Walking in the footsteps of the Inca

This last weekend I got the chance to spend the night at the indigenous community of Salasaca. We all went as an official Oregon trip, led by our program coordinator, Franco. Along the way, we stopped for breakfast and saw beautiful views of Cotopaxi. Our first main stop was the Jardin Botanico La Liria and Quinta de Juan Leon Mera, a botanical garden and museum. The grounds were full of native plants, and serve as a place to preserve some of the species. The museum highlights the life of Juan Leon Mera, who wrote the Ecuadorian national anthem, and his family. They had extremely luxurious houses with some of the finest things of the era (ceramic French chandeliers). In the same place, there was the home of another family that had 11 children, all of whom became famous in in some way or another (art, science, mountaineering, everything).

Cotopaxi from the bus

Cotopaxi from the bus

We had lunch afterwards at a pizza place and headed to Salasaca. The location where we were staying had a small farm with lots of sheep, cows, pigs, and crops. Everything is done by hand, on a small scale in Salasaca. I really enjoyed how peaceful it was and how clean the air was.

Cows and crops

Cows and crops

In the evening we had the special opportunity to tour a workshop that tourists usually don’t go to. My friend Lilian, one of the students on the Oregon program, has a conversation partner from Salasaka. He ended up taking us to his father’s workshop where we got to see a demonstration of how the agave root is used to make a soap/shampoo, how the guinea pigs are raised (in pits), and a type of insect larvae used to make dyes. Then we got to go inside and see the traditional loom that the men use to make textiles. It can take months of labor to make some of them. When we returned to our hostel, we got to listen to some of the traditional music and dance to it. It was a very enjoyable experience.

The musicians (sorry a bit blurry)

The musicians (sorry a bit blurry)

The next morning, we ate a delicious breakfast that included Salasaca tortillas (thick, warm, and filled with cheese) before heading to the sacred site. We ended up walking a long ways uphill, enjoying beautiful views of the valley below. The site itself was a small circle and then a crack in the ground with a small hole. We sat down on the crack and then went through the cleansing ritual. Our guide said some words in Kichwa (the indigenous language), took a bouquet of native flowers, passed them over us, had each of us spit on them three times, and then had a moment of silence. After the ritual, we descended on a narrow path that was used by the Inca. We finished with some down time, a visit to the textile workshop at the hostel, and lunch before heading home.

A traditional loom

A traditional loom

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