Heading to the Galápagos Islands

When last we left Two Who Trek, the dynamic duo had returned to Michigan after their Ecuadorian adventure. In their last post they promised to include information about the Galápagos Islands. However, it’s been months since we’ve heard from them. What has happened?

In a word – – life.  Births, deaths, separations, reconciliations, illness, recovery, home remodeling, graduations, open houses, more deaths, transitions, summertime adventures, fall chores, volunteer opportunities, holiday preparations and even work all became priorities over blogging. We suspect there was even a bit of “blogger’s block” involved.

All of those items combined to throw this blogging project off-track.  But throughout the past months, Two Who Trek continued to have adventures. Now that things have calmed down during the post-Christmas winter months, we intend to get caught up.  So let’s get started with reviewing the Galápagos adventure.

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Categories: background, blog, ecuador, galapagos, galapagos national park, transportation, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saying Goodbye to Cuenca

Two Who Trek share some lessons learned (and not just Spanish ones)

It’s a gray morning in Cuenca – one of the few we have had.  It’s also a sad morning, as our program host will be coming with a taxi about 7 to take us to the airport to start the journey home.  As we share our last breakfast in the apartment (our favorite – a fresh fruit medley, pastry, milk and coffee, today made even more special by sharing a piece of tres leche cake left from the day before), we discuss how profoundly sad we are.  But we knew this day had to come.  Staying in Cuenca wouldn’t be the same – after all, the apartment has been sold, our fellow travelers (now friends) are heading back home, and even one of our teachers has been laid off from the school.  So it was time to leave.

But why were we so sad?  While there is usually a twinge of remorse about a vacation ending, this was a much deeper sadness.  We concluded this trip was the best travel experience we have had to date, one we wanted to continue.  Many questions were answered for us, such as:

Could we live in a foreign country?

Yes.  While we did have some structured experiences throughout the trip, much of the time we were on our own.  We negotiated in stores, found addresses, tried new restaurants, and saw amazing sites.  The more time we spent in the country, the easier it was to navigate daily life.  With more time, practice, and improved language skills, we would have a great living experience.

We only had one time when we had to ask our program host for interpretive help.  Sherri had arranged to have a lovely blazer made to her specifications – two button, hip length, pockets – like one she purchased years ago and has worn out.  When she went back for the fitting, a different seamstress waited on her and we couldn’t understand what she was saying.  Program Hostess Christine came to our rescue, and found the seamstress was saying her associate had only measured for the fabric and didn’t take specific jacket measurements.  After some quick measurements, we were done.  By the way, the blazer is amazing and professionally done, all for $25 for the fabric and $45 for the labor.

Would we want to live in a foreign country?

Not at this time.  We both realized we are closely connected to our family and friends.  Sherri still has a job to go to daily, too. Continue reading

Categories: background, blog, Cuenca, ecuador, Journals, lessons, photos, preparation, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Cuenca scenes

Two Who Trek take an overall look at the city

As we prepare to wrap up our posts about Cuenca, we realized that we haven’t shown much about the day-to-day life in the city.  Today we will look at some common city scenes.

Cuenca is actually the short name.  Its true name is Santa Ana de los Cuatro Rios de Cuenca, named for the four rivers that run through the city.  The word Cuenca means “river basin” in Spanish.  Continue reading

Categories: andean, archeological, background, blog, Cuenca, ecuador, food, inca, local, markets, mountain, photos, ruins, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ingapirca: Living with the Past

Two Who Trek visit Ingapirca, leaving it in ruins (as it was when we got there)

Some ruins are remnants of the past and stand as a historical reminder of people who once lived here.  Ecuador’s largest and best preserved archaeological site, Ingapirca, means Wall of the Inca in the Cañari language.  This special place was first used for worship by the indigenous Cañari. It was called Cashaloma or Place Where Stars Pour from the Heavens.  

Overall view of Ingapirca

Overall view of Ingapirca

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Categories: andean, archeological, background, blog, canaris, Cuenca, ecuador, inca, lessons, photos, ruins, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Land of the Llama

Two Who Trek see their favorite animals

You’ve previously read in our posts that no ruin is complete without a llama.  Now that we’re back from the land of the llama and fully immersed in the day-to-day, it’s time to reflect and share some things we didn’t have time to write about during our last week in Cuenca.

