Few Excerpts From The Book "South American Odyssey"
return to the apartment for lunch then head out to the
Centro Historico. This is where Quito shines. It boasts
the largest historic centre in the Americas. Colossal
Andean peaks surround this urban showcase of history
and culture which offers colonial churches, chapels,
monasteries and convents, squares, museums and fascinating
architecture. During the 16th century the Incas took
control of what is now Quito as they extended their
area of influence outside of Peru. They established
the city as their administrative centre and from there
controlled the territories of their empire. As the Spanish
conquistadors arrived in the Americas, the Inca general
Ruminahui razed the city rather than let his kingdom
fall to the Spanish. In 1830 the Republic of Ecuador
was proclaimed and the colonial city of Quito grew as
they entered the 20th century. This growth was accelerated
by the Pacific-Andean railway line which provided commercial
expansion by linking them with the coastal city of Guayaquil.
The banana boom of the 1940s and the petroleum
boom of the 1970s completed Quitos transformation.
are six waterfalls along the route we have selected
to the town of Rio Verde. They have exotic names like
El Manto de la Novia, Brides Veil, but not all
of them are identified to me so I am still not certain
which one is which. At first I kick myself for not
asking Marcelo the name of each and every one of them
but then I decide it doesnt matter because they
are all beautiful and not even the endless downpour
of the day can dampen our spirits or enjoyment of
these wonders of nature.
beauty lies in its indigenous people, the Otavalenos.
Their market is an attraction to all not only for
its outstanding shopping but also for its cultural
significance and tradition of the Andes. The fine
array of brilliantly coloured fabrics and textiles
signal our arrival in the Plaza de los Ponchos just
a short walk from the bus depot. Gavin and Jordi have
been here many times before so, with their help, everything
is easy to find although I think we could have managed
by ourselves by simply following the multitudes as
they funnel out of the station.
trip to the Galapagos will change your life in some
way. Located in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1000
kilometres off the western coast of Ecuador this volcanic
archipelago consists of 13 major islands, of which
only five are inhabited. There are also several smaller
islands that tend to go unheralded. The Galapagos
Islands are a land that time forgot; a rugged lost
paradise that is home to animal species found nowhere
else on earth. As soon as we land I feel, This
is a different world entirely here. For one
thing its hot and its sunny; this is more
like I thought it would be at the equator. The altitude
in Quito alters the temperature and makes things a
lot cooler than you would anticipate. However, that
observation pales as we realize that this is one of
the last original places left in the world.
destination today is the town of Puno on the shore
of Lake Titicaca but we are stopping at about the
halfway point at the Ruinas de Sillustani. This is
a pre-Incan burial ground on the shores of beautiful
Lake Umayo. The tombs are in a series of above ground
funeral towers called chullpas. Here lie the remains
of complete family groups, though likely primarily
kings and important people in the region. The towers
in Sillustani may be the most perfect cylindrical
structures found in all of South America as there
is no evidence of such perfection anywhere else. David
is prepared with maps and props to explain this ancient
culture and history to us. To reach the towers we
have to climb a 300 foot hill about a half a kilometer
from the parking lot. Somehow I do not think that
this is a recommended activity for those newly arrived
at 13,000 feet altitude but we do it anyway.
the Uros Islands it is a three hour boat ride to Amantani
Island where we have come to stay for the evening.
Its really not that great a distance but the
motor boat is painfully slow. Calm waters today make
for a very pretty ride as we gaze across the lake
at the mountain lined shores. David assures us that
it is not always like this in August. He has seen
the waves crashing right over the boat. Im sorry
we missed that!
is a living, breathing enigma. There is an obvious
European flair to the city and it is difficult to
believe you are even in South America here
especially when compared to Quito, Lima and Puno
we dont even need to talk about Juliaca. A major
explanation of this paradox is the recurring earthquakes
in Chile. They tend to initiate and complete urban
renewal programs. There are very few old buildings
left in Santiago; many lost in a multitude of devastating
earthquakes. It is really quite sad to see and realize
that history and culture are being annihilated at
the cruel hands of Mother Nature.
journey heads north by bus from Punta Arenas; a very
nice, comfortable touring bus I might add. Still,
three hours on a bu-u-u-u-us can only be so good.
The scenery for the first hour is Ontario in February.
Snow covered, rolling hills I manage to sleep
through most of that. Then I clean my glasses. That
takes three minutes. Once we pass the half way mark
the snow all but disappears and it is Africa. Ive
seen this terrain before but with elephants. Its
flat and barren with scrub-like brush and dried trees
but in the distance the Patagonia we came to see beckons.
High, piercing peaks lend promise to our next two
Island, called Rapa Nui by local islanders and Isla
de Pascua in Spanish, is a Polynesian island 2180
miles west of Chile in the southeastern Pacific Ocean.
It was discovered on Easter Day in 1722 and was annexed
by Chile in 1888. It is claimed to be the most remote
inhabited island in the world. One thing is for certain
it is one of the smallest, isolated places
you will ever visit.
Nui, Easter Island, Isla de Pascua, it goes by a lot
of names and it is a truly amazing place. When we
first arrived I thought this is probably what Hawaii
was like in the forties and fifties before tourism
had a major impact and I still think that way.
The island itself is definitely fascinating with all
the moai statues both the standing and restored and
the ones lying there as a reminder of the past. The
island is full of history and culture and three days
is not nearly enough time to take it all in. It is
nice to know it is half way between Santiago, Chile
and Tahiti so a nice future trip would be a stopover
on Easter Island on our way to Tahiti. I would like
to think that I will return and who knows,
they may have fixed that running toilet by then.