Saturday, October 10, 2009


La Cienega

I have been looking forward to visiting to Cotopaxi, which has been peeking out from the clouds regularly since we arrived in Quito. We had a reservation at 'La Cienega', a 400 year old hacienda, which I remember visiting several years ago. Maya wanted to go horsebackriding, so the plan was to get moving early, but it was also exciting to watch all the Ecuadorian soccer fans milling about for the noon opening of Atahualpa stadium. The game between Ecuador and Uruguay was to begin at 5 PM, but the celebration truly started last night after midnight, when what I believe were fireworks, interrupted the black night. They sounded like huge bombs going off and kept me from sleeping for hours, and this morning, when I escaped the house for a coffee at El Espanol at Quicentro, crowds of yellow jerseyed fans were lined up for snacks and lunches. The delicatessen had an assembly line for sandwiches, and all the tables had been removed to accommodate the people. Many had their faces painted in yellow, red and blue, they were waving banners, children held onto balloons, hawkers were selling all sorts of yellow coloured paraphernalia, yelling in high pitched voices. There were scalpers selling tickets, for every part of the stadium from 'general audience' to high priced seats, and buyers were holding their new tickets up to the light to be sure they were legit. The police were in force, many with riot gear and huge German shepherds on leashes. Roads were blocked off, and when Eric went to get the truck, he needed to wind his way through traffic cones to arrive in front of the building. The excitement was ramping up, fans were chanting, their faces painted the colours of the Ecuadorian flag, the energy and enthusiasm was mounting. I was questioning whether we ought to stay for the event. I thought all QuiteƱos had left for the long weekend, but either they returned for the game, or never left. I wanted to get out into the crowds and participate, but it was time to travel south for a quiet weekend in the mountains.

Cotopaxi was elusive today, bathed in clouds. In fact, Cotopaxi had been far more visible from Quito than when we were standing right next to it.. Rain was threatening and we felt a few drops. We decided to check into our hacienda, which is a huge 400 year old structure with its own chapel. Eric and I had visited and had eaten lunch there several years ago, and had remembered it as a place we would like to return to. We had an easy drive down to Cotopaxi, except that at a stretch of road in the southern part of the city, we were told by a man on the side of the road that our tire was damaged. When Eric got out of the car to look at the damage, the man, conveniently dressed in a 'Chevrolet' work uniform, advised us to go to a mechanic 'down to the right' , which happened to be his shop. Three other observers reported that something was amiss with the car, but Eric checked the tires at a gas station, and decided that the tires were fine and that we need not fix anything. The man was irritated and finally left but it was unsettling to know that we were almost scammed again, that several people were involved in the setup, which may have ended very badly for us. Eric and I are convinced it was a conspiracy to hijack our car or at least an effort to rob us of our belongings. Thankfully we were too suspicious of the fellow, and the gas station attendant who took care of our car and our gas, was suspicious of him too. It was an unpeasant experience and once again made us feel vulnerable and unsafe.

Fountain in Atrium of La CienegaEntrance to La Cienega

Chapel at La Cienega

The valley south of Quito is green and rolling, with farms and rose plantations and cows and sheep and horses in the pastures. Cotopaxi was shrouded in fog and clouds as we drove along the 'Valley of the Volcanoes'. We passed the Ilinizas, Ruminahui, Corazon, as well as Cotopaxi. La Cienega is a old hacienda, and was a working farm for hundreds of years, owning huge amounts of property. It was restored as a hotel in 1972. It has a lovely atrium with a fountain and flowers, and lovely big rooms with metre thick walls. A fireplace burns in each room. The first task on our agenda was to find horses to ride, but it turned out that it was too late and we would have to wait until the morning, so we booked for 9 AM the following day. We ran into a family of Americans, the parents of whom are working at the American Embassy. Maya had a blast running around the grounds of the hacienda with the three children, twin boys age 8 and a ten year old girl named Blanca. The children did not stop playing until we dragged Maya back to our room for bed.

Bianca, Luke, Nicholas, Maya and Eric

We all watched the futbol game between Ecuador and Uruguay on a tiny ancient television in the bar of the hacienda, which was frustrating because Ecuador, although controlling the ball in the first half of the game, fizzled out in the second half and ultimately lost the game and may not make it to the World Cup. Now I can understand the need for riot police. I wonder about the reaction of the thousands of fans after watching their team lose rather miserably.

Ready Riot Police

Running Around the Hacienda

Cotopaxi never showed itself, although on a clear day it is probably visible from the hacienda. We will ride horses in the morning and venture to Cotopaxi National Park tomorrow afternoon.
Entrance to La Cienega

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