Baños de Agua Santa is a clean town with not much special in the way of design/architecture. Established in 1693, its altitude is 5971 feet.
It is clean and safe and we enjoyed walking around it. There are some hills in the town but the main part is fairly flat.
I especially enjoyed seeing these statues, just placed on the curb on a hill into downtown.
It was also interesting that there are 30 stations for washing clothes by hand in front of the Termales. The water is cold but they are clean and convenient for many people. The slanted part is where the water flows into the station and they wet or rinse the clothes, the flat part to the side is where they scrub the clothes. Sadly, I assume the dirty water goes directly into the river.Ever wonder how larger trees got pruned? At least here they just use a ladder.
OK you just have to trust me on this one. I wasn’t quick enough to get the actual picture I wanted. There was a medium sized dog behind the last horse pulling on the horse’s tail as they all walked down the street. Sorry I missed it.
This is a late post about an incredible monument to the people who colonized the Manizales area of Colombia. The bronze monument is huge and you can’t get it in a single photo. Mine are pathetic so take a look at these from TripAdvisor.com postings.
The monument portrays the hardship of traveling in the area. It is truly a work of art. Note the baby held in the air, the person pulling the ox that is mired in the mud, the wind blowing clothing, and more.
While we were out with one of our guides in the Quito area, she told Dan (I didn’t listen to much of the conversation-my bad) about place that was cheap to stay at and very nice. We decided to go there from Quito. What we didn’t know when we decided to do that is that it would be such an adventure.
Suchipakari Lodge is 11 km (about 6-7 miles) from the small town of Misahuallí which is 23 km (14 miles) from Tena bus station.
We got to the Quito bus station (after more than an hour taxi ride from our apartment) and were impressed with the station. Unlike most bus stations which are old and dark, this one could have been an airport. It is bright and new and clean. We only had a 30 minute wait for a bus to Tena which was supposed to be a 5 ½ hour ride (but ofcourse was over 6 hours). We had a taxi waiting for us at the Tena bus station.
We knew we needed more cash and the driver stopped at a bank where we could use an ATM. It wouldn’t let us get any more cash since we had used it that morning. The single ATM machine is down at Misahuallí and we would have to get more cash another day ($20 taxi ride each way sadly).
By the time we left Tena to go to the lodge it was getting dark. We stopped briefly in Misahuallí so the driver could pick up some beer. We saw 3 Capuchin monkeys on the roof of the market stall where his wife works. We didn’t take pictures because of the lighting and we were tired…too bad because we heard other monkeys but never saw them.
The driver told us it would be another 40 minutes to the lodge, some of the road good, some not. He wasn’t exaggerating. There was a wonderful relatively new road for about ½ the way. Then there was a one lane gravel road for the last 11 km.
Road taken during the day and darkened but it gives you a little idea of what it is like.
Picture this, we are in a strange place, going down a dirt/rocky road at 20-30 mph, in the dark. Branches and leaves are hitting either side of the taxi pickup windows. It feels like the middle of nowhere. (This road is only about 6 or 7 years old. Before then, it took a 1 1/2 hour canoe ride to get to the lodge!)
But we see people walking. One or two people or small groups of up to maybe 6 at a time. It is Saturday night and these young people are going to party. There are a number of places down this road where parties are about to happen. In what appears to me to be the middle of nowhere. And I know it is a jungle, literally, out there!
We saw an occasional building with lights but never heard the partying. When we finally “arrived” at our destination, a dead end with an unlit building. There we were met by an older teen with a wheelbarrow. We put our rolling bags in the wheelbarrow and walked “5 minutes” up a dirt path with a flashlight and a flashlight app on a quickly dying cell phone app. Then over 2 small bridges.
We could hear water (a river) along side as we walked. We saw cacao trees with the fruit (future chocolate) on the trees as we walked. We finally saw some lights and then went up about 25 or 30 steps. Here was the lodge.
We had arrive during dinner so we ate (first time I at fish that was the whole fish on my plate-tilapia) and then got our rooms.
The next morning we awoke and went to a tourist attraction put on by the local Shiripuno women. That’s another post.
The Shiripuno women decided that while their men go off and do whatever they do during the day to work that they (the women) should be paid for what they do anyway. With this in mind, they developed a simple program where they show how they make some food with yucca and sweet potato, do a little native dance, look at an incredible rock, and then hopefully sell some trinkets. Sounds hokey and the young German tourists who were at the lodge and leaving that day made it sound pretty lame.
