At about 5:00pm, I was going out the the internet shop next door to use their “cabinas” to make a call to reserve a room for Banos, our next stop. I saw the marching children in costume on the next block so I went back to get Valerie and told her to bring her camera.
February 19, 2011. Ecuador’s best preserved archeological site dates from the brief period when the Incas and the indigenous Canari co-existed here at Ingapirca for only about 30 years around 1500AD. They battled for several years before agreeing to share the site but their peaceful reign was ended by the arrival of the Spanish who ultimately mostly dismantled the structures and used the stone to build nearby cities.
Signs point to pits called colcas that were used to store food and to acllahuasi, which is where the ceremonial and ultimately sacrificial virgins lived. The trapezoidal niches are identical to those found in other ruins, such as Machu Picchu in Peru. Continue reading
February 16, 2011. Getting caught up on our time in Cuenca, considered to be the most important museum in Cuenca, the Banco Central Museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts from the ancient Inca residents of the valley where Cuenca now sits as well as dioramas depicting the typical life of the early inhabitants of the various regions of Ecuador. We were not allowed to take photos inside the museum, however, no such restriction for the ruins. Continue reading
Friday, February 25, 2011. Today we were in the middle of a snow shower. That’s right, I said snow. We were at an elevation of 5,000 meters above sea level. That’s right around 16,400 feet. The air is very thin and even modest exertion causes you to feel winded. We hiked to the second of two refuges on the south face of this huge volcano. These refuges are waypoints for climbers who are on their way further up. We had no intent to go higher. Once we had our hot beverage we began our descent back down to the lower refuge which is at only 4,800 meters. That’s when the snowfall began to pick up. By the time we got down to the lower refuge it was snowing pretty good. Continue reading
We boarded the train in the town of Alausi which sits at just over 11,000 feet above sea level and is known as the city of the clouds. The peaks of the soaring Andes mountains surrounding it are often lost in the clouds. This section of the Ferrocarril Transandino (Trans-Andean Railroad) was completed around 1902. The entire length of this rail line used to connect Quito in the north to Guayaquil in the south. Now, this is one of the few sections that is in operation. And it has just recently reopened after undergoing some major repairs. It had been closed from May 2010 until January 2011.
As the train left Alausi, we began to see the narrow valley that lies between two towering stretches of the mountains. Everything is green. There are no large trees on these mountains, just low grass and several varieties of cactus, including Agave which was a very important plant for the Incas and is still used in many ways by the indigenous groups. Then we start to see the Alausi river deep in the bottom of this gorge. The river twists and turns its way along the path of the mountains. Once the train track begins to run along the same path of the river you realize that the track is perched along one side of this beautiful gorge. Out the window of the train you can see the soaring mountain on the opposite side and the river running some 1,500 or 1,600 feet below. And you realize that you are looking straight down at times – a sheer drop to the bottom of the gorge just on the other side of the train tracks. Continue reading