Photo of The Day #74, Indigenous Men Dressed in Indigenous Attire, Are Very Rare in Cuenca

One sees the Indigenous women all over Cuenca Ecuador and never thinks twice about the attire or manner of dress. Each various tribe dresses in a distinguished manner and has it’s own colors of shawls, skirts, hats, etc that signifies their heritage and what part of the Andes they are from. The apparel ranges from loud bright colors to a more demure earthy tone in some cases and in my humble opinion, they are all beautiful in their own manner.

 

Indigenous Man in Cuenca Walking To Me

Indigenous Man in Cuenca Walking To Me

 

It is more uncommon to locate or visualize Indigenous men associated with the various tribes. The majority of the men seen accompanying the brightly adorned and hatted women have converted to a more western style of dress, including blue jeans, khaki shirts and ball caps. The men you do see dressed in Indigenous apparel, are as a whole dressed in sold black, as these gentlemen in my post are outfitted. I am also guessing the Indigenous men originate from the same tribe and are the last hold outs wearing their native garments.

 

Indigenous Man in Cuenca Walking Away

Indigenous Man in Cuenca Walking Away

 

They all wear the black bowler hat, have a long ponytail tied back, wear heavy black work boots and the pants are shortened and come to just below the knee. I am not sure of the reasoning for this or the purpose, but I am guessing it as to do with not obstructing their work. You will not find any Indigenous people in what we classify as shorts. It is just not accepted or practiced. A few of the men smoke, but I have never seen any of the Indigenous women light up. Who knows you might just be lucky and see an Indigenous man on your next trip to South America and the Andes range. I truly hope you are fortunate enough to experience this, as I have a feeling the men dressing in Indigenous clothing will soon become a thing of the past!

 

Photo of The Day #36

Australian Tree Ferns Growing in the Wild

Australian Tree Ferns Growing in the Wild

 

I have always loved flora and fauna and have several plants I am most partial to. One such species is the Australian Tree Fern. I travel extensively, but have never been exposed to so many ferns. I am most partial to this particular plant as a result of its lovely umbrella of fern leaves, branching out from its trunk. It strikes me as an anomaly of the fern species and has a grandeur more regal than any other fern in my book.

 

Baby Australian Tree Ferns

Baby Australian Tree Ferns

 

 

As you drive between Guayaquil Ecuador and Cuenca, a little above sea level, at the base of the Andes, you run into about a 15 mile stretch, where the ferns grow wild in forests and the sight is absolutely beautiful. I have only seen them as potted plants in Texas. I have never been able to photograph this brilliant parcel of the highway. Fortunately this time I was able to capture a few photos from the car. Enjoy nature’s bounty!

 

Australian Tree Ferns on Side of Mountain

Australian Tree Ferns on Side of Mountain

 

“Here and there a tawny brook prattled out from among the underwood and lost itself again in the ferns and brambles upon the farther side. Save the dull piping of insects and the sough of the leaves, there was silence everywhere–the sweet restful silence of nature.”

~Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr. (May 22, 1859-July 07, 1930)

Yes We Have Bananas

We left Cuenca early Wednesday morning not knowing what to expect or how the day would turn out. We (Mio Tours and I) were exploring a new tour opportunity and I was very anxious to investigate what lay ahead. The only drawback was it was a 3 to 3 1/2 hour trip and if the road is not in good repair, which it wasn’t, it could be a challenge to this old man! I had a positive attitude none the less as I really wanted to see the insides of a Banana Plantation and a Cacao Plantation. More on the Cacao plantation in the next post.

 

Desert Area Between Cuenca and Santa Rosa

Desert Area Between Cuenca and Santa Rosa

 

We drove through a bevy of various terrains and road structures from great asphalt and concrete highways to rock paths being made into a highway. Some were very rough and required a slow progress and almost 4 wheel drive terrain. After going through a desert landscape that reminded me of Arizona, SW Utah or NW New Mexico we finally came out of the foothills of the Andes and hit the coastal geography.

 

Banana Trees Growing Right Up To the Jubones River

Banana Trees Growing Right Up To the Jubones River

 

We left Azuay province and entered El Oro province which is a tropical coastal region and has a plethora of Banana plantations. In fact it contains more Banana growth than anywhere in the world. There are literally Banana trees beside the highway for miles and miles. We picked up our host Byron Trujilo Erazo in Pasaje a town of about 100K population. Mr. Erazo was the owner of the 40 acre Banana Plantation we were touring and joined us for the 10 minute ride to his Banana Plantation.

 

Entry of the Banana Plantation

Entry of the Banana Plantation

 

As we entered the Plantation I was awestruck by the quantity of Banana trees and was curious how many bananas he produces. Mr. Erazo told us that he gets 700 boxes of bananas per acre and harvest bananas three times a year. You do the math. I also asked who he sold his bananas to and he told us Chiquita Brands. He told me he has 16 full-time employees that live on the plantation and a massive amount of part-time help as needed.

 

Typical Stalk Ready for Harvesting

Typical Stalk Ready for Harvesting

 

We arrived an area that serves as a processing and shipping center and I was stunned by the amount of stalks of bananas hanging and ready for cutting. I learned that they let a parent tree grow and when the second generation starts to come up they pick the strongest offshoot and destroy the remaining shoots. This way the trees maintain appropriate sunlight and all continue to produce bananas all year-long.

