General Thoughts About Ecuador

Snow capped mountain in the background, cactus in the foreground

I enjoyed Ecuador quite a bit. People are friendly and open. The scenery is gorgeous. Life is easier as an American there because they use the US coins.

Locals preparing beans for sale

I enjoyed seeing the various indigenous people in their native clothes. The food was tastier than Colombia (which is very bland) and very inexpensive.

Dan’s favorite city was Loja. I enjoyed Ibarra because we spent time talking with our neighbor and host more than some other places. This allowed me to get a better feel for life in Ecuador. Quito was fun because of the Equator activities.

Generally museums are free or extremely inexpensive.

If you go to Latin America, be sure to spend time here. Plan ahead more and go to the Galapagos Islands if you can. It is expensive, about $3000-40000 for 2 people for 5 days. Maybe some day…

 

Guayaquil

Guayquil has a beautiful boardwalk with a ferris wheel

Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador with over 2.69 million people. We were happy to stay with Tracey McGuiness who is aunt of our niece, Bonnie’s step children. We had briefly met her at Bonnie’s wedding several years ago, or I should say Dan had.

Tracey was raised in the United States and Ecuador so her English is top notch. She showed us around town and we enjoyed being with her.

We had a big laugh because when her daughters heard that we were staying with her they were very concerned since she didn’t really know us. “They might be serial killers!” Fortunately they were more comfortable with us once we met.

One evening we went to an ice cream shop that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the liquid ice cream. The making of your order is half the fun and it was tasty as well. We had kiwi and else in ours, don’t remember what. See Dan enjoying his.

In the parking lot of the ice cream store was a barrier in the handicapped parking space. We had seen something similar in Costa Rica and asked Tracey about it since we could talk in English and really hear the explanation. It seems that they expect the driver to be able bodied and move the barrier when they pull up. She didn’t know what happened if the driver was the disabled person. Interesting way of looking at things. Not practical but interesting.

We only spent 2 nights in Guayaquil before we flew to Peru and a short overnight on the return flight. We hope that Tracey will allow us to return the favor and visit us in Durango someday.

Signs in Ecuador

I always enjoy seeing signs in the different countries. Interestingly, the sign for an Ecuadorian highway is similar to that of a US interstate highway…wonder who copied whom?

Other interesting signs…

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Vilcabamba

Very pretty exterior of church on the town square

We spent my birthday at a small town near Loja called Vilcabamba. We had heard it was a town with a lot of expats and that it was a quaint town. I found it pleasant but not that interesting a town.

River

We did take a nice (except for the mosquitos) long walk along the river.

Apparently there are a lot of people from South Korea in the town, thus the Korean looking characters on the restroom at the tourist information office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How many people does it take to paint a stripe on the road? Apparently 4 lot when you do it by hand.

It is common in Ecuador to see dogs that are on roofs of houses. They bark at everyone but seem to know it isn’t a good idea to jump down.

Lovely ride by bus

Wind Turbines

View from the area by the museum, the highest wind farm in the world, over 8900 feet

We visited the museum for wind turbines which is located up by the actual turbines. The taxi driver and the guide at the museum didn’t speak English so we got the gist of the explanations but not details. Still very interesting.

Wind turbines are usually good for about 20 years and then they have to be dismantled because the concrete foundation can become unstable. That was a surprise. The turbine itself could still be fine.

This demonstration project (11 Chinese made turbines) in Loja has been successful and they are planning to add additional turbines. Don’t remember the payoff period but I think it was something like 5-7 years. Pretty short time; very cost effective.

More information about the project can be found here.

Loja

Town square has huge, 4 sided monument

Loja is a fun city of almost 200,000 people at about the same altitude as Durango. We spent a few days there and enjoyed it all.

Highlights of the city which was founded in 1548:

We did a city walking tour by a company that had only been in business less than 6 months. The owner is very ambitious, starting the company in his mid 20’s, a few months before graduating from college. He has researched his subject well and we enjoyed the tour.

Leaf design in corner of church
Building with leaf design near roof

Most interesting were stories about the Jews who were among the early residents, shaping the town. There was a statue to one of them and he said that the leaf design in a Catholic church and on some buildings was Jewish in origin. I had never seen/known about this but perhaps it is so.

Man places his order for herbs; window rotates so that he can receive his purchase without direct contact with the nuns.

There is a monastery where the cloistered nuns have no contact with those who are outside the grounds. To earn money, they grow herbs which are sold via a rotating window to prevent contact with their customers. The medicinal herbs are very popular with the locals.

Ouch, that has to be tough on his neck. Look Ma, no hands.

People frequently carry very heavy loads on their heads. I would think that would be tough on their necks!

Random picture of a car in front of a more modern church; we couldn’t figure out how it got where it was parked.

Fun bridge that literally has sides of a bus mounted on the bridge!

Have wheelbarrow, have a chair!

Special parking for pregnant women next to handicapped parking.

Tile plaques are mounted on walls on streets in historic area.

Jipiro National Park

Located in Loja, Jipiro National Park is a relatively small area for a national park but quite enjoyable. Geared to children, we enjoyed many of the whimsical structures and the promotion of multiple cultures. Not quite sure why the cultures were chosen but interesting all the same.

