The drive from Cuenca to Banos…

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Is completely magical.  From the soaring peaks of the Andes we descended gradually into landscapes where cows, crops and humans perched precariously on vertiginous slopes.  We passed the old site of Quito, raised to the ground by the last inca general, Ruminahui, along with Ecuador’s oldest church – built just 3 years after Pizarro’s initial conquest. 

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Then we approached the fertile plains, where indigenous people of all ages farmed, sat and sold in all of variations of each town’s native dress.   There were flowers everywhere.  Every scene was worthy of stopping – every picture I took was unfortunately the victim of a very ’efficient’ taxi driver – so what I can present here is only a very pale representation of the richness we saw. 

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As we drove I listened to ‘The Last days of the Incas’ by Kim MacQuarie and ‘Turn Right and Micchu Pichu’ by Mark Adams, and I could almost see the persistent Spanish heaving themselves over each peak in pursuit of the stockier, nimbler natives.  The overthrow of that 100 year old uber-powerful civilization by 168 Spanish conquistadors will always be bewildering, and you see the remnants in Ecuador’s structures, its peoples, and its inequalities every day.  In 6 hours of driving we saw cultures whose looks, dress and lifestyles can barely have changed in 300 years.  We saw quiet pride and resilience, and a stubbornness in retaining tribal traditions that have both merged with and subverted the Spanish language and devout observance at each local catholic church. 

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