A Travellerspoint blog

Day 4 – March 15: Horseback riding and hiking to waterfalls

MILKING THE COW

First thing in the morning, we got to milk the cow! I grew up in Minnesota and spent some time on the “farm”, but if I ever milked a cow, I just don’t remember (and you’d think I would). Anyway, I know it’s not as easy as it looks, so I was a little intimidated.

In the end, it wasn’t so hard (or so I thought). They brought the cow in, and get her all “locked in”. Then they bring in the bucket and show you the technique. My husband had spent some of his childhood on a farm, so this was second nature to him, but I wasn’t so sure. I did actually get the milk to come out, and I squirted our poor cow guy a few times in the arm, but it was generally successful. Then our cow guy showed us how it’s really done – squirt, squirt – squirt, squirt – like it’s nothing. Definitely, not something you do every day!

HORSEBACK RIDING

After breakfast, it was time to go horseback riding. My son was not so excited about the idea of horseback riding (“it smells,” he says), but in the end it was his favorite part of the experience.

The first step is looking the part, of course. We get our alpaca-fur chaps, ponchos, and Ecuadorian-style cowboy hats. At least we felt like the real thing!

We went off on a two hour ride across the beautiful fields of the hacienda with views of snow-capped Cotapaxi and Cayambe volcanoes in the background.

I have done horseback rides in Colorado and Idaho, known as the “American West”, but this was a completely different experience. This is not “nose-to-butt” single-file on a trail walking, walking, walking. This is riding across the fields wherever the horses lead you, and then cantering (galloping) with the wind in your hair and your fellow riders at your side. What an exhilarating experience!

At the highest point of our ride, our local guide brought out mint tea and cookies for a short rest, and then home to our cozy hacienda.

HACIENDA

After lunch and a siesta, we joined two women from Germany and our local guide, Roberto, for a short hike to nearby waterfalls. It was muddy on this day, so be prepared to get your feet dirty, but well worth the view.

The rest of the day was spent reading and playing games in the comfortable living room around the warm fireplace.

CLOTHING:

For the horseback ride, I had on my thickest long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a fleece jacket. With the poncho, I was definitely warm enough.

For the hike to the waterfalls, I also had my rain jacket on as it was drizzling a bit off and on.

FOOD:

Breakfast starts with fruit, yogurt, and granola. You get your choice of eggs and rolls with marmalade and honey.

Lunch and dinner starts with soup like potato, quinoa, or chicken. For the main course, you get a choice of chicken, beef, trout, or pork with potatoes, rice, or quinoa plus vegetables and salad. It was all very good as well as being authentic Ecuadorian cuisine.

Posted by bolderwork 14:54 Archived in Ecuador Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Day 3 – March 14: Cotopaxi Area and Canopy Tour

CANOPY TOUR

It’s not easy to find lattes in Quito at 7:30am on a Sunday, but I managed to find one around the corner from the Le Parc Hotel.

We left for the Cotopaxi area by 8:00am to our first stop, the Hacienda Santa Rita, about 1 ½ hours away. The first half of the drive is on paved roads (but not necessarily smooth or straight), and the second half is on bumpy rock-paved or dirt roads.

Santa Rita is a private reserve which has some nice hiking trails, but most importantly the Salto Canyon Canopy Tour (zip lines). There is an interpretation center at Santa Rita with a presentation about ecological projects in the area.

It is here that we got our climbing harness, leather gloves, and helmet for the canopy tour.

Our guide led us up the 45 minute hike to the first canopy line. There are interpretive signs along the way, and it was interesting to learn about the volcanic rock, flora, and fauna in the area.

At our first zip line, we got the full safety briefing and instructions. It is a very deep canyon, and I don’t do so well with heights, so I was a little nervous, but my 8-year-old son didn’t hesitate and away he went. You can’t turn back when the 8-year-old is waiting for you!

What an amazing experience! It’s fast, it gives you an amazing perspective, and the views are incredible.

We did 5 zip lines back and forth back down the canyon to the Santa Rita hut. As we became more comfortable, we added a flip upside down. There was one line where you could stop in the middle and enjoy the view for a bit longer.

After these 5 zip lines, we decided to continue on with the 2 optional lines. To get there, you have to climb on-belay up metal handholds. The guide makes it look easy, but it feels more like rock climbing than it first appears.

The last 2 zip lines took us back to the Santa Rita hut. After taking off our gear, lunch was ready at the nice picnic tables with grass umbrellas.

HACIENDA

We were given the option to do a little trout fishing, but we opted to go back to our hotel for the evening, Hacienda Provenir, about 30 minutes away.

At the hacienda, we were greeted with a local sweet tea and tasty empanadas in the beautiful living room with welcoming fire. We learned a bit about the history of the area and the activities that are available.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the hacienda and even attempted to fly a kite.

We enjoyed a delicious dinner of local Ecuadorian food in the cozy dining room next to the fireplace.

LODGING

We were the first ones in the hacienda, and it wasn’t full, so we got a choice of rooms. For 2 people, I recommend Room #1 which is a suite off the main lounge with a queen bed, table, and fireplace. There are other double rooms on the main floor, which would be my second choice. We chose a room upstairs that was very large, had 4 beds, and a wood stove – perfect for a family of 3 or 4. Upstairs there are also tiny rooms with shared bath for budget travelers.

