My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.
Recently, I received an email from a Texan, who reported that
he and his wife could not find an accurate weather report on Cuenca, and
could I steer him to an Internet site for Cuenca’s weather. The
gentleman said that he and his wife found the forecasts were all over
the place. No doubt some forecasts are more reliable than others, but my
point with the Texan was that accurate forecasts are hard to come by,
because Cuenca weather is all over the place.
Nonetheless, a friend of mine here in Cuenca recommends the following
site for relatively accurate weather forecasts covering the canton area
and gives his rationale:
“www.wunderground.com is the best on the internet, I
feel. The current Cuenca weather is reported from various locations
around town. You will never get some nonsense reading of 90 degrees –
probably Guayaquil. They have good forecasting, you can select metric or
the U.S. system, and it carries a lot of historical data for trip
It’s difficult to get accurate weather predictions for Cuenca. The
weather truly does vary a great deal during the day. If the sun is
shining and there is no breeze, it will feel like it is in the low 80’s
when outside in the sun. Go under a tree and it may feel ten or fifteen
degrees cooler. Even in the house or condo, the day can be sunny
outside; but with a breeze or some wind blowing through an open window, it can feel ten degrees cooler
on the inside. As a result, on partly cloudy days the weather can change
considerably from one minute to the next dependent upon if the sun
comes out from under a cloud or if it is suddenly hidden by a cloud.
There are numerous occasions, where I have experienced walking in from my balcony, and circling around the cabinet island that separates my living room from my kitchen area, and by the time I am arriving at the kitchen windows; the sun has disappeared. I don’t mean just behind a cloud, but has literally disappeared in a miasma of abrupt darkness, as a storm descends out of nowhere. Then there are the warm days when I have my windows flung wide-open. I make my lunch, about to enjoy my labors on the balcony, and the wind picks up or the sun hides, and the temperatures suddenly feel cooler. Either I grab a long sleeve shirt, or put on a light sweater or jacket, or I just forget it all as I close the windows and eat inside.
I literally have had days where I am walking down the street and one minute its warm, the sun goes under a cloud, possibly a breeze picks up, and on goes my jacket. Within a minute, the sun comes out from under the cloud, and off comes my jacket again. This game of peek-a-boo between me and the sun can be played out numerous times within a short casual stroll as I walk down the street. I hate wearing a hat. There are days when I am walking, and the sun is out. I wait for the sun to hide behind a cloud, in the hope I won’t have to put the hat in my hand on my head. Five minutes later I am still waiting for the clouds to blot out the sun. Nada is happening! I surrender. I put on the hat, and inevitably within a minute the sun goes into hiding. I eventually remove my hat, and right on cue, the sun emerges again. This performance is repeated numerous times in short order. Dependent upon my mood, there are days when I find this entire game of hide-and-seek humorous, and there are other days when I find the game quite annoying.
The same game is played with the rain. Cuenca is generally an umbrella-carrying kind of town. One minute the weather is fine, even sunny. The next minute I am being showered upon. Sometimes the rains are light and very quickly dissipate. Sometimes the showers are longer lasting—twenty to forty minutes, to one to four hours. It is very rare in Cuenca for it to rain all day. Torrential rain falls happen, but they too are rare. Maybe once or twice a year, we may get a real extravaganza of lighting and thunder. Most of the thunder here, however, is due to the perpetual number of fireworks that Cuencanos love to ignite. In the philosophy of the Cuencanos: “If it booms, it’s good!”
Coming from Chicago, thunder and lightning storms off the lake were much more frequent than in Cuenca. What a dazzling display of fireworks as lighting would streak across the sky, and thunder sometimes exploded with a ferocity that just shook the entire foundations and frames of the buildings. Moments like these felt like this is truly Armageddon. I loved the way the darkness from an approaching storm would actually cause the high-rises to silhouette against the dramatically dark sky, making them stand-out distinctively, and appear to be like miniatures against the soon-to-be storm-laden sky. Riding through Chicago on the edge of an impacting storm like this is one of the amazing things I miss about Chi-Town.
Ever since I’ve arrived in Cuenca we have always carried umbrellas with us. However, in the last two to three months there had been less rain, and much of the rain that had fallen graciously favored us by cascading across Cuenca in the evening and night-time hours. I almost never carried my umbrella, which in my four years of living in Cuenca was a first. There were days during these last three months when the dark clouds would form, and I would anticipate a dunking and I had no umbrella. Once again, Mother Nature was just playing me, and nothing would happen.
