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Ingapirca Ruins, Ecuador
Phoebe
04/25/2012, Canar, Ecuador

On our way from Alausi to Cuenca we stopped to visit the Ingapirca ruins which means "Wall of the Inca". Ingapirca is the largest and best preserved archaeological site in Ecuador, and is located 80 km from the city of Cuenca, in the province of Canar. Its construction combines Adobe coppery brown used by the Canarian culture with bluish green andesite stones brought later by the Incas. It was built with millions of hewn stone in the middle of the eighteenth century.

The Incas were not the first inhabitants of Ingapirca. It had long been settled by the Cañari indigenous people, who called it Hatun Cañar.

A common criteria of archeologists states that the main objective for its construction was linked to cult of the sun.

It is said that the Inca Túpac Yupanqui during the expansion's campaigns of the Inca-Empire trough in south Ecuador, met the Cañari "Hatun Cañar" tribe and strategically married the Cañari princes Paccha, giving birth to the future Inca Huayna Capac in the city of Pumapungo (nowadays Cuenca).

In this way, the Inca dominated the Cañari and they decided to settle their differences and live together peacefully. The Canari people built this complex for the Inca Huayna Capac. They renamed the city and kept most of their individual customs separate.

We really enjoyed this site, the llamas that wandered around and the overall feeling of using our imagination to visualize what life might have been like then. It was amazing to realize that they had water through aqueducts, bathrooms, separate apartments and some amazing views of the countryside.

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La Nariz del Diablo (Devil's Nose) Train Trip
Phoebe
04/25/2012, Alausi, Ecuador

The Devil's Nose is a very popular train ride from Riobamba to the Sisambe train station where it turns around and heads back. We picked up the train in Alausi as we had already been to Riobamba.

The hill is at a gradient of one in 18, and the train journey descends from 2346 down to 1860 meters above sea level, as it traverses backward and forward through the zigzags that make up the Devil's Nose trip. Sometimes the route is too complicated for the train and it will derail from the tracks. In this instance, the engineers usually manage to get things underway again relatively quickly. This is ingenious, in the same way that the building of the train line also was. These days, Quito is no longer connected to Guayaquil by rail and this train ride serves as an opportunity for tourism, which should not be missed.

This is the most dramatic part of the trip. It was quite scary at times especially if you are nervous about heights. Not that long ago you used to be able to ride on top of the cars which of course afforded magnificent views, however, after two tourists were killed they had to close that part of the ride down. The cars were quite attractive and comfortable to ride in and the stairs leading up top are now roped off, darn.

In the pics you can see a sign that says Cambio de Pendiente which literally translated means "pending change". Once we arrived at the Sisambe station we were greeted by traditional dancers demonstrating the different types of dances they perform. After the demonstration they managed to get all of us up for a dance of our own. Inside the station we were provided with a light lunch and soft drink. We had about an hour to wander around the station before heading back to Alausi.

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Tungurahua Volcano & Luna RunTun Hotel
Phoebe
04/24/2012, Banos, Ecuador

Tungurahua is one of the most active volcanoes in Ecuador, and is located about 140 km south of the capital city of Quito.
Tungurahua is a steep-sided strato volcano that towers 3 km above its northern base. Tungurahua volcano has a complex historical record which includes sudden, violent eruptions. The volcano has a diameter of 14 km.

I have just seen on the website that the volcano has had significant increased activity this month. I sure hope for the town's sake that she does not "blow". We took a side trip to the volcano from Baños. The drive was beautiful and we stopped at the Luna Runtun Hotel for a treat. This is definitely a farming area and we saw a lot of activity on the way up. They had spectacular views and a great location. It would have been a fantastic place to stay but I assume pretty pricey.

We then kept going onto the "La Casa del Arbol" - the tree house. This is the best location to view the volcano, "safely". They have a great swing which everyone tried so they could feel like they were swinging out into the void. I was happy to pass on that adventure and took the pictures instead. In some of the pics of the volcano you can just make out that the cloud rising is really gray ash and smoke. We definitely heard it rumble several times while we were there. Emma spent a bit of time talking to the old guy who actually lives there and maintains the washrooms and buildings. It was a great walk and view of a active volcano. We were very lucky again to have good views. After our walk up the clouds moved in and the volcano was hidden.

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Banos, Ecuador
Phoebe
04/24/2012

A small town in the central highlands of Ecuador, Baños de Agua Santa is nestled into a valley on the Pastaza River, 8km from the crater of the active Volcán Tungurahua, which means "throat of fire" in the indigenous language, Quichua. The lush and unique topography full of dense vegetation, deep river gorges, and dramatic waterfalls accentuated by the 5,016 meter-high volcano attracts both nature and adventure lovers. Baños de Agua Santa is known as the gateway to the Amazon.

What a great town. We enjoyed the churches, museums, our bed and breakfast (Magic Stone) and our side trip to the volcano. It was amazing how you could photograph anything you wanted in the museum. There were a lot of rooms where they displayed religious robes from past events. I think new garments are made every year. They also had many statues of saints, and angels.

Alfredo and I enjoyed trying our hand at graffiti, ha ha. A bunch of school kids hammed it up for Reg while he was taking a few pictures of the plaza.

The cool mountain air was very refreshing but we were warned that we may not see the volcano due to the cloud cover and rain etc. Our hosts of the B&B were Danish. They were great and cooked fabulous breakfasts.

In the evening before we left, Alfredo, Emma, Alia and I went to the famous hot spring pools. The water was VERY hot and we had to opt for a pool that was a bit cooler. It was great once you got in and the water was very soft.

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Pallon del Diablo
Phoebe
04/24/2012, Waterfall near Banos

On the way to Baños we stopped at, probably, the most popular waterfall along "the highway of waterfalls". It was a great hike to the waterfall under a cool overhang of jungle growth and trees. Alfredo, Emma and Alia climbed up the tunnel to the top but Reg and I elected to stay and watch. I figured if we had to crouch to get up there we might not be able to stand straight after. Once you come back from there the custodian then lets you through onto the wooden bridge that looks over the gorge. He only lets a few people on at a time and gives you 15 mins to enjoy the waterfall from a completely different angle. We enjoyed that break immensely. We stopped for lunch right next door and I had a great and very nicely displayed salad while watching the birds in the trees.

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The Jungle Trip
Phoebe
04/24/2012, Near Puyo, Ecuador

We finally arrived at our lodge Huella Verde near Puyo. We arrived at a bridge and then we had to drive for about ½ hour. Then we parked at another bridge and walked about 1.5 kms into the jungle.

The owner brings rubber boots and believe me you need them. It was quite a hike. The setting is beautiful, beds were fantastic (including insect netting) and the food was great too. We took a river tour on a long, narrow canoe that was fashioned out of one tree trunk. There were plenty of rapids for excitement. We did stop at a jungle home where Alfredo and Emma enjoyed some "chicha" a local fermented drink (Alia, Reg and I, chickened out- worried about our tummies, ha ha).

There was one young man on the bow and one on the stern. There were lots of places where they both had to get out and push the canoe upriver on the return trip. On the way back, to the lodge, we caught a ride with the canoe owner. Alia, Alfredo, Emma and Reg rode in the back (see pics) and I rode in the front with another girl in the middle. That was quite a trip and we are amazed at how many rivers they drive through. The road is very rough and most of the vehicles get beat up pretty bad.

We did not see much wildlife as the owner explained to us that most of the animals are hunted by the local people. It is unfortunate but that is how they live, day to day. I think if you want a true jungle experience you would have to go to one of the lodges that are located a day or two inland. We had a relaxing time there and experienced a little taste of the jungle!!!

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