Azogues - Part 1
After Banos we again headed south to a small city named Azogues, which is about 30 minutes from the tourist destination of Cuenca, Ecuador. Azogues has a population of about 40,000 residents whereas Cuenca has a population of over 600,000. We chose Azogues because it was a small town with fewer tourists and the Airbnb apartments were about 30% - 40% cheaper than comparable units in Cuenca.
Our first stop in Azogues was at a local bakery (la panaderia) where we had coffee and baked goods. The smells and the fresh baked items we consumed were out of this world.
The apartment we rented in Azogues was certainly one of the nicest places we have stayed during our travels in Latin American, and our Airbnb hosts could not have been friendlier. After showing us around the apartment, they gave us a map listing all the nearby sights we ought to see while we were in Azogues. They also invited us for Christmas Eve dinner with their family. That’s hospitality Latin American style.
The apartment itself was fully equipped, spotlessly clean and furnished with very comfortable stylist furniture. The Airbnb hosts even had a Christmas tree in the family area to lift our spirits and help get us in the holiday mood. I included a short video showing the apartment, which I hope will give you an idea of what you can rent in Ecuador for less than $35 a night. Note, in the video I referenced Honduras by mistake. Obviously, I intended to say Ecuador.
Like the other cities we visited in Ecuador, the Catholic Church plays an important role in the Azogues community. Although there are several other Catholic churches in the area, the most prominent is the Cathedral of St. Frances (Catedral San Francisco). The Cathedral dominates the skyline of Azogues and is the first structure that catches your eye when riding into town. Needless to say, the people of Azogues are very proud of the church and encourage tourists like Omar and me to visit it.
The city also has many Catholic elementary and secondary schools, and a Catholic University.
Walking around town we came across a very nice park the follows the river for a couple of miles. We also discovered several interesting businesses, including El Che Bar themed after Che Guevara.
In addition to touring the Cathedral, we also took a ride to the Ingapirca Ruins located about 30 miles outside of town. They are reported to be the most extensive Inca and pre-Inca ruins in Ecuador. According to our guide, the Cañari people first established the site over 2,500 years ago. Then in the 14th and 15th centuries the Inca became the dominate force and built a temple on the hilltop to worship their sun god. The temple was built in the classic Inca style with finely sculpted stones that do not need mortar to bind the stones together. Along one side of the sun temple are the remains of the Inca Road that connected the Inca empire all the way from southern Colombia to northern Chile. I’m sure we will be seeing more of these types of structures as we continue to head south into Peru.
One thing that impressed me during our tour of the Ingapirca Ruins was the tremendous pride our guide took in his heritage. Several times during our tour he stated quite emphatically that his ancestors were Cañari not Inca. And that the Cañari people originally built the site two thousand, five hundred years ago. Thus, the Inca were relative newcomers who enhanced it. Unfortunately, both cultures were superseded by the Spaniards who invaded and eventually conquered the Inca empire in 1572. Since neither the Cañari nor the Inca had a written language, much of their history was lost as a result of the conquest.
On our ride back to Azogues Omar spied a little dog along the side of the road that appeared to be homeless, very thin and needing help. He stopped to see if the puppy would come to him so that he could give it some food. The little dog was very fearful and didn’t want anything to do with Omar even though he offered food. After trying unsuccessfully to find its owner, Omar left some food and we continued our ride back to our apartment in Azogues.
Omar couldn’t get the thought of this helpless little creature out of his mind, and later in the day he went back to see if he could get the puppy to take food and water from him. He was somewhat successful, but the puppy was still very afraid and would not come near him. Tomorrow Omar will see if he can capture the little dog and find it a good home in Azogues. I will provide an update on Omar’s efforts in a later post.
Tomorrow will also be a very interesting day for me. I have arranged through a friend of our Airbnb hostess to help distribute toys and candy to poor children in a remote village about 40 miles from Azogues. We learned that many fathers have left these villages seeking work in other countries, including the United States. Unfortunately, some of the fathers stop sending money back to their families and never return to Ecuador. Thus, the women and children left behind are in very difficult situations with little means of support.