A Travellerspoint blog

Capilla del Hombre

Ecuador

storm

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"For the children death took while playing, for the men who became weak working, for the poor who failed loving, I will shout through my art, with the strength of lightening and the fury of battle"
(more or less - feel free to correct me on the translation anyone)

An unexpected highlight of the trip, I’d been intending to see much loved Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamin’s ‘Capilla del Hombre’ for the last 3 months, and just managed to squeeze it in on the last night before I left Quito. It translates as ‘Chapel of Mankind’ and the idea is that it is a place of reflection, or worship, which is not dedicated to a god or religion, but to mankind and to humanity. The result is impressive – philosophically I absolutely love the concept, and it has been beautifully put together with the guidance of his fantastic artistic sense of style.

La Capilla
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The setting – views from La Capilla
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Art in the grounds
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Inside
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The chapel also features a great deal of his art work – some of the pieces are HUGE
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Written on the wall of the chapel
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“I cried because I didn't have shoes, until I saw a child who had no feet"

Guayasamin

Self portrait
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With Castro
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As thunder rumbled through the valleys of the Andes surrounding Quito, the view out over the Capilla to rolling storm clouds and flashes of lightning conjured up a suitably dramatic setting for my last night in Quito.
Goodbye Quito, goodbye defining few months, hello Colombia.

Posted by Stevie_A 19:59 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Cuenca & the Nariz del Diablo

Ecuador

Cuenca

Cuenca is the undisputed jewel in the crown of Ecuador when it comes to towns and cities – by far the most beautiful example of colonial architecture and town planning in the country. The historic centre is one of the largest, and the houses are generally well maintained under the classic red slate rooftops. There’s a wealth of refreshing greenery, and a pleasant riverside backed on to by majestic colonial mansions. As Ecuador’s 3rd city and a top tourist attraction, it also boasts a wealth of interesting religious buildings and museums.

View from the breakfast terrace:
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La Catedral Moderno:
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Los Ninos
In the old cathedral I helped a lady put up a display board which the local children had put together.
When I said I was from England she told me how appalling it was that abortion was legal there, and that if there was no abortion then there would be no teenage pregnancy. Not quite sure she’s done her homework.
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The display from the kids about how wonderful children and families are was lovely, but for me their teacher’s simple explanation of abortion given to the 4-5 year old kids was totally inappropriate – quite simply “cuando medicos y mujeres matan a bebes” (when doctors and women kill babies). When asked for my opinion I told her I thought it was ‘complejo’.
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El Museo de Arte Moderno
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Excellent gallery – a very creative & interesting space for exhibition. The main feature was from a lady who seemed to be patroness of the arts in Cuenca. I’m pretty sure that’s why she had so much wall space, as the pieces weren’t really up to much.
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The highlight for me was an extensive display of art produced by the local children – I thought some of their pieces far surpassed the main feature!

Spot the giraffe! (one for mum)
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“La contaminacion: hoy mueron los pajaritos manana seremos nosotros”
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(Pollution: today the little birds die, tomorrow it will be us)

“La contaminacion: nosotros eligimos la vida o la muerte”
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(Pollution: we choose life or death)

This young man has talent!
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I like the juxtaposition here – one is called ‘the Christ’ and one is called ‘the car’
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This is a collaboration between various kids, I think they may have had some semi-professional help as it wouldn’t look out of place in the Tate Modern. How inspiring for the kids to have their work displayed in the leading modern art museum of the city.
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I also rather liked this photo in the Crespo museum – it’s called ‘indecision’
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Back out in the open here’s a selection of shots from just wandering the streets of Cuenca:

Over the rooftops
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Flower market
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Around Cuenca:
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You know what they say about buses..
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Honestly how did people put up with such blatant self pitying martyrdom for so many hundreds of years? (thoroughly bored of dreary religious art)
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Riobamba

After a 6 hour bus journey from Cuenca I went straight to the station where my guidebook told me I could purchase a ticket for a train journey through the mountains called Nariz del Diablo. Actually the train no long leaves from Riobamba, but from a town 2 hours by bus back the way I came! So I did a Japanese tourist visit – ran round the sites and took some pictures – before jumping back on a bus to the town of Alausi.

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Nariz del Diablo

Nariz del Diablo (or ‘Devil’s Nose’) takes its name from an outcrop of rock which engineers had to conquer in the mission to connect the coastal regions with the cities and towns of the Andes. They developed a system which zig-zags back and forth up the rock face, rapidly climbing over 1000m.
Following devastation of the tracks in an ‘El Nino’ storm in the 90s a small section of the track remains for tourists only, including the Nariz del Diablo ascent. There and back takes around 2 hours; the Andean scenery is of course spectacular. Eat your heart out Settle-Carlisle.

