Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Regions

Good news.  My registration at Simon Bolivar Spanish Language School in Cuenca is confirmed from August 1st to October 26th..  Alexandra Diaz, the student coordinator, also informed me a teacher has been reserved to instruct me. With this information, the door is open to arrange specific travel plans and to purchase airline tickets.  I’ll soon be a customer at a local travel agency, probably Panorama Travel in San Mateo because its specialty is travel to Latin America.

This week’s post is about the distinctive geographic regions comprising Ecuador, a country roughly the same size as Colorado. It’s located in northwest South America with coastline on the Pacific Ocean 1,390 miles long. Columbia borders Ecuador on the north and Peru on the south and east. The Galapagos Islands 600 miles off the coast are Ecuadorian too. These island environs were studied in 1831 by Charles Darwin.


Three distinct geographic regions constitute mainland Ecuador.
The lowland coastal region, the Costa, extends west from the Pacific. It’s a largely flat area created over geologic time by distribution of sediments from mountain rivers to the east.  Most of Ecuador’s agricultural and industrial production takes place in the Costa. Guayaquil is a seaport city in the south Costa with a population of almost three million people. It’s located adjacent to the Guayas River and is an economic engine for all Ecuador. The Costa climate is usually very warm.  Temperatures the entire year average between 76 degrees F to 90 degrees F.

The mountainous mid- region of Ecuador is the Sierra, which extends from north to south through the whole country. The Andes Mountains of the Sierra form two ranges called the Eastern and Western Cordilleras. The highly elevated valley between these two ranges is called the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Twelve mountain peaks in the Sierra top more than 16,000 feet. The capital of Ecuador, Quito, is in the Sierra. It’s a bustling city of more than 2.5 million people living at an altitude of 9,350 feet.  Cuenca is also a Sierra region city of about 500,000 people. It’s located a nine hour's drive south of Quito and a four hour's drive east of Guayaquil. Cuenca is notable because it’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust Site due to its many historic buildings. The Sierra climate varies according to altitude and time of year. Cuenca enjoys mostly spring like weather all year, while in Quito temperatures can range from 55 degrees at night to 78 degrees at noon.

Sierra terrain in the Quito area.

Descending the eastern slopes of the Andes, the terrain changes to a region of Amazon jungle and rain forests called the Oriente.  The Oriente is 40 percent of the land mass of Ecuador, but only five percent of Ecuadorians live there. Three Amazonian rivers, the Rio Napo, Rio Pastaza, and Rio Santiago, plus their tributaries, flow through the Oriente.  The inhabitants of the Oriente are mostly indigenous Indians. The Zaparos and Yumbos tribes still speak Quichua, which was once the official language of the Inca Empire.  The Oriente is home to a splendid variety of wildlife, from colored parrots to green lizards, snakes, noisy monkeys and slow moving turtles.  The Amazon jungles of South America are like no other region on earth because they contain so vast a collection of different types of plant life. Oil and timber are the major resources of the Oriente. 

The Oriente