Sunday, August 28, 2011
One of the must see historical and archeological sites near Quito is the Pyramids of Cochasqui. To get there you can take a bus from Quito to Tabacundo (about an hour) and then take a taxi trip up to the nearby Pyramids. Before the Inca conquest of the early 1500's this region was occupied by the Quitu-Cara culture. They occupied the area between present-day Quito and Otavalo, Ecuador. In the 1800's the land where the pyramids are was part of a hugh hacienda. The owners wondered what the earthen mounds were. About 1912 the owner dug into one of the larger mounds, leaving a jagged scar across it. In the 1930's the first archeological excavation took place revealing over 500 sculls in a room inside of the pyramid. Since that time archeologist have determined that the 15 pyramids and numerous tolas (burial mounds) built before the Inca conquests were for religious, military and astrological purposes. We are told that the Quitu-Cara people, as they saw the impending approach of the Inca closing in, began a process of burying the entire pyramid complex under several meters of dirt. This left the mounds that we see today. Below the earth covering you will find block pyramids reaching up to five or six stories in height. The visit is well worth the time and effort to travel outside Quito. For Ecuadorians the cost is $1; for visitors from other countries it is $3. It is a guided tour. Be sure to check out Cochasqui Pyramids (GC2PXXH). It is located off the property and should be available at any time. Happy caching!
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Allow me to digress. Back in 2007 I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks in the panhandle of Idaho for some survival training. What a beautiful place. During the training we were prepared for an escape and evasion exercise. The trainer was familiarizing us with how to utilize a GPS receiver. I owned one and was familiar but some of the guys weren't. Somehow they planned on us utilizing them in our E and E. At the end of the training exercise on how to use the GPSr the trainer told us he'd hidden several tupperware boxes in the woods and we were to find them. He gave us four or five sets of coordinates and off we went. At first I thought it was kind of lame. We found the boxes and they had pine cones and twigs inside. Later he told us there was a sport designed around a similar hunt. He gave me the website and as soon as I was able to connect I checked it out. I saw that there was one on the Pichincha mountain overlooking Quito. I decided then and there that I would go looking for it when I got back. I did and I was hooked from then on. Thanks Idaho for the lesson in geocaching.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
One of my historical heroes is Argentine General Jose de San Martin. Not long ago I featured a park in Riobamba, Ecuador where Argentine troops fought to secure Ecuadorian freedom. Recently I had the opportunity to go with sumajhuarmi and see Plaza San Martin in the center of Lima, Peru. Why a big statue of Jose de San Martin in Lima? It's because San Martin, known as the Liberator or "El Libertador", played a key role in the independence of three South American countries: his native Argentina, Chile and Peru. After several failed attempts by Argentine liberation forces to defeat Royalist forces in the high plains of Bolivia, San Martin conceived the strategy of taking Lima, Peru from the Pacific Ocean instead of overland through Bolivia (then part of Peru). To do this required he secure Chile first. After several significant battles in Chile they succeeded in driving the Spanish Royalist out of Chile and moved north by sea to Peru. They landed in the southern coastal city of Pisco where they based for several months in early 1821. While there San Martin organized and recruited Peruvians to the cause of independence. Instead of marching on Lima he sough a diplomatic approach to establishing an independent Peru. The Vice Regent for Spain would not agree to San Martin's proposal of an independent Peru so after several months he began his move to take Lima. Liberation troops from several countries (Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Colombia and Peru) established two fronts, one to the north of Lima and one to the south. Additionally they blockaded the port of Callao so that little to no supplies could enter the city. Soon the Spanish Royalist retreated into the mountains leaving Lima to the liberation forces of San Martin. On 28 July 1821 Peruvian independence was declared from the center of Lima by Jose de San Martin. Was it all over yet? No. Royalist forces moved into the Cusco area where they held out for a few years more. In the mean time liberation forces under the direction of Venezuelan General Simon Bolivar continued to fight for Ecuador's freedom. Both San Martin and Simon Bolivar met briefly in Guayaquil, Ecuador to discuss the path forward. A great mystery surrounds their meeting. It was evident that they did not see eye to eye but little more was ever said about their meeting. San Martin departed for Peru and soon returned to Argentina, leaving the final battles in the hands of Bolivar's generals. San Martin returned to Argentina but soon found that fighting among those who had fought for independence put Argentina in great turmoil. The political situation was such that he departed Argentina for France where he lived the rest of his life. With the exception of one short visit to Argentina he did not participate in the Argentine political or social life again. San Martin is a great hero, the George Washington figure of South America. In the plaza that bears his name you can find a geocache called El Libertador (GC31EJ6). It requires some stealth to find without being discovered. Be sure to check out the equestrian statue of Jose de San Martin in the center of the plaza. Congratulations to Funbiker for the FTF! Latin America needs some more quick FTF finders! This one only took a little under a week!
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Cayambe Volcano is located in northern Ecuador just along the equatorial line. While I've been up to the refuge on the mountain several times, I've only hidden a cache lower down the mountain. Recently I went up with my daughter and her family I decided to put one near the refuge. We drove out of Quito for an hour to get to the rural town of Cayambe, named for the nearby volcano. We followed the "Nevado Cayambe" road signs which got us through the town. Once on the right cobblestone road we continued the climb. There is one fork in the road where you have to go right to get to the volcano. Unfortunately it isn't marked. I wish I'd thought to make it a waypoint for cachers but I forgot it at the time. If you stay on the cobblestoned road and don't take the dirt road forking off to the right, you drive several miles until you get to a dead end at a large gorge. Then you will backtrack. Continuing on the correct road we climbed up to small town of Piedmonte where you start the ascent towards the volcano by turning left. The road was rough there. Without 4X4 the way would be too much. At about 13,000 feet above sea level we were enveloped by the clouds. The terrain was very different and the fauna in this treeless area was unique. We made it to the refuge where we spent the majority of our time outside. Had it been a clear day the view would have been spectacular. We were clouded in completely. I hid Cayambe Volcano Refuge (GC2PVPN) not far from the refuge. It was so cloudy that I'm not sure that on a clear day you could see the location or not. In Ecuador when you buy vegetables at the market they often give you the "yapa", the extra potato or extra carrot. This cache is the "yapa". The real prize is the mountain itself, and getting there.