Monday, January 30, 2012

El Cajas... Sinking Into Páramo

Wishing to get back to nature, I traveled to a national park called El Cajas.
The park consists of mountains, waterfalls, rivers, lakes and páramo.
Páramo is an alpine tundra or moorland.
The ground is soft, porous and retains a high quantity of water like a sponge. If you step on the spongy part of the páramo your foot sinks. It is best to walk on the packed ground or scramble over the rocks.
The park is at altitude as well... 12,800 feet (3,900 meters).
I went for a hike. The vistas were pretty amazing. I didn't know what to expect, so I carried a pack with a med kit, sleeping bag, ground cloth, food and water. I had heard that clouds often roll in and can be disorienting. Since I was hiking alone, I wanted to take the right precautions.
There was low lying brush...
Ground coverage...
Plants and flowers woven together...
And this crazy forest...
With wrangling trees growing in all directions.
I crossed a few rivers
Passed by a number of lakes
Passed by more rivers
That were raging
And made a few missteps.
It's all part of the adventure. Check out this short video to see what it is like hiking in páramo.
I got a little bit lost, but eventually found my way.

The first day I spent hiking. The second day I spent fishing for natural trout. I hooked into a few, but released them.

El Cajas was a beautiful area and quite unlike anything that I've seen before. The park had some good trails. The terrain was rugged and the climate variable. While I was there it was sunny, rainy, cloudy, cold and warm... all within the span of a few hours.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Inca Ruins of Ingapirca

From the town of Cuenca, I took a day trip to the cloud shrouded ruins of Ingapirca.
The ride was along a fantastic road...
That wound through the mountains and ascended to about 10,000 feet (3,000 meters)...
And passed by mostly farmland and a few houses.
The Canari civilization first built a city called Hatun Cañar on the site. Then toward the end of the 15th century, during the Inca expansion into present day Ecuador, the Inca built their city on top of the ruins of the Canari city and called it Ingapirca.
The site was built in the Incan imperial style of construction with a mortarless polished stone technique. This means that all the stones were carved to fit together perfectly without mortar.
The city is linked to the city of Machu Picchu via the Camino de Los Incas (The Inca Trail).
This area contained some excavated tombs.
This double semi-circle formation represented both the sun and the moon. Those are llamas grazing on the grass.
There was a sun temple...
That actually functioned as a sun dial.
And this was some form of solar or lunar calendar. It's a mystery as to how it actually functioned.
Outside of the grounds of the ruins was this stone pathway...
That lead to this rock formation...
Called the Cara del Inca (Inca Face). I passed it completely when I was walking down the trail, but then looked back and saw the profile of the face. This is a natural stone feature in the side of the mountain and was not carved.

A nice little walk around some ancient history.

Museo de Pumapungo

In Cuenca, I checked out the Museo de Pumapungo (aka The Museum of the Central Bank). There were a number of ethnographic displays about different people groups in Ecuador, but what I really found interesting was this display of wooden masks. If you look at them long enough, they appear to look back.

This last one isn't a mask, it's a tsantsa (shrunken head). Seems that the Shuar people group in the Amazon use to have a cultural practice of making tsantsa. When someone was murdered the way of restoring balance to the universe was for the offended family to kill and shrink the head of the offender.

Parque Calderon, Cuenca, Ecuador

Here's a short 1 minute video captured at Parque Calderon in Cuenca, Ecuador. Cuenca is a town with quite a bit of colonial style architecture. I'm not spending much time here, just passing through as I head south.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Personal Treat

After spending a few days in Amazon, I decided to treat myself to a haircut and massage. Turned out to be pretty good day of relaxation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Amazon Day 5

On my last day in the Amazon, Jorge told me to wake up early. He wanted to go on one last excursion to see some birds.
We headed out on the motorboat...
To this very placid area of the river. Not a single ripple in the water.
We came across a woodpecker perched on top of this tree.
A flock of green parrots flying in the distance.
This group of grey herons nestled together in the branches.
This kingfisher approaching a landing.
This white grand heron peering over the water...
That took to flight.
The oropendolas (orioles) sent us off with their unmistakable song.
And this blue macaw did a fly-bye.

After and hour or so of birdwatching, it was back to the compound to pack.

One last boat ride up the river to the exit point.

Then the unexpected happened...
As we rounded a corner we came upon a huge... I mean huge... black cayman. Its head and body were out of the water... its tail was below the water. The portion of the cayman that we could see was at least 8-9 feet long. That means that in total, the cayman was probably 16-18 feet long. We backed up the boat to take a closer look... but it was gone. All that we could see were little bubbles on the surface of the water.

I wasn't able to snap a photo, but it was sitting right in this little nook.

You'll have to believe me... or someday visit the Cuyabeno Reserve and the Amazon to see for yourself.

Simply Amazing.

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