with her soothing voice. In truth, my unwavering companion is one of the few things I have been able to count on all day, every day. And I’ve never worried about her leaving me because, well, she can’t.

My loyal lady’s name is Tomebamba, the wide water body that flows fast beneath the large windows of my second story apartment in Cuenca. Granted, she has three siblings (Yanuncay, Tarqui, and Machángara) that have also left their mark on the capital of Ecuador’s Azuay province (the city’s full name is Santa Ana of the Four Rivers of Cuenca), but Tomebamba has a special place in my heart. Not a day goes by, in fact, when I don’t catch myself captivated by her.

Personally, I cherish the strong stream because it cancels out the cacophony coming from the ever-bustling traffic on Avenida 12 de Abril, which skirts the opposite end of my building. The powerful, yet soothing sounds continuously produced by the river have saved me from many sleepless nights. In addition, I have been fortunate enough to open my bedroom curtains to a fantastic view of the Tomebamba on many dawns. My riverside apartment has allowed me to gaze upon the tributary’s verdant banks and historic bridges on a daily basis; something I’ve never taken for granted.

I also can’t help but notice how much others appreciate this bubbling beltline (which separates the northern and southern halves of the municipality) too. During the daylight hours, countless families bring bulky loads to the Tomebamba for washing, alternating between scrubbing and slapping their duds on its giant rocks as well as rinsing their laundry in its cold current. This well-known waterway is definitely valued for much more than its looks.

Recently, my next-door neighbor, Sheik, and I spent the afternoon walking alongside the ravishing rivulet. As the partly cloudy skies framed a picturesque afternoon, my lanky, Costa Rican friend and I had hardly begun our walk when the two of us noticed something we hadn’t seen before.

Squinting at the aqua arena on the other side of the Tomebamba, I saw that the structure was no longer known simply as the “Coliseo Mayor.”

“Coliseo Jefferson Pérez Quezada,” said the far-off banner, which was stretched high across the top of the rusty-roofed building.

“I didn’t know that was his full name. That’s how you spell it? In Costa Rica, ‘Quezada’ is spelled with an ‘s’, not a ‘z’,” Sheik pointed out.

“They must have named the coliseum after him because he won the silver medal (speed walking) in Beijing,” I concluded, recalling how Cuenca erupted when its most famous son came in second.

“I’m sure that’s why. He did end his career in a great way,” my pal responded.

After our observation of the coliseum’s name change, Sheik and I resumed moseying west. Like our innumerable struts through Cuenca before, my good friend and I bullshitted like we always had. And between her many cell phone calls to her Spaniard husband, Juan José, Sheik (who readily admitted that she was phone obsessive) continued to joke and gripe with me while the two of us ogled the Tomebamba’s snaking banks, which weaved deep into the far-reaching Southern Sierra Andes. More specifically, the two of us were in awe of the endless eucalyptuses that towered high above the pacifying effluent.

Wandering west on Avenida 3 de Noviembre (the long frontage road paralleling the northern edge of the Tomebamba), Sheik paused frequently to take pictures of the skyscraping trees that loomed over the rushing river. My graying, spindly neighbor and I walked slowly amongst the giants, taken aback by the sheer enormity of the tall trunks as well as taking in the sweet smells coming from their countless capsules that littered the ground. The tranquil tributary’s angelic ambience made us forget that we were in the middle of the country’s third largest city.

Enjoying the late-afternoon sunshine, Sheik and I continued westward, meandering for several blocks along the bonny banks. In spite of our tiring legs, the two of us stayed the course, crossing ignored intersections as well as busy byways until we eventually discovered a family using the Tomebamba as their Laundromat. Not wanting to disturb, I stood quietly while my photographer friend insisted on applying her honed skills.

Somewhat embarrassed, I kept my distance from Sheik as she stood directly above the family with Canon in hand, firing at will. However, the busy Ecuadorians paid her no mind. Those who were waist deep in the current focused on the task at hand while the adults and children on the opposite shore just ignored us, playing or relaxing on the healthy bank’s green grass. Remembering how often I had seen tourists snap photos of the washers during my numerous months in Cuenca, I simply figured that the people standing in the Tomebamba were either used to overhead cameras or too busy to care.

Moving on, the long-haired Tica and I stayed on the trail, swerving around the myriad of eucalyptus trees, fragrant flowers, and robust bushes populating the path. We also stumbled upon a couple of parks, which, despite their small size, were quite pleasing to the eye due to their varied vegetation and pretty pathways.

Finally, Sheik and I sauntered ‘til we couldn’t anymore. Abruptly transforming from asphalt into dirt, Avenida 3 de Noviembre ended at a roadblock, which unsurprisingly consisted of a bunch of eucalyptuses.

Be that as it may, my next-door neighbor swiftly turned around and began retracing our steps. I, too, was unfazed by the dead end because I knew my lovely and loyal Tomebamba was there to guide me home, which put a smile on my face.

I was also happy to walk back with the other friend that had always been by my side in Cuenca.


Further Information

Other helpful information: This story took place on September 12, 2008, in Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador.

Did you like this article? Then you'll like these: Salasaca: Day of the Dead, Macas, The Devil's Nose, Cell Phones In Quito, Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Bullfighting in Ecuador, Black Sheep Inn, Bellavista, Visita Lago Agrio Y Cuyabeno and Hacienda San Agustín.

By Tyrel Nelson
03 Nov 2008

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