We are now in Ecuador! We will visit some of the most beautiful cities in the country and discover what nature hides in exploring the Galapagos and the Amazon (among others!).

Cuenca

After a horrible bus night (see story in Peru), here we are in the beautiful city of Cuenca. Cuenca is a city in the southern Ecuadorian Andes. This city is very famous for its colonial architecture as well as for its craftsmanship. It makes the famous hats “Panama”.

We decide to go to our accommodation on foot because there are too many people queuing for a taxi and it is not very far in fact. The streets are deserted but we feel the atmosphere that reigns and we like it. We see beautiful buildings, very pretty churches and a beautiful place.

We arrive at the hotel; an Argentina welcomes us (it was immediately captured in his accent!). She is very friendly and offers us a better room than the one we had booked. The building is typical of the city, a central patio, a wooden staircase, a glass roof at the top. It’s very pretty, it has cachet. We settle in, we rest and then we will have breakfast. This time we are served because we have nothing to eat. She prepares us a good breakfast that gives us even more desire to sleep. So we decided to take a nap … two-three hours, just to recover a little lack of sleep (especially for me because I did not sleep at all).

Unfortunately when we wake up it’s raining. But no choice, we get ready and we go out to eat for tonight and tomorrow at the market.

On the road we smell the good smells of bread. We will find a small bakery that makes cakes … we crack of course!

The market, which is called 10 de Agosto market is very nice. There are superb fruits and vegetables. The meat section does not want to cons, we see the meat is not cool and is exposed to everything that hangs. As we want to buy a lot of stuff we decide to come back later and have a look at the museum before.

We pass in front of the Sombrero Museum (Panama) so we’ll have a look around. We see the phases of making hats and we can see women making them. There is a huge shop that sells all forms. They are very beautiful ; Quentin is trying to crack … to follow.

We then go to the Museum of Aboriginal Cultures. This museum contains thousands of ceramics, pottery and other objects from various Ecuadorian cultures. He is very nice. We have some information about different cultures too and why some of the objects were made in such a way. They provide a very complete booklet in Spanish but we would have needed the night to read everything.

We then walk in the streets, looking for craft shops but we will not find anything very crazy. On the other hand we find honey too good and … chocolate!

After the ride we decide to go to the market. We buy something to make a great breakfast and a meal tonight (but we will not eat … we ate too much cake …). The bakery in front of the market also makes some kind of chocolate loaf, Quentin made it clear to the lady that we will be back tomorrow!

We go back quietly then we will rest until the next day.

This morning we decided to discover the city by doing a “Free Walking Tour”. We find the guide on the main square. It is beautiful, it gives a better impression of the city (although with the rain we already found it pretty).

The guide will explain some things about architecture (he will say that some buildings are French style but we will not understand why), colonization and we will go to the market to taste typical dishes.

After this short two-hour tour we decided to go back to places we had found pretty and we took the opportunity to enter some houses to discover the architecture. The buildings are very beautiful, they all have kinds of patios inside.

We will go to lunch at the market, Quentin would like to taste the pig that cooked for 8h … he will feast! I’ll just potatoes (I’m not very hungry) … and chocolate: D The rain will start to fall (and we did not take our coats) so we’ll wait for it to calm down before leaving the market and go back to get our coats at the hostel.

After recovering what to cover, we decide to visit a museum. There are many explanations about the different cultures but there is far too much for us to stay focused until the end! In this museum there is also an archaeological site and an aviary with beautiful birds. We will spend two hours walking in the garden and enjoy the sun that has returned.

After this visit, we decide to go to new streets and to walk along the river before returning. On the road we will taste a specialty: “huevitos” (it’s fried dough … very good!).

Back at the hostel we will watch a movie before going to bed.

After 30 minutes taxi from our arrival at Kushi Waira. This community is one of 12 families who have tried to preserve their traditional values and to be discovered who want to know more about Cañari culture.

We are welcomed by Alfonso. He is very happy to receive us and invites us to discover the itinerary of the day in his traditional house. His wife, also very smiling, and dressed in a traditional way, brings us a small glass of “Canelazo”, which is a traditional liquor to welcome guests, made with alcohol from sugar cane and spices.

After this warm welcome and Alfonso’s explanations, we begin the walk to go up Ingacuca and Hurcu Achapana: the sacred mountain just behind the cottage and from which we can see the valley and the surrounding mountains. Alfonso explains that in their culture they all have a small plot of corn (they grow without pesticides). We see big houses a little scattered. He tells us that it is the young people who go abroad and build big houses, but unfortunately these people are no longer interested in their traditions and that is why they try to make sure that the children of the village and others elsewhere know the culture and try to preserve the traditions.

