Category Archives: 2010.04.29 Ecuador

Protestors + Copious Debris = A Long-Ass Bus Trip (Part 2)

May 12, 2010–Saraguro, Ecuador  5月12日 サラグロ、エクアドル

After passing through the protestors and over their fallen trees, rocks, tires and other debris, we had come to what seemed to be the end of the road.  Even the pick-ups couldn’t pass the road blocks.  We walked for a mile or two, but at every curve in the mountain road, only pavement lay before us.


We had given up.  There was talk of returning to first blockade to wait things out.  Then, out of nowhere, a caravan of police buses filled with riot police appears.  ?!?!?!  Following not far behind was a pick-up, which we caught for a ride to the next town, a 15 minute ride. 


Once we arrived, again out of nowhere, the same caravan of riot police came rolling in behind us on the same piece of road they had passed not a few minutes before.  Apparently, the protestors weren’t giving in and the police, deciding not to use force, called it a day.  Regardless, I jumped at the opportunity I saw before me and asked the driver of one of the police vans if we could catch a ride.  A thumb pointing to the empty seats behind him told me all I needed to know.  We were now ON the riot bus.  I convinced my friend that helmets left behind were up for grabs.


Meanwhile, the police had set out to clear the road that had been re-blocked in the few minutes since they had cleared it last.  Irritating, no doubt.


The demonstrations entailed chanting, drum beating, occasional fireworks, and the waving of the indigena flag.  Very peaceful.  At this road block a predominantly teenage group held a sign as they stood atop the pile of wood, steel and mud blocking the road: “Youth Fighting for Their Life”.


A few minutes down the road, amidst police talking of “indi-feos”, a derogatory term for the native population (officially called indigenas, or indians in English), all the sudden, BOOM!!! a huge rock thrown off a roadside cliff strikes the roof of our bus.  The police don’t leave any helmets or shields behind this time.  In a few seconds, we were surrounded by the sound and smell of tear gas being launched into the nearby mountains.


Young males on the surrounding mountains, nearly escaping the reach of the tear gas, taunt the police below as they continue to throw rocks.


A few reporters who stayed behind in the bus began burning matches and paper to clear the tear gas that had begun to fill the bus.  The burn didn’t go away, but it smelled nice like matches.  😉  After a 10 minute battle, which took several police high into the hills on the trail of the indigenas, we were on our way again.  There was an obvious tension in the bus as we set off, but as soon as the driver turned up the radio, the blaring sounds of new latin pop seemed to ease all on board.  It was a smooth ride the rest of the way. 


The online community paper of Saraguro, the Saraguro Flash, reported that the tear gas didn’t faze them.  They also talked about the many who had to take long walks to arrive in their destination.  It was a long day.



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Protestors + Copious Debris = A Long-Ass Bus Trip (Part 1)

May 11, 2010–Saraguro, Ecuador /2010年5月11日 サラグロ、エクアドル

Kaori and I escaped the rain trap some call Baños and caught an overnight bus headed to Loja, which is closer to one of the safer Ecuador-Peru land borders, Macara.  Things were going smoothly.  We stopped at a truckstop-style diner for a meal.  While there we were able to enjoy pictures of Jesus and local artists who, despite misleading titles given on the posters, were not singers, but strippers.  Wonderful.


Dozing off after our nice meal–actually, we ate a bean and rice goop that we had made and brought along with us–we awoke to find that we had been stopped dead since 12 midnight the night before.


Not only were we unable to proceed on to Loja, but because of blockades that had been built in behind us, we weren’t even able to head back to Cuenca, the nearest city.  Locals using tractors continued to add to the pile of trees and rocks that blocked the road.  Others worked in earnest to knock large things off of mountains and onto the road. (You can see all of this below if you look closely!)


Listening to radio reports we were able to glean the following bits of information: 1) they wanted control of the local water that was in danger of being sold off to big banana plantations, 2) there were at least 5 major blockades in place between here and Loja, 3) they weren’t giving up any time soon.


We were stuck.  And hungry as our food had gone bad overnight.  Word was that the police weren’t even coming.  The bus had been parked on the highways for over 15 hours.  We all felt like this…


So, we picked up our packs and along with two new friends started walking towards Loja.  We had been told we could catch pick-ups along the way and eventually make it to Loja.  If we were lucky, we could get there before nightfall.  That has to better than spending another night on the bus, right?


We passed through the center of the protest–Saraguro, a city “in the Metropolitan Revolution”–with no problem.


