Ecuador Tour 2013
January 11th – 20th, 2013
 


From Panama to Quito is a two hour flight, hardly time to have a nap after lunch before landing.

Coming into the old airport was smooth and touchdown soft. I say this because some times is can be rough as you land kind of in a valley. The new airport will open soon which will be nice but it is quite a distance from the city so travel time to get to it will be much longer.

My ground handler was there to pick me up, as he was doing for the other guests, then into his vehicle and not long afterwards we arrived at the hotel. The Mercure Alemeda. I had groups here before and was pleased to see that they had done some renovations in the lobby area. Very airy, bright and cheerful with a lovely water feature to sit around. The check in process was fast and efficient, then to my room for a short time and out to have lunch (a light one) with Peter and go over the tour. We ate at an old restaurant that he really enjoys, called the Rincon de Francia. Really kind of cool as you have to buzz your way in and once inside it’s very posh and French. This place has been part of Quito for over 30 years and enjoys a very good reputation of great service and excellent food. First things first though for me…I wanted a cup of hot water so I could have some coca tea. I swear by this tea as it really helps me with the altitude. After a cup of this I was fine and didn’t even suffer any headaches. Lunch was a simple shrimp crepe with a very light tomato cream sauce…and it was delicious . For desert it was to be a chocolate mousse and it did not disappoint either followed by a good café con leche. Now I was ready for a nap…then to get organized for the tour.

Quito is at an elevation of some 9200 feet above sea level. We are only 15 miles from the equator. Quito has a population of just a bit over 2 million people with a total country population of around 14.6 million. 8 percent work in the agriculture sector and the average wage is around 7800 US a year. The main exports are petroleum (gas is hugely cheap here at 1.00 a gallon), bananas, cut flowers, shrimp, cacao, wood, fish and coffee.

January 12th

Up early and as I opened the curtains I could see the mist hanging over the hills..was it going to rain today? Hopefully not and since we were headed out to Otavalo Market I was not too worried. The church bells are ringing now – from which church I wondered. There are at least 40 churches and chapels here, 16 convents and monasteries with their own cloisters. I can also hear birds…did you know that in this area alone there are over 540 species of birds.
 
Our day started early because we added a couple of things that we wanted the group to experience. The first was a visit to Cayambe where there is a bakery that makes the most delicious cookies, called biscochos, light and flaky, that just melt in your mouth and when dipped in dulce de leche it is a real treat. We all tasted them and got to see how they were made as well. The boys were at the table cutting and placing each cookie in trays to be baked in this wonderful old brick oven – the smell was delicious but the warm cookies out of the oven were even better. Bags were bought and eaten as we walked around the little area just outside the bakery full of stalls selling clothes for children and trinkets of all kinds. Then just down the street was the cemetery. I really do enjoy visiting cemeteries as you get a real feel for the people by looking at them I think. Here everyone commented on how beautiful it was – full of flowers and people visiting and tidying up each little area that was their family plot. We met a family of men visiting – they come every two weeks to change the flowers and visit their family.
 
From here we head to Condor Park for a very unique visit to see birds of Ecuador who have been injured as are here for rehabilitation. The big draw are the condors…and I say this because it is very true…they are huge and when you hear their wings in flight it is awesome.

Cayambe is the center of milk producers and the fields were not only filled with vegetable gardens and rose plantations but cows. It is a beautiful area of the country, full of hills and valleys and little farms set on those hillsides with neat gardens full of life. We see many Otavalo Indians busy at work, and it is hard work on these hills. We see an old woman hunched over as she is carrying a huge pile of wood – perhaps firewood – on her back along the side of the road. We see the sides of the roads full of wildflowers in purple, blue and white.

We are on our way to Hacienda Pinsaqui to have lunch. Just pulling into the driveway is cause for gasps as you gaze on huge old Araucaria araucana or monkey puzzle trees. Then there was the wonderful group of musicians dressed in traditional costume who played Andean music as we arrived at the front doors. Constructed in 1790, Hacienda Pinsaqui was originally a colonial textile enterprise, employing over one thousand weavers and spinners. Many of Pinsaqui's fabrics were exported to the United States in the late 1800s where they first received international recognition. To this day, the Hacienda retains the character and authenticity of its earlier incarnation. Over the centuries Pinsaqui has hosted numerous illustrious guests. Most famous of all is General Simon Bolivar, the revered liberator of Ecuador, who often spent the night at the hacienda on his trips to and from Bogota, Colombia. Later in the nineteenth century, hacienda's walls witnessed the "Treaty of Pinsaqui ," an historic peace agreement between Colombia and Ecuador. We all got to choose what we wanted and for dessert everyone received the traditional south American dessert tres leches, a cake rich in butter and soaked in three kinds of milk.

From here it was a short ride to Otavalo, where we found a place to park and then our visit to the famous market. It was later in the day than previous tours and I thought a bit better as it was not so crowded. There are about six communities or villages that bring their wares to sell and each one makes something different. They have learned to work together rather than competing. So many stalls here with all manner of gifts to buy and after you were finished looking at stalls of sweaters woven in brightly coloured yarns, gloves, scarves, wall hangings, table cloths, jewelry, pants, embroidered shirts, bags, packs, and then all the small stuff, you could also visit the fresh fruit and vegetable part of the market. It’s a great place to pick up bargains and to find little things to take home to your friends and family. Just about all of the goods here are hand made and unique to Ecuador. With excellent prices I might add. There were many ladies cooking and selling foods too and the smells of these foods were so delicious. I stood watching for a few moments as some were packing up…loading everything onto carts that they would push home. A hard way to make a living but these people are so industrious.
 


 

 

 
 

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row