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Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Oldest Catholic Church in Ecuador




Sumajhuarmi and I got up at 5 a.m. in order to hit the road by 6 a.m. We were headed out for one of those fun days of geocaching and sightseeing in Ecuador. We traveled south along the Panamerican Highway from Quito. We traveled through towns like Latacunga, Salcedo, and Ambato to get to our destination: Riobamba. We were hosted by Jimnet2005 and Maria Belen in their hometown. Soon after arriving at their home we headed out in their little red sports car to the Colta Lake area. Colta is not only where the first catholic church began in Ecuador. It is also famous for being the place where the first Ecuadorian highland Spaniard settlement was established in 1533. It is also where the first Evangelical missionaries began their work among the Chimborazo Quichua in the early 1900's. We pulled into the small parking lot in front of the oldest Catholic church in Ecuador. After a quick tour of the building we headed outside to look for Balbanera: The First Catholic Church (GC2J8Y7). This was the first nano that I've found in Ecuador. No spoilers here. You'll have to find this one on your own! After signing the log we traveled a few kilometers further south and visited the new Colta Park right on the lake. I highly recommend it. We took a half hour boat tour on the lake. You can rent paddle boats, rafts or you can go out on the fiberglass covered tour boat with a guide who'll explain the legends of the lake. Colta Lake has lots of reeds (totora). There are also several floating islands made up of totora on the lake. Some of these even occasionally have cattle grazing on them. We were told that the islands float around so for a week or so at a time the cattle graze as they float around the lake. Cow tourism I guess. Today we saw no cattle but as the boat tried to pass between two of the floating islands we got stuck. To get from the south end of the lake to the north you had to pass through a small breech between two floating islands. The guide and driver gunned the boat to get us through going north. Coming back south he didn't make it and we got stuck. It took all four men on the boat to pole and push us out of this trap. The floating island was firm enough that the guide and his helper could lay a long pole down on the grass and stand on it to push the boat. That along with poling got us through. If you come to Ecuador I suggest you visit this church and nearby Colta Lake!
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