High on the Inca Trail

Cuenca offers people more than enough opportunities to stay as busy as they like. I am beginning to think I’m too busy.  I take Spanish three days a week, am in two writing groups and a contemplative spirituality group. Plus I have a standing appointment every Tuesday.  Enough, I say!  Enough!

But it is all good.

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Helmet, knee pads & elbow pads keep this speed demon relatively safe on the curves.

Katherine has stayed quite busy this summer with inline skating classes every morning along with two different Spanish classes, which occupies a significant part of her Mondays thru Fridays. She collapses on the weekend–says she needs her alone time.  We hardly see her Saturday and Sunday. And the great news is, we hardly hear complaints about how miserable she is.  I believe she’s found her groove in Ecuador.  It also helps that she’s also found a new friend, Jessie. For the time being, all is well at Ricardo Darquea Granda 2-104.

School starts the first week of September and she will be entering 7th grade.  She skipped a grade here but will also be going through grade 13. We haven’t told her that yet.

David stays busy hoofing it all over the sprawling city. He returns from his long treks and marks the city map with yellow highlighter. The web of yellow grows by the day. I believe he is seeing more of the city than many native Cuencanos have. Our taxi-driver friend, Miquel, says David ‘s knowledge of our city is pretty impressive.

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David’s found his favorite house so far in Cuenca. A refurbished adobe.

My  morning Spanish class ended last week and, to wrap it up,  we took a day trip to a small mountain village, Gonzol, about 3.5 hours north of here.  David and Katherine accompanied me, Katherine being the only child among 40 retirees. She was a trooper.

This agricultural community works hard to raise corn, barley, wheat and other crops on the steep slopes of the Andes. They work cooperatively, helping each other plant and bring in the crops. Farmers come together for a minga  when crops are ready to be harvested. Once the work is completed, a feast is held to celebrate. People depend on each much more in communities like this. The village coop has even purchased two trucks to carry crops for all its members to market.

As a way of supplementing their income (the average earnings per family in Gonzol is $500 a year), the residents are hoping to create business ventures to benefit the entire town. The first idea in the works is to provide tourists with an opportunity to see Inca ruins, experience life in a small village and enjoy the grandeur of the Andes.

Our class was the “test” run for the villagers.  We were greeted with big smiles and a hot traditional fermented drink as we got off the bus. ( I opted for café.)  After a brief introduction, four men accompanied us in small groups on the hike up the mountains to the ruins.

Our entourage quickly grew in number as a few children joined in the parade. Then two of three older boys riding horses passed us ear-to-ear grins. A nursing mother with infant appeared. And a wizened cowboy dressed in tiger-trimmed leather jacket regaled us with stories. In español, of course.

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David made it to the top.This view from the ruins shows Gonzol at the bottom left. 

We visited the site of very recently discovered Inca ruins. Well, many did.  I didn’t quite make. Another woman and I opted to rest on the trail and talk with Katherine about the Kardashians, conspiracy theories and the Illuminati.  We met the group on their way down and headed back to town for lunch.

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Katherine amid poppies

After our almuerzo of chicken soup, queso,maize and habas (fava beans), we were introduced to various activities of the villagers. Three elderly women, wrinkled and bent with gnarled fingers and dusty black bowlers demonstrated crushing barley with stones and spinning wool by hand.

I left this tiny, struggling community with a deep appreciation for the hard work and determination of the Cañari people, along with their warmth and kindness. We all left

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A view of the other side from the Inca ruins. All along the steep slopes farmers grow crops. The amount of work put into one small plot of ground is mind-boggling. 

being called “sisters and brothers” and “family” by our hosts.  What an amazing experience.

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This young man showed up during our hike. In the background, note the plots of land that are used for planing. Odd shapes, crammed into every possible arable acre, are separated by walls made of cleared rocks. No machinery, all work is done by hand.

A remarkable day. One filled with breathtaking vistas, gentle people, warm smiles, gentle breezes and a warm sun.

I commented to my new friend Anna (whom Katherine really likes) as we were hiking along, high in the Andes on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, “This is my life. This is not a vacation. I am walking towards new Inca ruins with friends from all over the world and this is my life.”

Amazing. Simply amazing.

 

15 thoughts on “High on the Inca Trail

  1. Seems all of you are in a really good place right now Nancy – and really diving deep into this experience. Really happy for you.

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    1. hey, elizabeth. we are in a good place. so thankful. i remember times (as you do) when things were anything but feeling good. it’s a lesson to me to never lose faith or heart.
      trust you are doing well. i enjoy your comments on facebook. i think you should write commentaries…truly!

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  2. I’m very impressed by you, Nancy. You are a very enjoyable writer. So descriptive and full of feelings you’re experiencing that take me along on this marvelous journey. I love this! All of the images are wonderful, especially the adobe house! I love that house! Thank you for sharing.

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    1. thank you gayle for all your encouragement. so glad you enjoy the blog. i am loving being able to write about the new things here. if you and your mom are considering an adventure of any kind, i encourage you to go for it. it’s scary, but so very worth it. take care. my best to all.

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  3. So wonderful to read about you and your family’s new life in Cuenca, the lows and the highs. Love the photos, especially of Katherine in the poppy field. Her smile is compelling.

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  4. Blessed, blessed, blessed!! I am so happy for you.
    Was praying for K this morning, wondering how school ended , so glad for her new friends.
    What season are you all having? Is school in session?
    Love all your activities, but don’t know what contemplative spirituality is.
    Saw David’s post of his weight loss, happy for him.
    Looking forward to the day we can visit with you all. Miss being able to talk to you!!

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    1. Hey dear friend. Miss you a lot…think of you often and love seeing pages of family on facebook. feels like i kinda am close to you! keep praying for katherine…but I do see answers to prayer. she finished school — very happy to end the year. but she made a good friend and that is who she has been skating with almost every day. that has been great for her.

      she’s still on vacation…goes back to school the first week or so of september. we are in their winter…but the lowest it gets is in the high 40s at night…mid 60s in the day. it is a bit overcast most days, but then the sun pops out and it is glorious. really! Contemplative spirituality is more sitting in silence and allowing God to speak in the quiet. A way of settling the spirit down and closing out the noise of the world. It’s a discipline. I find my mind starting to wander. But the idea is to just be still. The verse in the Bible…Be still and know that I am God. A practice followed by many of the old church fathers and mothers. I find it is helpful because my mind is always racing. Good to slow down. I’ve made some good friends there and find it enriching. Also, it has helped with my craziness at times at home.

      I’m happy for David’s weight loss, too. Envious as well. But i just don’t have that drive to walk miles and miles and miles every day.

      Trust you and Ron are well. when do you plan to go to Guatemala? Hope we’re next after that! Hi to all. Love you!

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  5. Great to hear back.
    We are doing well. Celebrating 44 years of sweet marriage !!He is in FL helping BIL, I am home
    With grandkids.
    Not sure when we may go to Guatemala, but look forward to a visit with you all.
    Hot miserable summer here, looking forward to Fall.
    Taking Addison and Benton to Williamsburg, Jamestown, and DC first of Oct. Fun!!!
    Blessings to all. Miss you, talks and laughter.

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