In reality we enjoyed it. Yes, it is touristy but it was still interesting. We learned some things about this culture listening to the Spanish speaking woman who ran the event and talking with our English speaking guide from the Lodge.
Unmarried girls and women wear blue outfits like you see in the above picture. Married women wear blue and red outfits. The more traditional outfit is seen in this picture but we saw a woman in blue pants and a red top to indicate she was married as well. All unmarried women, of any age seemed to wear the outfit this little girl is wearing.
First they made a couple of things, one a fermented drink and the other something with sweet potatoes. Note how they shredded the sweet potato…you will see this is tool is from the root of a tree in the jungle walk post.
The little girls of the village participated in the making of yucca and sweet potato dishes and the dancing. They were so cute in their outfits and helping their mom.
I loved watching them imitate their mom.
The rock! This is an incredibly interesting rock. In the lower right (as you look at it) of the rock is a little “door”. While it is solid, the tone is distinctly different when you hit this area with a rock than if you hit just a foot or so away. Empty sounding like it is an entrance.
A number of different animal shapes can be discerned on the rock: serpent, puma, bear, and others. What can you see? (Hint: Serpent, Alligator, Tortoise, Piranha, Toad, Cougar(Puma), Charapo (noidea what this is), Boa, Dolphin, Capybara, Monkey)
There is an area to the left of the rock (as you face it) that again has a hollow sound when you hit it with a rock. They call this the window. It isn’t really easy to scale the front of the rock but there are stairs built partway up the back. Dan went up the front and I stayed down and took his picture.
And there was a parrot in the rafters of the exhibit area that chimed in while they were singing and dancing. What fun!
Our guide took a part of a flower that I would call part of the bird of paradise family but it really isn’t. He put it on our noses. Funny looking beak!
He also opened a seed pod from this plant and used a stem to break up the inside into a paint and painted our hands much like the indigenous women/children who spoke with us.
The handmade jewelry items for sale were pretty typical of what we have seen in other places although there were dried leaves for tea and spears/knives as well.
This is a village of about 50 families, about 250 people. The kids do go to school from age 5-12. They are working to get more education but it is hard since that is usually in town and these very rural folks are very poor. Sometimes they have relatives with whom the youngsters can live for more education and the family sends money as they can for this.
While it is humid here, it isn’t as hot as I expected for being in the Amazons. The river we heard the night before is a tributary to the Amazon River but that is many miles away. There are fewer bugs here than I expected as well. I’m not getting eaten alive, here at least…hurray!
All in all, after much trepidation, I am enjoying myself in the jungle. It isn’t as hot, buggy, and filled with bugs as I expected.
OK, I wrote that above sentence and then almost immediately the mosquitoes and bugs found me! I should never have written it and tempted fate. I ended up with over 50 bites, mostly on my arms but even under my clothing and in my hair. UGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!
Guayllabamba is a large, ugly, sweet fruit that is ugly on the outside and delicious on the inside. We stopped in a small town on the way back from Quisato and bought one from a vendor. The guide knew which one to pick and we didn’t buy from the first vendor because they weren’t ripe. Each fruit cost $2 which seemed high but they are not common and he said that was a fair price.
You can tear the fruit open and inside is a lot of white “meat” with large seeds in each section. You don’t eat the seeds but the meat is very tasty.
The Cochasquí Archeological Park is a short drive (19 miles) from Quito. This is a fascinating area where the pre-Colombian and pre-Incan natives built pyramids that were built with much precision. The location is about 9,970 feet above sea level with a 240 degree view. The park is 84 hectares (210 acres) and has 15 pyramids and 21 burial mounds.
The pyramids are a bit different from Egyptian pyramids. They have been covered with dirt to hide them and 9 of them have a ramp going up the face of the pyramid. They are thought to be ceremonial and astronomical in nature. There are indications that they created a 13 month, 28 day calendar using the sun and the moon. (That’s 364 days which is pretty close to accurate!)
The pyramids were built by alternating layers of stone and a mixture similar to adobe.
It was a beautiful day to tour the site. The park guide spoke slow clear Spanish and our English guide also translated for us. We could understand a lot of the Spanish without translation.
