I´m in Ecuador Now!

yet another keyboard to learn to use and this one has no shift (upper case) key on the left hand side to make it easy to type a decent sentence with a capital letter to start things off. so screw it — it just takes too much time to try to use the thing properly and i hope you can still read my writing easily enough. sorry about this — the sentences don´t look the way i want them too and i feel like i am writing like a child.

i should update you on my last couple days in cusco. the day before i left, i did a complete city tour and we visited the ruins i have waited so long to see — sacsayhuaman, tambo machay, puka pukara, and qénko — as well as a main colony church, the koricancha temple (of the sun), and the plaza de armas. it was a very very good tour and our guide was excellent. he is a former biologist and tourism is his second career. in fact, i meet many folks who have switched to tourism from other careers or college training. i guess the money is better in tourism, or so they say. it´s unfortunate that they cannot make a living in the field that was their main interest. these are very intelligent people, but now they are tour guides.

Oh my gosh! I just found the shift key on the left side! It is just labeled something else!!!! Yeah! Now I can continue my writing like an adult. This makes me infinitely happy. You must know how frustrating it is to try to use a keyboard that is rearranged. Typing can take forever.

So, the next morning, I got up early again (4:30 am — oh, dear — now I just noticed there is apparently no colon key on this keyboard — drat!) and caught my flight from Cusco to Lima. Everything went smoothly and the driver whom I met the very first day of my trip in Lima was there at the airport to greet me with a sign and a hug. It is so comforting when arriving in a foreign city to see a friendly face, lemme tell ya! The hoards of other taxi drivers vying for your attention immediately back off. I love it.

I stayed at the Flying Dog Backpackers in Miraflores (the safest district in Lima) once again and met up with some of the staff I´d met before. They seemed happy to have a return customer. I was unable to meet up with Gary Malloy, the nice gentlemen I met in on my first flight to Lima… which was unfortunate, however we have said we will stay in touch back in California. Perhaps we could have him out to the house some time for dinner and to share our travel/war stories around the holidays. Gary is Irish American and a pretty positive guy. He is retired now, but loves to travel and explore.

While I was in Lima, I attempted to visit some of the very fine museums there. However, because it was MONDAY (a regular working day), most of them were closed — can you believe that ? They have all chosen Monday as their cleaning day or so someone told me. Whatever. Instead, I went to the main Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas which was like a museum in itself. It was fantastic. The cool thing about my visit there was that there was this guy cleaning the place and he had the most amazing voice — operatic really — and you could hear him singing various religious pieces (I think) as he moved from room to room, cleaning the floors. It was lovely background music.

After the Cathedral, I took a taxi back to Miraflores and then hopped on a local bus and headed off to Huana Pucllana, the local ruins right in Miraflores. These were really something to see. Each entire wall is composed of (what must be) millions of adobe bricks layed on top of each other lengthwise and in rows with a thinner layer of adobe between each tier/row. I cannot imagine how much work went into this. The guide said it probably took them around 60 years to complete, I believe. The ruins date back about 2,000 years I believe our guide said. Sadly, up until the time the ruins were discovered, local people were using some of the bricks to build their own houses, so much of the ruins were lost. The ruins were built in something resembling a pyramid style and were not found until the earlier part of the 1900´s when excavation began. Not all of the ruins have been uncovered, in fact, and there is more to be found they think. Interestingly, the people who built these ruins (not Inca, but the name escapes me at the moment), made human sacrifices and the humans they sacrificed were always women. They thought the fertile women were closer to the earth goddess (or pachamama in the Inca tradition). the women were decapitated and their legs were cut off. Their heads and limbs were found next to them in the tombs.

The following day, Nov. 7, I flew to Guayaquil, Ecuador, and received a slight shock upon entering downtown Guayaquil. It was not quite what I had expected. First, the humidity was probably about 85%, and although there was a breeze, it did not really help much. At least the temperature was not too bad — maybe about 78 degrees F. Downtown Guayaquil (where my hotel was, unfortunately) is a bustling, dirty, congested, rather dark place to be with so many taxis and people, I immediatly thought of central Delhi. I did not even want to breathe the air to tell you the truth, but hey… what choice did I have! In addition, the people in that area don´t seem as friendly (to me anyway) as the folks were in Peru — not even close. Fewer of them seem to want to speak any English too… which is interesting. Perhaps they get fewer tourists. However, in Peru, I never had any trouble. still, it´s OK because I am practicing more Spanish again. I might even end up my trip in Quito taking a few Spanish classes if time permits. I´ll have about 5 days there, but will be sightseeing a lot too — doing some day trips out to Otavalo and perhaps Cotapaxi National Park.

