4×4 in Ecuador

Most small towns and villages have their locals festivities and one of the events is 4×4. Today in Tanicuchi was no exception.  Tanicuchi is off the Panamerican Highway, around 1 1/2 drive south of Quito in the province of Cotopaxi. A makeshift piste was set up, zigzaging through stream which was diverted specially for the event, plenty of mud, loose dirt, spinning wheels, loud music, Pilsener (even though it´s Sunday afternoon), fritada, cueros, raspaditas and plenty of people to get in the way. (It´s amazing how many people like to walk on the piste especially when there is a fast 4×4 car hurtling towards them). Forget safety, I am sure loads of drivers have already had a few beers before getting into their cars and no police or ambulance in sight, but  it´s great fun and a cheap day out. (Actually entrance is free in most places). It´s also amazing that only around half of the cars actually finish the race. There was a variety of vehicles, motorbikes, quads and vitaras, monteros, pickup trucks, (even one that according to the rumours going around was 1 day old. I said he must have more money than brains, funny thing is he didn´t finish) and others. The first female driver I have seen competing, I have no idea in what place they finished but at least they finished.

Safety, whats that? I am going to compete in whatever clothes I happen to have on.

Waiting to compete, at least he has a helmet in his hand.

Most of the quads needed a good push to get out of the water.

There really is a quad in the middle of all this.

The diverted stream was suppposed to flow under a small bridge, except it was blocked and as time past, the water got deeper and deeper, many cars got stuck.

There were times I got a little close to the cars, or should I say they got a little close to me as the ground was rather muddy and slippery, they often had little control and were happily sliding around. Remember I mentioned the car that was 1 day old, well this was the result of the race. It didn´t finish. It´s a Toyota Hilux.

The water got deeper and deeper. This Vitara died here. It had to get  towed out.

A good push get him out of the mud.

Blue Footed Boobies

The name booby comes from the Spanish term bobo, which means “stupid” or “fool”/”clown”.  This is because the Blue-footed Booby is clumsy on land. On the Galapagos you can get close to the funny birds and take some amazing photographs. The Blue-footed Booby’s diet consists mainly of fish. Blue-footed Boobies are specialized fish eaters feeding on small school fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and flying fish. They also feed on squid and offal. The Blue-foot dives into the ocean, sometimes from a great height, and swims underwater in pursuit of its prey. It hunts singly, in pairs, or in larger flocks. They travel in parties of about 12 to areas of water with large schools of small fish. When the lead bird sees a fish shoal in the water, it will signal the rest of the group and they will all dive together. Surprisingly, individuals do not eat with the hunting group, preferring to eat on their own, usually in the early morning or late afternoon.

It´s all about the horses

The Machachi fiestas usually go on most of the month of July. But the largest event is by far the Paseo del Chagra. Today there were around 2000 horses. An impresive sight, I have never seen so many horses all in one place.

It originated  from the 1877 eruptions of Cotopaxi volcano. In a miraculous way, the great Pasochoa and  Rumiñahui and saved the people of Tambillo and Machachi. They waited patiently for the summit of Cotopaxi cover over again with new snow, and when this happened, they chose to have a minga (when the people get together to help each other) to gather all  cattle, horses and other animals that were scattered with event. Now every year the owners of the haciendas and their families get together and celebrate.

The Machachi chagra attire: cowboy hat, poncho of sheep wool, goat over trousers, spurs, cross scarf around his neck, horsehair slab with his jug, brown sugar and tostado in the pocket, bottle of strong drink to provide their patrons and friends.

Galapagos

People who live on the Galapagos mainly work in tourism and a smaller percentage in fishing.  On the islands the unique ecological situation has forced the Galapagos to have a special law that prevents anyone who are not legal residents and authorizes maximum stay of 90 days each year. The result is unexpected human stories, illegal migrants seeking a better life are fundamental in areas such as construction, perform the hardest and most difficult and sometimes (not always but often) only receive as payment the claim of their own employers who take advantage of this to benefit his expulsion. The human tragedy for many is overwhelming, as many remain in hiding for years. They buy real estate, have children, even family businesses but  with no stability and are  always  worrying that any day the authorities may force them to go and leave everything behind.

