Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Purchasing airline tickets on-line

'Wanted to pass along some good info. It's for those who are wanting to book and purchase in-country airline tickets on-line...in English. Of course, you can do this at your computer before you leave home.

We met some new folks, Jerry and Rhonda, at ex-pat night last Friday. They tell us that they flew into Quito, then Cuenca. The airlines, LAN Ecuador, seems to be only airline that flies this route, where you can book your flights and pay for them upfront, online, in English. They were able to print out boarding passes at the hotel, too. Saved them a trip to the airport early for purchase.

Go to Lan.com and click on the 'USA, English' as your residence and the site comes up in English.

We haven't flown LAN, but they were happy with the flight and the service. (Looks a little pricey, compared to the other airlines, but... )

Thanks, Jerry and Rhonda, for the tip! And, welcome to Ecuador!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Ingapirca is the largest Inca ruins in Ecuador.

It's actually a combo of Canari and Inca ruins, located a couple hours ride north of Cuenca.

This week we set out with our friends Bruce and Charlie to see them.

During the drive, we caught up on all the news and enjoyed the beautiful, high-altitude landscapes of the Cajas National Forest.
The ruins are at 10,595 ft, higher than Quito at about 9500 ft. (Cuenca is about 8300 ft).

A few slow-downs on the road...

We also saw 'fieldwork', both hand-plowing with oxen and modern tractors. Very black (volcanic) soil!

Livestock (cows and sheep) were tethered in the fields and along the road (no fences). Workers were tending the livestock, and, we think, also milking the cows in the fields.

The little towns on the way are fairly unremarkable, except for the colorful native clothing.

Kids in uniforms returning from school.

We were pleasantly surprised that our cedulas (residency cards) gave us a discount on the entry fee. It's $2 with the card vs. $6 without.

Llama alert! Several llamas live on the site and wander freely.

We easily located an English-speaking guide at the site (works for tips). He told us the stories...

The Canari people have been in the area way before the Incas arrived. After the Incan conquest, the Incas built Ingapirca (a fortress/temple complex) right next to/on top of the Canaris' sacred place.
Both the Canaris and the Incans were proficient in ceramics and textiles; they worked along side each other at the complex (which only housed about 90 people.) "Paint' for the artists included llama blood from sacrificed animals. The Guide told us that they only sacrificed animals, but we're not sure...The Canaris were formidable, proud and very hard to assimilate into the Incan culture. But, the 2 groups did eventually inter-marry and co-existed fairly peacefully until the Spanish arrived. The combination of the 2 cultures still exist today.
When the Spanish arrived, some of Ingapirca was dismantled and the stones and other building materials were used for the new churches and buildings in the area... Facinating history, you can google for more info.

The guide showed us the different wall-building processes... Canaris used river rock with 'mortar'; the Incas used volcanic rock without mortar. The Incas were highly skilled at fitting the stones so close as to not need the 'glue'... you cannot slip a knife blade between the stones. Amazing.

Incan wall.

Trapezoidal shapes for windows and doors provided some protection against earthquake damage.

A reconstruction of a typical building, with straw roof and grinding stones in the middle of the single room...This small room housed about 4 families.

Straw Ceiling, held together with fiber from the agave plant.

Our Guide telling us about the agave plant. Canari stonework in the background.

Jaw-dropping views...

A llama is enjoying the view, too.

(Church in background.)

Tourists in front of the sun temple.

On the way UP to see more views (and the Inca Face, a rock formation), we passed a worker's house. The lady was doing laundry by hand outside, while another family member carried bundles of grass into the house.

On the way back, we noticed she was talking on a cell phone and we could see a TV on through a window. A nice blend of old and new.

Another llama alert! We wanted this picture to look like Nancy was close enough to this llama to pet her...

But, she really wasn't (trick of the camera angle).

Ms. Llama is pretty tame, but definitely didn't want anyone that close as she ate grass. We stayed our distance so we wouldn't worry her. She's beautiful!

