Written by Fidgit
In which Tia Ines and Emiterio explain (sometimes simultaneously):
How Achupallas was built of of Pre-Inca and Incan stonework and some surprising tidbits about the invasion of the Spaniards
We had pushed into the evening, dropping from the high, bare, blustery, wet places on the Ingañan (what they call the Qhapaq Nan in Ecuador), chasing the yawning sun rays which stayed always just ahead of us. Down the valley, where clouds ended, out in the valley ahead, the chakras were vivid in final rays of light.
“Just let us get to a road before the light goes away entirely,” I bargained with the cosmos. We spilled off the rocky alleys onto a dirt road just after lights came on, and walked into town around seven or eight.
Unknown public dark places are always uncertain, and we generally avoid them, but as I tested the waters, greeting the locals we passed, seeing children and youths still out playing in the streets, I felt more comfortable.
One scrap of information we had implied there was some sort of lodging in Achupallas, so I began asking around. The first two women pointed us down to the last street in town. We walked up and down this and began to dismay. A man was walking past and I asked if there was lodging in town.
“It is just down there,” he pointed back the way we had come. He looked at us. “Here, I’ll show you.” He made a 180, walking back the way he had come, and led us to the gate of one of the homes. He shouted several times and a bundled up man walked out. Once he had let us in, the gentleman said, “he will help you,” and returned to his course.
We have received this type of kindness dozens of times along this journey. Yet, it stuns me every single time. I strive to be that kind of person. Someone who will completely divert her route to walk someone who is uncertain to where they are trying to get and make sure they are delivered to the right hands.
The hostel owner introduced himself as Emiterio. “You will have to excuse me, I am very tired, we just got back down from the mountains, my wife and I,” he explained as he oriented us to the rooms above their home. Yet, he stayed up to make sure there was hot water running, walked Neon to the bakery and shop, and invited us to their living room for hot cups of tea – a welcome treat after a long, wet, cold day.
He was a Peruvian who had been a teacher in Venezuela his entire life. He had met his wife, an Ecuadorian there. For 30 years she lived here, in her home village, while he taught there and came home on summer vacations. His retirement and pension were still held in Venezuela. Under current circumstances, there is no way for him to access the money he had worked his entire life to save.
“Fortunately my entire family got out of there before the current crisis.” He shook his head.
He kept disappearing back to where their room must have been to make reports to his wife. Where we had come from, what we were doing, what was the name of that mountain her cousin’s husband had climbed?
He proudly told us how his wife had hiked from Achupallas to Ingapirca when she was 67, and several times before that. The towns of Ingapirca and Achupallas, and the 40 some odd kilometer section of trail is one of the last few remaining segments of this historic trail in Ecuador and Ingapirca is the largest and best preserved ancient Inca ruins in Ecuador. If you are a mountain and history loving hiker, and plan to visit Ecuador, I cannot encourage you enough to hike this trail.
The next morning, Ines was in the kitchen.
The day before, they and a friend had hiked up to the refugio the community were building, one we had considered staying in as as we walked past it a bit after four p.m. “I saw what I thought would be a shortcut into town, then I saw the tower of the church and thought, ‘oh God, I’ve led us to entirely the wrong town! Fortunately it was only one over.'” She explained.
Sister, you are preaching to the choir.
The morning slipped past as they told us stories of the mountains and their people, how they hide the secrets of the Incas – markings, doors, treasures, wisdom, farming techniques.
She recounted once finding intricate stone engravings on one peak. Some years later she went back with a cousin and they hired a guide. They were gateando (I love this word. It means, ‘to walk like a cat’ and is what Ines said to mean navigating stony ledges and climbs.) “but of course, he was prideful and got us lost and we never found them again.”
The sound clip above is one short segment of the tales of phantoms, battles, buried treasure, channels beneath a lake dammed by the Incas, subterfuge and murder, both in the old days and now.
Emiterio took us on a tour of the three-by-six-block town, stopping at the corners of buildings to point out where Inca-carved rocks were used in the houses, wandering into back yards and greeting various in-laws, perusing the market for the vegetables, admiring the carpentry of the doors to the church. Naturally we had to be introduced, explained, and answer questions of everyone we met.
A few hours later, we returned to their home where Ines was watering the plants. They fussed at one another, and there was something comforting in that, to be reminded that healthy couples squabble. Neon and I squabble, and it is annoying and I fret. We joke that we are in a long term, heterosexual relationship; something of a mix between being astronauts and adventure buddies. That said, this is the longest partnership either of us has been in and we are sometimes unsure what is healthy and what are the signs of the beginning of the end. This couple, married over 30 years, squabbling over the same things as we do put me at ease in a big way.
Emiterio waited until we had loaded up our bags. As I bid goodbye to Ines she said, “you have basically walked across all of South America.”
“Not quite yet,” I replied, Colombia on my mind, but with visions of the Caribbean sea just over the horizon.
Emiterio walked us out of town and down the road a ways, chatting about his childhood in the orphanage. Then, at some arbitrary point he announced, “from here you know the way, this is where I go back.”
When you go hike this trail, be sure to visit them at Posada el Ingañan for bed and breakfast and tell them we say hello! I made it a point on Google Maps so you don’t have to ask around.