Orquideario – Cuenca, Ecuador, South America

“What are you doing today?”
inquired Sheik, my graying Costa Rican neighbor.

“We’re
going to the orquideario,” I answered. The
dark-featured woman had a blank look on her face. “You know,
the place where they grow orchids,” I continued after sipping my coffee.

“No, that’s
not the word. It’s vivero or invernadero,
but not orquideario” the lanky lady
insisted.

My fair-skinned
girlfriend, Amanda, laughed behind her cup of tea. She was visiting me from the U.S. and had
arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador, a few weeks earlier. I
showed my fiery friend evidence to the contrary, pointing to a paragraph titled
"Orquideario", in her Lonely Planet.
Sheik grabbed the guidebook from me, squinted at the page, and shook her
head in disbelief.

Realizing
that our destination closed at noon, Amanda and I excused ourselves, kissed my
spunky neighbor on the cheek, and quickly headed for the open door.

“That word
doesn’t exist,” we could hear the Costa Rican mumble to herself as we left.

I followed Amanda
through the fenced exit of my apartment complex and waved down a
taxi.

“Where to?” the young cabbie asked
while we crawled into the backseat.

“The orquideario,”
I answered, shutting the door on my right.

“The one on
la Quinta de Balsaín?” he further pried.

I nodded and grinned. I couldn’t help but smile because in spite of
Sheik’s strong denial of the word, the driver had obviously heard “orquideario”
before.

Ten minutes
later, Amanda and I were strolling by cows that were munching
on an overcast field. Wandering down a
dirt road, the two of us approached a set of black gates, which were pushed
open. Beyond the iron entrance was a grassy
driveway, worn down by a set of muddy tire tracks. We slowly entered.

Following the earthy entryway we arrived at the door of a small greenhouse. After we paid the attendant one
dollar, the young man told us we could take a look in the glassed structures
ahead. Curious, Amanda and I exited the building,
stepping onto a small courtyard.

“This is
it?” I questioned my girlfriend, scanning over the tiny greenspace dotted with
a few circular, stony gardens. She
shrugged.

“Huh, your
book really raved about this place. It
said this was one of the best orquidearios in the country,” I continued,
staring at the handful of small greenhouses that skirted the lawn. Despite my
skepticism, we opted to investigate the modest
conservatory.

Orquideario Cesemin

Orquideario Cesemin

We were pleasantly surprised by what we found inside: beautiful plants dangling their long,
healthy leaves from glassed roofs, flaunting their bright colors atop numerous tables. Aside from the vibrant
violets, radiant reds and glowing yellows that decorated our route, we were captivated by the various vines that hung from many
evergreen pots overhead. We must have
smelled the flowers and posed with plants for almost an hour before the two of
us finally left.

Returning to
the main road, Amanda and I couldn’t stop talking about the showy flowers
within those windowed walls. As we continued to discuss our visit, we agreed on a couple of things: the
tiny nursery certainly packed a lot of punch and “orquideario” was a word we
weren’t about to forget.

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8

BUDGET $51 per day

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