Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Noise in Cuenca

Yes, Cuenca is a noisy City!
Cities, in general, are noisy places.

Some new folks in town were dismayed and upset about the noise levels in Cuenca.  All we could say was 'yep'. 

The Cuenca area is home to almost a half million people.  Yes, you will hear construction, loud music, children playing (sometimes with that obnoxious, loud Barney song, over and over and over), roosters, barking/howling dogs, cats in heat, cows, birdsong, fireworks, churchbells, traffic, car alarms, weedwhackers, sirens, thunder and heavy rain, the roaring rivers and more, around the clock, in some neighborhoods. 

Sometimes the loud music will go on all night with a one-time event like a wedding, concert or graduation, or a couple hours for the City-sponsored, outside exercise program.  Sometimes it will be loud, live music at a nearby bar or club. Sometimes it will be kids practicing their drums for the next parade.  Expect it to be really loud at holiday times with fireworks and music.  Some days, there seems to be only one volume in Cuenca and that's LOUD, turn it UP as high as you can! Some days we can hardly think or carry on a conversation.

There doesn't seem to be any noise abatement laws in Cuenca. Ecuador is a developing Country with growing pains...perhaps creating/enforcing noise laws will be a priority some day, but not today. 

Some of the apt buildings around town have noise 'rules'. Some of the building administrators do enforce them, some don't.  'Guess it depends on the type and the hour of the noise (and who's making the racket).

Depending on where you're coming from, the noise can be deafening, nerve-whacking and can make you downright crabby. 

We also suffered the first few weeks here coming from quiet, peaceful rural Oregon. Now, we compare our life in Cuenca more to San Francisco where we grew up, for noise, activity and services.

 If you're coming from country-quiet, you may be affected more than the folks already used to the noise of a big City.  We often smile as we remember new folks complaining about the cable car bells, construction and fog horns in San Francisco when we lived there, too. 

You will hear all the construction around Cuenca.  Workers have tight deadlines and many projects work all shifts.  The good news is that lots of workers are employed and they are getting the work done. The bad news is that it can be noisy, at all hours!  At least, until it's all done (maybe...). 

Traffic is being re-routed around the construction sites, so some side streets and neighborhoods which used to be mostly quiet with less traffic are now major thoroughfares (which means loud and more polluted).  If you do find a little pocket of quiet in Cuenca, it can all change to LOUD in a heartbeat. 

Yes, you might find peace and quiet in other parts of Ecuador, but there are no guarantees.  Even in the countryside or at the beach, you could still hear animals, parties, traffic and construction. (One gal thought the ocean was too loud!) Could even be noisy in the jungle, with animals and construction in some areas.
Everyone has their own tolerance levels for noise.

When the noise levels in our neighborhood get out of control,  we try to play defense...we get mobile and leave, when we can.  We take a walk or ride for a change of scenery.  We catch up with friends for a few yucks or a trip out of town.  We have a meal or a cup of coffee in more quiet surroundings.  We do the same things when the utilities go out.  If you just stay put and stew, you'll go nuts.  Better to just put your shoes on and go for a break.  Chances are, when you return, the noise will be gone (or at least tolerable) and the utilities are back on. 

Several folks we know who have moved here, have actually moved several times as they try out different neighborhoods.  Sometimes it's the noise levels or the air pollution, sometimes it's something else.  They eventually find a better place in town, sometimes at the Coast, sometimes way out in no-darn-where.  Funny, some of these new country mice still complain about the loud parties, roosters and churchbells. But, sometimes they find they can hear the wind blowing through the trees and the birds chirping!  Yes!

On the bright side -- Isn't it great that workers have jobs and are busy beautifying the City! Isn't it wonderful that folks celebrate with their families and friends! We think it's more than fine that our City sponsors neighborhood dance/exercise classes all over town for all who want to join in and 'get healthy'. (Well, except for maybe their eardrums...)

We love our (noisy) Cuenca!  It's a vibrant, happenin' place. 

But, if you think noise will be a problem for you, you may want to add earplugs to your packing list.  (you can also buy them here).

 You can't change Cuenca, and who would want to?

PS -- About the air pollution...

The City will begin the new light rail system construction later this year, which will help keep the air cleaner when it's all done.  Today, buses spew yucky black diesel fumes.  The rains and the prevailing winds tend to clear the air now, but it's not perfect.

We're hearing the goals of the light rail project include replacing the polluting buses in some areas and limiting some of the car traffic....all good.  'Soon'.

There are less air and noise pollution early mornings and on Sundays.  That's why we like to walk downtown at those times, or try to avoid the bus routes mid-day.


More progress shots at the massive underpass project...almost done!

One more peaceful picture...


  1. I hope that you do not die of old age before that light rail system becomes a reality. MANANA,MANANA, MANANA!!!

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    Not sure where you are...but, if you're here in Cuenca, you will know that the massive round-about/underpass project is making excellent progress, ahead of schedule. The initial deadline for completion was Nov, now it's Sept. 2012!
    Most of the other big street projects around town are right on schedule, too.
    There are always delays, and 'manana', but we are hopeful, once the light rail project gets going later this year, it will be completed on schedule, too. We think the officials are getting pretty good at managing big projects. We are looking forward to enjoying the light rail soon! (Probably in the next couple years.)
    Thanks for writing,

  3. yep. noise. and no control of it. I think that is what some folks have such a hard time with.. loss of control. I found that my ears adjusted to the increased noise of traffic in front of our house, and when the neighbors house alarm goes off I can go right back to sleep.. 2 yrs... and we are not leaving! :>)

  4. We moved to Salinas from Bend, OR. The noise has been a huge adjustment. We live one street back from the Malecon. We never visited Ecuador before the move; stupid, I know. It all came up really quickly. The noise is making me ill. IDK if I can handle it. The regular noise from daily activities is fine, but the blaring music ALL NIGHT LONG on the weekends is deafening and unfortunately, there is no where to escape it. We're seriously thinking about selling. This is no fun. I wouldn't have even tried living in the city. Had I known, would never have moved here.