Ecuador

1.  There are a million ways to prepare plantain and yucca.

2. Tastiness aside, you will get tired of eating it – especially with rice.

3. All bus rides will redefine your relationship with god.

Quito

This is where my journey begins.  My South American walkabout emerged from my involvement with a volunteer project located outside of Santo Domingo.  Engineers Without Borders based out of Portland, Oregon, had teamed up with the Yanapuma foundation in the heart of Quito to design and construct a composting toilet system for a local indigenous community.   For me, Quito was a first encounter with Andean culture and the Quechua people.  As the second highest capital in the world, the air in Quito is thin and its people small but sturdy.  They are quiet-natured and exude a certain tranquility about their daily lives.  Spanish style plazas and colonial architecture are scattered throughout the elongated city as historical remnants of the Spanish Invasion led by Pizzaro’s rival, Diego de Almagro of the 1530’s.  What once was part of the Northern reaches of the Incan empire, Quitu (now Quito) was inhabited for centuries by the Caras and Quitu of the Quechua tribe before the conquistadors took over the Andean countrysides.

Otavalo

A three hour jaunt from Quito, Otavalo is home to one of Ecuador’s most genuine and diverse markets. For me, Otavalo was an educational experience in the fine art of haggling.  Locals congregate to the Saturday and Wednesday market to replenish their weekly food supply and to sell and trade their handmade crafts.  You can find a variety of everything from livestock, grains, and fresh produce to woven alpaca textiles and traditional wool felted hats that were passed down from Spanish fashion.

Santo Domingo

Bua and the Tsatchila tribe

Papallacta

Cotopaxi

Illiniza

Latacunga

Zumbaua

Laguna Quilotoa

Tena

Macara

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