Wednesday we left Guayaquil
and began our eight hour climb into the Andes.
The Andes are the worldâ€™s youngest mountain
chain and the worldâ€™s longest mountain chain (7245 km long). In the sky above
us we saw Turkey Vultures gliding. Unlike other vultures, Turkey Vultures hunt
by smell making them the first carrion birds to the site. Andean condors, the
largest bird that can fly at 1.5m long and 3m wingspan (12kg), rely on sight
and often use the sight of Turkey vultures spiralling down to detect food.
Up in the Andes
we visited Ingapirca, â€śthe Inca Wallâ€ť. The site actually predates the Incas, being
set up as a religious complex around 900-1000 CE by the CaĂ±ar people. The Inca
first came to the area between 1470-1480, in what was a peaceful alliance
(further north the Inca influx caused war).
The oldest part of the complex is
the CaĂ±ar Temple
of the Moon, and the burials from this time were of people in the foetal
position inside a pot, while the newer portion is the Incan Temple
of the Sun, with burial in tombs. The corridor between the two was set up for
the sun to travel down on the longest day of the year. All up around 200 people
once lived in the temple complex, with many more in the surrounding farmland to
Today a small farming village lives near
the site. The farms all grew corn and had a few Alpacas. The Alpacas were
mostly for the wool (they sold scarves for only $2), for meat the Guinea pigs
was the main source, which lives in kitchens off food scapes, serving as both garbage
disposal and main course. We had lunch there, a large meal of corn prepared in
four different bland ways.
From Ingapirca we drove to Cuenca. We reached Cuenca on the Festival of Saint Anne, so the
streets were packed with people enjoying themselves. In the main square they
were letting off fireworks right in the middle of the crowd, with the bamboo
guides falling back down to earth on top of us. They also built colourful square
plastic cubes and tied small bundles of hay underneath them. They lit the hay and
the hot air made the cube gradually rise into the sky as new stars, except for
occasionally when the fire leapt up and caught the cube on fire.