After breakfast, we exit Quito on the Pan
American Highway (16,000 miles from Alaska to Chile) and drive a short distance to the village of Calder6n.
Here we saw the unique Ecuadorian folk art of bread-dolls (Massapan). These durable (and inedible) folk sculptures range from Christmas
tree ornaments to small statuettes.
continued on to Imbabura, the province of lakes and mountains, of inspiring
landscapes and folklore. This province is only 80 kilometers north from Quito on
the Pan American Highway. We stopped at
Cochasquí, where we walked among mysterious earth pyramid structures
constructed by the pre-Incan Cara Indians. This site had ruins from 800
A.D. There's an amazing panoramic view
from here, and a small museum. We also walked on the Inca Trail, saw
Llamas and horses in the pasture and then watched a baby Llama that was born
only minutes before.
Driving east, we then turn north onto a small
road. We are now in a rural valley to the east of 15,000-foot Volcán Imbabura.
Here we visit Indian villages set among large haciendas, such as La Esperanza
and Zuleta. Relatively few outsiders ever come here, where many of the
inhabitants still dress in a traditional style: women's clothing often has
intricate and colorful embroidery.
We have lunch at the Hacienda Luis.
lunch we pass through the attractive colonial town of Ibarra, then turn west. By
now we have almost circumnavigated the Volcán Imbabura.
In the late afternoon, we arrive at Hacienda
Cusin where we stay for the next two nights.
The Hacienda Cusin, situated at 7,600 ft, in the heartland of the
Otavalan Indian tribe, is within a short walking distance of the San Pablo Lake,
a mystical body of water for the Otavalan Indians living on its shores. A
spectacular view of Mt. Imbabura, standing 15,250 ft. high, can be seen from the
road in front of the hacienda.. Built in 1602, Hacienda Cusin is named after an
Indian chief who fought the invading Incas in the 15th century.
The next morning we visit a village
community almost entirely devoted to the art of traditional handcrafted weaving
on the "back-strap" loom. Since early in this century, Otavaleños
have developed hand weaving (Agato) to a high art, and their colorful textiles are well
known throughout South America and beyond.
We also visit
Cotacachi Village that has very
good woodcarvings as well as handmade leather goods. Another stop is at
a small town, Icuman, that makes felt hats. We were invited in to watch. The
work is done in private homes.
In the afternoon, Marcello took us on a hiking
excursion. We drive from Cotachi to a
giant crater on the lower southern flanks of Volcán Cuicocha. Laguna de
Cuicocha is a deep lake nestled within the crater, and we hike high above its
azure waters. We then had the unexpected pleasure of being offered a boat ride
on the lake and entrance to the local museum for the price of $1.00 each.
The boat ride took us around the large island and we stopped to see gas and
sulfur still coming up through the water from the crater beneath. Very
Another unexpected (and unplanned) event was a visit to a home of famous
musicians. We picked up three girls dressed in highland attire and found
them to be part of this family. Our guide got directions to the house and
we had a wonderful time watching a flute made from basic bamboo looking
The next morning we drove to the craft bazaars of
Otavalo town. Otavalo is a small city of about 50,000 inhabitants. It
lies at 2,530 meters in a spring-like valley, situated between the Imbabura
volcano (4,609 meters) and the Cotacachi volcano (4,939 meters).
The most famous indigenous market in Ecuador is held
here. Although the market is bigger on Saturdays, you can visit it any day and
find an impressive variety of all kinds of Ecuadorian handcrafts. At dawn you
may see indigenous people arriving the market place from many mountain trails
surrounding the city. They come from nearby villages and towns such as Peguche,
Agato and Iluman, to sell their products. One may visit the workshops of these
local weavers working on backstrap and Spanish treadle looms, as well as other
artisans at work making felt hats, knitting sweaters or weaving straw mats.
We were told on Saturday morning is when animals are sold.
San Antonio de Ibarra:
everyone is in the business of carving wooden items that are sold in small shops around the village.
this clean, freshly painted colonial
city, capital of the province, is also known as the white city. It's on the Pan
We stopped for lunch near a monument that marks the spot where we
cross the Equator, at about9,000 feet. Here's a gem of geographical trivia: just
a short distance east of here, the Equator reaches its maximum elevation, about
15,100 feet, on the southern slopes of snow-capped Volcán Cayambe. We linger a
bit on this boundary between hemispheres and visit the Ethnological Museum at
the Equatorial Monument.
We then return to Quito and get ready for the trip home the next morning.
All our flights were on-time and arrived home on schedule - with all our
baggage. We flew Quito --> Miami --> Dallas -->Tucson.