It is too easy to forget that Cuenca is nearly on the Equator and at approximately 8500 feet in elevation nestled in the Andes Mountains. Those of you who have skied at high altitudes in America’s west or the European Alps already know how strong the sun can be. Though the temperatures in the mountains of the US and Europe can often be freezing, skiers will have their nose and cheeks covered with a protective zinc oxide cream to stave off the sun. Add to that, the fact that the sun in Cuenca is directly overhead because we are almost directly on the Equator and you have come up with a powerful combination of UV rays raining down on you year round. On a day like in the photo, the sun can be deceptive.
Our dermatologist at Monte Sinai Hospital has warned us to take precautions as Cuenca has the highest level of skin cancer incidences in all of Ecuador. While we are never as diligent as we could be, we wear sunscreen cream on our uncovered faces and arms. Loretta and Jonny being redheads often wear hats. An excellent choice of sunscreen in both gel and cream form is a local product appropriately named Umbrella. It can be purchased without prescription at any pharmacy. On a bright, sunny day, it is quite common to see people walking with an open umbrella or holding a magazine or newspaper over their heads to keep out of the sun. Many people also wear wrap-around sunglasses, as the sun not only bears down with harmful UV rays, but it is also extremely bright to the point where it can actually hurt your eyes. Fortunately, you will find street salesmen almost everywhere loaded down with sunglasses for sale at around $12 and up. So, covering your arms, applying sun lotion to your face and exposed arms, wearing hats and sunglasses are all good protective precautions. We have seen too many visitors with bright red faces from painful sunburns who walked through town on a sunny day or even on a cloudy day not realizing how quickly they can be hurt by the sun. It takes only one experience like this to make a believer.