Atuntaqui, Ecuador - Polarsteps

Atuntaqui was founded in the 16th century and has a population of around 22,000 (2010). The US dollar is used in Ecuador and it's messing with my head. After not using or even seeing dollars for the past 9 1/2 years, now they're back in my presence, and the prices are unbelievably low. A bottle of coca cola is .25 cents. My lunch was $2.50. Every time I hear a price I have to pause to process it. And, while the paper money is only dollars, the coins are a mix of US coins and Ecuadoran coins. The dollar coin is far more common than the one-dollar bill (which I haven't even seen, yet). So, Atuntaqui is a small mountain town of about 25,000 people. It sits at about 2400 meters (7900 feet) and is between two volcanos - Cotacachi and Imbabura. They're usually shrouded by clouds. The distance to Cotacachi, as the crow flies measured on Google Earth, is only about 14 kilometers (9 miles). The distance to Imbabura, again as the crow flies measured on Google Earth, is about 9 kilometers (5 1/2 miles). The weather is generally spring-like to North Americans and Europeans, all year round. So, while walking around in the Mercado I came across a fruit I've never seen before (see the photos in the photo album). It's called "pepino fruit". Pepino fruit has the scientific name Solanum muricatum from the genus Solanum, so botanically this fruit is closer to tomato and eggplant instead of melon or cucumber, though the pepino in Spanish means cucumber in English. It has a mildly sweet flavor, and the skin is a little on the tough side, but the fruit is eaten just like eating an apple, and you don't eat the seeds. At least, when I first tried the fruit in the Mercado the woman told me to not eat the seeds, but, at least one website says the seeds can be eaten. According to the website it is considered a "rare fruit" though it appears to be quite common here in Ecuador. I never saw this fruit in my 9+ years in Colombia. It is commonly called Pepino Dulce in Spanish to differentiate it from cucumbers, which are called pepinos in Spanish. I have decided after walking 25.5 kilometers of Atuntaqui that I don't much care for this little town. Why? Because the bakeries do not have tables to sit at so you can only buy and leave, and there are no coffee shops in this town. Hard to believe, but I couldn't find even one.
  1. ChipW
  2. My South America Journey
  3. Atuntaqui