I realized I’m getting behind on my blog posts, and want to make sure I share all of my pictures of this gorgeous country and the diversity of adventures I’ve had here with you all, so I’ve scheduled several posts to be published throughout the week, sharing stories from celebrating Inti Raymi at Ingapirca, a jungle cruise through an Amazonian wildlife sanctuary, and joining in the Pride parade in Guayaquil with my fellow PCVs. Once I’m back on track, look forward to hearing about my upcoming Fourth of July BBQs from the Southern Hemisphere and travels back to Tena to help with the first-ever Oriente GLOW leadership camp!
Two weekends ago, three of my neighboring Peace Corps volunteers and I packed up our backpacks with every piece of warm clothing we own – when we volunteered to serve on the equator, we didn’t fully realize how chilly these Andean mountain towns would be. At 7AM on Saturday morning, we headed to Ingapirca, hoping to make it for the 9AM Inti Raymi opening ceremony. Luckily for us, ecuatime meant that the ceremony didn’t truly begin until nearly 11:30, giving us plenty of time to set up our campsite once we arrived at the ruins.
Ingapirca is the largest known Incan ruins in Ecuador; the main attraction is the a mostly-intact sun temple. Although the exact significance of the ruins is still unknown, the temple of the sun was built perfectly positioned so that, on the solstice, sunlight would fall through a center chamber and enter through the top of the temple. Unfortunately, most of the chamber has fallen down in the centuries since it was built, so we couldn’t see this mechanism in action.
We started out the day watching an ancient ceremony celebrating the four elements – water, earth, wind and fire – that did an eloquent job tying in the lessons of the past with contemporary needs: embracing diversity by building integrated mixed-race communities, protecting our earth from the damaging effects of climate change, and preserving indigenous traditions in the technology-driven world.
As the day unfolded, we watched Ecuadorian dance performances, danced along to live bands, toured the Ingapirca ruins and hiked through the nearby countryside to see rock formations like “the Face of the Inca”. The most memorable moment was just before 7AM the night after camping. We had barely slept all night thanks to a rancorous band of drunken men who sang Ecuadorian classics like Whiskicito with their guitars, ukulele, harmonica, and self-styled drums from empty plastic water containers. When one of my fellow PCVs, Meg, and I gave up on trying to sleep around 6:30AM and headed down the hill in search of bathrooms and coffee. The stand that had been selling us 25 cent canelazos (a hot alcoholic beverage of aguardiente, panela, cinnamon and passion fruit) the night before had transformed into a breakfast coffee spot. We purchased four cups of coffee, which came in thin plastic cups, and headed up the hill to share with our friends. It was another volunteer, Laurel’s, 34th birthday that morning and we decided to plan a surprise she wouldn’t forget: recruiting the men who had been “serenading” us to sleep all night to surround our tent and sing Feliz Cumpleaños, or happy birthday, until she woke up.
At first, she was groggy-eyed and confused, but soon we were dancing with their entire group for nearly an hour, us drinking cups of coffee, and them still working on their aguardiente and Coca-Cola combination from the night before.