Ingapirca Ruins

I had heard that the Ingapirca (Inca Wall in the Quechua language) Ruins, a couple of hours outside of Cuenca, were worth visiting and it’s true. Originally settled by the Cañari indigenous people, they were invaded by the Incas in the late 1400’s. Eventually they intermarried and got along, not requiring the Cañari to give up their culture which exists today.

Cañari stone work on the left, Inca stone work on the right. Image compliments of ancientorigins.net

The location of the ruins has been used by different peoples over the eons. When the Incas arrived and conquered the Cañari, they built a town over the existing settlement.  The Cañari  used random shaped stones and mud or something to hold the stones in place while the Incas used rectangle stones (often squares) and didn’t use any mortar to hold them in place.

Some highlights of the ruins and the day:

  • There are a number of burial tombs, including one that was of an important female who died and had 10 followers surrounding her in the grave to go with her into the next life. Apparently those individuals were chosen for this “adventure” and took some poison and were all in the fetal position.
Grave is under the flat round stones on the right. Image compliments of ancientorigins.net

There is a large stone marking the burial site as well as many small smooth stone directly over the grave. The large stone is lined up exactly with a pathway and on the summer and winter solstices, the sun shines directly on the stone as it rises on it during one of the solstices?

  • The Sun Temple rises high above the area and is the only oval shaped sun temple built by the Incas. This reflects the Cañari influence. The temple is aligned halfway between two mountains which are 24 KM apart. On good days they could use reflective metal to send messages to the temple and then pass them onto the next mountain. On days without sun, a runner would go from one mountain to the temple to pass on a message and another runner would take the message onto the next one. This would happen repeatedly as needed.

    Sun temple is large round building in back center of photo. Drainage is visible in straight and curved lines in foreground.
  • The Sun Temple was built over a very large stone which was considered sacred by the Cañari. This stone is no longer visible because of the temple structure.
  • On top of the Sun Temple there are two identical rooms which are back to back. They each have 3 small alcoves where the sun shines through the door opening into the corresponding alcove to indicate the solstices. There is also one larger area where apparently a mummified priest’s body was kept and could be seen by the current priest during ceremonies.
  • We had an English speaking guide who I’m sure is from the area, and probably Cañari based on his passion for the history and events. He taught himself English over the last 5 years and did an excellent job. The most interesting guide we have had yet!

    Guide passionately explaining some history.
  • The entrance fee to the park is $2 per person and no charge for the guide however there is no charge for seniors…what a deal!
  • This is one of the very few places where we have seen signs in Quechua (pronounced ketch you wa). This is the native language of many people in Ecuador and Peru.

    No smoking sign in Spanish, English, and Quechua
  • It was a full day event to get there and back via 3 buses there and one bus and one taxi back. We left at about 8:10 in the morning and didn’t return until about 7 that night.
  • Our hostess, Miriam, went with us which helped to navigate the buses immensely. She had never been there before and enjoyed herself as well. She took the Spanish version of the tour.

Parque National Cajas

Near Cuenca is the Cajas National Park.  According to WIKI, the name “Cajas” is derived from the Quichua word “cassa” meaning “gateway to the snowy mountains”.or “caxa” (Quichua:cold). It has also been linked to the Spanish word “cajas” (boxes). We took the bus from the terminal, the same route we would later take to Guayaquil and got off about an hour later at the park entrance.

Lake we walked around
Some of the trail was a bit tricky; Lindie in the middle

I don’t remember the exact height where we went around the lake which is relatively flat but I believe it was about 13,000 feet.

Lindie and friends

The day was somewhat overcast so it wasn’t as pretty as it could have been (probably greener at other times of year as well) but we had an enjoyable hike by the lake and saw some interesting flowers.

Interesting flower by the lake

Then caught the bus back to Cuenca.

View of the valley

Pumapongo Museum

The Pumapongo Museum is a free museum dedicated to the development of Ecuador in general and a lot of information about the indigenous people as well. The museum has a main building as well as partially excavated grounds directly behind the museum.  There is a small area for live birds on display too.

Not only is there no charge to go into the museum, I never even saw a donation box!

There are wonderful small dioramas showing life for the indigenous and early settlers. They are so detailed that they even show plants growing on the roof of a house…something that you do see sometimes even today.

Most of the museum is only in Spanish which we can read mas or menos (somewhat) but occasionally there was English.

There is a section of money. Originally things from nature were used as money, shells and such. Later coins and then later paper money were used. Starting in 1830, the Peso was used. The Franco was used from 1856-1871. Then they used the Peso again until 1884 when the Sucre was used until 2000 when they went to using the United States dollar because the sucre had been so devalued.

Today although we mostly see paper bills of $5 to $20 and the presidential dollar coins as well as other US coins, there are still occasional Ecuador coins that we receive in change, but not often.

The archeological site has ruins from the Inca Kanari civilization. I couldn’t find much online about the museum and archeological site (guess that is the down side of a free museum) but I did find this. If you are interested in more, you can do an online search and find bits and pieces about the area.

This is a sacred area below the museum and archeological area.

In the lower section there is an area of sacred corn that was planted as well as information on various medicinal plants and other plants which are used in the area.

There was a final area with a few birds in cages. Not all of them were named. The two most interesting to me were this blueish/greenish bird  (unnamed) and Black Chested Buzzard Eagles which are much larger than they appear in this picture.