Here are my top favorite places we have been so far.
By: Allie Brown, age 12
1) Iguana Park: When we first arrived in Guayaquil, which is the biggest city in Ecuador, we walked through this cool iguana park where three foot iguanas walked through the gardens and right up next to you. Some of them had chopped off tail stubs. I would guess that there were probably 25 iguanas inside the park and about 5 who had roamed of onto the sidewalk and next to the street.
2) Ingapirca: You probably have heard of Machu Picchu, the famous ruins in Peru, but what hardly anyone knows about is the Ingapirca ruins in Ecuador. A two hour drive outside Cuenca, thousands of people come each year to explore. The Canar people occupied the site for over 500 years where they worshiped the moon. It wasn't until the 15th century when the Inca people took over destroying most of it and building new temples where they worshiped the sun. Two interesting facts about Ingapirca is that this site was matriarchall, which meant that women ruled, and that scientists found a princess and 10 women buried alive along side her. If you were chosen to be buried alive with the princess it was a great honor to you and your family.
3)Cotopaxi: The Cotopaxi volcano is the highest peak in Ecuador at 19,460 ft. It has caused the most death and destruction in all of Ecuador. Records of eruption date back to 1534 when the Spanish arrived, but it was active long before then. Cotopaxi has not erupted since 1942 but had activity in 2001. Although my family and I didn't climb it (or even come close to doing that) we walked on a trail along side it. When the clouds cleared we could see its snow covered peaks.
4)Otavalo: Otavalo is where the most famous market in South America is held. On Saturday thousands of stalls are set up with people yelling for you to come over and buy their goods. Although Saturday is the main market day it is open everyday of the week. You can buy everything from paintings to chickens to hammocks to soccer shirts.
5)Shamon market: This is another famous market in Ecuador that we visited. Ecuadorians believe that you can be healed from evil spirits by going to wise old women called a Shamon or better known as a witch doctor. First they hit you with these strong smelling plants all over your body while mumbling this prayer type thing. Then they take a chicken's egg and rub it on the back of your neck and your stomach. Lastly they take a sip of water with alcohol mixed into and spit it on those two places. Although I didn't do it my mom did and our friend Kate Massel who was visiting did it too.
6) Banos: In Ecuador, seven hours outside Cuenca, there is a town called Banos, which means baths in Spanish. People fill pools with hot water that comes out of the springs in the mountains. The water comes out boiling hot so they have to add lots of cool water from the rivers before it's safe to go in. Usually there are a couple different baths with different temperatures that you can try. The hottest bath is always the fullest with people. Traditionally people come to the baths to heal. Although that still happens, people mostly come just to relax. The baths look like a light shade of dirty brown, but that is just the minerals.
7) Laguna Quilotoa: This volcano crater lake is just water collected over thousands of years at the top of the volcano, similar to Crater Lake, Oregon. To get to crater lake we had to hike eight miles up hill on dusty roads and paths (at one point we came across a dead donkey that had fallen off a cliff in a landslide). When we finally got to the crater we looked down about a thousand feet into the aqua water. My mom, my sister and I hiked down to the small beach next to the water which was freezing and had an immediate 100 foot drop a couple feet out. We rode a father horse back up the steep cliffs with the baby fallowing behind. When we asked where the mother was we were told that she had fallen of a cliff and died.That made us feel a lot better... The girl who was leading us was twelve years old and named Alexandra which was a big coincidence.
Equator monument: The Equator monument (Mitad del Mundo) is right outside Quito but took more then an hour to get there because of traffic. There is a 100 foot monument with a world globe on top. Underneath there is a yellow line dividing the two hemispheres. You can straddle the line sit on it or do anything you like. At one point I did a cartwheel with one hand on the northern hemisphere and the other on the southern. You weigh slightly, slightly less on the equator line then anywhere else, because of the slight bulge of the earth and that we are a little farther from the earth's center (so the pull of gravity is less strong). I saved this one for last because it was my favorite.