Francis loves coffee farms!

Francis loves coffee farms!

This is another guest post by Marie!

I am looking to paint a picture of the last week, a week of visiting amazing towns, biking, soothing ourselves in hot springs, which has been highlighted by meeting various kind and interesting people. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, I decided to make this post photo-heavy!

Bionay gives Francis various pieces of advice, suggestions, and treats us to delicious coffee!

Bionay gives Francis various pieces of advice, suggestions, and treats us to delicious coffee!

Leaving off from F’s last post, where we met with Bionay, the amazingly impassioned cafe owner, who has a beautiful cafe accented with amazing gardens, hanging seats, and great food, we grabbed a bus to Saraguay, and then pushed onward with one last bus to Zamora. It was a huge travel day- Luis the hostel owner drove us to the highway, we hitched to Chunguragua, took three buses, and a truck to the hostel in Zamora. Phew!

Zamora's town centre.

Zamora’s town centre.

Zamora is an amazing town. Originally, it was settled by the Cañari in the 1400s, and was colonized by the Incas, and later the Spanish… It looks like it came out of the wild west or something, with a really saloon-like vibe. We had to be careful where we walked, because the sidewalk would drop off 10 feet abruptly on one side, and the pavement turned into cobblestones, turned into a planked boardwalk. We hiked up to a lookout point, to be blown away by the view!

Francis looms over Zamora.

Francis looms over Zamora.

Along the way to the lookout point.

Along the way to the lookout point.

We also went to visit an original gold mine, an industry which was a huge part of Spanish interests in the city. The tourist rhetoric of the gold mine was super pukey, from the viewpoint of mines offering good jobs and prosperity to the city… and ignoring all of the death and hardship faced by miners! They showed us a video wherein we learned that one of the Spanish kings lowered the tax from 1/5 of all gold to 1/6 of all gold, after he had been brought a 3 pound piece of pure gold from this mine. Wow, what a benevolent thing to do : I

Part of the tour was to walk down a mine shaft, and that was intimidating, especially when the guide turned the lights off (which we didn’t know was going to happen), and I immediately had terrifying machinations haunting the corners of my mind.

The next day we got up early to visit Machala, where Francis had a meeting with someone who shared cocoa contacts. Machala was hot and dirty, and we got in a bit late to do anything besides have that meeting. We searched long and hard for the public pool, and when we finally found it, it was closed for private lessons. Very sad! So we resolved to go to a nearby island the next day, Jambeli.

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Frigate bird, with mangroves in the background.

To get there, we took a small boat with about 40 other Ecuadoreans. A highlight for sure, with the mangrove swamps being particularly impressive. Mangroves are a tropical coastal tree found in tidal areas, which have widely been deforested. Wikipedia can tell you more than I can about these amazing trees: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangrove

From Machala, we went on to Cuenca, an AMAZING city! If you ever have the chance to go to Cuenca, do it! It is more than 700 years old, with amazing bike paths along the river, and incredibly impressive architecure!

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Cuenca’s cathedral

A view of the whole city.

A view of the whole city.

Biking to Baños del Cuenca.

Biking to Baños del Cuenca.

I love eucalyptus trees!

I love eucalyptus trees!

Amazing churches everywhere you look!

Amazing churches everywhere you look!

We made new of friends in Cuenca, and spent some time with Francis’s friend Lily from his last time in Ecuador. We had great food, rented bikes and went to a nearby town (such an uphill climb!!), went to a yoga class, saw an Argentinian band with an enthusiastic flute, guitar, vocals, and box-percussion, visited old buildings, rejuvenated in hot springs, and generally really enjoyed ourselves.

Our next leg was to visit Ingapirca, Incan ruins near Cuenca. Everyone we told our plan to said, ‘really, you are going to Ingapirca and then on to Baños del Ambato?’, and we should have realized how unlikely our plan was, given their response… but we didn’t, and tried to cram it all in!

Walking to the Incan ruins.

Walking to the Incan ruins.

Baby llama!

Baby llama!

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The temple/castle in the background is the biggest attraction of the ruins, for sure.

Wowza, very cool!

Wowza, very cool!

Incan ruins are characterized by their masonry- huge stones, precisely cut and shaped, fitting together without mortar. Inca society never developed the use of the wheel, and their ruins are often on the top of mountains… the amount of human strength that went into their buildings boggle the mind!

Not surprisingly, we didn’t make it to Baños that night- we stayed in Riobamba and then got to Baños yesterday morning. Another beautiful town, surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and the hot springs that give it its name!

There are countless sugar cane stalls, which sell the straight cane, and candy made from its juice. Everywhere you go, people offer sweets! I don’t mind…

Sugar cane stalls everywhere!

Sugar cane stalls everywhere!

Every morning, Francis and I talk about our dreams. He usually remembers his… and I’ve been thinking about how these discussions, and the experiences which have been shaping our dreams, are helping us shift our egocentric conscious thinking to a greater wholeness… but then again, we have spent the last week doing really fun things that are entirely to our own benefit… so perhaps we are currently still serving ourselves first and foremost!