 

System to Transport Banana Stalks to the Shipping Center

System to Transport Banana Stalks to the Shipping Center

 

The system they used to cut the stalks and transport them to the ship[ping center consisted of a set of poles in an upside down horse shoe type construction. Underneath these poles ran a strong wire that the farmers would slide the stalks along until it got to the central warehouse. It saved many a back I am sure and was faster, so more bananas could be harvested.

 

Washing Tanks, Conveyor Belt and Shipping Station

Washing Tanks, Conveyor Belt and Shipping Station

 

The warehouse consisted of various tanks that the bananas are dipped in to remove the dirt and insects before packing. They then are dried and placed on a conveyor belt. The final step is putting the individual banana groups in the boxes, after they have been separated from the main stalk. The groups average about 12 bananas. It is quite an operation and because of a miscommunication we did not get to experience the actual cutting and processing of the banana stalks. Next time I am sure we will participate and he explained that they only process ripe stalks on Wednesdays and Thursdays. So the tours have to be on those days going forward. I also missed out on the Banana Cake that will be part of the tour. Darn!

Photo of The Day #18

Traditional Indigenous Dress

Traditional Indigenous Dress

 

One still experiences the Indigenous groups from the Andes while touring Cuenca. Both men and women wear this dress and each area is identified by different colors and hat styles.

 

It is an explosion of variations that is unique to each of their cultures. I am fascinated by each group’s scheme and can sit and watch the wonderful parade of people walk by all day in Cuenca.

The Road Most Traveled

 

Every time I visit Ecuador I fly into Guayaquil and stay over night. There are no “direct” flights to Cuenca from current airline operations. I can either fly back to Quito spend the night and then fly into Cuenca or I can stay overnight and take a shuttle to Cuenca the next day. At my age the Quito route is about 25 hours total and too taxing on my body. So I opt for the shuttle from Guayaquil. Besides, I would miss all the gorgeous scenery if I flew into Cuenca.

 

Mangos Growing Wild

Mangoes Growing Beside the Road 

 

I always know that I can count on my friends at Mio Tours to insure my safety and guaranteed arrival. Lately some of the more illegal shuttle companies have been falling into trouble with the government militia, as they are not official and have not secured the appropriate licenses to transport individuals along this route. I would caution you to investigate this issue and make sure your shuttle service is licensed. Other wise you just might be stranded alongside the road, as a few tourists have been lately.

 

Toll Booths at Puerto Inca

Toll Booths at Puerto Inca

 

The road is nice and there are a few tolls, but you go from sea level basically to a high of about 13,000 feet in the Cajas National Park. Along the way you pass many items of interest. The current road is great, but the Ecuadorian Government is widening  the road to four lanes and it will be a smooth ride from Guayaquil. We usually obtain lunch in Puerto Inca about and hour into the ride and the special is $3.00 per person.

 

Government is Improving the Highway and making it Four Lane Like an Interstate in the US

Government is Improving the Highway & making it Four Lane Like an Interstate in the US

 

 

You pass through many small towns that have various methods of shuttling their population around and one can only guess what the experience is like. Unless you have been to Asia and are familiar with the Tuk Tuks, then you are very acquainted with this system. The taxis vary in color and structure, but are usually built in the same manner and have the same open door look for passengers, with a motorbike front for the driver.

 

Tuk Tuk Like Taxi in Rural Area Towns

Tuk Tuk Like Taxi in Rural Area Towns

 

As you move into the more remote areas you see a different style of taxi as pictured below. They run around the countryside on motorbikes and shuttle the locals back and forth to their homes along the dirt roads. It is difficult for me to imagine there is enough business for this many “taxis”, but apparently its a lucrative operation.

 

A Form of Taxi for the Locals at the Base of the Andes in the Country

A Form of Taxi for the Locals at the Base of the Andes in the Country

 

 

You also find open fish markets where the locals buy their fresh catch. The fish are transported from the coast and made available to the locals for a reasonable price. It is a very unique approach and has been the same for all the years I have visited Ecuador. I just would like to see a little ice under the fish for safekeeping.

 

Local Rural Fish Market

Local Rural Fish Market

 

 

We always stop at several random spots so that I can take photos and this one is a reflection of the valley below and the cloud structure that covers Guayaquil at higher elevations. One begins the ascension and starts to have indications of altitude by ears popping, etc. The vehicle struggles a little more and doesn’t have the same get up and go as it does at sea level, but it is more than adequate to navigate the Andes. After you rise above the clouds (yes that is at a very high elevation) the view is magnificent and the skies are clear. Many photo opportunities exist at this altitude and the guides from Mio Tours always stop when I ask to take photos or if I need a bathroom break.

 

 Looking Out Over Guayaquil

Looking Out Over Guayaquil

 

As you hit the continental divide in Cajas National Park, you know its all downhill from there and you will be in Cuenca within an hour. The anticipation starts to rise and my thoughts increase as the wonderful city approaches. I am and always will be, totally in love with this city, its people, its culture and its lovely food. The great thing about driving is it gives you three and a half hours to prepare yourself and anticipate how wonderful it is to be in Cuenca. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

Day Two Road to Cuenca and Cuenca 2013-03-08 011 30X30 Blog

 

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