Carnival, Ingapirca and Devil’s Nose

February found us staying pretty close to home as Mike was finishing up his latest book, Guarding Genevieve, and I was busy helping my boss get her web page up as well as designing a few book covers.

Plus, we have both been busy getting ready for the 2016 Cuenca International Writer Conference. This is the first conference in what we are hoping will be many, many more. Mike is involved in the planning and we will both be presenting. It should be fun and interesting. More on that next month

Last month I mentioned all the kids playing in the river and that I didn’t know what all the splashing and dunking was all about. These pictures were taken from our kitchen window as we watched the kids dragging each other down the hill and into the Tomebamba River after school. I thought it might be some rite of passage but have since found out it was all about leading up to Carnival, the week prior to Lent.

4Cuenca2-1-16Kids in River

3Cuenca2-1-16Kids in River

Mike and I didn’t participate in Carnival this year, but friends who did totally enjoyed themselves. One Thursday night at Parque Calderon, as I understand it, was a frenzy of water and foam as young and old playfully squirted each other. I understand in recent years it has been outlawed to throw water on unsuspecting people passing by so this raucous evening lets everyone join in the fun because if you go to the park, you are fair game!

I was curious about Carnival so checked the Internet to see what I could find. Ecuador, along with many countries around the world with dominant Catholic populations, observes a form of Carnival. Even the southern U.S. has their Mardi Gras.

In Ecuador, the celebrations began before the arrival of Catholicism. The Huarangas Indians used to celebrate the second moon of the year with a festival at which they threw flour, flowers and perfumed water. This pagan tradition merged with the Catholic celebration of Carnival.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 12.20.46 PMBorrowed from, this picture gives you an idea of what goes on

I LOVE peanut butter! The problem is it is very expensive here – a medium-size jar is $10. So I finally found where I can buy raw peanuts for $1.30/lb and now make my own. It takes about a pound of roasted peanuts 1 minute in our VitaMix to make the same amount that costs $10 in the store. And there is nothing like fresh peanut butter!


We went with a group on an all-day trip to Ingapirca and on the Devil’s Nose train ride.

It was awe inspiring to realize we were standing on the spot of a city that was built in the 15th century when the Inca people merged with the native Canari.

Ingapirca, the site of the only remaining sun temple from the Inca empire, sits on a hill at 10,498 feet elevation with impressive panoramic views over the surrounding countryside.


There isn’t much left of Ingapirca, which means “Inca stone wall,” since the invading Spanish razed the town. The largest structure still standing on the site is the Temple of the Sun. The building is constructed in the Inca way, without mortar, as are most of the structures in the complex. The really interesting feature of this temple is that it appears to have been built at such an angle that the sun would have shone directly into the doorway during the solstices.

3Ecuador2-17-16Ingapirca*The Temple of the Sun in the background

Ingapirca is easily Ecuador’s best pre-Columbian ruins, however, I have read that by comparisons with Machu Picchu, Ingapirca falls a little short. Still, it is in our “backyard” and easy to get to and impressive to see.

4aaEcuador2-17-16Ingapirca*A little cutie at Ingapirca


53Ecuador2-17-16Ingapirca*The Temple of the Sun


58bEcuador2-17-16Ingapirca*Part of the old Inca Trail

After wandering through Ingapirca we climbed back on the bus and headed to Alausí where we caught the train that would take us down the mountain to Sibambe.

I love train rides. They bring back memories of summers spent with my grandparents when we would take a train from San Francisco to Portland, OR.

Before boarding the train we had some time to just wander around the area. Here is part of the group that went enjoying the afternoon.


The Devil’s Nose (or El Nariz del Diablo) train didn’t disappoint on the 45 minute ride as we descended the steep mountainside 7 ½ miles from Alausi, at about 10,902 feet, down to Sibambe, at about 8,202 feet.

18Ecuador2-17-16Alausi*Heading out of Alausi


Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.34.59 AMI borrowed this picture from to show how rugged the area is

In 1908, after almost a decade of work, the line dubbed “the most difficult railway in the world” was completed. The ingenious engineering solution to get the trains down the steep mountainside was to carve a series of tight zigzags out of the rock, allowing the train to maneuver the 2,700 feet descent by going forward and then backing down the next section before going forward again.

85Ecuador2-17-16DevilsNoseThis shows one of the switchbacks

Hanging out the window to take pictures of the countryside, waterfalls and gorge below, I thought about how people used to ride on the rooftops, just for the fun and excitement of it, until it was finally outlawed due to fatalities. Now passengers have to remain inside the refurbished cars for the ride. But as you can see, it is very comfortable inside.


Pictures cannot do the trip justice, but I hope you enjoy a little of what we saw.







After some time in Sibambe enjoying entertainment put on by the locals, we headed back up the hill to Alausi and our bus trip home to Cuenca.

Until next time,

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