There are over 150 llamas and alpacas that roam freely in the park. These gentle animals were comfortable approaching us.
If you are ever in Ecuador, I highly recommend visiting this park. I’m always amazed at the scientific knowledge that theses ancients had. (I still think that they were helped by aliens but that is a different blog that I probably won’t write.)
OK this is a tough blog to write because it turns out my MOST FUN adventure of all of our travels was…(spoiler alert) a fraud. So I am not exactly sure how to write this. Let me start at the beginning.
As you might expect, the equator is a big tourist attraction in this country. The French did the original calculation in the late 1730’s and miscalculated by about 541 feet, pretty darn close in my book.
Anyway, there is a monument in one place that proclaims the equator but it is inaccurate. Close by is a place called the Intiñan Museum (in the town of Mitad del Mundo-middle of the earth). Some sites on the Internet claim this is not actually on the equator either.
For $4 each, we went on a guided tour where the guide talked about the creatures in the Amazon, shrunken heads, burial sites, and we had our pictures taken on/straddling the line.
Then came the fun with “experiments”. We did 4 experiments to prove the “power of the equator” on nature.
The egg experiment: balance the egg on a nail. Dan went first and did it with some problems but was successful. I went right after him and didn’t have any problem at all! (Turns out that the heavy egg yolk allows this to be done anyplace in the world. Since I simply took the egg off and replaced it, I hadn’t moved the yolk.)
Water flowing clockwise on the north side, counter clockwise south of the line. And straight down when you are right on the equator. The distance between the north and south experiments was less than 30’. (This is impacted by how you remove the plug in the basin.)
Walking a straight line with your eyes closed while you walked the equator line. (Not sure of the scientific basis to debunk this)
Less strength when you stood on the line than when you were to either side of it. (Not sure of the scientific basis to debunk this)
It was great fun to try these experiments although I did wonder aloud to Dan about how far off the equator line did it matter. The painted line was about 3 or 4 inches wide so where does the change really start?
Much of the information about the Candiru fish which supposedly swims up the urethra into the bladder is disputed on the Internet however the shrunken head part seemed largely accurate although I don’t really trust that the displayed head is real and 170 years old.
A few days later when we went to the Quitsato equator line we got an entirely different story.
First, I saw a very official looking metal cylinder in the ground in Quitsato placed by the Ecuadorian Military Geographic Institute. (There are 2 but I only noticed one of the two cylinders surrounded by concrete on a platform on top of the Equatorial line, with a 1mm error margin determined by using GPS and GNSS equipment. I never saw anything like that at Intiñan Museum.) There is a huge area that is made into a sundial with a tall hollow cylinder in the center. The guide was much more serious and explained much more clearly about the summer and winter solstices, rotation of the earth, etc. He used an inflatable globe with the continental names written sideways rather than how we are used to being “north-centric”.
He also debunked the experiments from the previous outing. I was crushed but it did make sense. We bought the information packet which includes the globe, CD, poster and will be happy to share them or you can go to their website to look up the info.
As an aside, this place had the nicest restrooms I have ever seen. Clean and white and sinks at 3 different levels for small children, people of my stature, and taller people.
Dan loves to hike; I like to hike a lot. There is a difference between “love” and “like a lot” but still it is one of my preferred types of exercise. Our guide took us to the small town of Mindo, not far from Quito.
We paid $5 each for Dan and myself (guides are usually free) and rode a cable car from the parking area across a deep ravine and set out to see the Cascada de Reina, a waterfall. Of course it took much longer than the one hour each way and at one point I had given up only to find out I was less than 10 minutes from it! The trail wasn’t really steep or hard but we had gone about 2 hours at that point.
The waterfall is impressive due to the amount of water flowing through it. There are concrete stairs along side the waterfall so you can walk up but there was so much strong gushing water coming down the fall that I chose not to go up the stairs although Dan did.
On the way back, we stopped under a shelter and ate a late lunch of veggie ceviche: chochos (a nutritious and tasty white bean with a slight crunch), onion, tomato, and plantain chips and lime or lemon juice. It had been marinating for about 3 hours by then and was delicious however as we sat still the mosquitoes had found me so I headed back down the path, forgetting that I had Dan’s rain jacket in the pack on my back.
