Cuenca is a picturesque Ecuadorian city, very interesting to visit. It is located in the middle of the Andes and was the inspiration for renowned writers. But it was not always possible to visit as now; Due to its location, in the middle of the mountains, for a long time it was isolated from the other regions of the country, as there were no roads that led to its charms.
The feats that the first roads of Ecuador witnessed are incredible. I once heard the story of how a huge grand piano arrived in the mountains, crossing the Andes mountain range. It had been brought from Europe and landed in the port of Guayaquil. At first it was transported by steam, upstream, through the Babahoyo River and later, basically on the back of an Indian. The journey took weeks.
Cuenca was the cradle of many of these stories. At the time when the Trasandino Railroad was built, which connects the coast with the mountains of Ecuador, G&Q, the company in charge of completing the work, was in charge of founding a town called Huigra, in a beautiful canyon carved by the river. Chan Chan. The railroad did not pass through Cuenca, for a change, neither did the National Highway; but Huigra was relatively close, so the G&Q opened a road just over 2 meters wide at the request of the National Government. Don't be fooled either, the horseback ride could take days, but compared to nothing, the muddy road became an important communication route.
This path was called Road to the Tambo, because that was the name of the small town that was reached. From Tambo to Cuenca there was a pre-existing road.
This battered and dangerous little road served as a commercial exchange route (and travelers route) between Cuenca and the Ecuadorian coast. Its importance was such, despite the difficulty of the journey, that in the small town of Huigra dozens of merchandise consignment agencies were installed, receiving their parcels from Guayaquil through the railroad and from there they shipped them on mules or other animals heading to Cuenca. There were so many agencies that they formed an entire neighborhood at the beginning of the dusty road, today called \ ”Barrio Azuay \”. Azuay is the province where Cuenca is located.
The dangerous journeys were entrusted to a tribe descended from the Incas, with a reputation for being the most skilled in avoiding the dangers of the mountains. They were called Guanderos Indians, as they carried on their backs a kind of small wooden bed that they called "guando". They put the parcels there.
But the most important mission ever entrusted to the guanderos was worthy of a movie. Cuenca wanted to solve its electricity problems with a hydroelectric plant and the only way to transport it was by the Camino al Tambo. It is said that 3 thousand Guanderos Indians were recruited for this purpose, in one of the most amazing companies ever seen in those high mountains. Every available resource was used, the neighboring farms made all their livestock available to use the force of their bulls to drag the heavy machinery.
Many Indians died in the mountains: some from exhaustion, others fell from the rocky walls or crushed by the enormous weight of the turbines, and some perished from diseases contracted in the adventure; but surprisingly they managed to arrive one day in July 1914 and that was how Cuenca had its longed-for "electric light."
Some parts of the hydroelectric plant reaching Cuenca.
It would take decades more for the railroad to finally reach Cuenca and in 1965 Cuencans saw for the first time an imposing and agitated steam locomotive approaching their lands. But since no one is satisfied only with what they have, it soon happened that the people of Cuenca also wanted a road. The extremely curious thing is that in Cuenca cars already existed since 1912, long before the railroad or highway arrived. Are you sure the reader is already imagining how these vehicles got there?
In some way, these massive exploits must have inspired the people of Cuenca to carry more things on their shoulders, because in order to pressure the Government to build a "decent" highway, they decided to continue carrying implausible things, with sheer muscle. And so it was that one morning in October 1969, they decided to load a car.
The streets were filled with jubilation, delirium seized the populace. A group of reckless members of the Club Deportivo de Choferes de Cuenca, encouraged by the verbiage of a neighboring priest, offered to carry a jeep to the coast, to show that the road - which the Government had objected to building - was totally feasible of doing. Of course, if someone could transport a vehicle by weight, crossing the Andean jungles, surely the journey was not as impossible as it was said.
The idea was good at first, but they did not have a jeep, so the GENERAL tire factory fixed the problem immediately. The departure was scheduled for the morning of October 19, 1969. That morning an emotional parade spontaneously took shape and the people of Cuenca said goodbye to their heroes. Juan Samaniego got behind the wheel and the rest of the brave got into the Jeep or simply walked escorting the ship. The crowd accompanied them several kilometers to the outskirts of the city.