The rural paradise

To celebrate our 10 year anniversary, we decided to stay five nights at a Hacienda San Augustin de Callo. An old cosy countryside farm estate located close to Cotopaxi, an active volcano, with ruins from the Inca people. Actually, we are having our daily dinner inside one of the remaining rooms from this period.

This place is truly a paradise! It’s so cosy yet well maintained and is surrounded by gardens, meadows, as well as cattle. All rooms (including bathrooms) have open fires and each night you find a warm water bottle in your bed to keep you warm. Every lunch and dinner is three coursed and if you wish you can have a afternoon snack, including the most amazing blackberry juice. During the day, the lamas come into our yard, wanting to be fed with carrots. On top of all this, the national park of Cotopaxi is just around the corner, and a clear day the majestic volcano can be seen from the farm.

Welcome to Hacienda!

Our home for five nights.

The black stone wall to the left is one of the remaining rooms from the Inca people. Here, we have lunch and dinner every day.

Inside the dining room.

Lama feeding time!

Not only the lamas are happy!

The first trip we did in the Cotopaxi area was Quilotoa crater lake. On our way there, we stopped at a local market. We love local markets and thought it would be very nice to perhaps buy some handicraft or similar to support the people living here. Coming closer to the market, we started to realise this was not an ordinary market… It was an animal market. And it was absolutely horrible. Still, it could be good for us to see how animals are treated in other parts of the world and we took a short walk through. It didn’t take long until Minna started to cry and we decided to leave. Let’s just say we have only had fish to eat in Ecuador since this day.

Local farmers market for livestock. Terrible. Pig section.Sheep section.

A scared and scrawny cow.

Alive chickens and guinea pigs changed hands and were put into sacks. Treated like non-living things.

Still sad, we arrived to Quilotoa and tried to enjoy the beautiful nature we love so much. Even though we couldn’t shake of the terrible things we just had seen, it did feel better to take a short hike around parts of the crater, with overview of the lake the entire time.

Starting point, near Shalala.

The colour of the sky changes the colour of the water.

Somewhere along the hike.

After all, a good ending to the day.

The Hacienda offered various activities to explore. One of them were participating in a painting class, held by a local artist. Instead of buying souvenirs, why not make your own? After full concentration for 3,5h and, to be honest, minor adjustments by the artist, we had created colourful creation of the Andes landscape. The material we painted on was sheep skin stretched on a wooden frame.

Ready!Two artists deeply engaged in their workTwo happy lamas with their paintings

New day, new activity. This time we had a full day tour to Cotopaxi national park with hopes of seeing Cotopaxi itself. A bumpy ride on gravel roads through fog and rain did not look very promising. However, in Ecuador, the weather is crazy and can apparently change fast. It did not change on our hike up to Cotopaxi Base Camp unfortunately. A steep one hour incline in strong wind and lashing rain through volcano sand at 4600m altitude with no view at all easily make it to top 3 worst hikes we’ve done. We were glad the way back to the car only took 15min, where we took shelter and enjoyed our packed picnic lunch. In the afternoon, weather clear up a little bit, and we finally got to see the top of Cotopaxi when we walked around a close by lake. After all, today was a good excursion, and we’ll most likely enjoy the open fireplace later tonight.

Amazing view over the Andes, not! Wet and tired at Base CampMandatory picture of the signCotopaxi finally showed itself A little rascal lizard

Roses are a main export for Ecuador with over 400 varieties growing in the Andes highlands. Luckily, we had one plantation in walking distance from our Hacienda, so we payed a visit (Must be easy being a husband in these areas…). This plantation alone produced 80,000 roses a day and around 2million each month. We were walked through from rose bush to bundled and ready for shipment, almost everything done by hand. A highly efficient system of workers indeed. The best roses went to USA and Russia while the roses with less quality stays on the domestic market.

Inside the plantationSorting in the production lineThe roses with “less” quality. 1 dollar per bucket on the domestic market.

In the afternoon, we participated in a “cooking class”, where we were shown how to make empanadas, a traditional dish in Ecuador. In was fun to be in the kitchen with the staff and prepare our own entree for dinner.

Minna in action

This closes another chapter in Ecuador journey. Next we head into more tropical regions and the Cuyabeno area of the Amazonas. We finish this blog post with a few days old baby cow. Adios!