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Published: November 6th 2006
Travel-warp, I'm lost in South America, a few months of Europe and friends and family and a new continent beckons. Ecuador is a country of so much variety, from the Galapagos Islands, Coastal Lowlands, Andean Highlands and the densely jungled interior. It reminds me so much of Guatemala, a country I came to love four years ago, similar experiences; a month spent relearning pigeon Spanish, nights out in salsa-tecas, food of rice and chicken and eggs, guacamole and cheap cuba libres.
The differences from Guatemala are subtle, Ecuador doesn't have the history of CIA interference and bloody conflict with guerilla groups, Ecuador has a history of political corruption and war with Peru, contracting borders and then the bonanza of discovered oil. Oil at a time of unprecedented demand and rising prices should have made Ecuador a very rich country, but unfortunately with corruption so rife it has led to amazing deals for oil companies, a few very rich individuals and disappointingly little left for the people.
Now again a period of political uncertainty approaches, Naboa and Correa battling it out for the presidency, one the richest man in Ecuador friend of the US staunchly right wing, the other pitching
himself as the candidate of the left with a background of right-wing actions, and a pat on the back from Venezuala's Chavez. Will the promises either of these men make lead to change for the better, or lead to conflict, I don't know, but after seven presidents in 10 years, Ecuador needs some stability.
Mixing politics with travel writing hasn't worked for me in the past, I'm too “lazy” to find out the details or maybe too wrapped up with my own experiences to do the topic justice. I'll leave it as it is - an uninformed opinion formed from talking with ordinary people in Quito.
Life in Quito has been good, school, activities, working on travelblog and repeat. Each weekend I take a break from Pigeon Spanish and PHP and attempt to do something different, usually with new friends from the school, this weekend, three weeks into an intensive course in Español, is a long weekend for Ecuador's national celebrations. Cuenca is Ecuador's third largest city and considered the cultural capital, for the long weekend this is the destination. The coast and the beach and sea that I'm craving will have to wait just a little longer.
Cuenca is a city of colonial streets and church spires, in the Southern Ecuadorian Highlands the altitude is lower than Quito, the warmth instantly noticeable. Overnight from Quito on a Panamericana coach, a night of someone else's knee in the small of my back, despite a seat theoretically separating us. Bus sleep, being not really asleep, not really awake, a state in between, like dining on fast food, feeling slightly sick but no longer hungry.
Thursday - Early morning search for cheap hotel, found - Hotel Pichinacha, a hotel of some three hundred beds, friendly helpful staff, cheap with shared bathrooms and sagging beds, cashing in on the busy weekend. Coffee in the city square, 60c a cup, with milk, I start to feel human, well caffeinated, an acceptable compromise. A day scouting out the city, one marching band of school children, and a night out in some bars. La Bramba cheap food and drinks and an hour long Beatles medley.
National day November 3rd 2006. Friday a day of celebrations and street parades, from villages all around came people dressed in traditional clothing performing traditional dances in the centre of town. With my lucky ability
of sometimes being in the right place at the right time I found myself at the front of a huge gathering crowd for beginning of the main parade. Happy perched on the curb with my camera and a fully charged battery I sat and enjoyed the festivities. I wish I'd kept note of which group or village was represented by each series of colourful costume and energetic dance, but the announcements were too rapid and I was too caught up in the visual display.
The theme to the costumes seems to be, men: llama trousers, white shirt, colourful poncho; women: colourful beautiful skirt, white blouse with colourful embroidery. The occasional diablo
, devil man with colourful head and prominent tongue leaps around amongst the dancers causing havoc, while the crowd shouts “¡Vivé Cuenca!” and claps and whistles.
Saturday - scouting round the city, searching for more sites and sounds, a rained off concert in El Parque de Madre
and a long walk to an abandoned climbing wall, delicous ice-cream and a return to Quito via a night of bus sleep.
Sunday - recovery, writing, pleased with the photographs and time for a little homework. Deja-vu.
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