After the Galapagos Islands, everything else seems to almost pale in comparison. Next stop was Cuenca, a world historical site and Ingapirca. Once again, i was impressed by the cleanliness of the city and the lack of street hustlers. Despite the cleanliness, there are no recycle bins, as in Guayaquil and the Galapagos Islands. What is interesting is the amount of ´eco´named places. (I´m at an Eco- Internet now)
What I think I am most impressed with is the amount of indigenous communities that you can visit, stay, learn and get involved. Perhaps I have never noticed this about other places I have been, or it could be eco tourism is growing, and written about more. It could also be that Ecuador jumped on the bandwagon before it became a ´hot ticket´. No matter, at least something is being done to preserve ways of life, provide needed income, conserve the environment to provide a more sustainable way of life.
For instance in Cuenca, there is the Casa de Mujer, covered stalls with work by local women. Next door is Mama Kinua´s who runs a cafeteria, and tours to benefit indigenous women and the Andean way of life. Staff there can arrange an ethnotourism project.
Further south in Saraguro, is Mama Cuchara, who rallied the women in Saraguro, and raises money to help the indigenous women with a restaurant, ´Mama Cuchara´s. Unfortunately, didn´t have the time to go there.
The problem with winging it as you go along and if you have a limited amount of time, it can be a challenge to book one of these community tourism expeditions at the last minute. You have to plan in advance, with a tour operator, or a contact, who can make arrangements. So if this is something that interests you, plan in advance, and plan to stay 3-5 days.
Currently, i am in Riobamba, and if you are interested in community tourism initiative in Chimorazo, get in touch with the Corporacion de Desarrollo Comunitario y Turismo de Chimborazo. www.cordtuch.org, who can coordinated local projects.
It appears that indigenous community stays are a big thing here in Ecuador. In the Oriente, especially, these eco tourism projects, are providing needed income to provide a sustainable alternative to more destructive means of subsistence as logging. The main centers for organizing theses are in Puyo, Lago Agrio and Macas. As I am not going there on this trip, i wish i could say more about them.
No matter if you are going to the Oriente or anyplace, the Rough Guide to Ecuador, www.roughguides.com, has a great listing of various tours and indigenous people if you are interested in getting involved. Just remember to plan in advance!
Now I´m off to see if I can see the mountains, as it just cleared up.
Vaya con Dios!