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La Nariz del Diablo - the rock face which engineers had to tackle in order to link the Andes with the coast
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Zig-zagging up the Nariz del Diablo
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Looking back down the rock face we've just climbed!
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One for Lucy
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Posted by Stevie_A 06:31 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Travelling Classroom

Ecuador

The Spanish school where I’m studying offer ‘travelling classroom’ programs where you can travel with a teacher. There are various touristy activities to explore the local area, and then 4 hours of Spanish lessons each day. I took 2 weeks – 1 week staying at a lodge in the Amazon jungle, and 1 week on the beaches of the pacific coast.

Week 1 – ‘Jungle Steve’
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Suchipakari jungle lodge

Activities included..

.. a guided walk through the jungle with an explanation of herbal plants, fruits and insects
Did you know that live termites can be rubbed on the skin as antiseptic? I prefer Savlon.

Waterfalls
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Termites
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Leaf cutter ant highway
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Mmmm – chocolate
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My teacher- wading through an Amazonian river
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.. a visit to a local community. Surprisingly modernised, but still with some of their own traditions and all bilingual, speaking the native Kichua as well as Spanish. Apparently the local guys drink a fermented yuca drink all day long which is about as strong as beer. It’s traditionally fermented using the saliva of the Kichua women, although I was promised that they used a type of sweet potatoe instead for the stuff I tried. Still, fermented yoghurt drink in the Amazon.... not sure how I managed to avoid being very ill.

Rainforest living:
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Chicha preparation:
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UK government spending review: Gove’s proposed classroom design
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.. a trip to an animal sanctuary, which aims to rehabilitate ex-pets or injured wild animals ready for release back in to the jungle if possible.
There’s a checkpoint on the way out of the jungle to make sure that you’re not smuggling any animals, which apparently used to be very common.

Jetting down the river in a motorised canoe & once again feeling like I'm on the set of a David Attenborough documentary:
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Toucan!
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Parrots
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Capi Bara
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Turtle party!
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"he he he.. I’m so cunning.. they can’t see me..”
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It's a hard life
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Jungle pig
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"if i look cute, maybe they’ll give me more food"
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Younger Kindon sisters look away now!
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.. and of course 4 hours per day of Spanish classes

At the lodge – my jungle classroom
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H-H-H-Hammock time!
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Fancy driving your 4x4 truck across here?
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Week 2 - ‘La Ruta del Sol’
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‘La Ruta del Sol’ translates as the ‘route of sunshine’, or ‘sunshine path’. As well as stunning mountains, the Galapagos Islands and Amazonian jungle, Ecuador is lucky enough to have a long coastline of beautiful Pacific beaches.

Silver sands of Perdenales
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Canoa beach
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Sunset - Canoa
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Who needs Monaco when you have Bahia?
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We did a couple of tours from Puerto Lopez – one to the local national park, and one to the community of Agua Blanca in the bosque seco ecosystem (‘dry forest’). We visited a community there that lives off the produce of farming and give tours of their land, history and culture. They also have a natural mineral pool which is most welcome in the heat.

Bosque Seco:
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Traditional funeral cask in the museo
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Squirrel. If this type of squirrel gets to Europe then the grey squirrels will get a taste of their own medicine – it looks like a grey squirrel on steroids
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Bosque Seco - me and my teacher in the natural mineral baths (complete with natural mineral face packs scooped up from the bottom of the pool)
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‘Los Frailes’ – pristine beach within the national park
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Sunsets - Puerto Lopez:
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Exactly why we shouldn’t litter! You might kill a very strange very ugly sea creature

Posted by Stevie_A 19:36 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

Weekend Trips part 2

Ecuador

all seasons in one day

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Mindo
Mindo is a small town in the cloud forest north of Quito. The natural environment is beautiful – waterfalls, butterflies, bird life and bizarre undergrowth straight out of science fiction.

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Cloud forest – living up to its name

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Mariposas de Mindo - butterfly breeding & conservation

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Mariposas de Mindo - butterfly breeding & conservation

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Santuario de las Cascadas

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Dinner Time at the Hummingbirds’

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Would you trust this bridge?

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Otavalo
The main attraction at Otavalo is the market – a huge ‘artisanias’ market with locals from all around the area selling arts and crafts.

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The Animal Market- lots of farmers standing around with cows, looking intensely bored whilst waiting for potential buyers

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Laundry Day

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The sign is an advert for the architect that lives here - not sure the building itself is the best advertisement for his work!

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This municipal building was the last thing I expected to see in Otavalo - a mountain town populated mainly by indigenous and famous for an 'artisanias' market - that'd be the Spanish then

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40 minutes walk from Otavalo is Peguche falls – sacred to the local people. With a rainbow arcing directly in to the falls it’s easy to see why it’s deemed to have magical properties.

