For The Better of Humanity


This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, November 12, 2003 was originally posted on November 13, 2003.

DAY 25:  Being in Cuenca, Ecuador’s third largest city, is like being in Old Spain.  With its well-preserved Spanish colonial houses and cobblestone streets, it’s no wonder it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999.  The red-roofed houses, the plazas and cathedrals make it one beautiful city with — I later discovered — beautiful women.

Pepe and I went out for breakfast and then wandered the maze of streets.  We walked through the main Plaza, the Parque Calderon, with the Old Cathedral on one side and the grander New Cathedral on the other.  Inside the Iglesia Santo Domingo, elaborately painted walls led up to an alter where the Virgin Mary was dressed in traditional Andean clothes.

PEPE CHECKED OUT OF OUR HOSTEL DORM because his bed was too short for his tall Dutch body, and moved across the street.  His replacement in the room was a vegetarian vagabond from Oregon, who had been on the road for sixteen months already with no immediate plans to ever return to the States.  After spending seven months living in little villages in Central America, he had come to the realization that his life’s calling was to provide fresh vegetables for the peasants so they could have a “proper diet” other than just meat and corn all the time.  He had a whole plan laid out with obtaining seeds and distribution and so forth and was determined to better humanity.
He got me thinking:  Shouldn’t I be on some lofty crusade to help better humanity instead of wandering around to get into adventures so that I can make daily blog entries?  Shouldn’t I be out changing the system instead of just being a tourist?

These thoughts lasted about ten seconds and I went on my way to explore the sites.  (Perhaps some day in the future.)

I BUMPED INTO PEPE on the street at random, and since neither of us had an agenda, we accompanied each other in our wanderings of the city.  We walked out to the uncrowded plaza near the Iglesia de San Sebastian and then to the crowded weekly Thursday market.  We saw a small, unimpressive collection of Incan ruins on the outskirts of town and then wandered back to the Parque Calderon, where salsa music played softly on the park’s speaker system.  Pepe sat back on a bench and smoked a cigarette as two indigenous women ran by in their big shirts and felt hats. 

THE TEATRO CASA DE CULTURA is an art film house in town which shows indie films from the international film set.  On the mezzanine level of the lobby is a cafe/bar, where Pepe and I sat for a drink.  I was telling him about my daily blog.

“I sent out a story today as well,” he said.

Pepe was also a former dot-commer turned aspiring-travel-journalist who was also keeping a blog for an audience back home in Holland.  He too was writing stories and taking photos in hopes of making a living of it one day.  It’s funny the people you meet on the road; you often find mirror images of yourself from parallel Bizarro dimensions.

(Pepe’s site is at  It’s in Dutch.)

The lobby of the theater started filling up with people and it started to look like a big premiere of a new film — except without the red carpet or fanatics yelling out “Big fan, big fan.”  Pepe and I did some investigative journalism and discovered that we had stumbled in on a beauty pageant that the universities of Cuenca were having.  Gradually more and more college students filled the lobby to cheer on their female classmates.

“Alright, now I’m excited,” I said.  This was much more interesting than planting crops in Central America!  What better way to better humanity than to watch hot college girls strut their stuff on a stage?

Yes folks, I’m a guy.

We tried to get in the entrance near the cafe, but were denied with our lack of tickets.  But we managed to sneak in through a door on the orchestra level and eventually made our way near the stage.  We made ourselves look like press photographers.

The event started with a college cover band that, out of all people to cover, performed Avril Lavigne songs.  Then, one by one, contestants strutted up on stage in sexy outfits as a computer projected their stats and zodiac signs on the wall.  There were about twenty girls — all beautifully stunning — aging from 17 to 28, and Pepe and I joined in with the crowds as each section cheered for its home girl with sparklers, drums, noisemakers, banners and signs.  At times it felt like we had stumbled in on a soccer game.

The evening gown competition came after, followed by the impromptu interview.  Questions ranged from pre-marital sex to which is more important, love or money?  Judges at the front desk took notes as audience members clapped in approval like someone had just given a “good answer” on Family Feud.