La gente de Galápagos vive fundamentalmente del turismo y un menor porcentaje de la pesca artesanal. La delicada situación ecológica en las islas ha obligado a que Galápagos tenga una ley especial que impide trabajar a quien no es residente legal y autoriza permanencia de máximo 90 días cada año a turistas y visitantes. El resultado tiene matices humanos inesperados, migrantes ilegales en busca de mejor vida son pieza fundamental en áreas como la construcción, realizan los trabajos más duros y difíciles y en ocasiones (no siempre pero frecuentemente) solo reciben como pago la denuncia de sus propios jefes quienes se aprovechan de esta circunstancia para beneficiarse con su expulsión. La tragedia humana para muchos es inmensa, pues muchos permanecen durante años en la clandestinidad. Adquieren bienes, tienen hijos, familia incluso negocios pero ninguna estabilidad, siempre con la zozobra de que cualquier día las autoridades le obligaran a irse dejándolo todo.

  Santa Cruz Island, the largest population is in Puerto Ayora

San Cristobal Island, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, The Capital of the Islands. Unloading from the cargos shops that arrive frecuently.

Unloading from the cargos ships. Imagin unloading a bus or a car with this method.

One of the cargo ships. The ships come from Guayaquil, there are numerous ships undertaking the journey, they stay the neccessary time at each port then move on to the next, unloading and loading anything that need to to the mainland.

The Corner of the main square on Puerto Villamil, Isabela Island. the largest Island but a small population.

Puerto Villamil, Isabela Island, the streets are covered with sand.

The main tourist shopping street in Puerto Ayora, full of tourist shops selling all kinds of articles, from t-shirts to the most expensive jewelry and paintings.

Ecuavolley, a traditional sport played in Puerto Ayora daily.

The shoe mender, not a regular sight, but I got my shoes fixed, easy and cheaper than buying new ones on the islands.

There are some large buildings in Puerto Ayora, one of the sports centers. Also used for concerts and other events.

Building the steps, with a special finish of lava.

Unloading potatoes, beer, soft drinks and many other various goods.

The Mama Negra

The Mama Negra is a Cotopaxi festivity twice a year in September and November with the main event being November. Its origin is lost in history, in a mixture of mestizo demonstrations : pagan and religious, indigenous, African and Spanish, the same as their characters, rituals, costumes, dance and music give life, retraced every year since the  XVII. In  XXI is a celebration that pays homage to the Virgen de la Merced on whom according to tradition, gratitude and appreciation for the protection in one of eruptive processes of the highest active volcano in the world, Cotopaxi.   (information from www.mamanegra.com.ec)The Mama Negra traditionally is a man dressed as a woman painted in black

El Angel de la Estrella, The Angel of the Star

Colourful dancers. One of the great things here is that you can get into the parade, you don´t have to stand on the side to take photos.  Basically you can get in the way!!!

El Moro. The Moor

El Abanderado.  The Flag Bearer.

More Colourful Dancing.

El Capitan. The Captain.

Highland Views

Quilotoa in the Cotopaxi province is a volcanic lake. With stunning views, altitude and local indigenous people. Easy to get to from Latacunga by bus or by car. With an altitude of around 3800 masl.

There is a hike from the top of the crater to the lake, around 1410 m long. Doesnt seem¨far does it, but just you wait, steep paths, sometimes with loose stones and sand makes for an interesting hike, tough on the knees but for thoses who arrive at the bottom enjoy the well earned rest, because you have to clomb back up again. But there are horses for your comfort.

Stunning blue water with some hardy flora.

View from the bottom

Highlands view from close to the Quilotoa Lake

The route from Quilotoa to Latacunga