Thursday, April 26, 2018

1870 Earthquake Quito - Then and Now

I had said that I found a picture of the 1870 Quito earthquake at the Cuena museum and that I was going to find the street and take a current day picture to see if it was the same.  You be the judge.


April 2018 looks the same.

I would think that most of us associate our Mexico experience with the rest of Latin America.  Mexico has a thriving economy no doubt but also has its downside such as corruption at the citizen level not to mention a litter problem.  As I have mentioned several times so far, Ecuador is one of the cleanest South American countries I have seen.  People don't tolerate litterbugs and aren't shy telling them either.

As for transit police, yes they exist but they aren´t out on the hunt.  The system is technologically advanced.  Cameras exist on all major highways, towns, and cities.   As you commit an infraction, points go on your record.  Collect 30 points and your license is revoked.   Drunk driving is immediate incarceration.  Should your license get revoked, it is six months of classes to get it back.  My coworkers in Mexico are known for speeding.  Of the eight that chauffered me around in Ecuador, none took the chance of speeding.  Truly amazing.  

Oh, and did I mention the fines?  For the first 1 to 10 km over the speed limit, in addition to the points, $180 (u.s.) fine, and for every 10 km more it continues to double.  Do 140 km and you lose your license.  

More pictures to come.  I´m just unpacking and yet tomorrow I fly to Merida where I will speak to a group of 150 teachers.  I'll be back home Saturday in time for happy hour.  Of course!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Winding Up Ecuador

We were a success in all the cities we visited.  Lots of great schools, teachers and students.  Both conferences were big for the country and cities, 175 in Quito and 85 in Cuenca.   We're not very popular yet in the country in terms of English.  We are better known for our texts in Religion and Spanish.

Yesterday and today we visited schools in Amabato.  Great town but known for its severe earthquakes.  The last major quake in 1949 pretty much leveled the city.  It was rebuilt in two years by the government and the citizens.  Very narrow streets and sidewalks but what do expect from a city founded in the 1600s.   I didn't have much of a chance to get out but last night I went for a brisk one -hour walk and this is what I saw.

Cathedral Our Lady of the Elevation in the main plaza.

Taken from the lobby of the hotel so you can see how narrow the streets are.

The drive back to Quito this afternoon was amazing.  Dark clouds hovered overhead and rain storms threatened between breaks in the clouds.  The country is a virtual garden with greenery at every turn.  The countrysides look like a place where I would want a cabin with solar, pump my own water and have a couple of cows and a vegetable garden.  

I enjoy watching cows.  These guys are happy to be free roaming in the cool air.

Provincia de Tungurahua is the route for four volcanos that are still active.  Signs on the highway warn of impending ash fallout and evacuation routes.   One volcano has a small hotel with rooms facing the cone so tourists can watch the lava flows at night.  Ash has been known to go as far as the coast which is 270 km.

You can see we reached 3400 meters or 11,150 ft.  Walking up three flights of stairs is harder than you think.

Imagine fuel prices like this.  Diesel is $1 per gallon.  That would make anyone switch to a diesel class B motorhome.  
More tomorrow, I have my flight to CDMX at 8:35 and then home to Monterrey.  I want to share this quinta experience where I am staying now and also how vehicles and drivers are charged for violations.  Very interesting.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Cuenca - Saturday Afternoon

After returning from the museum and ruins, I took a short nap.  My short walk to the main plaza was about 3 km.  Nice walk but coming home it was raining pretty hard so I took a taxi, $1.50.  Just about everywhere in Cuenca is less than $2 for a taxi.  

What a surprise!   The centro area of Cuenco is amazing.  Reminds me of a much larger SMA but a bit more updated and well-maintained.  Cuenca is considered the most European style city in Ecuador with its 16th and 17th-century Spanish architecture.   It was founded a few decades after Quito and Guayaquil by the explorer Gil Ramirez Davila.

Let's face it, and I hate to, but Mexicans are litterbugs.  Here, you can spend all day looking for something on the ground.  A stray would have a hard time getting fed and you don't see any strays around either.

                                      Stopped here to people watch and have my coffee.

I stopped for a coffee and headed to the zocalo to find a seat.   Beautiful gardens and friendly people.  A couple of shoe shiners, someone was selling popcorn and a woman took pictures of people with her Saint Bernard next to them.  Beautiful dog and I bet he enjoys the cool evenings.  

My friends having chips.

I kept asking for a tiendita, or tienda de conveniencia, you know an OXXO but didn't get a response.  Then I saw two teens having a bag of chips in another plaza.   I asked them where I could find some chips and they said, over there in the dispensa.  Who knew!

Rain clouds looming overhead.

I also found some nice shops for souvenirs.  I'm not saying what I bought so far but they are things for the house.  Every time I visit a country, first time or more, I always pick up something for the house.  

