Sunday, 24 February 2013

Living the life Ecuador coast

Road Trip


Our friend and neighbor came by and asked if we had been to Cuenca? We responded no, but it is on our list to get there.
Well, Miguel said, "I am going there on business. Would you like to come with me for a few days?"
We responded with a yes and a no! I was able to go, but Evelyn was not due to other commitments.
The day came and went when we had arranged to go to Cuenca, and we had not seen Miguel. One of his workers came to the house with a cell phone asking for our number, which we provided. We then were able to speak to Miguel. He said that he was in another city working on a problem and could not find our number to let us know.
"Are we still on for Thursday?" he asked and I said yes. He said, "I will pick you up at your house at 4 am." He brought his friend with him so they could share the driving. He rang the doorbell at 3:20am and the road trip began.
As we left it was dark and very quiet. Leaving the house, I was attracted to the squeaking noise that the bats were making flying around the palms in the front garden. The streets were empty and there was a nice breeze.
Traveling through La Libertad, the street lights were casting a lifeless glow onto the empty roads. Traffic lights were going through the motions but were ignored as we sped through the city, and onto the freeway heading to Guayaquil.  The lack of traffic was not to last long as we approached the outskirts of Guayaquil. The throng of a major city started to make itself known as the glow in the sky obscured the clear morning sky. The stars and planets said goodbye and, with the glow of the city coming in, the fingers of the day were not far behind. Pausing in Guayaquil for a coffee and a snack, we entered while dark and left in the light of day.
As we left the city, I was entering a whole new part of Ecuador, and I was ready for it. I did not sleep as I was so interested in the different parts that we passed through. Small communities without names littered the roadside and then we entered larger sprawls. This is where I saw that the taxis used there were just like the jitneys used in the Philippines. The land that spread out from the road we were traveling on was flat, flat as a pancake. In the far distance, I could see fingers pointing to the sky with rings of clouds hiding the base. I am reminded of Vietnam and Cambodia.  I was told that we are going over the mountains, and that the area is an ecological reserve.
As we traveled this road, the weather was no different from that of Salinas. Continuing on this road, the trip was punctuated by toll booths. The fee was small, but the roads obviously benefited from this money because they are in great condition, and every kilometer or so they have SOS phones.
If you have been reading the blogs, you will remember that I mentioned that when you pay the toll, on the ticket there is a number to call if you get in trouble. There is still a number on the ticket, but if you are within walking distance of the SOS phones, there is a direct link to the call center that handles emergencies. Because this is a tourist area, they have English speaking operators.
As we entered the park through a toll booth, we very quickly started to climb, and it was not long before we turned off the A/C that was keeping us cool, a radical change from the flat land that we left behind.
We were traveling through lush green vegetation and very steep rock faces where the rock had been cut back to facilitate the road. The road was in very good condition and there were two lanes going up and one coming down. I was not able to sleep because of the excitement traveling to a new location, and because of all the things I had seen to this point.
The steep climb was easily mastered by the diesel truck we were traveling in. With no planned stops going over the mountain, I was only able to take photos through the windscreen or from the passenger window. Going up we had to stop a few times due to rocks on the road, but the crews were on site and moving very fast to clear the road. The sun was bright when it made it through the clouds. As we continued to climb, we saw cascading water coming down shear rock faces, pools of dead still water reflecting the many different cloud formations. Higher still, visibility was restricted by clouds hanging on the hillsides, as the windshield wipers washed over the glass to remove the droplets. In no time again, they had to be used; from time to time, the mist turned to rain.
I sat there, my head swiveling from side to side, taking in as much as I could, the occasional shiver  going through my body, as I am in awe of where I am.
As we descended the other side towards Cuenca, Miguel used breaks and gears to reduce speed for a jerky ride, but no less spectacular.
Like a beacon, the city of Cuenca was shining as it was being bathed in sunlight. We still had some way to go, as I watched the shifting clouds changing the light that fell on the countryside. I could imagine myself in many different places, the misty mountains of Mordor, the Pennines, and other such places that have baulked at time. 
As we approached Cuenca, buildings became more visible and a haze hung over the city, very similar to that which I have seen over Los Angeles. We had exited the park and were seeing more buildings on both sides of the road. The condition of this road was very poor with many potholes and speed bumps.
High rise buildings could be seen. I was told that there are many high condo buildings in Cuenca. As we made our way to the old town, we passed many construction sites; in the city, the roads were much better, but the streets became narrower.
We parked in a parking garage close to the main square. From there, we walked around. The first thoughts I had were that the old part of town was very much like that of Macau, which was built by the Portuguese. The streets and the architecture were reminiscent of that city.
(Average height of Cuenca is 8,000 ft. or 2,550 meters with a population of 350,000).
We had breakfast in a very nice little restaurant off the main square and pottered around the various markets. I enjoyed the flower market and the garden squares, popped into the Cathedral and had a good look around. Outside there was a guy playing the harp.
There is a double decker open top bus that leaves from outside the Cathedral and tours around most of the sites that visitors would like to see.  The open top deck provides a good vantage point. With
all this walking and all the traffic, I was tired and found it hard to breathe, I think, partly from the altitude and compounded by the pollution given off by all the traffic.
We left the old town and drove around to look at some of the other major buildings in the city. Then, we went on to the Rio Del Sol, a shopping center that could rival many in the US and Canada.
Cuenca is a place that has a lot going for it. It has moved to accommodate the influx of tourists and foreigners that want to stay and live there.
Cuenca has beauty and an attraction that will continue to bring many people there for various reasons. For me, I have no desire to live in this city, as the level of pollution is such that I would not be comfortable. But for the short time I was in the city, I did enjoy what I was able to see and experience.