The main building of the hacienda has a large living room for gathering around 2 fireplaces, a cozy dining room with fireplace, and a number of guest rooms. There is a separate building that had a number of double, triple, and quad rooms as well as a conference room and game room.

This is a working hacienda with cows, llamas, and bulls. The background is the impressive snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano with intermittent views of the Cayambe volcano. There are many trails around the property that are perfect for easy hiking and biking.

CLOTHING:

It is much colder in the highlands, so we wore long pants, long-sleeve shirts, and carried our jackets with us. I wore my jacket at Santa Rita, but took it off shortly after we started the hike and while doing the zip lines.

At the hacienda, it was colder when it got cloudy and at night, so a jacket was a must.

FOOD:

Lunch was grilled right at Santa Rita – chicken and beef kabobs with fava beans, corn, and cheese. Very traditional and tasty!

Dinner was traditional Ecuadorian food. We purchased a bottle or organic Chilean wine to accompany dinner.

Posted by bolderwork 14:50 Archived in Ecuador Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Day 2 – March 13: Quito City Tour and Equator

QUITO CITY TOUR:

We had a bit of trouble adjusting to the new time zone, but we were still ready for our city tour at 9:00am. We had a private car and guide, which was nice (particularly with kids) because we could make extra stops and manage our own time at each place.

Our first stop was the Basilica, which is a magnificent building up on a hill. The gargoyles were actually sculpted into animals from Ecuador and the Galapagos.

Next we went to Old Town Quito and Plaza Grande, which has the Presidential Palace and a cathedral around a nice courtyard. We spent about 15 minutes looking around and then our guide took us up to the balcony and courtyard of the Presidential Palace that is open to visitors.

Our guide then took us on a nice walking tour that included the “Gold Church” and the San Francisco Cathedral. Both well worth the visit.

There is also a narrow street in the area called La Ronda that is very cute and worth a short walk.

We had lunch right outside/below the San Francisco Cathedral, which had a nice outdoor dining area with good food and better people watching.

Our last stop was the Center of the World Monument where you can get your picture on the equator. They also have some science experiments and an old indigenous village. It was worth about half of the 30 minutes there, but we had to get our pictures!

EVENING:

We were pretty tired, so we had a couple of hours to rest at our hotel before dinner. We went to Mama Clorinda’s, which serves traditional Ecuadorian food in Plaza Foch, an area full of restaurants and bars.

Back at our hotel, we went to the open-air rooftop bar for a nightcap before bed.

FOOD:

Breakfast is included at the hotel. They had bread, sandwich meat, fruit, and juice.

Our lunch at the San Francisco Church was a bowl of potato soup, shrimp ceviche, and empanadas were all excellent and came to $25 including drinks and tip for 3 people.

Dinner Mama Clorinda’s was fine, but we got better Ecuadorian food elsewhere in our trip (Hacienda El Porvenir, for example).

Posted by bolderwork 14:49 Archived in Ecuador Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Day 1 – March 12: Denver-Quito

FLIGHT TO QUITO:

Our flight from Denver, Colorado to Quito, Ecuador (Continental Airlines) departed Denver at 11:00am (Mountain Time), and we landed in Quito at 10:00pm (Eastern Time) with one stop in Houston. The first flight was about 3 hours, and the second flight was about 5 hours.

ARRIVAL IN QUITO:

We had a driver waiting for us at the airport to take us to our hotel. It was very nice not having to negotiate with the barrage of taxi drivers at the airport, but you should be able to get a taxi to central Quito for about $5 one-way (negotiate the price before getting in the taxi).

Keep your luggage tags for your checked luggage because they check those after customs!

LODGING:

Our hotel was Le Parc, which is a 15-story building with very modern decorations. It is located near Parque La Carolina, which is large city park and very convenient for families with kids and for runners who need some exercise in the big city.

We had a suite, which they made into a triple for our son. It was nice because he was in a separate room with a separate TV. We had a king size bed, TV, and large windows all around. The bathroom was a nice size and had an interesting rain showerhead.

There was a small but nice bar, and a sushi restaurant off the lobby. On the roof was a rooftop bar with light snacks.

CLOTHING:

For the plane ride, I wore comfortable (long pants and long-sleeve shirt) with my fleece jacket (doubles as a pillow) and easy-on hiking shoes. It was warm in Quito, but these clothes were still comfortable.

FOOD:

We got some food in the airports along the way, and the international flight served a sandwich.

Posted by bolderwork 12:32 Archived in Ecuador Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Highlights of the Trip

Watching my 8-year-old son:
• Laugh and laugh while cantering on a horse at a hacienda near the base of Cotopaxi
• Exclaim “Wow!” inside the “Gold Church” in Quito
• Play Frisbee with a local boy in Salinas
• Snorkeling with “vegetarian” sharks
• Giving his favorite sea lions names
• Swimming with piranhas in the Amazon rain forest

For me:
• Hiking to the glaciers of Cotopaxi at 16,000 feet
• Watching taffy being made and eating raw sugar cane in Banos
• Snorkeling with penguins and sea lions in the Galapagos
• Exploring the Amazon rain forest from above the canopy

Posted by bolderwork 12:21 Comments (0)

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