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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Trip - Yo Varooma ah Zaruma (Part 1 of 2)

My car had been on the fritz (yeah, yeah, I know...what's new?) about 2 months.  Though it was drive-able, it wasn't reliable.  OOH OOH...I made a rhyme!!    Sorta like....'If the glove don't fit, you must acquit'.   Boy, I could REALLY digress at this point, but I won't.

Ahem.   The car issue will be another blog entry.  Suffice to say, I couldn't go anywhere outside the immediate Cuenca territory.  I had been itchin to get outa Dodge (you youngins won't know what that means) for awhile.  When it was fixed, I dropped everything and headed out of town to a place I kept hearing about but had never been.  Zaruma.

Zaruma is about 275 kms (165 miles) south of Cuenca.  Don't try to apply typical calculations based on 60 mph.  It took 4 hours.   I headed towards Machala (a couple of hours DOWNhill), then headed for the Peruvian border, but just before I got there, I turned left and headed for the hills.  It is situated in the El Oro (The Gold) province, which is named so because of a long history of gold mining there.  It's a small town of about 25,000 inhabitants.

A couple of interesting things about Zaruma (no, not Zamora...that's another town) are:
  • ...the architecture.   Some have called it 'Republican'.  It's not your standard Spanish/Colonial style, and not your Wild West 'Gunsmoke' style either.  But, maybe a mix of the two.   For example, the sidewalks are covered by the building itself, with thick posts supporting the structure above.  Many of the sidewalks are still the old planks, some have been updated with look-alike planks.  There's a lot of wood construction in the facades, which darn near doesn't exist in other Ecuadorian cities.  There's the use of the rippled metal sheets on many faces of the buildings that are so typical of the mining town look.
  • ...the town is built on a side of a hill.  There's nary a FLAT street.  It's either UP or it's DOWN.  Walking on the sidewalks, you'll typically walk 20 paces then up (or down) 2 or 3 steps, another 20 paces and up (or down) another 2 or 3 steps.  You don't live in Zaruma if you have a problem with up/down steps and stairs, stairs, stairs, everywhere.   
  • ...the streets are narrow and winding.  They're barely 2 vehicles wide.   90 degree corners are not common.  When you approach a corner, you'll typically hear a car toot it's horn to warn you its-uh-cummin-round.  I'd be surprised if you could manage to drive more than 20mph in town without wiping out something or someone.
Because of these odd differences, I caught myself realizing that I didn't feel as if I was in Ecuador at all.  I felt as if I was in an European village in Switzerland or Scotland.  I won't be surprised if Zaruma ends up being another city designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site like Cuenca and Quito have.

I only spent one night there.  Gracie decided to puke all over the house so I decided I'd better get back home and calm her nerves.  She gets upset when she sees the luggage come out.

I stayed in a nice $12 a night room (with private bathroom) right on the main square directly across from the church.   A man named 'Ramiro' approached me when I was checking the engine oil and asked me if I had a problem.  'No'.  He told me he worked in tourism and gave me a bit of a run-down on the history of the area.  He gives personal tours.   I told him I would probably have to return to Cuenca the next day, so maybe next time I'll bring friends and we'll see more of Zaruma.

In the morning, I enjoyed a $3.50 breakfast of eggs, Zaruma coffee, a large glass of juice, and bread/butter/jam.  While I sat outside, I observed the early morning activity.   The garbage truck came through with collectors hanging off the back and ringing a cow-bell to notify businesses they were coming.  Old men arrived in their best attire and took their seats on benches in the park to watch the world go by.  Guides were lurking outside the tourism office across the street to encourage inquisitive people stopping by to take their tour.  Parking attendants, with clipboards in hand, disbursed onto the streets to enforce the parking rules.  Parking here costs $1.50 to purchase a bingo-like (hi Mom!) card which has 30 minutes slots, up to 5 hours, to pencil-in the time you use.  When I was done with breakfast, I took the two beer bottles, I had purchased the night before, back to the vendor I purchased them from so he could get his credit for the returns.

Afterwards, I drove around the winding streets of Zamora....dammit...Zaruma....and found some wonderful vista points.  I wanted to go to a former mine called 'El Sexmo' (don't ask, don't tell).  After many a wrong turn, I finally found it.  Well, who should answer the gate but 'Ramiro'!!  After a short video presentation, a small group of us headed into the abandoned mine, wearing boots and hardhats (which I was thankful for a few times as I bonked my head on low-hanging tunnel ceilings), following about 500 feet of rail-track, water still dripping out of the earth.  At one point, the lights went out and we were in PITCH BLACK.  EEEEK!!!.  My first time in a goldmine...or any mine for that matter.  And, it was all free.   I LOVE FIRSTS!!!

After that, I headed back home.   I traveled through Las Pinas, another mining town perched  on a hill, and an ever-changing scenery, from tropical/banana plantation/humid territory, to river gorges, to dry dismal desert-like terrain, to Yunguilla which is a Palm Springs-like warm environment and topography of palm trees and swimming pools, to the cool, green basin known as Cuenca. 

Enjoy the photos of the to, while there, and return segments of my trip-ette!!!  Part II is a separate link.


I literally said 'oh my god' out loud when I saw this bus.   The frame of the bus was so out of alignment, obviously due to a previous accident, that he was 'crabbing' down the highway.  This bus was driving STRAIGHT!!!

In an area of banana plantations, an homage to crop-dusters???

The church in Las Pinas.

Whuh?   A Space Needle (Seattle) look-alike in Las Pinas, Ecuador, South America????

Arriving in Zaruma.

I stayed at the Romeria, where I met Ramiro from Zaruma, not Zamora.

The central church of Zaruma, off the main plaza.

Many churches and cathedrals in Ecuador require you to step over the bottom of a door frame to enter.

Upon entry of the church.

A large mural of some guys having brunch.

The view of the Zaruma central plaza from my hostal.

Most palm trees don't look like this.  It reminded me of a lot of 'Jazz Hands'.

Typical Zaruma architecture.

The 'Wild West' sidewalks.

Narrow, winding streets of Zaruma.

High on a hill above Zaruma, looking down on the center of town and the church, with the entire town looming over the valley below.

Another church in Zaruma.

Entrance to the defunct gold mine.  I have no idea why it's called that, but it makes me giggle. 

Mannequins staged with jackhammer equipment.

Night view of the central square and church from my hostal.

And now, a word from our Sponsor (me)


  1. Another wonderful journey. thanks for sharing and taking so many good photos. Did you take a tripod? Love the night photo.
    Texas Larry

    1. No, I just us a regular ol pocket digital camera with Auto settings which self-adjusts for night photo exposure.

  2. I love your photos. I googled Zaruma looking for more and I can't find any that are better than yours.


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About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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