The worldwide Augustana College experience

A Taste of Ecuador…Second Try

Hello again. Sorry to everyone that tried to read this the first time and could not. I have been having quite a few problems with my blogging account (including not being able to upload pictures), but hopefully there will be no more major problems with it. I am going to try and write this post as much like the original as I can, but I’m not sure if I’ll remember every little detail so please comment if you have any questions. Since it has been so long since the last time I wrote, I’m going to go all the way back to almost 2 weeks ago.

Two weekends ago we went to Saraguro to explore this town which has a population that is completely indigenous people. The first day we were there (Saturday) we took a ride out to a nearby village to go on a hike and learn about the town and some of the unique things there. The ride out was along a mountainside in a bus with a floor made of 2x4s and no doors at all. The view was awesome, but taking turns around the mountains got kind of crazy at times (people here drive the same in the mountains as in the city). When we got to the village, we went on a two hour hike along the mountain to an area with a random bush on the mountain and just looked at the view. When we got back to the village, we tried a local drink called Wahongo. It’s made by fermenting the juice of the century plant which looks like a giant aloe plant. It tasted pretty good, and a lot of people described it as being a non-carbonated cross between sprite and milk…

The next day in Saraguro we explored the town and when we arrived back at the hotel for lunch we had a surprise waiting for us… guinea pig. I finally had Ecuador’s finest delicacy, and it wasn’t bad. Some people say it tastes like chicken, my roommate thought it tasted like roast beef. I thought it tasted unlike anything that I’ve had before. However, I don’t think I’ll be having it again anytime soon. My host family has a room in the back of the house that has about 40 to 50 guinea pigs or cuyes in it and we had it again for lunch one day. The only problem was the person sitting next to me had the head of the guinea pig on his plate and it looked like it was staring right at me. The following week held a couple of things that were pretty exciting.

┬áThat Monday we went to a Panama Hat factory. I’m not sure why they are called Panama hats since they’re from Ecuador, but they make a lot of them. A lot of people here have them, and they range in price from 10 or 15 dollars all the way up to 400 or 500 dollars! It all has to do with how tightly the fibers that make the hats are woven. The tighter the fibers, the more expensive the hat, and the expensive ones can take up to 2 months to make.

The next day we went to a lecture about natural medicine used by the indigenous people of Ecuador. Going into this, I was very excited because I thought it would be a lecture about what types of plants they used to help or cure certain ailments. To be honest, I was pretty disappointed. It was lead by a man who a man who is a shaman that said he wanted to be called a doctor and not a shaman, but with some of the things he was saying I would call him a witch-doctor. He was dressed in all black and looked a little bit like a priest. He began by explaining that they believe that the body has energies that can become imbalanced by several different things, none of which seemed medical to me. After this brief explanation, he explained that his people have been taking x-rays for hundreds of years using an egg. Yes, an egg. How can you take an x-ray with an egg? He took the egg and rubbed it all over a person’s body and then had them blow on it 4 times. He then cracked the egg into a glass of water and let it sit for 5 minutes. He claimed that before rubbing the egg on the person, it had no “bad energy” and that any disturbance in a person’s body are transferred into the egg after this ritual. For examples, bubbles floating on the water means something is wrong with your head. Needless to say, his predictions were a little off. I’m just happy we have real x-rays in the US.

This brings me up to this past Saturday where I had the best experience of the trip so far. Me and two others drove 20 minutes out of Cuenca and took a 30 minute hike up a mountain with 3 guides to the source of the Yellow River. From there we spent the next 4 hours canyoning which included repelling down waterfalls and jumping off rocks into the pools formed in the river that has won an award for the past few years for having the cleanest natural spring water in the western hemisphere. During this time we had to wear wetsuits because it is not unusual for the water to be 40 degrees. Unfortunately, the wetsuits did not cover our hands or feet (we wore shoes and socks) and it took a while to get used to the water. It was an unbelievable experience and the highlight was repelling down a 50 foot waterfall where you could see the river drop off 3 more waterfalls further downstream. It was the highlight of the trip so far and well worth feeling a little cold for a few hours.

After that, this week has been full of studying and working to get my ecology project done and getting ready to go to Cajas National Park before leaving for Peru. The next time I write will most likely be from Cusco. I can’t wait to get to Peru and see what it holds, but at the same time I will miss Ecuador and it’s amazing sights, people, and ice cream!

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