Published: April 20th 2009April 20th 2009
Display in the Central Bank Museum
One of the many realistic displays of indigenous culture in the museum in Cuenca giving a graphic illustration of cultural history.
Cuenca is a lovely city: though it has nearly half a million of a population it has a quiet hstoric feel about it; with its cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture, people are polite, friendly and are not rushed - I felt a lot safer there than in many of the other cosmopolitan cities. The only drawback was the weather; it was cold and rainy!
An early start for my last day in Ecuador and packing took a little longer than usual. The bus to Guayaquil was leaving at 11:30 so I had time to visit the Museo de Banco Central Pumapungo not far from the river. There I saw one of the best exhibitions of indigenous cultural history of Equador: the displays were particularly interesting with a wide variety of artefacts well documented in English as well as Spanish; one section had an entrancing display of tsantas (shrunken heads). Although my entrance ticket enabled me to visit the Inca Archeological site, I ran out of time and had to get a taxi back to the hotel whre I checked out and made my way to the bus terminal. I had a last minute panic when the taxi got stuck
Range of Indigenous Artefacts
The Central Bank Museum had one of the best range of well documented artefacts seen .
in city traffic and wasn't moving for about ten minutes: however when we cleared it the driver made up time and I managed to catch the bus to Guayaquil - a four hour trip. The bus climbed slowly up into the Andes which were shrouded in clouds. As we got higher we were soon enveloped in the clouds which turned into heavy fog. With a sheer drop on one side of the road and the mountain face on the the other, we were putting a lot of trust in the driver. Out of the fog the views were stunning - cascading waterfalls, lush green steep mountainsides and deep river valleys. After a couple of hours we had a comfort break at a cafe where I used the bathroom; while there I heard the sound of the bus' horn, so I rushed out only to see the bus moving off. I must have looked a sight racing after it and waving madly trying to catch the driver's attention. Luckily he saw me in the mirror and slowed down enough for me to jump on.
As we descended towards the coastal plains the temperature rapidly rose from 12 degrees C. in Cuenca
Tsantas - Shrunken Heads
Among the range of artefacts in the museum were these exhbits of shrunken heads, a post-death ritual of one of the jungle tribes.
to a hot humid 34 degrees; it got so unbearable in the bus, where the air conditioning was not working that I eventually asked the assistant driver to do something about the sauna-like conditions on board. Though he opened the roof windows and some of the side ones, the outside temperature and humidity was so high it made little difference. However we arrived in good time at Guayaquil leaving me an hour to get a taxi across to the airport terminal. I had sufficient time in hand to have a bite to eat at the airport. At check-in the departure tax ($27.75) almost caught me unawares, as I had been trying to use up my remaining foreign currency previously.
When boarding was announced the passengers lined up at the boarding gate, only to be held in line for forty minutes due to a minor mechanical fault. The delay caused some frusration among passengers some of whom vented their anger on the staff. However they said they would make up the time during the flight. I had a window seat next to the emergency exit, so plenty of leg room. The lady next to me was from Chester and had been
A recreated bamboo jungle hut in the Central Bank Museum.
on holiday for the last two weeks with a party of amateur photographers over in the Galapagos Islands, so we had a lot to chat about. The 10 hours 45 minute flight seemed to go quickly, though I had little sleep. At Madrid's modern airport we had a long walk (25minutes) to the transfer gate. The flight from Madrid to Heathrow was just over 2 hours and was smooth, arriving in time for Jennie to pick me up.
Postscript on Ecuador:
Throughout my journeys I found it quite amazing that moving across the borders from one country to the next there were marked contrasts in topography, people and cultures. Having said that the differences between Colombia and Equador were were less than those between Venezuela and Colombia. The Ecuadorian people seem to take a great pride in their country and particularly their culture. Generally the people are helpful, friendly and conscious about their manners; they dress smartly and many of the indigenous people wear their traditional dress with pride, whether in the country or city. It was common to see farmers (both male and female) on the Andean hillsides tilling the land in their traditional dress - some with
Madrid's Modern Airport Terminal
On the flight back we stopped over at Madrid where I had to transfer 'planes. The terminal at Madrid is spacious with a modern architectural design.
oxen and wooden ploughs, others simply with hand tools.
Though a small country, Ecuador has four types of climate :
1. The coastal plains to the west which tend to be hot with humidity rising as you go inland.
2. The sierras which form the backbone of the country with the snowcapped Andean mountains - a cool climate with a rainy and dry season.
3. The jungles of the Amazon basin to the east - hot and humid tropical climate with heavy rainfall.
4. The Galapagos Islands 1000Km to the west of the mainland - hot with strong sunshire.
Ecuador historically receive its name from the equator running through it and if you're not prepared for its varied topography you will be surprised by the range of temperatures. I certainly was not prepared for the cool temperatures experienced in Quito, Banos and Cuenca. The altitude above sea level also has an effect on one's energy; breathlessness was frequently experienced with any vigorous activity, e.g. climbing, cycling or even going up steps.
Coffee is a widely grown product in the country and is reputedly of very good quality - I was told by some people that much of it is exported to Colombia from where it is in turn exported worldwide.
Despite being warned of the security dangers in Quito and some of the other major cities, I felt safer in Ecuador than in some other S. American countries. Yes, there are hot spots where one needs to be wary but the local people are quick to warn you of these danger areas.
The change over to the U.S. dollar as Ecuador's form of national currency was not a popular move in September 2000. However most people have now got used to it and for visitors it is much more convenient. However there are moves afoot to reintroduce the suicre as its currency in the near future.
The public transport system abounds with all sorts of vendors, young and old. They will get on the bus for a short distnace, vocally announce their and sell their wares, and further along the route get off. THough the range of goods for sale can be very wide, the more common tend to be in the form of food or drinks e.g. fried plantains, crisps, nuts arepas sandwiches, ice lollies/cream and a variety of soft drinks.
Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in S. America visited but has great diversity within its area; the range of landscape, weather and animal/plant life make it a very interesting country and one which would tempt me back again.