On January 10 Harry and I spent a relaxing day on the grounds of Posada Ingapirca. Although the Internet was too slow for birthday calls, relaxing in the shade at over 3,000m was exactly what I needed to continue my recovery from weeks of shipping-induced agony.
Unfortunately Harry was not allow to enter the Ingapirca ruins, so I toured them on my own. Although not nearly as spectacular as sites we visited in Mexico and Guatemala, the place was interesting nonetheless — thanks mainly to a knowledgeable tour guide.
Historians believe that these two half circles represent the sun (outer) and moon (inner) and thus bridged Inca culture with those of their local predecessors.
Stones originally used for construction and then found littering the site had been collected in one place to showcase different building techniques. The poison of brugmansia (“angel’s trumpet”) bushes was used by the Incas to numb surgery patients.
Our guide also pointed out perfectly aligned stone blocks.
The Temple of the Sun, the only remaining building at Ingapirca.
The Temple of the Sun’s interior. Four alcoves (three are visible above) used to indicate important dates in the Inca calendar by way of solar alignment.
The next day we were back in Cuenca. A gentleman we had talked to on January 9 had recommended a repair shop specializing in electrical work — alternators in particular. Finding the place took me almost an hour as it is tucked away in a large unpaved parking lot. But as soon as we had arrived, the owner (Diego Ayavaca, phone: +593 (0) 990294666, behind the El Mercurio editorial offices on calle Francisco Ascazubi) dropped everything else and started working on la bestia… while his infant daughter, to his left, was trying to unscrew a truck’s rear tire.
It turned out that la bestia‘s alternator was neither broken nor malfunctioning; rather, its transmission cables were completely corroded, thus effectively cutting the power supply. Already three weeks ago, when Harry and I were still in Costa Rica, I had ordered a replacement alternator from the U.S. — but that package remains stuck in Ecuadorian customs. Not only do I not have to worry about that anymore; following a simple cable replacement, la bestia is once again running smoothly. The mechanic asked for $5; I gave him $10, and we ended up chatting and cheering for another hour.
Thrilled to finally be able to resume long-distance driving, I treated la bestia to a thorough cleaning. If only car wash facilities in North America took their work this seriously!
Everyone was happy with the result.
Harry stuck with the theme of the day and went swimming in a nearby creek.
Afterwards we left Cuenca and headed toward El Cajas National Park, located one hour west at almost 4,000m altitude.
There we met some lovely backpackers from Argentina, Brazil, France, Belgium and Germany — and decided to stay for the night.
The next morning (Jan. 12) I went on a two-hour hike — and ended up with a royally sunburned face. Sadly Harry was banned from entering the park, but at least the guards allowed him to wait in the car.
… tickled the photographer in me.
I felt even luckier when the sun came out.
Discovering nature’s stunning beauty ranks at the very top of my list of overlanding’s most rewarding aspects.
Six hours later we arrived in Vilcabamba, a small town in the south of Ecuador where we stumbled upon Hosteria Izhcayluma, a hostel run by two German brothers who emigrated to Ecuador almost twenty years ago and who welcome overlanders–of all nations, I hasten to add!–for $5/night. Tom and his family from Saxony (left) have been here for a few weeks already; Roland from Rhineland-Palatinate previously crossed the African continent in his 50-year old Unimog truck and is now on his way to Uruguay.
Hosteria Izhcayluma is among the most hospitable and comfortable places we’ve come across in the past six months and two weeks on the road. With 75-minute massage packages for $22 and simple but delicious breakfasts in a tropical setting, this hostel lives up to its promise of being a “backpackers’ resort.”
They are dog-friendly, too, and Harry loves watching wildlife from the hostel’s expansive terrace. In fact, if he weren’t leashed, I am sure he would have already sampled some of it.