Episode 10: Ecuador , Friendly – Quito, Pichincha, Cocoa WAYTA, Cotopaxi Volcano
This tenth episode is confined to the country of Ecuador .
The arrival in Quito was a bit rough. The city is very large, at first glance the historic center is less welcoming than I expected. I was tired from the Lima-Quito trip and a pickpocket thwarted my caution. Well, after a week, I felt very good there. Climbing the Ruco Pichincha summit, 4696 meters, alone was very pleasant and gave me positive vibes.
North of Quito, I visited with emotion the site ” Mitad of the Mondo ” (half of the world) dedicated to the geographical equator. The site is very imposing and the line of the geographical equator perfectly materialized. I danced the dance of the Meridian – Equator there as in Macapa in Brazil.
The idea of volunteering came to me from Laurène, a French woman traveling in South America. The WAYTA project of an association of producers, around an organic cocoa, of high quality and a social dimension caught my eye. The two intense weeks at the heart of the community were great meetings and exchanges. In addition to the cocoa work, with Victor, the coordinator, we produced and published a video presentation of their exciting project: https://youtu.be/81NJ5yYcvZs
Finally, the discovery of the Cotopaxi Volcano, majestic and in eruptive activity, was a great moment. At first in full fog and sublime at sunrise the next day.
As a reminder, the video is available by following this link: https://youtu.be/rEPaIXkfYnE
or directly here (switch to full screen mode):
The interactive map of “Ecuador, warm”, ZOOME, you will discover the detail of the routes.
A few words about Ecuador
The equator is the smallest of the South American countries on my trip. The distances are much smaller and it is (quite) fast to go from the Pacific coast to the Amazon. The country lives from the extraction of ore, the production of roses, cocoa, food crops, shrimp fishing and tourism. GDP has been growing steadily for 10 years. The country straddles the geographical equator, the importance of which you know for my trip to South America. The country is divided into 4 geographical areas: the coast of the Pacific Ocean, the high Andean part where the capital Quito is located, to the east, the Ecuadorian Amazon (see the Cocoa chapter), and finally, the Galápagos archipelago famous for its fauna but also its procession of wealthy tourists.
Theme – Link to the land: The first peoples in Bolivia
The oldest civilization in Ecuador is Valdiva , of which archaeological traces have been found dating back to 4000 BC . There doesn’t seem to be as much information as for the Tiwanaku in Bolivia (see previous episode).
The Incas, about whom I will speak more extensively in the following episode, conquered Ecuador which was the northern part of their empire. Of course, they imposed their mode of operation, organization, forced labor, but left the first peoples their language and most of their daily way of life.
From what I have been able to observe, the relationship to the land and to the ancestors is strong in the Amazonian space. It reminded me a lot of the practices and way of life of the forest regions of Côte d’Ivoire. For example the drops poured to the ancestors, the generous vegetation, the diet of cassava, bananas, bushmeat, the endless palavers, ….
I have heard many stories, more or less fictionalized, about the current practices in certain Amazonian territories where the Indians who are autonomous. The testimonies heard here and there and concrete traces in museums speak of head-cutters whose trophy is “shrunk”, of tribal wars, … It is very difficult to disentangle the legend from reality.
In the Amazonian space, the richness of the forest in medicinal plants is immense, both in Ecuador and in Brazil (see episode 3), nature knows no borders.
Two-week volunteering for the association WAYTA – Cacao
Over the weeks and from testimonials from travellers, I came up with the idea of giving a hand to a community or an association. No doubt also, and in a more intimate way, the need to do something with my 10 fingers and something useful for the people who have given me so much .
Cocoa clicked in my head in the list of volunteering proposals I had compiled. The “contract” with Wayta is simple, the association provides hospitality, accommodation (rustic), lunch, the volunteer agrees to work 4-7 hours a day of the week. The volunteer manages for breakfast and dinner.
The official summary of the project is as follows:
WAYTA CHOCOLATE – Owners of high quality, organic and social cocoa.
Mishki agricultural production association Runa (Sweet People), we are a new organization, we were set up under the supervision of the SEPS d’ Economie Populaire et Solidaire.
We are located in the Ecuadorian Amazon, province of Napo, canton of Tena, parish of Puerto Misahualli , in the community Unión Venice .
We always seek to focus on the improvement and post-harvest handling of aromatic fine cocoa to then market it locally and internationally, with an emphasis on fair trade for our partners and farmers to improve the way of life. of our farmers, without forgetting sustainability in the production process.
The way our association started is in the process of a bamboo bioconstruction because our interest is not to impact or cut down forests, such as trees that have many years of life, so the using bamboo is the most sustainable way to start our project, besides also declaring that we are the pioneers in the promotion of endemic bamboo in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Victor Coquinche – Administrator.
The first days, we worked on the cocoa harvest and the visit of the plantations. In a space of less than a hundred meters, Gérardo , Victor’s father, introduced me to the following plants and trees: lemon, cinnamon, cocoa, pilche calabassa , paso fruta , palm tree, plantain bananas, sweet bananas, cassava, white cocoa, reactive plant, various flowers, etc.
