April 27th – Otavala, San Antonio Ibarra and Cotocachi
Thought that vacations were supposed to be restful! Ernesto right on time as usual and Tom was late as usual. We stopped after about half an hours travel at a shop where a little ol gramma and grandpa make and sell figurines and ornaments of bread dough. Each colorful ornament is made up of many tiny bits of colored dough, dried. Bought lots of Christmas ornaments at 15 cents each. Ernesto had every moment of our day accounted for and he only allowed 30 minutes here!
On to a gorgeous old ranch where we had breakfast. Once a large working ranch, the Hacienda Cusin is now reduced in size but not in beauty. They now offer rooms for rent and share their incredibly beautiful gardens with travelers. It was here that I had the most delicious fruit juice I’m ever likely to experience! This area of the Andes is known for its pineapple and flower production. The fresh pineapple juice is so totally unlike the processed version we know as to be completely unrecognizable. Very pale in color, slightly thickened and indescribably delicious…I drank 4 full glasses.
David has added a new dislike to his long list: tree tomatoes. A fruit similar in size and shape to a lemon, reddish purple in color, and very smooth skinned, the tree tomato has seeds like a tomato and a similar flavor but with a more acidic and bitter taste. We found these growing in the garden although not quite ripe.
There is also a huge avocado tree in the courtyard near the bungalows. Dicksie and I decided we could just lie around in the garden and get our aerobics waiting for the fruit to fall. The aquacate reina stuffed with chicken salad is wonderful everywhere I ordered it.
From here we traveled on to Otavala. The Indian weavers here are known world wide and their goods have an international market. The local market, on Saturdays only, is mind boggling. Individual vendors display their handiwork on the square and surrounding streets. Must be hundreds of them lined up shoulder to shoulder. Mike bought me a beautiful silver and opal bracelet and earrings. I bought a ring shaped from a fork, some belts, and woven bookmarks for my fellow workers who are holding down the home front. One could easily spend an entire weekend here just looking at goods and bargaining. David and I were hard-driving bargainers and as we stood wrangling over a few cents, Mike and Dicksie were at our backs giving away money to children and beggars!
San Antonio Ibarra, know for its wood carvers, was our next stop. All I bought was a skull carved from mahogany for $6.00. Desperately wanted to buy a lovely calla lily centerpiece for $80.00 but the store didn’t accept credit cards and did not have the cash. If I ever go back, I will bring home that calla lily piece!
The rest of the afternoon was spent in Cotocachi, known for its leather goods. Bought a suede coat and some backpack purses and a duffel to carry them home in. But if I had it to do again, would pass on the leather goods and spend more time in the market at Otavala. I found most of the leathers overpriced and under quality.
My favorite purchase of the trip though had been made the day before at the joyeria across the street from the hotel Alameda in Quito: a sterling ring with a gold jaguar on it for $30.
April 28th – Homeward Bound!
Up just in time for a cup of hot tea at the hotel, then to the airport for our AA flight and out at 0900.
Nothing to eat since the evening before, I was starved and ate my whole breakfast on the flight. Two weeks in South America with no gastric problems, and I got food poisoning on the AA flight from Quito to Miami. Two hours after eating, I had the beginnings of diarrhea that was to continue for 2 days.
Customs in Miami was a snap this time, and the conveyor belt didn’t even try to eat the camera strap!