Monday, July 18, 2011

Principal peace

Gettin' all pink and serious
Diana's godson is staying with us for half a year or so (more on that later), so we now have a live-in babysitter. So after another too good date-night on Friday, we still managed to get out of town on Saturday, if a wee later than planned, for an overnight. We went to the little town of Principal, which is about two hours by bus, and about the same with a bus/cab combo. Due to some confusing language in the guidebook, we went a town too far to catch a connecting bus to our destination.

So we took advantage of being a little lost and spent a little time eating ice cream and relaxing at our first port. Sigsig, which sounds like a pet name Freud's wife might have had for him, makes my list of favorite place names in Ecuador. It's most famous for being a center for handwoven straw hats, including the famous Panama Hat (yes, made in Ecuador, not Panama, etcetera, etcetera...). We didn't stay long enough to discover that because we had a cab to catch over the hill to Principal before dark. (Did I mention we were a little slow to start in the morning?)

We consider ourselves fortunate to have paid an extra $6 for taking the bus too far and requiring a cab over the mountain from Sigsig to Principal; coming from that direction gave us the best view we could get of the town nestled beneath the long-extinct Volcano FasayƱan.

Former volcano dead center
It wasn't quite a full record scratch when we were dropped off in the main plaza--they see their share of gringos, given the trekking opportunities here and the town's eco-conscious temperament--but I get the impression that it's far enough away from International Living's Ecuador that we're still uncommon enough as to be worth a good gawking.

In a town approximately four blocks square it doesn't take long to find your hostel. Had we come from the main road on a bus, this is the first thing we'd have seen rolling into town...

It's worth noting, because arguably one of the most poorly developed business skills in Ecuador is marketing. Here in this tiny town we find the best communication skills in the country. We paid $5.50 night per adult (kids half price) for the views, and she threw in the beds for free.

Hostal Anabel is also the location for the local weaving cooperative. When the fastest thing in town is a soccer ball rolling down the street, weaving is a great way to pass the time. These ladies can finish off a hat in about eight hours.

The toquilla straw for the hats is grown on the coast, but the most famous weavers of it are in the sierras. It's a damn shame we don't look nearly as good in these hats as they do.

As we were in town only one night and the unusually frequent July rains (ENOUGH ALREADY!) had kept the trails gloppy, we opted for a short hike towards the volcano but not to it. It was a little tough being so close to it but not able to get to it, but we weren't complaining of the views.

Volcan FasayƱan close(er) up

Leaving town is as easy as waiting ten minutes at the "terminal terestre" bus station at the base of the trail. More on the trip back to Cuenca through Chordeleg next post.

Bus station--smoking allowed only in the bar

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