Shiripuno Women

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.

Indigenous woman and daughter and tourist who got into the act

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!

What a handsome guy!

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.

Trinkets, turtle heads bob up and down
Dried leaves for tea
Toy knives
Toy drums
Toy spears
Toy knives

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!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cochasquí Archeological Park

Pyramid with long ramp, compliments of

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.

Partial view from one of pyramids

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.)

The Equator

Intinan Museum, may not be accurate

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.

Old Town Quito

View of Quito from Basilica del Voto Nacional

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.

House formerly owned by one family. Sisters side is on the left of the picture, brothers on the right.

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.


Street of the Seven Crosses

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.)

General Ibarra Information

Snow capped mountain view from our apartment

Ibarra is a moderate sized city of about 140,000 people in northern Ecuador. It felt “old” in most of the areas although we did go to a couple of new malls in the area.

Didn’t see wheelchair accessible buses despite these signs on all of the Ibarra buses

I continue to be impressed with how much buses are used in Latin America compared to most places I have been in the USA. Buses tend to be fairly clean and run frequently. In Ibarra, it was $0.15 per senior for a ride, $0.30 for others. My only issue is that despite having these signs about disabled people and people in wheelchairs, I didn’t see any wheelchair accessible buses. In fact, the buses are very high off the ground and if you aren’t getting on/off at a curb, it can be an issue for us shorties. Given the number of short Andean people, it is amazing.


Breast feeding is the norm in Ecuador as it really should be in all countries. In addition to a very prominent statue in honor of breast feeding, you will often see a woman breast feeding her child openly on the bus, sitting on a curb, or just about anywhere. Unlike American women who usually drape themselves, these women don’t cover up, at all. Way to go!!!


Shawl is useful for warmth as well as carrying things/babies
Necklaces are usually smaller but there are lots of them. Image compliments of
Andeans selling various beans or food. You can often see beans drying on the sidewalk or street

There were a lot of indigenous Andean people who are easily recognized by their stature and clothing. Women usually have on a hat and a shawl tied to one side, and lots of gold necklaces. Men are dressed in slacks and a white shirt and hat.

And they are often seen carrying large/heavy loads.

B/N at the bottom means blanco and negro (white and black)

We are so used to saying “black and white” photos and copies that it was surprising to see “blanco y negro” (white and black) signs advertised. Sometimes they said “b/n”.

Children don’t just learn their ABC’s in school. In Spanish, “ch” is a distinct letter even though it is pronounced the same as “ch” in English.

Trash is placed in neighborhood bins that are scattered around the area. Presumably the bins are exchanged for full ones although I didn’t actually see this.

Note the small opening in the middle of the door on the left as you face the picture.

It is not uncommon to see shops that have bars on the door with a small opening. I am sure that this cuts down on shoplifting but it also probably cuts down on impulse buying as well.

It was odd to hear dogs barking and not see any on the street because they were on the second floor looking out. Lots of dogs in the neighborhood where we stayed.

Goats for sale?

And don’t forget the goats. Here is a picture of some in the town and also others 2 blocks from where we stayed being herded by a young man.

Goats grazing 2 blocks from our apartment
Boy in the middle is squirting the bus with a yellow squirtgun

Lastly, there was a 4 day holiday while we were in Ibarra. That was an excuse for kids to spray people with a foam soap. Or even better, use a squirt gun with a back pack reservoir to spray the bus as it goes by.

Silvia Colombia

We read that the market was an interesting place to go in the small town of Silvia, population 33,000. After a beautiful ride on 2 buses from  Cali to get there and we arrived in pouring rain…on a festival day so there were no taxis available. I spoke with a local woman (who had spent time in London and had good English) and she flagged down someone to give us a ride to our lodging.

The vehicle already had 4 people in it and really only held 4 or 5 but we were desperate so we loaded up our luggage and climbed in. I was barely able to fit and was crammed up against the door. The people were very nice (although I am pretty sure at least one man was drunk and kept kissing my hand [with Dan in between us]) but we arrived at the place, not that far away.

Clean but no toilet seat.

It was still raining and we wandered around until we found someone who worked there. We were shown to our room but I was very unhappy because there was no toilet seat. This is not uncommon in public restrooms but not a common thing (although not unheard of) in low end lodging. I thought I had asked them to bring a commode seat from another room (didn’t want to move our stuff in the rain) but that never happened. The bed was ok and we left the next morning after seeing the market even though we had paid for 3 nights.

The market was interesting because of the indigenous people called Guambiano who brought their beautifully woven purses and other items to sell. I didn’t take a picture of the people themselves because the guide book frowned on it but I did find this picture from Grand Escapades.

Blue skirts, thin hand-woven ponchos and a bowler hat, Guambiano Indigenous Market, Silvia, near Popayan, Cauca, Colombia, South America, copyright Grand Escapades

Men and women alike wear skirts although the women’s were a little fuller. The blue ponchos with pink trim and bowler hats were worn by both sexes although the women’s tended to be a little rounder on top. Shoes were very functional shoes.