Thursday, October 31, 2013

On the road again ... Loja ...

Once Danny was finished at the University of Cuenca,

 Danny and some of his students

we gave up our apartment in order to see more of Ecuador beyond the realm of a 1-day bus ride from Cuenca and back.

So off we went...south towards the Peruvian border.

First stop, Loja. A mere 4 hour bus ride to the south, through some gorgeous mountain vistas, switchbacks and horrendous climbs and downhills, we peaked over ft. The eco-systems went from a lush, vivid green to a stark yellow/brown, no vegetation landscape and back. The views down the valleys from the top were awesome with a winding river at the bottom, like a thin kinky ribbon. The bus, as always was full to standing room only; filled with gringos, latinos and indigenous alike. Some conversation but not a lot with everyone in their own little world.

Loja is considered one of Ecuador's most culturally advanced cities, is also one of the oldest, and one of the cleanest. We were met by a mix of the old and the new   It is an university town, and boasts one of the best music conservatories with one of the universities symbol incorporating both - religion with a cross and music with a harp.

With it's strong education and music heritage there are, expectedly, free music concerts almost every weekend. In our wanderings we wandered into one in front of the cathedral, free for all to enjoy, which we did. 

Walking around the same day we also found a double-decker tour bus. Oh how I enjoy these to see an overview of the city and boy did we. We were the only ones on the bus so had the guide to ourselves, a personal tour you might say. In the UNESCO Heritage part of the town, the architecture is of a mix from colonial times to today. 
The gate that is the entrance to the old town. It is not only the city gate but also a tribute to not only the Spanish Conquistadores but also their freedom from them. 
 Looking towards the gate down the Inca Trail which goes straight down the middle of the old town. This is the second time that we have walked the Inca Trail, the other being on Calle Larga in Cuenca.
  the middle and right buildings are colonial, the left is 1950's  The mix is not so evident when looking down the street as most have had paint refurbishing. As a Heritage site they cannot change the exterior of the buildings other than repairs in the manor of the original building and paint.

 Colonial outside refurbished

 look closer and you can see that the paint doesn't weather as well as the building.

In San Sebastion Plaza one finds the renown Clock Tower. It truly is a beautiful piece of art, especially the lower part above the base.

Across the square from the cathedral we found a replica of an old Incan sundial. It is an amazing piece of scientific knowledge as not only does it tell time, it also tells the seasons.  Inside the cathedral we lucked into the final week of the festival of the Virgin of El Cisne. Every year in May she is brought on the shoulders of the devout from El Cisne, approx. 67 km, to Loja's cathedral where she remains until Nov. 1, when she is returned  in the same manner.
 The alter is a wondrous sight that adorns her well, compared to the one we saw at the bus station. 

And on we go, seeing new and maybe even odd things every time we walk somewhere.
 Love the saying here ... We are running into all sorts of Canadian involvement in Ecuador.

 The previous government was building a tram to go up to an overlook over the city. The new government decided they didn't need it so the building sit dominating the skyline without a tramway.

Throughout the city we found many different, interesting murals, many by the same artist. You could tell his work because his subjects had no eyes. It is said that the reason for this is that he had a member of his family who was blind. But who knows really? 
 You can recognize Bolivar anywhere by the shape of his face.

And finally there was the pedestrian overpass by the bus station giving recognition to the musical personality of the city.  Do you see the guitar? At night it lights up for all to see.

And so ended our stay in Loja ...