However, after passing through Saraguro, we found that the blockages were so complete even pick-ups couldn’t make the journey.  In one word: STUCK.



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To the Baños!!

We headed south from Otavalo, a tourist trap just north of Quito, to the small town called Baños nestled between towering mountains and situated at the foot of the massive Tungurahua volcano.  Baños, by the way, literally means “Baths”.  The baths are on the list for virtually every Japanese tourist, we couldn’t pass up the chance to warm ourselves after a week of cold nights in Quito.  I was excited to do some more volcano climbing.  I can imagine that the volcano would have looked something like this, had I made it to the top.

土曜市で有名なオタバロ(キトから北に片道2時間弱)から戻ると次は南に位置する“バーニョス”へ移動した。“バーニョス”とは英語で“BATH”の意味で、日本語では“お風呂”=“温泉”っていう意味。日本人だし「やっぱりお風呂に浸かりたい!」とベンに訴えプランには無かったけど来ちゃいました!またここの温泉がいい理由は、そのロケーション。気候も温かく、山を見ながらの露天風呂。最高じゃないですか!! また近くの火山は3時間ぐらいで登れちゃうとかで、それも楽しみ♪

But it was raining for the full three days we were there, so the Baños looked a lot more like this, instead…

が、またもや雨。。。なんでや。 きっとその火山を上ったらこんなんだったろうと想像写真をアップ。

Oh, well.  I’m sure there is more excitement to come…


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May Day in Quito

May 1, 2010–Quito, Ecuador / 2010年5月1日 キト(エクアドル首都)

Early on the morning of May 1st, we were awoken to the sound of trumpets, drums and cymbals.  When I stuck my head out of the window, I could see down in the plaza below there was a religious ceremony underway, so we went down to check it out with our friend, Juan, one of two live-in workers at our hostel.


The statue of Jesus bearing the cross that is permanently housed at the local market made an early morning trip to the church, but was back by lunch.  All the while, a worker’s rights protest was being held in the plaza in front of the church.  Juan had convinced us that we should go check it out.  Yesterday, we had inadvertently experienced teargas carried by the wind from another protest, so what’s a little more, right?



After we’d had enough of listening to the bullhorns, we headed to the vendors just outside the plaza for some fresh fruit.


Satisfied, we continued into town to find a demonstration in front of the President’s Residence, as well.


Cops, of course, are everywhere, many in full riot gear.  But at the same time, the canine force is doing tricks for the crowd just 50 meters from the Presidential Residence.  Just how used to riots are Quitenos?


As we continued on, fresh graffiti from the morning marches littered the walls of the main streets.  You can see on the two-tone wall where the last batch had been painted over.


Enough with all the politics.  Let’s go mask shopping!


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The Town, Quito

April 30, 2010–Quito, Ecuador / 2010年4月30日 キト(エクアドル首都)

For the week we’ve been in Quito, it’s rained nearly every single day.  We expected the same today, as we set out to go sight seeing.  However, as we climbed the towers of the Basilica del Voto Nacional, the skies opened up and the sun poured down on us.


On our way to the Basilica, as we were climbing the steep streets of Quito we started to feel a burn in our chests.  At first, we figured it was auto exhaust, but when the burning started in our noses and then on the skin of our faces, we knew something was wrong.  We hurried into the church almost out of breath.  The guy at the door, said he was “used to this”, but I still didn’t know what “this” was.  But after leaving the church, we noticed a large number of riot police and then the small red marks on the street, remnants of bricks striking the ground at some speed.  Ah, a riot.  Oh!  Teargas!


As we walked back along the street where the riot had passed, it felt much like a city street after a rain–everyone slowly making their way out into the street, resuming life as normal.


Iglesia de San Augustin /サン・アグスチン教会

Plaza Grande (Plaza de la Independencia) / グランデ広場(独立広場)

Siblings at play.  Something we’ve seen quite often in Quito.


Monasterio Carmen Alto / モナステリオ・カルメン・アルト

El Panecillo (as taken from our hostel) / エル・パネシヨ(ホステルの屋上から撮影)

La Compania (as shot from our hostel next to San Francisco)/ラ・コンパニア(同じくホステルから撮影)

Quito, despite being the second largest city in Ecuador and the capital, has a laid-back charm.  No one (not even the bus drivers, believe it or not) seems to be in a hurry, making for a very relaxing and enjoyable environment.  Many of the people staying in our hostel have been here for months, making and selling wares or performing to make ends meet.  I can understand the draw.


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