May 19 - Cuenca


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I'm pleased to report that bright and early the next morning Bill arose unscathed by smoke inhalation and the Road Scholars were soon on the road again.

Eduardo was thrilled to look in the bus's rear-view mirror and see, at last, all of Mount Chimborazo.


So we stopped by the side of the road and piled out of the bus and took all the pictures we wanted of the highest mountain in the world.


It was a pretty morning.


Daybreak in the mountains.


People headed off to work.


Mother and child


This was such a pretty view we stopped to take pictures.


I thought it looked like the Shire down there.


All day long we kept seeing beautiful scenes like this.


I've had to be ruthless in deleting pretty picture after pretty picture so as not to overload this page.  But this pic has me in my new Otavalo Market sweater, so it stays.


I deleted 20 pictures much like this one.


How did the Incas transport their loads? On their backs.


Now we're approaching Alausí, the starting point for the train ride to the Devil's Nose.


It's a pretty little town.




And of course there's a train station.


This little guy is going to pull us to the Devil's Nose.


More town.


More station.


Still more station.


This station has toy trains too.


Bill says, "All aboard."


The Road Scholars have their own private car.


With terrific views.


Now let's be clear about this.


I realize I took entirely too many pretty pictures on this excursion.


I couldn't help myself.


Every time I turned around there was something gorgeous to take a picture of.


So I just kept snapping.


I figured I could delete most of these pics when I got home.


And in fact, I have!  Really!  No kidding!


These are just the ones I couldn't possibly let go.


Like for instance, here.  See that boulder wedged between the two cliffs with the stream rushing beneath?  That boulder fell there when it was dislodged by dynamite in the construction of the railroad.  You wouldn't expect me to delete this, would you?


So I snapped and I snapped, and this is the result.


Pretty picture after pretty picture.


Look, I've even included a waterfall.


And mountainsides.


And valleys.


And more valleys.


How can anybody resist taking a picture of a stream flowing through a valley?


Because it's not like I'm ever coming this way again.


So you gotta take pictures.


Because this place is just so pretty.


Astonishingly beautiful, in places.


Wait, why are we stopping?


Oh, we're doing a switchback zigzag maneuver.


That's the only way to get down the side of this mountain.


Can you see those tall plants over there, that look like tall skinny little trees?


They're the flower of the agave plant.  Agave grows wild all around here.  In Mexico they use it to make tequila.


At last we're arriving in Sibambe and the dancers are welcoming us.  But wait...we're not stopping?


Nope, we hadn't found the Devil's Nose yet, because it's further down the mountain.  We'll go back soon, but now let's look at the sight we're taking this trip to see.


That's it; the Devil's Nose, Nariz del Diablo


Bill is glad to see it.  Now if we can just get all those French tourists back in their railroad cars we can go back to the railway station coffee shop in Sibambe.


The coffee was OK, but this pastry Eduardo bought us at the coffee shop called Café del Tren was delightful.  It's got corn like a tamale but it's also got sugar and chocolate and raisins.  And not only that, it's wrapped in achidar leaves.  Mmmm.


The Andes will do rock slides any time, any place.


This guy gave a very interesting lecture on the building of the railroad.  Originally it went all the way from Quito to Guayaquil, but about all that's left of it now is this section used only for the tourist trade.


It's a great tourist attraction, though.


Everybody's been having a great time


Except maybe this guy.  His rider just left him standing there on the tracks, where he waited patiently for at least a half hour before he wandered off.  I never did figure out what was up with this.


The dancers kept doing their dances.


And the Road Scholars waited for the "all aboard."


We loaded up again soon enough, and off we went, back up the mountain to Alausi.


Bye, dancers.  Don't you ever get tired?


Bill has decided to take it easy on the pictures going back.


Something extraordinary will have to catch his eye if he's to snap the shutter again.


Like maybe this.


Or this.


Let's see if we can include the train in some of these pictures.


Yeah, that's pretty good.


And that's even better.


Say, maybe video will add life to all these stills.


Finally, back in Alausi.


See?  Alausi. Told you.


So we have some time to kill and Bill wanders around.


Nice pavement.


Even nicer pastries.


Mmmm, red doughnuts.


It's not polite to just walk up to somebody in native clothing and start snapping pictures, so you have to be surreptitious.


Pretend you're taking a picture of something else.


