Thursday, April 15, 2010


Long and Winding Road

I kidnapped my husband today and took him on a very long drive. No computer to distract him, no scientific projects, no students demanding his attention, just me to talk to and a very windy road. . Perhaps it was an extreme way to get his attention, but it worked and we talked about everything that needed to be talked about for five hours. And the ride was gorgeous.

Flowers Everywhere

We drove north from Mitad del Mundo, past Caracali onto the road to Mindo. The landscape north of Quito is dry and dusty, but past Caracali (and the turnoff to Pululahua Crater) the scene changes suddenly and clouds drift down and the vegetation is thick and green and beautiful. The road has curve after curve, and Eric remarks how wonderful it would be to drive his motorcycle, except that in some places the asphalt is covered with dirt which has slid down from the sides of the mountains, and in places the ruts and potholes in the road are brutal for me sitting in the passenger side of the Landcruiser.

We were in wet, thick, cloudforest, fog materializing and disappearing. There were several small restaurants and coffee shops along the road, but few tourists. My goal was to get to Tulipe, an archeological site of the Yumbo people, who occupied the area from 800 to 1660 AD. I was not sure how far it was and did not worry, being preoccupied with the details that Eric and I were discussing.

Tulipe was built by the Yumbo people, who inhabited the north and northwestern valleys and mountains aroud Quito. It is thought that the Yumbo people migrated to the Amazon after a great eruption of the Pichincha Volcano in 1660, although there are other theories about who their descendents are today.

The Yumbos were known to be traders,. They traveled with huge baskets on their backs and sticks that they used like ski poles. They traded goods from the coast to the sierra to the jungle, and built narrow, deeply carved paths throughout the country. Maya and I rode horses in one of the 'culuncos' in Pululahua, and Debra and I believed we walked through one at Cuicocha. These trading paths are carved all through the country and continue to be used today.

The Tulipe area appears to have been a ceremonial site. There are numerous 'tolas' and truncated pyramids in the area, along with the 'piscinas' which are believed to have been used for ritual cleansing. The pools are rectangular, circular, semicircular, square, and there is an extensive irrigation system. along with the pools the rocks are covered with petroglyphs, the most common motif is the eternity of the circle. They are reputed to have had significant knowledge of astronomy, geometry and architecture.

Eric and I wandered through the archeological area and then further through the cloud forest, admiring the plants and the many birds whom we could hear but not see. We did not have time to wait for a guide, which would have been a good idea, because the place asked for an explanation, and I remember how thrilled I was when we had one at La Florida. She had suggested we go to Tulipe, had writtten information on how to take the bus to the site.

The vegetation around Tulipe was equally stunning. It was green and lush and inviting. It felt so good to be away from Quito for just a few hours and breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the bauty of the place.

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