We then follow a path called ” Jambiñan ”, which means path of medicine in Quechua. Alfonso will show us some of the 150 medicinal plants of the small mountain that serves as a pharmacy. He will explain their healing properties, and how they are used (infusions, inhalation …). We will find some plants that we had already seen in Peru in the Amazonas region. These plants have been used by the inhabitants of the region for thousands of years, well before the Spanish colonization.

He will also show us that on some trees we can find dozens of other plants. Winds carrying pollen on trunks. We will also see that some plants can grow in different ways in the same environment.

At the end of the path, we sit on a bench and Alfonso asks us questions about religion, how the church is perceived in Europe etc. Questions that left him feeling resentful about colonization and how it had happened. He explains why nature is so important to them. It’s really very interesting.

After these reflections, he invites us to take off our shoes and to meditate with him and to practice the rituals dedicated to Taita Inti (the sun), Mama Quilla (the moon), Pachamama (mother earth), Kuillurs (the stars), who are the Gods of Cañaris. We must first reach out and stand up straight to receive the energy of the Tierra Madre; close your eyes, out of respect for the ‘Tierra Madre’ and then inhale through the nose and exhale through your mouth to purify our body. We then make movements with our hands and feet, then jumps. Alfonso will tell some words in Spanish that we will repeat and play instruments.

After this moment of unique meditation, we take another path that will lead to a part of the Inca Trail (“Ingañan”) that leads to Cusco in Peru. From there we can see the valley and the different colors that the earth takes.

We find the wife of Alfonso, still smiling, and this time it brings us the traditional meal, which is called “pampamesa” in Quechua. Alfonso spreads a white sheet on the grass on which he will lay the various dishes (“pollo criollo”, “mote casado”, “pepa de sambo”, “aguitas aromaticas” …), his wife serves us the and before we start breakfast we recite some words to thank the “Tierra Madre” and we pour some water on the ground to share with her.We find that the meals in Ecuador are composed of a lot of corn, in all its forms.

We take this opportunity to discuss with them all sorts of things (contraception in Europe, the fact that they are never sick because they have a rhythm and healthy food, medication in Europe etc …).

After this very good meal, we return to the cottage where Alfonso will show us and we will demonstrate many traditional musical instruments. He explains to us that they manufacture them in the village. He is part of a band called ” Kikintaquina ” which means ” Our music ”.

After this musical demonstration, his companion joins us to show us traditional dances, while he plays music. We will be invited to dance with her and share this nice moment.

We will then go all together in the garden to play the game of blindfolding the person, turn it on itself and then let it seek the musical instrument hidden with a stick. Once found, if the person dances well, she wins the musical instrument. We managed and left with a pretty flute.

We then return to the house and there Alfonso and his wife brings different stones to grind which are used to prepare flours and sauces. He shows us how to use it and we imitate it and taste what we have prepared (we mixed the flour with sugar cane, it was very good, and soaked pieces of cooked corn (“mote”) in the spicy sauce).

We come out and they propose to us to do a ceremony with plants to purify us and remove bad waves. We extend our arms and close our eyes while Alfonso recites words in Spanish, turning around us with a ceramic pot in which aromatic plants burn; then while he recites other words, his companion “strikes” us with bouquets of plants (which smelled very good); then Alfonso wrap up the ceremony by playing a wind instrument.

The day at Kushi Waira will end with this ceremony, and we will leave delighted with this meeting.

Back in Cuenca, we will go for a walk and have a big sweet snack before going back to the hostel.

That night I slept badly because of all the corn I ate the day before (and probably because of the brownie, ice cream, the slap and the jam roll … but that’s less sure: D). So not too want to move more lack of bowl raining ropes.

It takes half an hour to get motivated to go for breakfast. After that and some skype calls we go to see villages with markets and crafts outside Cuenca.

We walk a good half hour to the bus terminal, we climb on a super kitsch bus that takes us in 2:30 to the village of Sigsig. First big disappointment, there is just a market of fruits, vegetables and meat, and the panamas shop is super far. So we take the bus to Chordeleg, a village that we hope will cheer us up.

