countin' the days

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

It´s only been a week , but already I´m falling in love with so many things in Ecuador. Here are a few:

The bus rides. Although not every traveler would agree with me, due to the condition of the old clunkers they use to transport people and their belongings across many kilometers of often sketchy roads, the scenery is so unbelievably spectacular that it makes up for any discomfort. Just yesterday I took a ride from Guaranda to Riobamba on a road which literally circles around Volcano Chimborazo -- at a startling 20,823 feet, this gorgeous snow-capped beast is the highest mountain in all of the Americas north of here and actually the furthest point from the center of the Earth. A few days before that I left Quito on a bus that climbed across Andean ridges, over 13,000 feet, while poncho-clad indigenous folks cultivated their plots of land on the steep slopes. They are all quite literally jaw-dropping journeys. I also have to admit that I love the deafening music (cúmbia or reggaetón ONLY) they play during the ride, it just matches the view so perfectly.

The fruit stands. This is nothing new for me, that is: adoring exotic tropical fruits and the colorful and delightful ways in which they are displayed around the world. But with each new country comes brand new types of fruit. Lately, I´ve been enjoying the mora (raspberry), claudia (yellow and plum-like), and uvilla (tiny orange and a tad bitter). Plus, due to Ecuador´s climate, I am enjoying insanely cheap and delicious versions of my old favorites: avocados, pineapples, and bananas.

The plazas. Europe was the first place that taught me to adore the plaza, a public space of enjoyment and relaxation, usually including a fountain or monument, and often adjoined by a beautiful church or gardens. Each of Ecuador´s cities and towns are teeming with lovely plazas. Each one is charming, and an iglésia is usually not far away. And you can rest assured to find an older Ecuadorian man reclining on a bench, wearing the classic black brimmed hat, watching you walk by and gracing you with a simple "buenas."

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