Saturday, September 12, 2009

North of Quito

We met Tom at his house after he had been up to Pappallacta and back to catch and listen to birds. He reported that it had been much colder than usual and the birds were avoiding his nets, so he recorded only one bird and came home disappointed and exhausted. Eric is interested in joining him one morning; perhaps we will all drive to Pappallacta for a weekend; Eric and Tom will go out at 3 AM to record birdsong, and Maya and I will hike and sit in the hot springs and look for Speckled Bear.

Eric took over the truck and we drove north to Otavalo. We passed Calderon, where the local craft is making intricate figures out of bread dough. We drove along the Guayllabamba River and passed the 'Mital del Mundo'. We drove by the spectacular mountain/volcano Cayambe, which was obscured by clouds except for glimpses as we passed by. Just before Otavalo we saw a huge political rally where we could hear that the language was not Spanish but Quichua. We stopped at Puertolago for lunch looking out on the lake. The view of Taita Imbabura is wonderful. Cotacahi was hiding this time. Most of the valley was full of smoke because of the forest fires, which were all over the mountains during our drive.
Our plan was to visit San Antonio de Ibarra to look at furniture, which is all handmade and known throughout Ecuador. We did find a table and chairs we liked, and another store we visited said they could make any bed we want to order for a very reasonable price. The town is characterized by the tradition of woodcarving , and Eric and I were excited by the possibility of working in a studio to learn how to carve wood. We happened to walk into a shop which offered classes and sold the tools needed. The owner described how he had learned from his grandfather during the summer and whenever he had a break from school. When he had finished university, he had decided to return to woodcarving as a career, and most of all likes to teach. He showed us his studio. I was interested, but I believe Eric has more talent for such a skill.

I wanted to find a hacienda where we could all ride horses, so we chose one past Ibarra on the road to Tulcan, which is close to the border with Columbia. We drove and drove and drove through a wide and fertile valley to find the hacienda San Francisco near some hot springs, and when we arrived late in the evening, Maya was delighted to see the barn and the horses, and the room was perfect, but the price had been doubled since we had called and asked for a room and we were unsuccessful in our efforts to negotiate. We decided to drive back to another hacienda we had seen a few miles earlier, but it was huge and charming and closed, so we headed back to Ibarra in the dark to Hacienda Chorlavi, where we had stayed before with the students, and we chose to be happy with it and enjoy its charm and affordable cost. It is just outside of San Antonio de Ibarra.

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