Once arrived, we stay wet because the rain is still present, and again, big disappointment (thank you backpacker): food market and not really craft. We expect to see hammock manufacturers but in fact there will be only five or six who will duel in a few tiny tourist shops. This village is famous for its gold and silver jewelery … which is sooo far from our style. We decide to eat at the market. There is a nice surprise, we will eat very good typical dishes for only 2 USD the menu! The ad of a magnum at dulce de leche made us want to crack … suddenly we find a magnum with hazelnuts in a jewelry shop (look for the mistake). Fatigue will make us wander through the city telling nonsense and laughing. After this superb ride we decide to return to Cuenca; not even want to go to another village see the orchids for fear of being disappointed again.

Back in Cuenca, we take our tickets for Quito (in 2 days) where we will meet Clement and James (too hasty !!!). It’s Sunday, the city is not busy but there are some shops open. We are looking for a cheese maker that we had identified to make sandwiches for tomorrow (if the weather is correct we would like to go for a hike). The cheese costs us an arm (10USD … but hey, we’re French, we need it). After this hole in the wallet we decide to go back to the inn and wait for tomorrow. Tonight again I think we will not dine (we have never dined actually since we arrived in Ecuador, too much sugar and fat in the day …).

Today we will visit Ingapirca. This archaeological site is 2h30 from Cuenca by bus, so we get up early.

For the record, it is the most important and best preserved pre-Columbian archaeological site in Ecuador. This site is located in the province of Cañar. It was built by the civilization Cañari, then the Incas came to conquer the region and seized it. They then built the Sun Temple, which is in the center of the site, and it became a major religious, political, scientific, military and administrative center. The temple was built with volcanic green stone and is located on an oval slope whose main axis is oriented almost exactly in an east-west direction, where the light illuminates each angle, so as to fulfill its function cult-administrative. It is between the 20th and the 21st of June, the day of the summer solstice, that the sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky, and that the duration of the day or night is the maxim of the day. ‘year; it is then celebrated Raymi’s feast in the archaeological site. The Inti Raymi, the sacred festival in honor of Taita Inti, or Father Sun, is celebrated around this archaeological complex bringing together hundreds of people who celebrate various activities such as the election of Ñusta, folk dances and music Andean salons, gastronomic and artisanal.

We go to the terminal, we find the bus, we get in, then we doze for 2:30.

The site is pretty and well preserved indeed. We will have a guided tour of less than 45 minutes. After the visit there are some things to see in the valley; so we go there waiting for the bus. It is not very crazy but it makes us walk a little. After the walk we see that there is a museum, we will be the only ones to visit it; it’s a shame because it’s quite interesting, we learn a lot about the Incas in Ecuador.

We are hungry but there is nothing to eat and we will not arrive before 16h in Cuenca. There are cookies whose color tells me that they are a little outdated … but they crunch they so it goes!

Most of the time we will sleep on our way home. Once in Cuenca we will get our breakfast tomorrow in our favorite bakery (its breads are too good!) And we fall for bread stuffed with cheese …

We return to the hostel to rest and tonight we cook great sandwiches toasted cheese too good, with eggs and peppers … luxury!

Tomorrow is our last day in Cuenca and we will take the bus at 11pm for Quito so tonight it will be Netflix and big sleep.

After a nice sleep, skype calls and a big breakfast, we decide to go out. We are not really in a hurry because the bus to Quito is only at 23h …

We wanted to go back to the Pumapungo museum because last time we could not see the reduced heads. There you probably wonder what I’m talking about 😀 So I explain. In Ecuador, in the Amazon and not far from Cuenca, in the tribe of Jivaros (or Shuars), to avenge a person, it was attacked duel. Once the enemy was killed, he was decapitated and had his head reduced after approval of the tribune leader. The purpose was to imprison his mind to protect himself from his vengeance, to appropriate his strength and qualities. Sometimes the families of the victims were also decapitated and suffered a reduction of their heads to avoid revenge. This practice continued until the 1960s! Some heads were sold at the Cuenca flower market to tourists! Some collectors and museum managers have made small pleasures …

Shuars believe in three basic spirits:

• Arutam – literally “vision” or “power”, it protects men from violent death but also ensures their survival.

• Muisak – the vengeful spirit, it surfaces when a person protected by Arutam is murdered.

• Wakani – innate to every human being, it is he who survives after death in the form of “steam”.

