February, 2011 Archives

21
Feb

Buying a guinea pig

by Eugene in Animals, Ecuador, Indigenous Peoples, Travel

We watched a woman buying a guinea pig at a Kichwa market in Guamote, Ecuador. Guinea pigs are a serious livestock item in the Andes; they are bred for food in people’s homes. Buying good breeding stock is serious business, and this woman checked teeth, eyes, sex, and coat very carefully before selecting one.

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21
Feb

Guamote animal market

by Eugene in Animals, Ecuador, Indigenous Peoples, Travel

Kichwa is the language of the indigenous people of Ecuador. Not to be confused with Quecha, the language of the indigenous people of Peru. Except that they are really the same language. Or almost so. I never could figure out what the relationship was, other than Ecuadorians insist it be spelled “Kichwa” and Peruvians insist on “Quechua.”

Anyhow, the highlands of Ecuador are dotted with tiny market towns that serve as hubs for the agricultural communities comprised almost entirely of Kichwa speakers of various ethnicities. We stopped at one, on market day, to see what you can get.

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19
Feb

The road to Quilotoa

by Eugene in Ecuador, Indigenous Peoples, Travel

The Quilotoa Loop, as it’s called, is the backcountry of the Ecuadorian Andes. Most of the people here are Kichwa  (Ecuadorian variant of Peruvian “Quechua”), i.e. of indigenous origin. Electricity and water are scarce, roads are few, and it’s mostly above the tree line, just endless slopes of alpine tundra punctuated by snow-capped volcanoes.

Composite view of Quilotoa Crater Lake

Here is a stitched-together image from the rim of the crater lake of Quilotoa. Even with an 18mm lens it’s impossible to take the whole thing in a single shot. We decided not to hike down into the crater; it was late in the day already, we were feeling the altitude, it was getting cold and clouds were blowing in, and frankly I have always found crater lakes like this rather forlorn and eerie.

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19
Feb

Alexander von Humboldt slept here, and so did I

by Eugene in Ecuador, Naturalists, Travel

La Hacienda Cienega, just South of Cotopaxi in Ecuador, dates from the 1600′s and has been in the same family the whole time. Now it’s a bed & breakfast.

Hacienda La Cienega. Check out the car parked out front. Is that a Pinto?

More photos after the jump.

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17
Feb

On Cotopaxi

by Eugene in Ecuador, Travel

Cotopaxi

Above is my photo of Cotopaxi, one of the highest peaks in Ecuador, and its highest active volcano. It is a commanding presence in the Andes for hundreds of miles around.  It’s something of an icon, and has been depicted most famously by the Nineteenth Century American artist Frederic Edwin Church. Below is his rendering of the same mountain after his first trip to Ecuador in 1853.

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16
Feb

Shrunken heads

by Eugene in Ecuador, Indigenous Peoples, Travel

Actual shrunken heads: sloth on the left, human on the right

Actual shrunken heads: sloth on the left, human on the right

This is a photo of an actual shrunken human head (on the right). On the left is the shrunken head of a sloth. Shrunken heads were made by only a few tribes in Ecuador, and the practice is outlawed today on humans; however sloth heads are still shrunken. Traditionally sloth heads were shrunken in order to teach and practice the technique, which is secret and complex. Photo taken by me at Museo Inti Nan, Ciudad La Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador.

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15
Feb

Spiders & Snakes

by Eugene in Animals, Ecuador, Travel

Right on the equator, and I mean on the Equator, just north of Quito, is a place called Ciudad La Mitad del Mundo (“City at the Middle of the World”). It’s a big glorious affair where local people in colorful ethnic costumes to demonstrate folk dances for Western tourists who sit in open-air restaurants eating overpriced roasted guinea pigs on sticks. There is a huge monument with a yellow stripe running up the middle of the walkway that leads to it, which demarcates the exact Equator. You can have your picture taken right on the Equator.

There’s only one little problem: some years after all this was built, GPS technology became widespread, and it was discovered, to everyone’s chagrin, that the actual Equator runs not through the City at the Middle of the World, but a quarter mile north of it.

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12
Feb

On the other side of the wall

by Eugene in Animals, Artists

Maurizio Catelan, Untitled, 2007. Taxidermic horse Installation, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main

Maurizio Catelan is one of all time favorites. Discovered this courtesy of Justin Beckman’s Tumblr blog. Beckman has a show at Punch Gallery in Seattle this month.

12
Feb

Ecuador Part One: Churches of Quito

by Eugene in Ecuador

I have just gotten back from a couple weeks in Ecuador & the Galapagos with my wife. It was marvelous. I was expecting Ecuador to be something like Mexico, but it si in fact quite different; quieter, more European. Traffic is orderly and subdued, even in the capitol, and there is a disctinct lack of booming car stereos, honking horns, and people shouting. People are polite, genteel, and friendly.Ecuador will never be noted for its cuisine, however, or for inventive and sophisticated nightlife. But it’s an easy country to travel in, especially if you’ve never been to Latin America before.

We had the good fortune to have a guided tour around Quito, and I will share here just a couple photos from that tour.

Quito skyline

Quito skyline

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