Now we're back on the road, and to Marco and Eduardo's surprise, the road has been closed by a rockslide.  We'll have to take a detour on a dirt road.  In this big bus!


And what's that up ahead in the dirt road?  Seems there's been yet another rockslide.  But don't worry, they're clearing it away.


Trouble is, they're blocking the road.


Say, that big hill over just to our left.  Isn't that where all the rocks have been coming down?   Right up there above us?


And here we sit, waiting for them to get the job done.


Sure would be nice if they'd, um, hurry it up a bit?


Ah, now the dump truck is full and moving out of the way, right up beside, maybe three inches from our bus?


CJ is unperturbed.


Seems mighty close to me, though.


Ah, safely on our way again.


After that, Bill is ready for a rest stop.


Now another couple of hours of riding, and then lunch.

Oh look!  Llamas!


It appears we have arrived for lunch at Posada Ingapirca, a very nice restaurant/lodge just up the hill from some Incan ruins.


Bill had been taking so many pictures all day he had to find an outlet to charge his iPhone here.


The food was good, but Bill should have learned by now not to order the beef.  The Ecuadorians seem to prefer leaner, drier (tougher) cuts of beef than we do back home.


Now we're walking down the hill to the Incan ruins.  Believe it or not, I took this picture because I wanted to document the pickup trucks.


They are this region's taxi service.  If you live in a rural area and you need to get from one place to another and you don't own a car and you want to haul something big, wouldn't it be nice to call a pickup truck instead of a Yellow Cab?  Well, that's how it works.


It's cool, it's misty, it's hard to see anything a quarter mile away, and we're going to tour the Incan Temple of the Sun.


The Road Scholars gaze out upon the mists.


Well, there it is, Ingapirca.


Here's the layout.


Eduardo explains it all.   He is really very good at this.


Ingapirca (Kichwa: Inka Pirka, "Inca wall") is a town in Cañar Province, Ecuador, and the name of the older Inca ruins and archeological site nearby.

These are the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador. The most significant building is the Temple of the Sun, an elliptically shaped building constructed around a large rock.


This area had long been settled by the Cañari indigenous people, who called it Hatun Cañar. As the Inca Empire expanded into southern Ecuador, the Inca Túpac Yupanqui encountered the Cañari "Hatun Cañar" tribe. He had difficulties in conquering them. He used different political strategies, marrying the Cañari princess and improving the Cañari city of Guapondelig, calling it Tumebamba or Pumapungo (nowadays Cuenca).


Note the trapezoidal window.  There are also trapezoidal doors. This is classic Incan design.


The Inca and Cañari decided to settle their differences and live together peacefully. The astronomical observatory was built under Inca Huayna Capac. The Inca renamed the city as Ingapirca and kept most of their distinctive customs separately, as the Cañari did theirs. Although the Inca were more numerous, they did not demand that the Cañari give up their autonomy.


That's the Temple of the Sun over there.  So where's the sun?


Somebody said this rock is an instrument for studying astronomy.  Bill wasn't so sure.


Well, OK whatever.


We're going to disappear in a fog bank.


You gotta wonder what it would be like on a sunny day.


These were stones that went unused when this area was being excavated. This is what we called at NASA a "boneyard."  It's all the leftover pieces nobody knows what to do with, but could come in handy someday.


The Temple of the Sun is the most significant building whose partial ruins survive at the archeological site. It was positioned n keeping with their beliefs and knowledge of the cosmos.


It is constructed in the Inca way without mortar, as are most of the structures in the complex.


The stones were carefully chiseled and fashioned to fit together perfectly.


Researchers have learned by observation that the Temple of the Sun was positioned so that on the solstices, at exactly the right time of day, sunlight would fall through the center of the doorway of the small chamber at the top of the temple. Most of this chamber has fallen down.


Bill is listening to everything Eduardo is saying over the "Whisper" radio system.



Maybe Bill isn't taking this temple stuff seriously enough.


C'mon, Bill, the Incan sun god may strike you down any minute.


See?  He's starting to peek through.

He's got a nice place here.


The Road Scholars were impressed.


And then they hit the road for Cuenca.


And the lovely boutique Hotel Santa Lucia.


After dinner, several Road Scholars walked around the area.  Bill went with Larry and CJ on a quest for ice cream.  Along the way they found some break dancers in a gazebo in the park.


And then, a few blocks down the street, mmmmmm.....


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