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Rainbow at Peguche Falls

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Peguche Falls

After a quick whiz round the stalls and a trip to Peguche I walked up in to the mountains nearby and stayed in a hostel with amazing Andean mountain views.

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A bit further up the track are Lago Mojanda & Mount Fuya Fuya. I was worried that I wouldn’t see anything from the top for the cloud. As I sat and ate my picnic on the summit the clouds drifted across allowing mysterious glimpses of lakes and valleys below.

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Lago Mojanda

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Andean Peaks

Posted by Stevie_A 15:22 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Las Galapagos

Ecuador

all seasons in one day

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Sunset on San Cristobal

One of the first things to say about the Galapagos is that it is not a pristine, unspoilt, uninhabited paradise. The 3 largest islands have towns with (very small) airports and extensive farming, whilst most of the islands are infested with ferral cats, goats and rats. This part was a little disappointing..

There are 2 main ways to see the Galapagos, the first is to take an expensive cruise round the areas of outstanding natural beauty - many people get straight off the plane and on to a boat - the other is to arrive on the islands and take day trips, transfering to other islands by 'lancha' speed boats. I'm glad I did both as they give a different experience.

My volunteer placement on San Cristobal Island was a great introduction to the Galapagos. The farm aims to provide produce and education on conservation issues to the local community, whilst also helping to keep invasive species under control and support the endemic flora and fauna. In practice this generally meant macheteing undergrowth and digging holes. The placement provided plenty of time to relax in the hammocks, and play footbal with the locals. The local port is a nice town, with tropical heat, and the novelty of sea lions lounging around on the pavements.

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Hacienda Tranquila

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Hacienda Tranquila

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Football pitch by Hacienda Tranquila

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Sea lions taking a rest on one of the boats in the harbour

After leaving my camera on the plane on the way there I decided to go on an island hopping mission to try and find a new one. One of the other volunteers was planning a trip to Isabela - the largest of the islands, and not included on my cruise itinerary. They also very kindly let me use their camera so I have some great photos. It rained solidly for 2 days but the 3rd day was beautiful. This was my first real taste of Galapagos wildlife - penguins, marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, pelicans, frigate birds, sea turtles and giant tortoises - and volcanic landscapes (Volcan Chico).

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Puerto Vilamil

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Volcan Chico - Isabela

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Pelican Pose

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Pelican & Surfers

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Taking Flight

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Isabela Sunset

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The Isabela Crew!

Having already had a taste of the Galapagos (and having located a camera!) the cruise was the perfect way to get out on to the uninhabited islands and sea the full range of wildlife. Days consisted of short hiking trails on the islands, and snorkeling round the shore. The landscapes are absolutely stunning and the animals are so used to people that you have the sense that they would even let you touch them. The catamaran held just 10 tourists so visits to the islands didn't feel overcrowded, and lounging about on deck whilst sailing was pleasant, along with the added excitement of spotting marina turtles and sinister looking fins in the water.
Highlights were swimming alongside marine turtles, and also in the midst of a school of around 30 dolphins!

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Marine turtle - quite happy for me to swim alongside him, easily within arms reach

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Marina Iguana - Macho

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Lava Lizard

The Galapagos is probably the first place I've been where I actually felt a part of the natural environment. So often the human world and natural world are 2 separate entities. Here you can walk amongst the animals with the sense that they just accept that you're another one of the species with interests here. This courtesy is seemingly extended between most species - it's quite common to see iguanas, sea lions and boobies in very close proximity, if not sometimes literally one standing on top of another.

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Marine iguana and baby sea lion

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Marine iguanas - lie on top of each other in groups to help preserve heat

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Proud parents - the blue footed booby

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Inquisitive sea lion

Galapagos landscapes range from fairly dull scrub land to simple but stunning volcanic formations. The north west coast of Santa Fe at sunset is definitely up there with the most beautiful places on Earth that I've seen. Brilliant fading sunlight illuminates a volcanic shore through biblical cloudscapes above, whilst sea lions bark, lava lizards scurry amongst the rocks and colonies of marine iguanas stacked one on top of the other spit salty deposits in to the hot evening air. All to the sound of the waves gently crashing on the shore.

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Santa Fe

The island of Bartolme is a more recent addition to the Galapagos, and looks a little like the surface of the moon. One of the formations you can see in the photos here is just 500 years old, when lava errupted from beneath the sea to create a new extension to the island of barren volcanic rock.

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Bartolome

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Bartolome

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Sea Lions in the Storm

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Catamaran at Dusk

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Galapagos Penguin

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The Happy Couple

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Shark!

Posted by Stevie_A 17:12 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

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