Sunday, March 1, 2009

Volcanoes and Earthquakes

I like the drive from Quito to Otavalo through the valley of the volcanoes. Gua Gua Pichincha (gua gua in Quichua means baby) is the volcano above Quito, Cayambe is snow-covered and to the right as we drive north, and Reventador is not far from Cayambe. Near Otavalo, Imbabura and Cotocachi are husband and wife in legend. There are more volcanoes to the south, one of which, Tungarahua, is currently active. Spectacular Cotopaxi is south of Quito and looks like Mount Fuji. Some of the volcanoes are dormant while others continue to erupt. There are wonderful stories about the volcanoes; Gua Gua Pichincha's parents are Cotopaxi and Tungarahua, and when Gua Gua cries, it upsets her Mother and Father and they may get angry! Imbabura and Cotocachi were together as a couple and then had a falling out, resulting in Cotocachi getting angry. The volcanoes are spirits and impact the humans around them. The indigenous people have always worshipped the volcanoes and prayed to them.  They are truly magnificent and add much to the landscape of Ecuador. Of course the active ones are dangerous and have erupted regularly. I am moderately worried. My impression is that Quito and Ecuador are not well prepared for disaster. I cannot imagine how the city will cope if there is a serious eruption. Where will the population go? How will they get out of danger? Our guide mentioned today that all three roads between Quito and Guayaquil were blocked by landslides, so the only way out of Quito is by air or east to the jungle. When we live in Quito next year I wonder how we will respond to a natural disaster. 

Of course, the city is also in danger from earthquakes all the time. I have been assured that the taller buildings are built to withstand earthquakes, but most of Quito is spread out over hills and valleys and much of the construction does not meet standards. I imagine the population would be in a panic if  faced with a serious earthquake. I would be in a panic as well! 

We stopped at the Mitad del Mundo and put one foot of each side of the equator. I have no idea why, but I tried several yoga moves on the equator line, which Eric photographed. I thought they could work for the 'Yoga in the Jungle' pamphlet, but I am in no way a good example for yoga position. This is the modest version of equator monument. Not far from where we stopped is an orange structure with a bizarre explanation of the science of the center of the earth. On the parallel stretch of the Panamerican highway to the west, there is a much larger monument associated with an ethnographic museum of Ecuador, which is entertaining to visit. The problem with that monument is that it was established by French scientists in the 1700's, who were entirely in error. More recently the 'true' center of the earth, using more accurate measurements and GPS, was established as being 150 metres away and another museum and monument has been erected at the 'true" equator. So one can visit the equator at several different spots, and experience it quite differently.

The market at Otavalo has been in existence for over 500 years. The Otavalenos are weavers and artisans and have a talent for business. The market is quiet on Sunday, actually although everyone bargains, the locals are quiet and unassuming. They expect to bargain, and will not sell anything for a loss, but good deals are possible. I have been to the market many times, and all the goods have become familiar. They remain lovely, but I am less eager to buy everything I see. Of course, knowing that we will be living here in a few months plays a role in my reticence. I enjoy the market for the locals. Eric wanted to buy roses, so we wandered a few blocks away from the 'Plaza de Ponchos'. We found 25 roses for $3.00, and they were lovely. I wanted to take photos of the local people, but they object when I do, and I did not have the energy to be sneaky about it, so I do not have many good pictures today. 

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