There is a travel agency in Cuenca by a group of indigenous people (indians) in order to help their struggling community. I thought that would be the coolest thing ever to go spend a night in the community and see their way of life. So, we went!
We travelled about 45 minutes outside of Cuenca up to the top of a mountain. We were at about 9000 feet and had the most amazing view! There are few places that I've been in my life that exude such tranquility. The beauty of the place was enough to satisfy me, but that was only the beginning of our adventures.
That night, we were greeted by Carmen, who was in charge of making us feel comfortable and feeding us! We warmly welcomed us into her house and put a towel over the cold chairs so that we weren't as cold. This was the sitting room.
Carmen was nice enough to prepare us a FEAST!! We started enough with some bread and cheese...actually, it would be more appropriate to say cheese and a little bread on the side. No joke - I had at least 8 ounces of cheese on my bread. It was incredible! Haha. They have a cheese factory in the town so that's a stable food.
After eating and hanging out with Carmen for a while, we headed down to the local Catholic Church to catch the end of the meeting. We were celebrities just for showing up, probably cause we're white. People got out their cameras.
Then, we were taken to our lovely hotel room. It was on the 2nd floor of the schoolhouse in the storage room. I'm assuming it's the nicest place that they had.
We shared a tiny little bed covered with lots of wool blankets. There was no bathroom and no access to water. So, going to the bathroom was definitely an adventure! The room got down into the 40s that night, but I'm pretty sure Carmen gave us most of her blankets and probably froze that night. I was a nervous sleeper since we didn't even have a real lock on the door! I am in Ecuador and like to feel secure at night.
So, the next morning, we went in the search for a bathroom. It's hard to do without a lot of trees and when everyone keeps walking by in order to fetch water. The sheep were definitely watching us!
Here's a view from the top with the nice wool shawl Carmen lent me so that I wouldn't freeze to death.
Alright...I have to cut out some of the details. It was a crazy day! They gave us medicine water about every 10 minutes. AKA...herbal teas with medicinal purposes. They offered to add a little whiskey, to which we politely declined. (This is me after TOO MUCH medicine WATER).
We watched as they prepared lunch over a wood fire stove in clay pots, which they still use to this day.
We watched them gut the guinea pig....that was SICK...but fascinating. It was our lunch. We laughed how in the US it's a pet and we're going to eat it for lunch.
We hiked around the mountains identifying different plants that can be used with medicine, and we went with Manuel to the Cheese Factory which appeared rather unsanitary and had a gross smell. Nonetheless, I still like cheese.
We watched them cut the wool from the sheep with dull scissors that seemed appropriate for a kindergarten and not for sheering sheep.
We played dress up in the women's clothes. I am not a very cute indigenous woman! Haha, good thing I'm not one permanently.
It was quite the learning experience.