The relatively dry weather ended a week ago Sunday, which was an absolutely beautiful, warm, sunny day. Saturday, January 17th was one of the nicest weather days that I had experienced in Cuenca. About 3:30 p.m. all was about to abruptly change as Mother Nature unleashed a torrential downpour in which the baby was discarded with the bath. Flooding in many parts of the city was experienced, and the downpour eventually continued into a night of lighter showers. We have storm sewers in Cuenca, but city officials said the sewers were not effective in some neighborhoods due to the amount of debris that was blocking and clogging them. The weather forecast for Cuenca is above average amounts of precipitation during the first quarter of this new year. We had our yin the last quarter of last year. Now it is time for the yang. Currently we are in a pattern of cloudy and sunny weather with rain commencing on cue most days about 4:00 p.m.
Sunday’s Storm in Cuenca, Ecuador
The everyday rains this past week have bloated the four rivers that run through Cuenca as the headwaters rumble through the city; and despite four rivers, flooding is usually contained to certain parts of the city, generally were there are natural river-plains where, of course, people decide to do their construction and living. Well, few people have ever accused the human race of holding reason and logic in high stead. Flooding is not a major problem in Cuenca like in many cities. The flooding you see in the photo below is a common occurrence in many cities throughout the world, but infrequent and limited in their damage to Cuenca.
While Cuenca was having its Sunday deluge, Guayaquil on the coast was really being inundated with rain. Horrific flooding three to four feet high along the buildings was common, and over forty homes were washed away. This is the rainy season for many places on the coast. Although due to micro-climates along the coast, some places will have little rain. Investigating coastal micro-climates is something potential expats might want to keep in mind, if you are seeking to settle along the coast when you make that move to Ecuador.
In 2009 and 2010, many expats arrived in Cuenca when Ecuador was experiencing a drought. Despite the power shortages, expats were happy that the climate was so perfectly dry and sunny. Once again, that was the yin. 2011 witnessed approximately 75 inches of rain, which was about two-and-a-half times the average rainfall of 28 inches. Chicago, despite its location on Lake Michigan, only averages about 21 inches of average precipitation. The first half of 2012 continued with the yang before precipitation began to revert back to its mean average. Some expats panicked, “Oh my God, we thought we had the perfect climate, and now it’s rainy, damp, and cold all the time.” Eventually by mid-2012, panic subsided along with the rain, and for the most part, the precipitation in Cuenca has remained at normal average levels since then.
Keep in mind that statistical averages for weather are a guidepost of what to expect overall. However, like almost most places in the world, there can be erratic swings from season to season and year to year. The warmest months in Cuenca are September through June. However, there can be variances in that as with any area where statistical averages can vary from year to year. November and December are the warmest months and the breezes and winds are slight to utterly calm. January through June are warm months as well, but there is more breeze and wind, and more rainy days, which modulates the warm temperatures of these months. July and August are generally the coldest months, with temperature highs occasionally in the low 70’s, but usually in the 60’s and some days in the 50’s. Night time temps will be the low 50’s and 40’s with a rare one-to- four evenings a year where the temps may drop into the upper 30’s.
Cuencanos will often divide the weather in Cuenca into the wet season and the dry season. I have never found such divisions to be close to accurate, so I won’t even bother to share them with you. Just expect that some months will be rainier than others, but there will be to one-degree-or-another some months which are rainier than others, but from year to year they will not always be the same months. Wet and dry season patterns in Cuenca don’t really exist except in the minds of the beholders.
It is advertised that Cuenca has year-round spring weather. Most people from the southern U.S. think that’s disingenuous. However, it is year-round spring weather, if we compare it with the northern U.S. Some people like hot, humid weather. Others like hot and dry weather. If that is you, I don’t think Cuenca’s climate will be to your liking. Others who hail from such hot climates are glad to leave them behind. What can I say, “different strokes, for different folks”.