I'm back in Quito.  My flight left at 9 a.m.   No one could get to the airport because they had the streets blocked off for a cycling and running event.   Eight of us taking the same flight had to walk about six blocks to get a taxi and then we got into an argument with a transito.   I spent the afternoon here in Quito exploring the downtown area.  

Up at 5 a.m. tomorrow for a trip to Latacunga to visit a university there.  

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Inca Ruins - Cuenca, Ecuador

Finally, a day to play tourist and what a great day it has been.  I set the alarm for 6 a.m.  Got up, showered and off I went on a hike up to the lookout, Mirador de Turi.  It overlooks the city and has incredible views.

Cuenca´s original name is Santa Ana de los RĂ­os de Cuenca.   Four rivers pass through the city.  

I had checked the route on Google Maps so I knew where I was going.  It was six kilometers round trip.  The only thing that made it a hard start is that most hotels in Ecuador don't have coffee makers in the rooms like in Mexico.  I have been going without coffee until breakfast although I could order room service then you have to get dressed and make the room look halfway decent.

Off I went watching Cuencanos going to work, opening shops, riding bikes and running.  Cuenca, like Quito, has wonderful bike riding lanes, bidirectional and blocked off with a curb so cars can't enter.  Lots of bike riders.  I crossed the bridge where the river flows in the picture above.   As I've said before, this is the cleanest Latin American country I have ever seen.  I bet I could fill a small plastic bag with trash on the street is a day's walking.

These women are called Cholacuencas.

One of the many bike lanes.

I could see the mirador in the distance and continued walking down the street.  Then came the climb.  

It's not easy when the city is at 2580 meters or 8500 ft.  Even the locals are huffing and puffing but I was surprised to find myself passing many people much younger than myself.  I wasn't in a hurry but didn't feel the need to stop.  Even my coworkers who live here are always stopping to catch their breath.  I guess they don't exercise.

Made it to the top.   Now I was stopping to catch my breath.  That was a climb.   This was halfway up.

And this is from the top!

Looks like a really big city but as I said the other day, it is only 500,000 but it is crowded together.  As always, there is a church at the top.

Imagine living in this luxury cabin at the top of the mountain!  

Made my way back to the hotel and had breakfast.  Great breakfast buffet included in the price.  I showered again, and off I went to the Incan ruins that are here in between the rivers.  That's for tomorrow's blog post.   After, I came back to the hotel, walking, and took a nap.  The centro area is much further and it was raining, so I took a taxi.  

The photo below is my mission for tomorrow when I return in the morning to Quito.  This was taken two days after the earthquake of 1870.  I saw an exhibition at the museum I visited also.  I guess I really packed it in.  Anyway, the mission is to find the location and take a picture of the street today.

Ecuador suffered a major earthquake two years ago last Thursday.   

I could easily live here.  Looks like we need to find a house sitting job!

Friday, April 20, 2018

All Work and No Play - Ecuador

Contrasts in Quito.  Modern highrises, everyone drives a new car and then this guy below sells goat's milk straight from the animal on the street.  The fresh milk is supposed to help the soul.

Well, I'm back in Ecuador and I have been going nonstop.  I have visited 15 schools and universities so far this week.   They don't let me rest and I think it is because I raised my fees :) so they want to sacar la ultima gota de sangre, squeeze out the last drop of blood.

My trip to Quito on Sunday was great.  I was fortunate to get flights on AeroMexico and from Mexico City, it was nonstop 4.5 hours.  Good service and I had an exit row all to myself so that I could stretch out and watch movies.   The food was the best I've had on a flight in years and I thoroughly enjoyed it along with all the complimentary cocktails and wine they serve.

Quito is a magnificent city.  Robust, active, modern mixed with colonial and lots of hustle and bustle.  Nestled in the mountains it is a lot like Bogota.  The major difference is Ecuador has invested heavily in infrastructure and has well-constructed superhighways that beat any country I have lived in or visited. I´m now in Cuenca, which is a 40-minute flight from Quito and the situation is the same.  Oh, and did I mention the cleanliness and lack of litter on the streets?  Amazing.

I'll post some quick cell phone pics I have taken and then come back this weekend and post some more.  I will be here in Cuenca returning to Quito on Sunday morning.  Big bonus is that this afternoon I will take city tour bus, double-decker, and see all the major sites at a glance and then I can choose what I want to see tomorrow.   Sunday, I will have all day to tour Quito as my flight leaves at 8:00 a.m. and arrives 40 minutes later.

The difficult part is adjusting to the currency.  The country is dollarized so everything is in dollars, they don't have a national currency anymore.  When you earn pesos and pay in dollars, OUCH!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Palapa - Finished Product

Inauguration with friends.

Adrian taking care of the grill.