Fifty-four hikers from 15 countries set out on the annual Ruta Inka expedition July 3 in Pasto, Colombia, with plans to arrive in Ingapirca, Ecuador’s largest Incan ruin, 45 miles north of Cuenca, August 12. The annual trek highlights restoration and historical projects on the Incan Trail.
Ecuador President Rafael Correa made an unannounced visit to Ingapirca on Tuesday to support the project. Accompanied by his daughter and one body guard, the president said he wanted to experience the former Incan citadel as an ordinary citizen and not as head of state. “Sometimes you have to travel as a regular tourist to appreciate the grandeur of our country,” he said.
Ruta Inka is a public – private project aimed at promoting environmental and historic tourism in Colombia and Ecuador, as well as work on the Incan trail. In addition to participants from Colombia and Ecuador, hikers and climbers in project come from Costa Rica, Spain, Brazil, Paraguay, United Kingdom, Belgium, Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela, Poland, North America and Ecuador.
ECUADOR AIMS TO BECOME AN EXPORTER OF ELECTRICITY BY 2014
Esteban Albornoz, Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, says that because of expanding hydro-electric capacity, Ecuador will become a net exporter of electricity by 2014. Currently, the country imports about 5% of its power from neighboring Peru and Colombia.
Two electric plants, one on the Paute River about 20 miles from Cuenca, and another near Banos de Ambato are scheduled for completion within a year.
“Our goal is to ensure a reliable power supply in the short and medium term," he says. “The new capacity, however, will provide more than enough electricity for the country and allow us to export some of the over-capacity.
HOTEL OCCUPANCY IS DOWN IN CUENCA COMPARED TO 2008
Despite claims by the Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism that tourism is holding steady in 2009, Cuenca hotel owners are reporting occupancy drops ranging from 5% to 15%.
According to president of Cuenca’s Association of Hoteliers, Daniel Hernandez, the situation is worrying because “we are seeing the drop at the height of our business tourist period. This is vacation time in Europe and North America and this is when many of our members are the busiest.”
Hernandez says that Cuenca restaurants that cater to tourists are also seeing a decline in business. “I can’t tell you the numbers but friends in the business say that they are seeing fewer customers.”
A spot check of several local restaurants confirmed Hernandez. While several establishments say they have not seen a decline, other say business is down 5% to 10% from the same period in 2008.
Photo caption: President Correa took off his game face Tuesday to visit Ingapirca