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Endings...and beginnings, Part 1 (#7, Ecuador, 2013)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Every door is another passage, another boundary we have to go beyond.
We sometimes step, sometimes stumble, and other times we are pulled into the territory of the Crone when the need for a deeper, larger understanding of our most meaningful path can no longer be denied -- when the gifts hidden in our challenges must be brought forth.
-- Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

The little fairy bedroom in my home-away-from-home:

View from the doorway of the tiny little bedroom Adelaida and Amrita prepared, welcoming me with flowers and signs and pictures, and other gifts. I spent a lot of time sitting at the little desk gazing out the window into the lovely wooded wildness.

View of my bedroom from the desk. Thanks to the generosity of neighbors Casandra and Julian, I had a very comfortable bed, which was also the spot of my morning sitting practice
Contemplating which photos and mental impressions to share in this final blog focused upon my sojourn in Ecuador, I am reminded of the many important images and people who were not captured digitally...and of course, many, many more were NOT than WERE. One might even say that in most cases the most meaningful occasions were not, because one's attention is so intimately focused upon the moment, without nary a thought of taking a picture until afterward, or something is seen in passing when the camera is not at-hand. As I sit here in reverie, I'm playing the McCoy Tyner Trio project, "Infinity," which takes me back to San Francisco and North Beach and Keystone Korner, where I heard so many jazz greats many, many moons ago...deep impressions, no photos.

And so I begin this last offering where I left Cuenca.

I made a day trip from Cuenca to the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador, Ingapirca ("Inca wall" in Quecha, the language of the indigenous population, still alive-and-well and now even instructed in some schools), a town in Cañar Province, named after the Inca palace and temple site.

The most significant building is the temple of the sun, an elliptically shaped building constructed around a large rock. The building is constructed in the Incan way without mortar in most of the complex.

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

Jorge guided us four "girls" through the ruins. Fluent in Spanish and English, he seems to be a student of these ruins and is particularly knowledgable about them. Here we are at the Temple of the Sun.

It was C-O-L-D and windy there (10,600' elevation), significantly colder than in Cuenca (about 1,600' higher). Luckily the *young thangs* were accustomed to it, being from Wisconsin. They're attending an immersion program in Spanish in Quito, and traveled to Cuenca and environs for the weekend.

I'm standing near where Jorge was standing in the last photo

"I hear you knocking, but you can't come in."

The Incas were not the first inhabitants of Ingapirca. It had long been settled by the Cañari indigenous people, who called it Hatun Cañar, and it dates back to 1000-1500AD. After the King of the Incas died in Peru, the oldest son took over the kingdom. They lived together peaceably (will wonders never cease LOL), each acting out their individual indigenous cultures.

They worshiped the Sun and Moon and tried to be as close to their gods as possible. They felt that this place of substantial elevation was where the gods had led them, regardless of the climate.

Arriving by taxi to the outskirts of Cuenca.

Because the three young women had "scored" a ride back to Cuenca in a taxi for less than the other fares(!), I also "scored" since the driver was willing and able to carry me as well, which meant getting back in half the time that the three modes of public transport going there had necessitated, in just over one hour, vs. around 2.5 hours!
The final leg of this journey took me to the province of Loja, which shares a border with Peru.

The ostensible five+ hours bus ride from Cuenca to Loja was significantly lengthened by some unsought-after drama, when the bus driver clipped off the corner of the roof of an old building, trying to negotiate a corner driving through the narrow streets of Saraguro. The problem is that he (apparently) attempted a "hit-and-run," but the police came from a different direction and blocked the road, then escorted the bus back to the village to "deal" with the incident.

I was especially drawn to the provincial capitol city of Loja. With a population of about 200,000, it is situated about 6800 ft above sea level and has a delightfully mild Andean climate, ranging between 60 and 86 degrees F. Art and music are alive-and-well there; I found people there in general to be open and spirited -- perhaps being home to two major universities has something to do with it, and it was amazing how easy it was to find healthy, organic, vegetarian food.

I'll begin with a crazy potpouri of photos of the city, some with captions, others self-explanatory.

Loja City Gates

An exceptional exhibit of women's art sponsored by the province

Sunset over Loja

Church of San Francisco, built in 1548

There are always stands just outside the church doors, with sellers of religious paraphernalia; could this be a philosophical discussion regarding free will (LOL)?

This initially struck me as funny, this health clinic housed in the church complex (as though Jesus would perhaps have more power to heal here). Commenting to a passing pedestrian, I learned that it is a free clinic, administered by the Franciscan monks....

(The clinic is across the street from Cafe Quilanga...hmmmm...why, oh why, am I so taken by a church named "San Francisco" -- hmmmm...? And could this fortunate thing have anything to do with the serendipity of meeting dear Wilma?)

I love this window of San Francisco above the elementary school on one side of the church

The church plaza features a monument to Alonso de Mercadillo, founder of the city.
Now on to a sweet serendipity within the Lojano odyssey. Wandering the streets of the city I came upon this small, humble cafe, and was struck by a sign regarding organic coffee from Quilanga (a district of Loja, known for coffee production):

Upon further exploration I noticed that they specialized in freshly extracted vegetable or fruit juices, so, in addition to buying coffee beans for me and Adelaida, I decided to order a beet, carrot, parsley juice! And that's how I met Wilma...

...and her delightful young neighbor, Hugo, a "modisto" (designs and makes clothing, also repair and alteration), who helps Wilma in the kitchen, when he is not down the street in the shop helping his wife

Here they are, with Hugo demonstrating the "poncho" used by the coffee pickers in Quilanga to deposit the beans as they harvest them; the machine she uses to grind the beans once she has peeled and roasted them is at Wilma's left

I deeply enjoyed meeting Wilma . We had some delightful conversations, during which I found that she attended university and hopes to return to finish a degree in natural medicine. I have a feeling that it is not the last time I will see her!
Oh my! I think the Botanical Gardens, Podocarpus National Park, and Vilcabamba will have to be "housed" in their very own blog! I'll call it Endings...and beginnings, Part 2, (#8, Ecuador, 2013).

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