Loyola, guinea pigs, Polish dumplings and ancient ruins

After one of my articles, a Polish missionary serving currently in Valladolid in Zamora-Chinchipe province wrote to me on Facebook. After a small talk he invited me to go with them to a small village Loyola for saint Ignatius de Loyola feast.


The bus going to Valladolid cross a stream called Quebrada de los muertos, a Ravine of the dead. It was the way the corpses were brought down from the mountain after the plane crush. The drivers still say that sometimes at night they feel as if someone got on the car with them.


I was welcomed as a special guest. A Polish journalist, a compatriot of beloved father Lukas. Everyone wanted to be photographed. Children were posing for pictures, adults were coming and asking me to take the photos. A big man with obvious indigenous roots came and asked the priest, if we still had a while before the mass. We were waiting for people from neighbouring villages, so he said yes. Hernan, the habitant of Loyola took me to his house to show the guesthouse he was building.


Hernan in front of his future guesthouse.


‘And here will be a museum’, he said, showing an empty space below the wooden house built on stilts.

‘The museum of what?’, I asked.

He took me upstairs where in a small room with a single weak lightbulb were hundreds of stone figures – from ones so small you could hide them in the palm, to bigger ones. One was almost a meter big. ‘All are from here, from the ancestors’, I heard. Then he showed me also his private forest, carp and tilapia ponds and an enclosure full of guinea pigs (of course kept for eating).


Ecuadorian stone figure.


Guinea pigs were also an object on the licitation to gather money for the church windows. People from the village tried to sell amongst visitors many dead and living things – chickens, fish, guinea pigs, bananas, rice, oil and others. I didn’t fall for a set of guinea pigs for ten bucks, neither for a plate of trouts from a local creek.


A chicken for sale. 100% fresh.


Father Lukas drove me back to Vilcabamba and invited for Polish dumplings in some indefinite future.


The future came last Friday and, indeed, it contained dumplings, made by Gosia, who after finishing her school came to Ecuador for few weeks to organize activities for children from Valladolid. We were at the table in rather unusual company: three Polish people, one Ecuadorian and four Frenchmen (parents with two children), who came there unexpectedly. They stopped with their camper to fill the water tank and were sent by villagers to the priest – and he invited them for lunch. We spoke some Spanish, some Polish and some French – I was serving as the translator, when someone missed a word or two in Spanish.


Polish dumplings


There are no dumplings in Ecuador. Empanadas are the closest in shape, they look like big dumplings fried in deep oil. They have, however, nothing more in common with Polish dumplings – different dough, different stuffing, different size and taste.


Close to Valladolid and even closer to a bigger village Palanda, there are ruins. They were discovered over twenty years ago by a bulldozer operator during the road construction. Since the year 2000 Franco-Ecuadorian team of archaeologists was working at the site. They found out that the settlement belonged to Mayo-Chinchipe-Marañón culture that lived there about 5300-2500 years ago. There are well preserved stone foundations, a main square with an altar. In a house belonging supposedly to a priest, a snake-shaped stone pattern has been discovered. In the same house they found the corpses of the priest and his two wives.


A snake house of the priest.


The locals call the ruins “ruinas en la curva”, “ruins on the road turn”. It sounds funny in Polish, especially because of the brothel on the same turn, but the joke makes absolutely no sense in English. You miss something.


Me and the ruins. Without my two wives (if I had them at all…).

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