Although the Inca from Peru never conquered all of Ecuador, they held parts of Southern Ecuador for about 100 years before the Spanish arrived. As a result, southern Ecuador has some important Inca ruins. Our guidebooks said that the best ruins were near the town of Ingapirca. So, on Monday morning we rode a city bus to the Terminal Terestrial and asked about the bus to Ingapirca.
We were directed to an office where the young lady was only too happy to sell us five return bus tickets (5 x $5 = $25) to the Inca ruins near Ingapirca. That’s a reasonable price considering that it is about a 2½ to 3 hour bus ride.
Before long we paid our 10¢ fee at Gate 1 and made our way onto our relatively comfortable bus ti Ingapirca.
The bus has some difficulty getting out of town on the correct highway. Several major streets were blocked off by the police for what appeared to be a bicycle race. We had to double back and try several different routes before we got out of town.
As our bus headed for Ingapirca we were held up several times by the bicycle race. Here, oncoming traffic is stopped and we passed the cyclists as they labored up the long mountain slopes.
The uplands area we and the cyclists were traveling through was green and rolling. Almost all of the area is used either for grazing or cropping. Cows, sheep, and even pigs were tethered alongside the road to make use of the grass.
As we passed through Azogues on our way to Cañar and Ingapirca we saw multiple statues around what appeared to be a shrine in the center of the roundabout at the entrance to town.
Along the way we picked up two women, one with a baby, wearing the traditional costume of natives of the Cañar region. The shape of the white straw hat was very distinctive.
When our driver drove past the sign pointing to Ingapirca, we began to be a bit concerted. However, some other passengers reassured us that the bus was just taking some of the passengers into Cañar before taking the rest of us up to the ruins at Ingapirca.
This building was located near the sign to Ingapirca and I thought the paint job was so garrish that I should take a picture of it.
In Cañar we passed these two workers building a new house. Note the tall columns made up of four lengths of rebar. The bottom section of these sets of rebar are in the footings. Each set of four forms the reinforcing for one concrete pillar that form the structural framework of the house. Once all the concrete pillars are in place, bricks are used to fill in the spaces between them.
Eventually we got to Ingapirca, the tiny village next to the Inca ruins. From across the valley we got our first glimpse of the ruins.
The bus driver drove us out to the ruins, let off the twenty or so passengers who had paid to come to the ruins about 11:45 am and parked the bus in the parking lot waiting to begin his return run at 1:00 pm. In addition to the twenty passengers from our bus there were another 20 or so passengers on a tour bus that had paid to see the ruins. We were greeted with a locked gate and a notice that said that as of April 1, 2011 the site would be closed on Mondays. All we could do was gaze fondly through the fence at the ruins.
Determined to make the best of the situation, I hiked along the fence around the site and took a number of photos of the site and the herd of llamas guarding it. Ingapirca means “Inca stone wall.” The Inca Huayna Capac built Ingapirca in the 15th century on the royal highway that ran from Quito to Cuzco and stationed soldiers there to keep the Cañaris under control.
Once I had taken all the photos I could we retired to a bench in front of one of the restaurants and had our lunch. After lunch we wandered over to the shop selling native handicraft. The woman was very friendly and had a nice selection of sweaters, ponchos and tablecloths. Nan purchased a large woven tablecloth and I got a lovely Alpaca sweater/jacket.
At this point the herd of llamas had wandered up near the fence so I was able to get a few good shots. As they grazed I could hear that they were not biting off the blades of grass, they were tearing them off.
After a while a few locals congregated at the convenience store and then the youngsters of the community arrived home from school. It was about 12:30pm and so I wasn’t sure if school was over for the day or if the students were just home for lunch.
Eventually, the time came for the return run back to Cuenca so we all piled back into the bus. We were all upset that we had been taken out to the ruins when the ruins were closed but one group of four students from Germany were particularly irate and refused to pay the fare back to Cuenca because the bus company knew the ruins were closed and did not tell us. Since we had purchased return tickets, our trip was prepaid and so we could not withhold payment.
As we started on the trip back to Cuenca we saw field with newly emerging crops, the village shrine in Ingapirca, and some steep drops along the side of the road. I figure that the Ecuadorian Department of Transport has eliminated the pesky problem of replacing broken guard rails when people drive through them by eliminating guard rails unless there is at least a 1,000 meter drop-off.
The bus driver was pretty upset that the German students were refusing to pay the fare and so at one point he stopped the bus and came back to argue with them. The students were fluent in German, Spanish and English and were able to argue strongly in his native tongue. They agreed that it was not his fault. The bus company knew the site was closed and the girl selling tickets to the ruins should have informed potential customers, especially since this was the first Monday closure and it was impossible for the guide books and Internet site to have the information. They agreed to go to the bus company office in Cuenca and talk to them directly.
Here were some of the sights in Cañar. There is an interesting church but the locals are even more interesting and they relaxed on park benches.
As we drove through Cañar I couldn’t help but notice how bundled up against the cold the natives were. Notice the several layers of heavy woolen clothes and the heavy stockings. The mannequins outside the entrance of the clothing store are wearing heavy jackets with hoods.
Before long we were back in Cuenca. We went with the German students to talk with the company representative. The group had just about convinced the ticket seller to not charge them for the trip when the bus driver arrived and argued strongly that the company’s responsibility was just to provide transportation. Eventually one of the German students left and returned with a policeman. Now the arguments had to be made all over again.
Eventually the discussion reached an impass. The policeman advised the students to pay the fare and, if they wanted further consideration, to show up at the main police station tomorrow morning and take it up with the cammanding officer there. But, he advised us all, there was little likelihood of us recovering the fare. Since the fare was only $2.50/person/way it hardly seemed like a productive way to invest the time we have in Cuenca.
However, travelers beware – be careful to always ask if some place you expect to visit will, in fact, be open and available. The Cañar bus company provides particularly poor customer service. Since the Ecuadorian government is interested in promoting tourism in this area, they would be well advised to assign the Cuenca to Ingapirca bus route to a company with a better reputation for customer service.