LLamas through the mist

Trip Start Jan 19, 2012
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Trip End Feb 03, 2012


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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Friday, January 27, 2012

Bad news this morning. A landslide has blocked the tracks of the Nariz del Diablo autoferro. They do not expect to have it cleared until this weekend, so no autoferro ride for us. Gonzalo promises a stop in the little town of Alausi anyway for photo op since it is very quaint.

We leave the hotel at 8 for a little tour of Riobamba, visiting their central square and nearby church. Then we stop again outside the town. Gonzalo had explained that the original Riobamba was destroyed by an earthquake and landslide in 1737 and relocated to its current site. We stop at the remains of the  original site's church. It has been somewhat rebuilt with pieces that have been recovered. The facade looks reassembled, some with some pieces not exactly fitting with their neighbors.

There's a little artisan shopping area off to the other side of the parking lot. Amid the usual Ecuador labeled souvenirs is a display of carved Tagua seeds.

We had seen these seeds in the rain forest. They are about 2-3 inches across, with a brown cover. They look much like avocado seeds and are very popular with the Agouti. If it is left to dry, the once pulpy white interior hardens into a rock-like consistency that looks and lasts like ivory.

The artist attaches the dried seed to a type of lathe. He starts it spinning and proceeds to carve out shapes by applying different sized chisels to the spinning orb. It's much like carving furniture on a much smaller scale. His display of completed work includes diverse birds and animals as well as nativity scenes. I settle on a cat and begin the negotiations.

We arrive in Alausi and park next to the train station. After the requisite pit stop, we wander a few blocks for some shopping or photo ops...or both. The greatest discovering is an ice cream shop. All sated, we head out again.

The next stop is at the ruins of an Incan site, Ingapirca. We have lunch first just up the hill off a very, very narrow road ( excellent driving as usual by Eduardo). The weather has meanwhile become more than just misty. The site is barely visible through the fog and rain. Nevertheless, we bundle up and forge ahead. Accompanied by llamas who have marked the tourist path, Gonzalo leads us around the site explaining the diverse aspects. This includes a demonstration that I am actually taller than the typical Incan guard (ouch!).

We bundle ourselves back into the bus and continue our descent down the Andes to Cuenca where we will stay two nights. Cuenca is another UNESCO heritage site. Our quaint little hotel Caravallo is located near the old town center. We have dinner in an upstairs restaurant around the corner.
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