Once the head decapitated, what’s next? It’s very simple, to use the explanations of a website: “The scalp is incised on the median line, from the dorsal surface of the neck to the anterior line of hair. The two halves of scalp are detached with bare hands. The skin of the face must be dissected in one block. To facilitate detachment, the bones of the face are delicately broken. The detachment of the skin is done using sharp bamboos, shells, flint blades. The eyebrows, the nose, the lips, the ears are carefully preserved. A successful tsanta (head reduction) should look like the victim in his lifetime

The “mask” is soaked in a decoction of berries for almost two hours, an extension of this treatment may cause hair loss. At the end of this stage, the skin is dark and rubbery, and the size of the head has been reduced by half to one-third of its original size.

The “mask” is returned to be able to scrape the flesh still possibly attached to the skin, then it is put back in place and the incisions of the neck are sewn. The eyes are then carefully sewn and the mouth is set with wooden pegs, the chountas. It is to block the road to avenging spirits. The face and the two halves of the scalp are sewn in the same way. The skull is then thrown to the river as a present to the deity pani, the god anaconda. The tsantsa then presents itself as a kind of bag, open on what was the neck.

The final operation is to fill the tsantsa with heated stones. The stones are inserted one by one by the neck and continuously turned to avoid burning the skin. When you can not insert any more stone, hot sand is introduced to fill the spaces (this step will have to be repeated regularly). Coal is rubbed on the outside of the face to give it a certain seal and to be able to shape the skin. The superfluous hair is burned and the tsantsa is hung over a fire so that it is solidified and blackened. A heated machete is applied to the lips to dry, after which the three chountas are removed and replaced by strings. These processes can permanently eliminate evil spirits, by continuing the retraction of the head.

On the last day of the manufacturing week, the head is taken to the forest for its first celebration: a hole is made on the top of the skull, a double kamai is inserted and attached to a chounta inside the head, Thus, the tsantsa can be worn on the warrior’s head, bringing him his personal power, his arutam (strength, courage, wisdom …). The more tsantsa the warrior has, the more power he has. “. That’s it, good ap!

After this beautiful visit we decide to go visit a museum that we had seen on the road. It was in fact the restoration of the magnificent house of the famous poet, diplomat and university Cuenca, Remigio Crespo Toral, built in the late nineteenth century. It was really well reconstructed, the furniture, clothes and decorations were really beautiful. There were also many vintage cameras with some great photographs. The house faced the river and downstairs there was a terrace with a cafe. So we decided to stop for a snack … we were so hungry! (The brownie and ice cream were great with a beer and a hot chocolate …). We had to stay a good time there. We took the opportunity to plan a little three days in Quito, including two with boys.

After this little gourmet break we went to buy small figurines that we had spotted in a shop, then made a small stop at the bakery (we took bread rolls for tomorrow morning in case of hypoglycemia on the bus and the Bread to make it toast tonight with lots of cheese in it … light what!).

We will spend the rest of the day at the hostel while waiting for the bus.

Quito

After a great night on the bus, we arrive completely exploded in Quito. The terminal is super big; we go for bus tickets to go to the Amazon with the boys on May 18th.

We decide to take a bus to go to the accommodation because it is only 0.25USD. We pay in a machine and there we arrive on a kind of platform where hundreds of people line up to get on the buses. We do not understand anything. We ask for help and once in the right row we get on the bus and there … it’s horror! Peak hour ! We will spend an hour in this bus of misfortune with all the people who push, argue, crash. When we have to go out I scream ” PERMISO !!! ” but nobody moves. Quentin who had put his backpack on the ground galley. So no choice, I urge that we are two with big bags and I go into the pile. I’m really less and less tolerant with fools: someone wants to go out, you push yourself, and if you have to get out of the bus then you come home! someone is having trouble going out, you do not care in front of you! People are stupid. It’s like people in hostels: there is a room in front of a common area, you shut up !! or this American too stupid who at 5am made his eggs by whistling and putting his music loud (it did not last long because I was careful to calm …). People are stupid, it’s a fact.

We arrive at the hotel sweaty. It’s super cute. The girl was waiting for us (we booked at least 10 nights at home so they got lost in reservations). We are lucky because we have the room away.

So we unpack everything (not in fact I unpack everything, as usual … Sonia, if you read this sentence it was written for  you :D). We rest a few hours and then we go out. We are surprised because in less than 15min we are in the city center.

We pass a small shopkeeper who winds a strange thing that looks good, so we taste and it’s good (potato filled with eggs and chicken). We decide to eat at the market but big disappointment, it is not busy and super expensive (everything is relative: 6USD the dish but we thought pay $ 2USD menu). So we head to the central square and we find a nice little place with two dishes good for 2USD (happy!).