Here's Charlie, making a new friend, too:

There is also a museum on site (which we'll visit next time...admission is $4 without cedula), a small restaurant serving typical food (our driver bought an ear of sweet corn and some cheese for $1.00), and a small gift shop (we bought colorful, embroidered shirts).

We finished the day at one of our favorite Italian restaurants back in Cuenca. * Pasta all around, no ice cream, but there's always next time!

* (Restaurant is: Bertuchi's, Av. Unidad Nacional #30 y Padua.
Tel: 4091265, 2889297)

Another fun (and educational!) day!

Monday, October 12, 2009

In support of rural farms

During our travels the other day, we discovered a street festival in support of the agricultural areas of the south.

There were booths celebrating the importance of good, nutritional food and clean water. Some booths displayed the most wonderful produce, fresh cheeses, breads, herbs, grains and beans.

Some women were busy cooking food... 'cuy' (guinea pigs), corn tortillas (more like pancakes), potato/herb stews...all displayed for sale, as well as to show the bounty of the farms in the area.

Roasting cuy on a stick...

Note the different indigenous clothing from the various communities.

Look at the size of this squash!

There was also a religious service... a gentleman (perhaps a shaman? definitely a leader) who lead the crowd through a special sacred service. He asked the participants to face north, then south, east and west, with arms raised. He asked everyone to send good tidings, friendship and peace to our global neighbors at each phase.

We would have taken more pictures to share, but we wanted to be respectful of the moment. This picture shows the clean-up phase, after the service. Note the rose petals on the ground. The rows of petals defined the special space. Two women sat on the ground inside the space and a pot of incense (we smelled sage) burned between them.

This festival also celebrated the Pachamama (Mother Nature) and
the rights of food sovereignty...

We brought home some of the fabulous produce! Huge beets, very fresh parsley and a bunch of herbs. Our Ecuadorian friend tells us the herbs are the basis for a health tonic that many Ecuadorians, including his family, drink at the start of each day.
Following his directions, Rich prepared the tonic...

Here are the flowers and herbs...

Going into the pot of hot water, to cook for about 5 minutes...

Lovely RED color of the 'tea'!

Rich says the drink made him feel better... Nancy wasn't sure. The taste was 'interesting'... mint, anise, flower-y, herb-y... tasty, in fact!

We added lemon juice and some sweetener (we used Splenda), as our friend does. Will we make more? Probably!

We had to laugh...while drinking the juice, and waiting for the 'reaction', a small earthquake hit! Obviously a coincidence, but now we can tell folks the juice 'rocked our world'!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Stuff' happens

The 'stuff' of life!

A few tidbits of info and some pics to share....
(and addressing some questions we've gotten off-blog).

Politics... those who know us, will know we are 'political animals'... well, we were in the US. Here, we don't really turn on the TV much, even though we get CNN International in English. We mostly read our news online.

Seems politics is alive and well here, too... we were in the SuperMaxi just the other day and wondered why the shelves were so empty. Politics. Apparently, the recent protests/demonstrations blocked the roads, so the supply chain is affected. (Don't worry -- we've got opinions but we won't get into that here.)

It's not like we're be going hungry though. A shortage at Supermaxi just means we'll be shopping more in the local markets... and, maybe, eating lots less chicken. Right now there is NO chicken at Supermaxi, and we hear there is none in all Cuenca (not sure if that's entirely true or not). We're sure it will all sort out soon.
(Update: Rich just got in and reports the latest... he was at Supermaxi this morning and shelves are stocked! Supermaxi is jammed with senoras, with traffic around the block. Back to normal, with chicken!!)

We've been working through some property title 'stuff'. A few loose ends needed to be 'perfected' on both the Fragata and the adobe properties. We're glad we have good atorneys working on our behalf! But, sometimes, one just needs to take the 'bull by the horns' and get it done.

Our realtor and attorney got busy, so...

