The rooster crowed at 6 to wake Maya up, at 8 to drag me out of bed, and again at 10. The sun was shining intensely; it was a stunningly bright and welcoming day. Maya and I wandered all over the hacienda, finding great views of Cayambe and Imbabura, a swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam bath, a playground, tennis courts, a volleyball court, a cock fighting theatre (or dogs?...I thought at first the round structure was a chapel!), and most importantly horses. Maya was able to ride a white horse for an hour or so. It was a very lazy horse who mostly wanted to eat grass and other flowering plants, so Maya's ride was mostly a struggle to convince her horse to move. I wanted to get on a horse as well, and that will be a priority each time we come to the mountains for a weekend.
I was excited to see Imbabura and Cotocachi and Cayambe clearly. Unfortunately there was a forest fire on Imbabura (and in fact there were so many forest fires dotting the mountains and hills all the way home, it was all rather shocking!). Taita Imbabura and Mama Cotacachi are mates, and when Imbabura visits Cotacachi during the night, there is a dusting of snow on her top in the morning. Imbabura had evidently visited his wife during the night. Cayambe is simply magnificent, and accompanied us most of the way home.
The Johns Hopkins students had stayed at the Hosteria Chorlavi on several occasions, but had encountered difficulties and had moved to Las Palmeras the past few years, which is closer to Otavalo. Although the rooms are not impressive at Chorlavi, the grounds of the hacienda are beautiful and entertaining, and with the perfect weather and the great views of the surrounding mountains, I was charmed by the place. The absolutely best hotel we have stayed at around Otavalo is the Hacienda Cusin, owned by a rather eccentric American, but the cost is double that of the other choices. We looked at PuertoLago on Lago San Pablo yesterday, which is another option, and today when we were near Peguche, we visited the Casa Sol, which has great views out over the valley, and is most charming. Eric likes to return to the same place year after year, I feel that I want to explore other options, not only for the students, but for Eric, Maya and I when we next venture north.
Maya was thrilled with her horse riding, and equally enthusiastic when we climbed up to see the waterfalls at Peguche. Above the main falls, one can scramble over rocks to get to another waterfall in a cave, which kept Maya busy until she fell in the water and became soaking wet. Although at the entrance to the falls there were several booths selling local handicrafts, the visitors to the falls were all local, and we stood out as the only gringos. When we left the falls to drive down the mountain, it appeared that the warm and sunny weather had brought many people to bathe in the river, to wash clothes and their cars, or just put their feet in to cool off.
We stopped briefly in Otavalo. It is too easy to get distracted at the market and buy more than one needs or wants, so I tried to remain focused. We need warm blankets for the very cold nights. When we were at Yanayacu, the beds had thick wonderful blankets we have been dreaming of since, but we did not find them at the market and when we asked we were told there was a factory on the road out of Otavalo, but that it was closed on Sunday. I chose two thin alpaca blankets, which turned out to be small for our bed, but are beautiful and warm. Maya and I also chose warm shawls to wear in the evening when it gets colder.
We headed back to Quito early, and this time took the alternate route home. The Panamerican highway is divided so one can either drive through Cayambe or through Tabacundo. The latter drive is less interesting except that the ruins of Cochasqui are on the way, and we usually take the students to see the pre-columbian mounds. The landscape is harsh and dry and uninviting, and the drive is more treacherous ( but great for a motorcycle says Eric). All cars came to a dead stop outside of Guayllabamba, and then crawled along slowly, only to discover that the road to Quito was closed and we were turned back to El Quinche and then took a longer alternate route back home. Instead of being home by 6 to make a Megamaxi run and return the truck to Tom, it took another three hours of difficult driving bumper to bumper to get back to Quito. The sun was setting spectacularly as we drove, so that was compensation for our frustration.