Monday, March 23, 2015

Celebrating Spring Equinox At Tulipe, Ecuador: March 21, 2015

The most annoying aspect of the 9-1/2 delay in returning to Quito is that it meant we were also 9-1/2 hours late arriving at our cloud forest destination in Mindo. We were picked up at the airport by Pablo and his young daughter Camila. Sadly, they also couldn't get any information from Tame Air so had been killing time waiting for us to finally arrive. But, he collected us and he began the drive northwest to Mindo. Another complication was that even though it was very late at night, traffic was quite congested with slow trucks because one of the coast highways was closed due to a mudslide.

Just at midnight we arrived at the Sachatamia Lodge in Mindo. The decor was charming, but we didn't linger. We jumped into bed because we were getting up at 7 am for breakfast to begin our last day in Ecuador.

Morning came quickly but gently with soft light and the rising clouds. Our room was on the 3rd floor and we could see brightly colored hummingbirds flitting past our windows. With breakfast done, Dan and I had time for a very short stroll through the grounds.




Next, we were in Pablo's car headed 45-minutes away to Tulipe Archeological site. At the Tulipe museum, we joined a hike that was being organized by Christina who works at the museum. The hike was over one of the trails used by the Yumbos as a trade route. The Yumbos lived from 800-1660 AD. The trail, or culunco, was a dirt trail that would have been overgrown with vines and shrubbery creating a tunnel effect. This route connected the cloud forest Yumbo with the coastal people and was used as a trade route to transport seafood and other products under the cooling protection of the vine-covered ceiling. The Yumbo also built high mesa-like earthen structures called Tolas. Tolas were used to look for approaching enemies and possibly to get closer to the gods. This was the inaugural hike for this trail.


Just as we were beginning the hike, the leche (milk) man came down the culunco with his donkey loaded with a can of milk.

Along the way, some of the strangler vines were cut away from the trees and used as Tarzan-like swings. A group of policemen/women from Quito were in Tulipe for extra security but as the Equinox ceremony had not yet begun, they were also part of the inaugural hike. Like us, they had a good time being tourists.


Looking at the view from a Tola


Above, Camila and Pablo--notice the family resemblance?


We hiked along the culunco and over two Tolas before turning back. Back at the museum we were all greeted with a delicious, refreshing drink made from crushed corn.

Tulipe is a small, neat town of one street that surrounds the archeological site.




In front of the small hardware store, a stand was set up to sell local specialties made from sugar cane. Another stand sold a potent liquor called Yumbos'.

We followed the ceremony participants as they paraded through Tulipe to the archeological site.


There was music and the Equinox ceremony began with dancers representing several groups of ancient people.



 The dancers in blue represent the Yumbo, the old ones who lived at this site from about 800-1660 AD.




There was also an elaborate dance involving the changing of the old year for the new year.
Bringing in the New Year (I think)



Then a Shaman spoke solemnly and asked us all to raise or hands and give our thanks to the four directions and the gods of the sky, water, trees, and finally to kneel and thank Pachamama (Mother Earth also Mother of the World).


Next, he asked something of us that I will always remember. He said to hug someone near you and say, "Yo soy tu." Yo soy tu means "I am you"; just three words but a powerful philosophy to live by. Dan and I hugged and then one of the women dancers came over and hugged me. We both said, "Yo soy tu."



With the ceremony over, it was time to partake of Pachamama's earthly bounty. A free lunch was served. Plates were heaped with corn of all types: popped, ground, hominy; baked cassava root; fava beans; banana chips; and potatoes.




The Yumbos used pools of water to study the night sky in the watery reflections. 



Pachamama held the rain until we were leaving. On the way back to Quito, Pablo stopped at one of the monuments for the equator. Dan and I took photos of each other standing at the west side of the monument on the equator line. One of his feet is in the northern hemisphere and the other is in the southern hemisphere.


We were up at 2:30 am the next morning to catch our 6:05 am flight back to the US. This was a great vacation!

Particulars:
Sachatamia Lodge (http://www.sachatamia.com/)
Tulipe Archeological Museum

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