Of course it started raining and after debating, I decided to backtrack and get the jacket to him. I went most of the way back to the shelter before I met up with Dan and the guide. By then he decided he didn’t need his jacket so I got a lot of extra steps in.
All in all it was a pleasant day although it was clear that we needed to do more hiking. We tend to walk a lot in towns but not actually hike.
The current city of Quito was developed over the ruins of indigenous people. This was known previously and when they started excavation for the subway, they had to temporarily halt construction while they retrieved relics.
According to WIKI, The historic center of Quito has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas. Quito and Kraków, Poland, were the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO, in 1978. On March 28, 1541, Quito was declared a city and on February 23, 1556, was given the title Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de San Francisco de Quito (“Very Noble and Loyal City of San Francisco of Quito”).
In 1884, Basílica del Voto Nacional church construction was begun and Pope John Paul II celebrated the first mass there in 1985. While largely completed, if you look, it is subtle but there are missing statues and probably other things that have never been finished. Starting in 1895, there was a tax paid by Quito citizens for its construction. It was 3 cent or per cent (not sure) tax on salt to help defray the cost of this structure. (The currency at that time was a “sucre”and $1 was 25,000 sucre at today’s rates. That tax is no longer in effect but imagine having to pay tax on a church building if you aren’t of that religion (although at the time the country was largely Catholic). If you are interested, there is more info on the Quito churches and pictures here.
For a couple of dollars we could tour the church and go up across the inside part of the roof and then outside. Dan who loves heights was in his element and he went up the open stairs to the top viewing area while I stayed on the lower level; I was outside and quite high up and not comfortable but I was there.
The view from either place was beautiful. You could get a feel for how large Quito is. People have started cutting down trees and building up the mountain. Across one area, you can see a hill called the Panecillo. That area has always been a poor area because when the Spaniards came they made the poor servants/slaves live up the hill and they settled the flat areas which were easier to navigate. I’m sure someday these shacks will become valuable and developed by the wealthy.
One unique building in the Old Town was originally owned by a single family. At one time, this two story, block long building was willed to a sister and brother. The sister remodeled her section and made it quite attractive while the brother kept his part very austere. You can see the differences today. In both areas, note how thick the walls are, about 3’, to keep the temperature comfortable in the building.
Later the church bought the building and now leases out various areas to vendors, restaurants, etc. Dan enjoyed having his picture taken with a mime totally covered in gold.
When the indigenous people built the town originally, they didn’t not use square or rectangle blocks. These skilled workers cut blocks to fit like a puzzle. Later the Spanish recut some of the blocks to exert their power and remove that reminder of the locals.
Not to be outdone however, there are subtle reminders of when the slaves were doing construction; they put their own subtle mark. There is one building with a row of cherubs on the top. If you look closely, you will see that all of the cherubs are draped except the end one who has quite an erection. But it isn’t something that is easy to notice, even when you are looking.
In the St. Francis church, instead of a statute of a slave holding up the pulpit on his back, you see that it is 3 Spaniards. No idea what happened to the artisans if/when their creativity was discovered but I doubt that they were praised by the Spaniards.
As would be expected, the churches are very ornate. There is one street informally called the street of 7 crosses; you can see a cross outside each church. We didn’t go into all of them but we did go into a couple. One, Compañía de Jesús (160 years in construction,beginning in 1605), is purported to have 7 tons of gold leaf on the walls. At $1300 per ounce, that is $291,000,000 in just gold! We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside (they think that the flash from cameras is oxidizing the gold) and we didn’t but this website states that I could have taken pictures since I was planning to write about it in our blog. They got permission and their pictures will give you a good idea of how it looks.
While the photo was snapped quickly and isn’t very good, I loved the name of one store. Maní is Spanish for peanut and one store was named “El Super Maní”, a play on “superman”. Cute
In a gift shop, Dan got a kick out of seeing a chess set. One set of players was Spanish conquistadors while the other side was indigenous people. (We don’t have room for such things so we just took photos instead of buying it.)
While we were in Cotacachi we stopped into a museum. We were the only people there most of the time so it was very quiet.
The museum is dedicated to the history of the area, starting with the geographical development. Things of special interest to me were seeing the indigenous clothes close up with no chance of embarrassing the wearer, that Rumba music was developed in the area, and the best part is when the curator demonstrated various musical instruments.