Llamas are members of the Camelidae family along with camels.  Scientists tell us that camelids have been around for about 45 million years.  About 10,000 years ago, llamas and alpacas were domesticated for food, clothing and transportation.  Unlike cattle which are thought to have a common ancestor, llamas are believed to be domesticated from guanacos and alpacas from vicunas. Continue reading

Categories: andean, animals, archeological, blog, camelid, Cuenca, ecuador, inca, llama, mountain, photos, ruins, travel, wool | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ceramics in Cuenca

People of the Americas have a long pottery-making tradition, predating the European arrival.  The oldest known ceramics were found in communities along the Ecuadorian Pacific coast and were made 5,000 to 6,000 years ago.  The time-honored process is still essentially the same.  Dig up some clay, mix it with water, form it into objects and fire it in an oven or kiln.

In the studio of Eduardo Vega, today’s ceramic pottery is functional and exquisitely formed.  After studying in Europe, Vega returned to Cuenca and developed a unique style, deeply rooted in Ecuadorian history. Continue reading

Categories: andean, art, artisan, artistic, blog, Cuenca, ecuador, local, making, manufacturing, photos, pottery, tallar, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Foreign Fruit Finds

We’ve talked about the wonderful fruit and vegetable markets in Cuenca.  However, many of the items are different from what we would find in the United States.  Today Two Who Trek looks at some of the unusual fruits we discovered in the markets.

First, TWT has a general observation about the quality of the produce available at market.  Most of the fruits are grown in Ecuador and the crops are picked closer to full ripeness than those shipped overseas.  At the time we were in Ecuador, only black cherries were being imported and those came from nearby Chile.  Flavors overall were more intense than the imported produce we might get at the super market back home. Continue reading

Categories: andean, background, blog, Cuenca, dining, food, food preparation, fruit, markets, photos, travel, vegetable | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Stitch in Time

Two Who Trek let the wool get pulled over their eyes

One day at school Two Who Trek and their teachers were talking with other teachers and students when an idea started to take place.  Why not play hockey for a day?  Because there are no ice rinks in Cuenca, we all decided to play hookey instead, head to a neighboring town, and take a tour of place where artisans make woolen products by hand.  We picked a date and decided to rely on public transportation to get there rather than take taxis.

Riding on the public bus system is an event all its own.  Travel light and have lots of change.  For less than $1, you can be transported from the center of old town Cuenca to the outlying towns.  See vendors boarding the bus, selling everything from chocolate bars at 3 for $1, to an organic panacea of uncertain origin for curing most physical maladies.  The vendors give you a sample of their wares as they walk through the bus aisle and give their speech.  If you choose not to buy, politely and firmly return the merchandise when they are at the end of the presentation. Continue reading

Categories: art, artistic, blog, bus, Cuenca, displays, ecuador, gualaceo, manufacturing, photos, pottery, tallar, taxi, travel, weaving, wool | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Getting around in Cuenca

To really see an area, one must travel around.  Because Two Who Trek are not strangers to travel, we used several methods to explore the city.  Here’s a short look at some of our options.

Walking

Walking is the best way of getting around Cuenca, especially in the historic center of the city.  With a good pair of shoes for support and plenty of time, one can get around rather quickly.  Two Who Trek found that during peak times, we could walk through the city center faster than taking a bus or a taxi.  Continue reading

Categories: background, bus, Cuenca, ecuador, gualaceo, photos, taxi, transportation, travel | Tags: , , , , , ,

Overhead Considerations

Two Who Trek learn about hat tricks

Call it a hat or a sombrero but it is not a Panama Hat! Traditionally made from a high grade of straw called paja de toquilla, these hats are called Montecristi after the Ecuadorian town of the same name.  The misnomer referring to Panama dates back to the 1800s when the Spanish began exporting the hats from Ecuador via Panama.  In the 19th century, Panama Canal workers used these hats to protect themselves from the strong equatorial sun.

There are many excellent tallers or artisanal workshops creating sombreros del paja toquillas in Ecuador.  Two Who Trek visited two hat-related places in the Cuenca area.  Continue reading

Categories: blog, Cuenca, displays, ecuador, hat, making, manufacturing, markets, panama hat, photos, straw, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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