There are times when I wish we had more sunshine and slightly warmer temps. However, I am spoiled, and I have to remind myself what I would be enduring right now in Chicago’s winter. Now that I am older, I no longer can handle heat and humidity either. Much of Chicago’s summers can be humid. I dreamt of moving to a tropical island when I retired. For twelve years before retirement, I had a photo of a tropical island grace my wallpaper on my computer as my inspiration. In 2009 and 2010, I visited Hawaii in May. Temperatures were about 90 degrees. I discovered too much wind, which is why I don’t like coastal areas, as well as enduring winds off Lake Michigan in Chicago for most of my life. I didn’t like the heat and humidity of the beautiful island state, so my dream of retirement to a tropical island melted.
There are expats who love the rainy days, and occasionally I do too. On a rainy day in Cuenca, the temperatures in the city can be in the sixties while it is raining, even lower in the cooler months of the year, and the lack of sunshine and dampness can make it feel cooler. Many times it will feel cooler inside my apartment only to discover when I get outside it is at least ten degrees warmer. Since the walls in the condos and houses are concrete and plastered over, and therefore, do not have insulation; they become a poor conduit for the retention of interior heat. Older homes also tend to be drafty. Newer homes and condos are usually sealed more tightly. If one is considering building in Cuenca, installing double pane windows also helps in producing a warmer interior and reducing outside noise. Most existing homes and condos do not have double pane windows.
With no central heating units, there are some mornings during the coldest part of the year when propane or electric heaters help, especially to take the chill out of the early morning air when first arising. Such heaters are used more throughout the day by people whose body temperatures tend to run cold. People generally just dress warmer inside during the coldest months, by wearing a light sweater over their shirts; or dependent upon the coldness that day, wearing a robe over their clothes as well. I only used my heater once last year, but I could have used it a few other times as well. I suppose not using my heater more often was silly considering how inexpensive utilities are in Cuenca. Instead, I just settled for wearing my robe over my clothes and drinking hot drinks.
There are many times during the year when I walk outside with a short-sleeve shirt on, while Cuencanos are wearing long-sleeve shirts, hoodies, and jackets. The Texan who inspired today’s post wrote, “My wife and I always see photos of people bundled up in Cuenca.” For some reason Cuencanos are usually cold, probably because they have not experienced northern North American winters. Also, many Cuencanos are protecting themselves from the rays of the Equatorial sun, which can be intense. Let the sun come out, and they think it is mucho calor (very hot). I tell them it is caliente (warm). I say, Guayaquil is mucho calor, (very hot and humid). The Cuencanos smile, and agree. A factor for aging expats who experience on-going coldness, especially women, is possibly due to poor circulation; many of their body temperatures drop as they advance in age. Some expats just don’t eat enough carbs, which can also lead to lower body temperatures of those who are perpetually cold, particularly if they are on high protein diets.
Each of us has to decide what best fits are needs in retirement. If you are seeking a tropical climate, Cuenca isn’t it, even if it is south of the Equator. The Equator may keep Cuenca at 8,400 ft. elevation from experiencing the frigid winters and snow of the “mile high city of Denver (5,280 ft), but the high elevation also prevents Cuenca from having a tropical-type climate. However, you will find a tropical climate along many locations on the Ecuadorian coast. If you are really adventurous, you can always settle in El Oriente, the Amazonas, and soak up all the heat and humidity that your little ole heart desires. Whatever you decide, go where you think you will be happy. Climate-wise, Cuenca for me appears to be as close to perfection as I can hope to find.
Here's another fascinating read on Cuenca's climate:
It was in December of 2009 that I accidentally turned to Yahoo during one Christmas vacation morning and saw the list for the ten best cities in which to retire. Cuenca which I had never heard of before was listed as number one. Only Cuenca of the top ten cities did I not find anything negative. I began my research of Cuenca, and fell in love with it before I even made my exploratory journey of one month to this South Andean city in July/August of 2010. My greatest fear was that there was no way Cuenca could live up to my expectations. However, when the month came to completion, I did not want to leave. I retired in January of 2011, and moved to Cuenca the following March. I don't know where the time has gone. On one hand, my visit of 2010 seems so long ago after all the multitudinous changes that have taken place in my life since then. On the other hand, my time here has gone by so fast that it is scary to think how quickly the next few years of my life will speed by as well. The beautiful thing is that Cuenca is my home, and I did not choose Cuenca. It truly was destiny that led me to this beautiful city in the mountains.