Rich spent many hours at ETAPA (the utility company), an attorney's office and the Notary, to get a land line phone transferred to our name from the Seller's for the adobe... a little complicated since the line was in the Seller's deceased Mom's name. We also learned that Cuenca has no more phone land line numbers available, so we wanted to 'save' the line for us. Walking the papers around, getting more papers, waiting, going to the next stop... waiting some more...it's all done, finally! Whew! A lesson in patience, for sure.

In the meantime, work continues on the adobe re-model... the workers begin sanding the plank floors today (about a 3 day process) and the appliances arrive next week.

Construction seems to still be doing well in Cuenca, overall. Still lots of activity at the building across the way, as well as a start-back-up of construction across the street. Lots of folks working away, and that's good!

The Fragata property deed had a few glitches, mostly due to interpretation of the law vs. what's customary. Our attorney, Nelson, is busy sorting it all out for us and we're sure it will be resolved soon. Thank goodness for good attorneys!

To share info on medical insurance and 'the water' and safety/security..

About insurance, we're certainly not experts on the subject. But, we can tell you that many expats choose to 'self-insure', rather than purchase insurance. Medical costs are low here, compared to the US. Some say that the total cost can equal the deductible costs you'd expect to pay in the States. Yes, we're impressed with our Dr Parra, at the Mount Sinai Hospital. He speaks perfect English, trained in the US (office visit is $24). There are other doctors here who speak English, too.

You can order your own lab/x-rays here and you 'own' the results and the x-rays. A doctor can 'double-check' the results for you or you can do your homework on the Net, either way. (For a doctor's time and expertise, it's another office visit at $24).

About the water... yes, we drink Cuenca water! It's 'hard', meaning a high mineral count, but no tummy aches for us (though we've heard of some who can't tolerate the mineral content.) For laundry, you might need more soap though. But, there is good laundry soap, even Woolite and baby soap here (and white vinegar for laundry, too). In most restaurants you can order bottled drinking water, sin or con gas (with or without bubbles).

About safety... Please remember you need to be mindful of your safety and security, wherever you are. We've heard stories of pickpockets, as well as a particularly scary home invasion out in the country. You just need to keep your valuables safe and pay attention. Nancy doesn't carry a purse (her infamous black jacket with lots of zippered pockets IS her purse!) and we don't carry alot of $ on the street, just what we might need for the day. We have velcro'd/zippered pockets (or we pin pockets shut to slow down the 'opportunity' of pickpockets). Basically, take the precautions you'd take, say, if you're walking/living in any City.

We mostly feel safe, but we try to minimize the risks... there is no way we'll be mistaken for Ecuadorians (we're too tall and our Spanish is better but by no means fluent!), but we don't feel like Gringo targets.

Here are more pictures from our walks -- always 'stuff' to enjoy.

Not sure what we were enjoying here at the main square one day. Vendors with food to sell, military band and lots of folks having fun. (School fundraisers?)

We never tire of all the beatiful flowers for sale!

San Blas Church (outside/inside).

A public health poster promoting treataments for parasites. Pills are recommended every 2-3 years. Many Ecuadorian families do this...not sure of details...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Inca Ruins

At the central bank museum (Calle Largo y Huayna Capac), there are some inca ruins out back. On an earlier day, we went through the museum but didn't get to the gardens... so, we decided to make another trip.

We went around back, following a guide and a few tourists, and were stopped by a guard asking for our tickets. (Oops, we thought the gardens were open to the public for free!) So, we went back around to the museum and waited for a few minutes at the ticket counter. No one was there and the inside guard didn't know when someone would return. We waited for a few minutes, but decided to just come back yet another day.

Entrance fee to the museum, including gardens, is about $3 each.

We walked along the outside perimeter of the gardens, which are huge.

We didn't see the llamas which we'd heard live on the property. Lots of workers tending the gardens.

The stonework and gardens are lovely.

Irrigation ditches and high rises in the background...

From across the river:

Looking toward downtown...

2 shots of one of our favorite street paintings.

We're planning a trip, about 2 hours out of town, to see the largest inca ruins in Ecuador soon..... stay tuned.