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Posts Tagged ‘Alausi’

The Church of Balbanera at the crack of dawn.

Our stay at the Hacienda Abraspungo was very comfortable; although it was Saturday night we had to pack in pretty early. Sunday morning getting up at 4 am, we did make it in time for some fresh fruits and coffee and were on the road to Alausi at 5.30am. The 2 hour journey through the mountains so early in the morning was breath taking – the misty haze gave way to the rising sun and a glimpse of the communities waking up for their Sunday chores. Our first stop was at Balbanera, the oldest church of Ecuador constructed in 1534.

Dawn breaking in the valleys

On the train to the 'Devil's Nose'

Destination Alausi, a typical small Ecuadorian town which is currently the starting point of a touristy train ride to Sibambe and back. Aside from the train service, Alausí springs to life for market day on Sunday, when indigenous people come down from the nearby páramo wearing their best and most colourful clothing. You can get a closer look at the statue of Saint Peter and admire the panoramic views by climbing the Lluglli hill. Alausí’s train station, the goal of most visitors, sits behind the small plaza at the north end of 5 de Junio. The train takes you through the famous Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) to Sibambe. After a stop of one hour at Sibambe, it is once again a climb back to Alausi – total 3 hours. The Devil’s Nose was one of the most incredible feats of railroad engineering when it was completed in the early 1900s. The train descends through a hair-raising series of switchbacks that are so tight the entire train has to back up momentarily to fit through. Just below the switchbacks, the train stops near Sibambe, turns around, and climbs back through the entire route. For the best views, sit on the right-hand side of the train if you can. Riding on the roof is now prohibited following the deaths of two Japanese visitors in 2007.

This train journey is managed by the Ecuadorian government and 20% of the ticket money goes to the local community of Nariz who mingle with the visitors and give them a taste of their culture, music and dances at Sibambe. So even if you are not too keen on this ride, remember your 3 hours and a few dollars could add to the economy of a very impoverished community!

Alausi

Once back at Alausi, we bade farewell to our companions for the last one week – our guide – the very knowledgeable and pleasant Giovanny Reinozo and our driver – the quiet but witty Armando. We were greeted by Xavier our guide for the next phase of the journey and Giovanny, the driver. Driving further south, our next destination on the way to Cuenca was the Inca ruins of Ingapirca. We stopped off at a point to have a good view of Alausi and carried on to Ingapirca on a long and winding road that took us through villages and truck stops dotted with colourful markets and eateries. The dirt track to Ingapirca was full of rustic charm.

Saying goodbye to Giovanny and Armando.

Ingapirca firmly stands at 3230 meters as Ecuador’s most impressive and most significant site of Inca ruins. These ruins are set in the rolling green hills of the Southern Andes region of Ecuador, about 90km north of the major city of Cuenca. A complex network of stone structures that surround a circular sun temple, Ingapirca displays both the Inca and Canari cultures’ mastery of stonework and their keen awareness of solar patterns. Set in an agricultural zone with a rich indigenous history, Ingapirca also evidences the fertility of the soil and the unique interaction between the warring Inca and Canari peoples during the pre-Spanish 15th century. The most important characteristic of this site is the Canari moon temple standing side by side with the Inca sun temple and a part of the original Inca trail passes here! We had a family of Huarizos (cross between a male Llama and a female Alpaca) giving us company at these ruins and it was interesting watching these creatures grazing the fertile grounds.

Ingapirca - The Inca sun temple from the Canari moon temple

Huarizos stand guard at Ingapirca

After a sumptuous lunch at the Posada Ingapirca we were once again on the road – to our final final destination for the day – Cuenca. En-route we passed through small communities and watched congregations enjoying a game of Ecuavolley – an improvised form of volleyball which is a craze only after soccer in this country of 15 million people.

Ecuavolley from the car

It was 2 hours more on the road and with a mix of dozing off and taking in the sights on the way we were atlast in Cuenca – another UNESCO World Heritage City of 4 rivers, 8 universities and 52 churches! Our stop for the next 4 nights is at the very colonial boutique hotel – Santa Lucia. More later.

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