Speaking of Cotapaxi volcano — en route on the plane this morning, as we were arriving in Cuenca (where I am staying tonight), I could see two volcanoes from the air — very cool. One of them was the very active one that erupted just last month apparently (I think some people went missing too), however, it is closer to Banos where I will NOT be going… so, don´t worry — I will be safe from any seismic or volcanic activity (I think). The other one may have been Cotapaxi at a distance — it was quite large and is now dormant. I hope to go there and I hear it is beautiful scenery. Some people even spot condors there, but they are rather rare in that area.

Anyway, I am so glad to hear that everything went fine with the AMEX card charge. It was easy enough — I just walked into the TAME airlines office in Guayaquil and purchased my ticket. it was very fast and simple. It´s good to know that I am insured for the flight I just took to CUENCA this morning and the one I will take back to Guayaquil again tomorrow night.

I have to tell you about today. As soon as I arrived in Cuenca, I went to a hostal called Casa Naranja, a very open-aired building ( I felt like I would sleeping outside tonight!) which was some woman´s 100-year-old family home. She has “renovated” it… which makes me wonder what it must have looked like BEFORE the “renovation”. Now, don´t get me wrong, I am all for having the “authentic” experience and I certainly don´t need (or have) many luxuries when I travel. I am very used to the rustic hostal dorm room and shared bath. However, this place was just a bit too much. I had doubts when I first arrived, but after I returned from a tour of the nearby and truly amazing ruins, Ingapirca (which I will write about in a moment), I decided I could do better… and for less money even… would you believe! Just a few blocks away, I found what I had thought would be my second choice, Verde Limon hostal ($6 per night in a dorm which is empty at the moment… so it is just a large private room for me). I think I will be much happier there. It´s much cleaner, quieter, and newer. So, that´s where I´ll stay tonight. They include breakfast too. They have a TV room, internet, and laundry facilities too! I should have brought all my dirty clothes which I left in storage at my hotel in Guayaquil ! Oh well….

Now, I must tell you about Ingapirca, the amazing Cañari and Inca ruins near Cuenca. Over 3,000 years ago, the Cañari built these ruins which include ceremonial baths, stone walls, tombs, storage houses for food, palace area, stadium-like arena, and a lovely sun temple where the virgins of the sun, priests, and noblemen stayed. The place has been restored in parts and is really impressive. This is supposed to be the most important ruin site of it´s kind in Ecuador (according to my guide book). I´m very glad that I visited today with a local guide, courtesy of Terra Diversa, a well-organized Cuenca-based travel agency. If I sound like a travel writer all of the sudden, that´s no doubt because the only other person on my tour today was, in fact, a travel writer for Frommer´s guide books. His name is Elliot Greenspan (think I got the last name right), and he´s written several guidebooks mainly on Central American countries. He´s lived in Costa Rica for 15 years. So, he went with the guide and me on his fact-finding mission. In any case, I could not help but wonder the whole time whether he was not only learning about Ingapirca, but also evaluating our guide, Alvaro, who was actually outstanding. In fact, I would say, that this relatively young fellow is definitely one of the best guides I´ve had on my trip so far. Fortunately, he will be guiding me tomorrow on my city tour of Cuenca.

Cuenca has some colonial-style buildings and old cathedrals of interest and is supposed to be the prettiest city in Ecuador. Right now, however, I cannot verify this claim yet since I have not seen enough of the city. I was gone most of the day visiting Ingapirca which is about a two hour drive from Cuenca. However, I´ll write more about Cuenca after my city tour tomorrow and let you know what I really think.

Well, this update should tide you over for a while. Sigh…. Gotta go get some dinner now. There are a few vegetarian restaurants in town apparently, and I plan to find one.

Explore posts in the same categories: My Travels, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador (incl. Galapagos Islands)

One Comment on “I´m in Ecuador Now!”

  1. Richard Says:

    Nov 9th
    Hi Laurel,
    Your travel guide is excellent. Good for you to find the nicer place to stay. The ruins you are seeing are amazing! I had no idea there were so many, just never hear much about them in the US. It’s great you are have done such good planning and can visit so many sites. Looking forward to hearing about and seeing your photos.

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