Background.


Cuenca, capital of the province of Azuay, is located in the sierra of the Andes in the Austro or southern region of Ecuador. It is approximately nine hours south of Quito and four hours east of Guayaquil. The city ranges from 2,350 to 2,550 meters above sea level.
The dominant features of the city's geography are also the source of its name in Spanish: the four rivers of Cuenca (meaning a basin made by a confluence of rivers). These rivers are the Tomebamba (named after the Cañari culture), Yanuncay, Tarqui and Machangara, in order of importance. The first three of these rivers originate in the Páramo of Parque Nacional Cajas to the west of the city. These four rivers are part of the Amazon river watershed. Cuenca is surrounded by mountains on all sides, with passes to the west, south and east.

This month


February 25 Return to Top of Page
Birthday - Millicent Fenwick (1910-1992) was born in New York City. She championed liberal causes, serving as a member of the U.N. General Assembly and as a U.S. Congresswoman.
February 26
February 26, 1848 - The Communist Manifesto pamphlet was published by two young socialists, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It advocated the abolition of all private property and a system in which workers own all means of production, land, factories and machinery.
February 26, 1994 - Political foes of Russian President Boris Yeltsin were freed by a general amnesty granted by the new Russian Parliament.
Birthday - American frontiersman "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846-1917) was born in Scott County, Indiana. He claimed to have killed over 4,000 buffalo within 17 months. He became world famous through his Wild West show which traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe for 30 years.
February 27
February 27, 1950 - The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, limiting the president to two terms or a maximum of ten years in office.
February 27, 1991 - In Desert Storm, the 100-hour ground war ended as Allied troops entered Kuwait just four days after launching their offensive against Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces.
Birthday - American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was born in Portland, Maine. Best known for Paul Revere's RideThe Song of Hiawatha, and The Wreck of the Hesperus.
February 28
February 28, 1844 - During a demonstration of naval fire power, one of the guns aboard the USSPrinceton exploded, killing several top U.S. government officials on the steamer ship, and narrowly missed killing President John Tyler.
February 28, 1986 - Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme (1927-1986) was assassinated in Stockholm while exiting a movie theater with his wife.
February 28, 1994 - NATO conducted its first combat action in its 45 year history as four Bosnian Serb jets were shot down by American fighters in a no-fly zone.
March 1
March 1, 1781 - Formal ratification of the Articles of Confederation was announced by Congress. Under the Articles, Congress was the sole governing body of the new American national government, consisting of the 13 original states. The Articles remained in effect through theRevolutionary War until 1789, when the current U.S. Constitution was adopted.
March 1, 1932 - The 20-month-old son of aviation pioneer Charles A. Lindbergh was kidnapped from his home in Hopewell, New Jersey. The Lindberghs then paid a $50,000 ransom. However, on May 12, the boy's body was found in a wooded area a few miles from the house.
March 1, 1961 - President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps, an organization sending young American volunteers to developing countries to assist with health care, education and other basic human needs.
March 1, 1974 - Seven former high-ranking officials of the Nixon White House were indicted for conspiring to obstruct the investigation into the Watergate break-in. Among those indicted; former chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, former top aide John Ehrlichman, and former attorney general John Mitchell.
Birthday - American band leader Glenn Miller (1904-1944) was born in Carilinda, Iowa. His music gained enormous popularity during the 1940's through recordings such as Moonlight Serenade andString of Pearls. On December 15, 1944, his plane disappeared over the English Channel while en route to Paris where he was scheduled to perform.
March 2
March 2, 1943 - During World War II in the Pacific, a Japanese convoy was attacked by 137 American bombers as the Battle of Bismarck Sea began. The convoy included eight destroyers and eight transports carrying 7,000 Japanese soldiers heading toward New Guinea. Four destroyers and all eight transports were sunk, resulting in 3,500 Japanese drowned, ending Japanese efforts to send reinforcements to New Guinea.
Birthday - American soldier and politician Sam Houston (1793-1863) was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia. As a teenager he ran away and joined the Cherokee Indians who accepted him as a member of their tribe. He later served as a Congressman and Governor of Tennessee. In 1832, he became commander of the Texan army in the War for Texan Independence, defeating the larger Mexican army in 1836 at the Battle of San Jacinto. He then served as Senator and Governor of the new state of Texas but was removed in 1861 after refusing to swear allegiance to the Confederacy.
March 3
March 3, 1913 - A women's suffrage march in Washington D.C. was attacked by angry onlookers while police stood by. The march occurred the day before Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. Many of the 5,000 women participating were spat upon and struck in the face as a near riot ensued. Secretary of War Henry Stimson then ordered soldiers from Fort Myer to restore order.
Birthday - Railroad car builder George Pullman (1831-1897) was born in Brocton, New York. He improved railroad sleeping accommodations, developing the folding upper berth and lower berth designs. His company went on to become the biggest railroad car building organization in the world.
Birthday - Telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Bell and his father were involved in teaching deaf persons to speak. Bell developed an interest in the vibrating membrane as a method of electrically transmitting sounds. His very first sentence spoken on the newly invented telephone on March 10, 1876, was to his assistant, "Mister Watson, come here, I want you."