We walk, the streets are very cute and colorful, we recognize the Spanish influence. It’s pretty small actually. So we take the opportunity to visit three churches.The first being La Iglesia de El Sagrario. It is a church dating from the 16-17th century. It is colonial style and has a beautiful wooden door. Inside you will find huge woodwork and a very pretty dome.

The second will be one of the most important of the city: Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus. This church dates from the 17th century Latin American Baroque style. St. Gregory College and University, of which she was a member, formed the headquarters of the Society of Jesus in the Spanish colonial empire. It is considered one of the seven wonders of Ecuador and is one of the most visited monuments of the city of Quito. Its facade has been carved in Andean volcanic stone; inside we find an impressive work of wood. The woodwork is covered with gold leaf (this is what makes it a breathtaking impression when you come inside, it’s very surprising). was built in 1605 by the Jesuits, who were expelled from the royal audience of Quito because of the edict of exile decreed in 1767 by Charles III, King of Spain. Its construction lasted approximately 163 years and was abandoned until 1794. After being entrusted to the Camilo brothers, the company of Quito was restored to the Jesuits in 1862, with the authorization of the president Gabriel García Moreno. This monumental architectural work has been the subject of an integral restoration process since the earthquakes destroyed important structures such as the tower in 1868.

The third church we visited was The Church of San Francisco. This building dates from the 16th century; its construction began in 1550, sixteen years after the foundation of Quito by the Spanish conquistadors in 1536, it was completed around 1680. “The excavations carried out in the church of San Francisco revealed pre-Inca and colonial treasures. almost two blocks, making it the most important of Quito.

For the little story, There is an interesting legend with the Indian Aunqui Hualca, son of Hualca, partisan Rumiñahui, who was in turn general armies of Inca Atahualpa The Indian, in a phase of misfortune, was welcomed by the Spanish Hernán Juárez to whom he served loyally, and from then on the Indian was renamed Francisco Cantuña.

Cantuña set about building the atrium of the San Francisco Temple, but his time was short and it was difficult to finish within the allotted time. So he made a pact with the devil. Cantuña would give him his soul in exchange for the construction of the atrium. The work was delayed for one night and Cantuña did not stop praying to the Virgin for fear of being taken to hell. When the demon appeared, the atrium needed a stone. The pact was therefore canceled and Cantuña was released. To this day, the San Francisco atrium is missing a stone.

According to some theories, the church of San Francisco was built on the palace of Huayna Capac, the eleventh and penultimate ruler of the Inca Empire. According to the chronicles of yesteryear, the verbal traditions and testimonies of the Spanish conquerors themselves, in what is now called the historic center of Quito, Inca temples were built. In the area of ​​Panecillo or Yavirac, was the famous sun temple adorned with gold and silver that Huayna Capac brought back from Cuzco.

In the skirts of the Pichincha was the Inca Capachuasi palace, a building decorated with avenues of flowers and fresh flowers. To date, the sector retains the name of Toctiuco. Near the previously mentioned palace, where the church of San Francisco and its convent are now, were military buildings and houses of the main curacas and orejones of the Empire. In addition, what is now the Plaza de San Francisco was thousands of years ago, because before the conquest of Inca, a great Tianguez, that is to say a market, the very one that was the principal of the whole northern region of the Andes.

Huayna Capac was the successor of Tupac Yupanqui and in love with Paccha, daughter of the last Shiry, merged his great empire with the kingdom of Chinchasuyo, the northern part of their domains. In this, he rebuilds the temple of the sun, establishes his palace and directs the Tahuantinsuyu empire.

“On the death of Huayna-Capac, his body went to Cuzco, while his heart was in Quito, accompanied by what he had most desired of his life: his beloved Paccha, his beloved son Atahualpa and the city of his comfort that he had stolen the old seat of the Incas.

After these visits we continue to stroll a little until our appointment with Leon from the blog Tout Ecuador. We want to meet him because he helped us a lot in organizing Ecuador and also gave us the contact of our guide for the Amazon.

We have an appointment in a bakery downtown (it surprises you: D). We ordered a few things in the meantime because we arrived super early. At 16h it is not finally Leon who arrives but a young man (of our age, whose name I have forgotten but extremely friendly) who arrives smiling. We will spend two hours discussing our program. He will give us lots of advice and good addresses.

Around 18h ​​we return to the hostel where we will not fizzle.

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