Traffic was not heavy; but, the two lane, paved, Andes Mountain road was steep and very winding. The vista on the descent was breathtaking for its panorama of mountains and valleys and steep, frightening, precipices that beckoned the inattentive.
W swerved to avoid several bright yellow boxes scatteered across the highway and, then, not to hit two stopped cars, occupants standing alongside peering through a gaping hole in the protective guardrail. From across a switchback, I could see the trail of cargo, left as the truck had plunged several hundred meters below.
No-one followed him. It was late, and the village was asleep.
He made his way carefully along the well worn trail, high in the Andes Mountains.
It was a perfect night, black, not a hint of wind, and the stars shining brilliantly in a clear sky. The water pool was perfectly still; making a perfect mirror to study the heavens. But first, he sat to pray and gave thanks for the abundant harvest.
Before the Inca, from about 800 AD, there were the Yumbos living across the Northern Andes Mountains. When the Inca tried to conquer them, between 1520 – 1534, they withdrew to a vast mountainous area North West of the current Ecuadorian capital, Quito. Peaceful and agrarian, they traded produce with other communities as far away as the Pacific coast, days away by foot. There were no horses or carts. All was carried on their backs. They believed in three worlds: above, here on earth and below.
All this came to a quick end when, in 1660, the Pichincha Volcano, which overlooks present day Quito, exploded. Thirty centimeters, about 12 inches, of volcanic ash blanked the Yumbo homeland, effectively eliminating them.
Like many ancient people, the Yumbos recorded their history and knowledge in rock carvings and remains of their settlements. Ceremonial pools, fed by a series of canals, were used for prayer, purification and fertility have been unearthed by archeologists in the town of Tulipe. Some are shaped to represent animals, such as the tiger, and a large, circular pool with a centre pole acted as a solar clock and meeting place where the wise men shared their knowledge. In addition, man-made mounds, served various religious and communal functions. Scattered throughout the region, the more important the owner, the higher elevation, closer to the sky, they were.
When you come to Quito, I recommend that you take a day to visit The on-site museum in Tulipe to learn more about the Yumbo and see the pools. The museum is open, and tours provided Wednesday through Sunday, inclusive.
The museum hours: Wednesdays through Sunday, inclusive, 9 AM – 4 PM.
Tours are available in Spanish and English.
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