From discussion to discussion, I talked about the videos of my trip and Victor asked me if I could do something to promote WAYTA on social networks. The result was the video: https://youtu.be/81NJ5yYcvZs presented at the first public launch event for the marketing of the first 1000 bars of the delicious chocolate.
The production of this video was an incredible opportunity to meet and discuss with all the members of the association, the “ socios ”. We had to organize interviews, make illustrative images of the complete process, redo takes that did not suit the interested parties, edit the video, choose the sound environment, … With Victor, we were not idle to complete the video for the event. Then, we produced an international version by integrating the constraints of transcriptions, translation and final validation and, finally, published on social networks.
Life at the camp was simple and the opportunity for many exchanges from breakfast to the beginning of the night with Victor, Gérardo and the whole family. Gerardo introduced us to rites and a dreamlike world where reality and imagination are intertwined.
I gave myself time to discover the carnivals. Timorous on the first, I blended into the crowd for the second. I let you discover the images.
We parted with emotion and continue our exchanges by WhatsApp.
Along the discovery: Quito
I arrived in Quito from Lima oppressive because of the demonstrations. In January, we had traveled as a family for two weeks and then as a couple for another two weeks (see the previous episode). The arrival in Quito was difficult, I had to resume my solitary journey and a pickpocket thwarted my vigilance and robbed me of money. Well, after a few days and some nice hikes, I got back on track.
From day to day, I was seduced by Quito. The historic center is very rich in the glorious past of the city. The central place “Independence Square” is in the Hispanic and sad pattern: a building for the government, right next to that of the Religious Authorities, the town hall and a church or cathedral.
The museums are numerous, interesting, of good quality and deserted. It seemed to me that in museums, the Hispanic period was treated with little emphasis.
I discovered two painters committed to the cause of the first peoples. Camilio Egas painted scenes of daily life of the Andean peoples and was interested in the poorest. The second, Oswaldo Guayasamin , is an “expressionist painter of social realism” as described by his grandson who showed us around the lair of the master. Oswaldo Guayasamin is referred to as Ecuador ‘s greatest painter . It has gone through political periods and, without a doubt, contributed to giving more space to the first peoples. Andean symbolism is very present in his work. The visit to the studio is moving, it gives the impression that the painter has just left it. He was very prolific and produced gigantic paintings exhibited in El Capelle (chapel).
Beyond the historic center, the city is very extensive and quite airy. The modern district is … very modern, and the shopping centers have nothing to envy to those of other Western capitals.
Along the discovery: the ascent of Pichincha
Pichincha is a high altitude volcano, 4696 meters, accessible by bus from the center of Quito. It has the distinction of being less than 20 kilometers from the geographical equator. Since the earth is flattened at the poles, the summit is among the closest to the sun. And, according to local accounts, this is one of the explanations for the incredible vegetation at 4000 meters.
I really enjoyed this hike to the top. The climb becomes increasingly steep, the vegetation is very surprising and the final ascent is aerial and technical. What more ? I exchanged with some local hikers who told me beautiful mountain stories.
Over the course of discovery: Mitad of the Mondo – Monument for the geographical equator
I had planned to end my trip at Mitad of the Mondo , i.e. on the geographic equator. Events in Peru have changed my plans. Never mind, the emotion was great to have completed the trip from French Guyana, to Brazil, to Cape Horn and to have gone up all the Andes via Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. I haven’t yet taken the time to add up the total kilometers covered, mostly by bus, but it’s been a nice circuit.
Of course, I performed the dance steps of crossing the meridian or the Equator .
Mitad building of the Mondo is awesome. It documents the history of the French and Ecuadorian geodetic missions which established the exact position of the geographical equator. At the same time, they confirmed Newton’s theory of universal gravitation on a flattening of the terrestrial globe at the poles (see above the impact on vegetation).
Over the course of discovery: the Cotopaxi volcano
Ecuador’s most famous volcano was one of the highlights of my trip. It came into operation several months ago and I quickly knew that I could not climb to the crater. Never mind, approaching it and climbing to the top remained a thrilling goal.
At the beginning of the year, the Equator is rainy and the clouds are largely present. The first approach to the Cotopaxi was harsh and sight vain. On the other hand, the next day, at daybreak, the show was magical and really fired me up. From 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., I witnessed an extraordinary spectacle. Then I went up to the refuge, access to the glacier was forbidden and the clouds quickly protected the Cotopaxi from view. The downhill run was a pleasure.
Over the course of discovery: from Cotopaxi to Lima
From the Cotopaxi National Park , I took several buses to make the trip of about 1800 km to Lima the capital of Peru. The trip was divided into a first night by bus with the border crossing, a short day visit to the city of Piura in Peru. The second night bus reached Lima by the superb N1 road called Carretera Panamericana that runs along the Pacific Ocean.