Sunday, October 11, 2009

Valley of the Volcanoes

Cotopaxi Obscured by Clouds

I had brought a suitcase full of warm toasty clothes, none of which were necessary this weekend. We had a roaring fire in our room all evening and fell asleep with the logs crackling (we all smelled a little smokey in the morning), and the sun was shining brightly when we woke up. Cotopaxi was shining too, clear of clouds and glorious. We were busy getting the horses ready for our ride, so I did not get my camera out; by the time I remembered to take a photograph, clouds had rolled in and covered the top of the mountain. The clouds multiplied through the day (bringing rain eventually), and Cotopaxi remained obscured, so we will have to return for more photographs!!!

Capulina and Maya

Maya was initally disappointed that the horses were so small. Yet Capulina, Mandarina and Chimboazo and Princesa were strong and hardy and responsive, so we were able to trot and canter through the small towns and country roads around La Cienega. Only Eric suffered, being far too large for his horse. His feet almost reached the ground, and he felt that maybe he ought to be carrying the horse. It was clear that Maya and I were far more excited about riding horses than Eric was. We wandered through the local pueblos, passing cows and pigs and horses and lots of children. Many farmers were working, but mostly the towns were emptied of inhabitants; they were all at mass, so the churches were full. The valley is a wide one, and dwarfed by the surrounding mountains, Iliniza and Cotopaxi being the most spectacular ones.

Cotopaxi National Park

We had a quick lunch at the hacienda after our three hour ride, and hoped to visit Cotopaxi National Park, but took a few wrong turns and arrived at the park entrance too late to spend too much time there. We decided to visit another hacienda instead, which happened to be close to the park entrance. I had wanted to stay at St Augustin de Callo, which was built around and on top of an old Inca structure, so that several of the original stone walls are incorporated in the building. The price was outrageous, so we had chosen La Cienega instead. We followed the signs (which were yellow arrows and lettering on white washed stones along the way), passing through a roadful of cows returning home for the night, and were surprised to find the hacienda to be rather modest and not at all as luxurious as I had expected. It had a homey feel, was decorated tastefully, and did in fact use several original Incan walls as part of its structure. There was or would have been an incredible view of Cotopaxi if there had been fewer clouds. We had tea in the 'living room' and admired the view and the wonderful books piled on every surface. Eric was interested in a former president who had once owned the hacienda (Galo Plaza), and read about his story. I found a book I had seen before about Pre-Columbian Ecaudorians and discovered that there are several other excellent collections of artifacts in the country that I must find.

Cows on the Road

St Augustin de Callo

Our drive home was not as bad as I had expected. It was raining, we had some stop and go moments, but we managed to avoid the southern part of the city and arrived home before dark, before it was too wet and treacherous, in time to make dinner, practice violin, catch up on Spanish homework and rest.

View of Cotopaxi from St Augustin de Callo

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