The road south
17.11.2007 - 24.11.2007 12 °C
Impressions of this beautiful country of extremes and contrasts are many. I include a few of the images I managed to capture, although they are only pale imitations.
Kenneth Williams Llama
Churned up earth, Chimborazo region
I took the famous 'devil's nose' train from Riobamba (the name is a mixture of Castellano and Quechua, from 'Rio', river, and 'bamba', the Quechua word for 'plain'). The ancient train rattled and ground along the slowly ascending track south. It was freezing on board, and the temperature dropped steadily as we climbed higher. We passed Chimborazo, the highest volcano in Ecuador.
The word 'majestic' seems ordinary in comparison to the awe-inspiring sight of the mountain, whose icy winds sweep down on the town of Riobamba. From my carriage, I saw much of the landscape and the lifestyle of the people unfolded before me. Train travel is a wonderful thing - you feel you are right inside the countryside, that you are privy to secrets the road does not yield. People always stop what they are doing and acknowledge the passing of a train, particularly an old, slow train like this one. Some lean on their tools and just watch; others wave or nod and smile; children always race alongside for as long as they can, hoping for a treat thrown from the window. There was a man on board, selling sweets and lollies for that precise purpose. I was not immune to the pleading little faces, dirt and snot streaked across their mouths and noses, raggedly dressed but full of life and joy. Lollies were purchased, and lollies doled out...
Elderly couple, Chimborazo - these people are hardy and healthy - happiness is in their eyes
This little girl was hanging fiercely onto a lolly I gave her
This girl mother was no more than 15
The patchwork land
A face of character
No dentists here
The train went by a busy station, set up deliberately as a market for tourists. I stayed on board, preferring to take pictures from my open window than experience further wheedling to buy the local artisans´products. You need a will of iron in order to cruise a line of stalls and not succomb to the selling skills of the indigenous women. To engage at all is fatal - consider it sold. So I stayed where I was and caught some faces in the crowds.
Three different styles of dress. meaning three different tribes, but they all speak the same language..
This hat is made of boiled wool, placed on a mould and the damp felt beaten to its bowler shape
The colours and shapes vary from community to community, but the basics for women are skirts to the knee or long, ornate blouses, heavy wool shawls, fastened in front with a pin, and of course, a felt hat
The Caparina indian men of the Quichua speaking communities of the Chimborazo region south of Riobamba wear red ponchos and wool hats. They look fantastic
This stunning baby was being carried on the strong back of his mother, who wasn´t slow to ask for a dollar in return for a picture. The people make a business out of photo opportunities from snap-happy tourists, be it with their babies, a colourfully decked-out llama or even a black lamb. And who can blame them?
These children appeared out of nowhere - they seemed to be made of the grass itself. The tiny girl was adorable, like a doll. She smiled hard for the camera, knowing a 'propino' was forthcoming
We stopped in a village, where I visited the oldest church in Ecuador. It had beautifully carved doors, depicting saints and stories, and cloistered gardens with stunning plants. The village itself was an oasis of calm, the evening sun warming the white walls of the houses.
Finally I left the train and caught a bus further south towards Cuenca, my destination. However, the mountain roads in the Andes are littered with uncertainties...
An everyday occurence in Ecuador. A large pipe was being laid in the middle of the day - it took an hour and a half to clear the road. We got out and hiked till the driver caught up with us
The following day I found myself in a jeep travelling across the high terrain of the Sierra, that vast area between either side of the double ridge of the Andes, the backbone of South America. Here the wind was bitingly cruel, despite the enticing play of light and shadow on the coloured landscape. I kept asking the driver to stop, so that I could get out and breathe in the astonishing quality of the air, the wind, the light which came and went, changed and played with the undulating land, stretching away into distant shapes. Of all the places I´d been, this was the most moving in a way I can hardly explain - it was a magical place.