We were all packed into the Blazer for our first expedition outside of Quito. Our first stop was Mitad del Mundo - literally "Middle of the World" which is where the equator crosses and also where Ecuador gets its name. We did the standard tourist fare - all of us standing in either the northern or southern hemisphere and the classic one foot in each hemisphere. After our tourist attraction fix (and the stamp in our passports!) we piled back into the Blazer and Lucio our driver whisked us through some very dry and dusty landscape. When we entered Imbarro state all of a sudden the scenary turned green and lush and looked similar to the Alps in Austria. Surrounded by extinct volcanoes, we finally arrived to our Hacienda that we would call home for the next two nights.
Hacienda Pinsaqui about 4kms outside of Otavalo is lovely. It is as you would picture it - white-washed walls, long hallways, big windows and high ceilings. In addition there were fireplaces everywhere - most of them the size of the flat in London! Our room (3) was on three floors and we had a full view of the lovely horses and stables that also belong to the Hacienda. We had a briliant lunch and a walk around the gardens which were full of flowers and orange trees, scenting the air with their blossoms.
After a short siesta, we reconvened for our welcome drinks in the cozy bar where we listened to some local musicians. After dinner, we retired to the room with some wine and a deck of cards and Jonathan and I learned Poker in front of our roaring fire. Sleep came easily that night.
After a large breakfast we headed into Otavalo to visit the famous crafts market which we were told is the most famous in Soouth America. It was relatively uncrowded, as most of the tour buses arrive on Saturday so Meredith employed her excellent shopping and bargaining skills and scored some very interesting hats!
Back at the ranch (sorry, I couldn't help that one...) we saddled up, jumped on our horses and were off for a horseride up to the Imbarro volcano. It all went relatively smoothly, but the galloping was a bit much for me (and my horse) - he slipped and I thought that I was done for! Luckily he recovered quickly and as it was a western saddle, I held on for dear life! Still, the scenary was spectacular, the volcano stunning, and we had a great time. We all had trouble walking when we got off the horses and reconsidered whether the rodeo lifestyle was for us....
Changed rooms, they put us in room 8 for tonight.... a big suprise given it was room they show in the brochure and was complete with a big jacuzzi and fireplace... we didn't complain and looked forward to piling in to ease our sore muscles after our riding experience.
After another great dinner, we had some more poker. Jonathan has acquired a new poker name "Juan Cardaway"... I have yet to come by my name as the horseriding and wine was too much for me and I lay snoring while the rest shifted their chips back and forth in front of the fire.
After lunch (and several tour groups who arrived at our Hacienda for lunch after shopping in Otavalo) we headed back to Quito to prepare for our trip in the morning to the Galapagos. The northern highlands were stunning, and the people here are really fantastic...very warm and friendly! To top it off, Ecuador has just beat Argentina in football, here in Quito, so I think it will be a crazy night!