Pepe and I were getting our cameras ready for the swimsuit competition — how could we continue to blend in as press photographers without shooting pictures of girls in bikinis? — but the competition ended there.  Based on the interview, three finalists were chosen, followed by two runner-ups and a winner (picture above).  The theater crowd cleared out pretty fast after that, but afterwards we joined a new crowd gathered at the Parque Calderon, and watched a live band play traditional Andean music through the night that wasn’t so “complicated.”

Next entry: A Day “On” in Cuenca

Previous entry: A Trainful of Tourists

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Comments for “For The Better of Humanity”

  • OOGY/SCOTT:  there ya go… more pictures of girls for ya..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  06:15 PM

  • beyo….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  06:24 PM

  • I love how intouch you with your readers. Always delivering what they want!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  06:51 PM

  • Fuzz-e.

    If you can’t find the painting I want, I’ll take one of these contestants.


    Posted by Warren  on  11/13  at  07:18 PM

  • you should design some fake press passes, say you’re are a reporter from the states and try getting into allllll events for FREE!!

    pepe must be your long lost dutch twin. i had a sneak peak at his website. too bad it’s not in english. i clicked on random links & figured out that “geef hier uw reactie” = post a comment. haha:)

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  11:53 PM

  • damn, no swim suit competion? sounds like you’re having a grand old time in cuenca. I’m afraid guayaquil will be a major disappointment after that. i got here last night. staying at a semi dump called hostel suites madrid ( its in the book) ave junin & rumichaca. will go in search of galapagos trips today. but if no luck today & tomorrow, i’ll probably fly & go to galapagos (puerto ayoro) on monday hoping to find something there. cant take much of this shithole! tellme whatyour plans are.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  03:02 PM

  • NAVID:  Dude,  I’m in Guayaquil now, just got in around one (saturday)... I’m with Chris, the guy I met in Riobamba and the train…  We’re staying at the Hostel Pacifico (its in the LP book) near the corner of roca and escobedo…  So far, everyone’s pre-conception of guayaquil sucks…so far, this city is great…clean and all…LP made it sound like a crime ridden cesspool…  I’ve been wandering the riverfront all afternoon…have you been?  it’s great.

    all the airline offices are closed, I assume on sunday too, so it looks like we’re gonna have to chill out until monday at least…  if you move to the hostel pacifico, its pretty nice… we have a tv and a/c!

    i’ll try and find your hostel and leave you a note…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  07:31 PM

  • Erik, arrived in Machala in early afternoon and 1 look at the place convinced me to keep moving. So I just kept on going until I reached the border. In other words, I’m in Peru now, in a place called Tumbes. Got ripped of immediately when I changed some dollars into soles. Seems they are pretty handy here with the xeroxmachine. Only got stuck with one bad bill though (20 soles) so I won’t have to go to the poorhouse yet. Thanks for posting a link to my site here, wil try to reciprocate asap. And yes Elaine, “geef hier uw reactie” does indeed mean: Post a comment. So why didn’t you?
    Have fun on your travels and give me a buzz when you’re near Amsterdam.
    Mucho suerte!

    Posted by Pepe  on  11/14  at  09:05 PM

  • PEPE:  glad to hear you’re okay…  i’m in guayaquil now and its a lot better than the LP book describes it.  Most of the new renovations to the city came AFTER the publication date it seems…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  11:11 PM

  • ERIK, lot’s of luck and fun in Guayaquil and Galapagos. I’m in Piura now, after a 4 hour ride from Tumbes in some rusty old Dodge filled with 7 people. Four in the backseat, including me with my long legs. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch a flight from here to Lima, otherwise it’ll be a nightbus with similar legroom for me.

    Posted by Pepe  on  11/15  at  05:02 PM

  • heyyyy!!! i really resent those commets about guayaquil… any one who is not having fun here just ain’t looking for it in the right place…
    you should try going to “fizz” “gozzatta” “zizu” or may be visiting the las pe?as, there is a great little bar there called “faro de luna” just ask any taxi driver to take you there…
    have fun

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/16  at  10:38 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
A Day “On” in Cuenca

Previous entry:
A Trainful of Tourists


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