Monday, July 03, 2017

Day 3 (25 June 2017) – Puerto Lago/Otovalo - Adventures by Disney Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Tour (23 Jun – 2 July 2017)

The sun come up at around 6 am which woke me up and I finally got out of bed at around 6:30 am. The bed was a just a little too firm for my tastes. I got dressed and took my laptop with me to have a walk around the resort. There's a field with some vendors and a bunch of llamas, a tennis court, and a mini soccer field.

 One thing that was pointed to us by Robby was that houses in Ecuador were always in a state of “incomplete” as family units were added to existing houses when new members were added to the family. There were many houses that were abandoned as well as ones that had upper stories with rebar and blocks sticking up waiting for the next level to be added when the family could afford it. It gave the country a very unrefined and “rough” look. Rarely were any of the houses made of wood or brick so I was very surprised that the Puerto Lago Country Inn that we were staying at was so nice and all the guest houses were made of wood. The property was beautifully maintained.

When I got done walking around, I went to the end of the pier by the lake and sat by the water intending on finally getting caught up on my blog. A friendly little cat came over which surprised me a bit since the seats were out over the water. It snuggled in my lap as I finally got my blog started for this trip. I’ve also been struck at how many dogs there are everywhere – all just wandering around and many just laying on the sidewalks or by the road. It seemed every street corner in the more rural areas had a dog on it.

I didn’t get too far with my blog when Seth wandered over and we decided to go get some breakfast which was in the small solarium off the restaurant. Bread was on the table as well as butter and jelly – the scenery was beautiful overlooking the water and the mountains in the distance. We were offered coffee and many different types of juices. We were asked how we liked our egg prepared and everyone then received a basic American type breakfast with a piece of bacon and some fruit.

After breakfast, we made our way back to our room but stopped by to get a closer look at the llamas who didn’t seem too worried about our presence. No spitting took place which was a good sign. I didn’t realize the noises that llamas make as I’d never been so close to one before. The little llama in the picture was making a soft humming noise.

At 9:15 we gathered near the bus and turned our room keys in for the day. The bus ride to the kite flying area on the way to Parque Condor wasn’t too far. Everyone got a kite and were invited to fly them which was fun to watch the kids running around, having fun, getting out of breath due to the altitude and watching the wind pick up and die down over and over. The day had started off pretty sunny but as the clouds moved in, the wind seemed to pick up more. I think Robby’s wind summoning abilities may have helped as well. A few Adventurers were able to get their kites flying pretty high up. I think Seth got to claim “highest kite of the morning”.

Robby using his wind summoning powers

We re-boarded the bus and drove the rest of the way to Parque Condor which was a raptor sanctuary where we were told that about 80% of the birds in this park had been shot at one time. The park was only about 10 years old and developed to educate the Ecuadorian public about the benefits to these birds and to teach newer generations that birds of prey weren’t a danger to a family’s livestock as they had once been believed them to be.

We walked through the park’s exhibits with Robby explaining each bird that we saw ranging from hawks to owls to condors (whose wing spans can exceed 10 feet). We stopped about half way for another group photo and some family photos. When we finished seeing the owls, we made our way over to the auditorium and watched as a handler showed off some of the raptors in the park. A couple of the birds had a different idea about where they wanted to fly to and sort of wandered off for a little while.

We watched for just a little while longer and then made our way back to the front of the park and re boarded the bus for the 20 or so minute ride to the house where we would be having lunch: the Hosteria Hacienda Pinsaqui.

We were met out by the front gate by another Andean band who escorted us down to the house playing music along the way. Once we reached the house, we were greeted and oriented by a member of the family. Everyone was given the opportunity to make empanadas with the chef. The dough was a simple wheat flour, egg, water, sugar, and butter mixture and the filling was a type of farm cheese. After being shown how to crimp the edges of the empanadas and most of the kids getting to try it, they produced a plate of cooked empanadas for us to taste – it was a sweeter dough than I was expecting. Not as flaky as other empanadas I’ve had which is my preference. (Although Robby did point out his preference was to make empanadas using carbonated water instead).

Next was a demonstration making some ice cream consistency sherbet. They used blackberry juice in a large metal pot that was sitting on top of a mixture of ice and salt. The chef hand turned the pot in circles and scraping it down as the juice got more solid. The secret “creaming” ingredient (meringue) was added and then we were all invited to taste some of it – it was delicious to enjoy a dairy free ice cream like treat.

Our lunch wasn’t quite ready yet so we went down to the gardens to look at some of the trees and plants. We also wandered over to watch another solstice celebration that was ongoing. It wasn’t long before out lunch was ready and we headed back to the house to enjoy a BBQ lunch including potatoes, roasted vegetables, fried plantains, salad, chicken, chicken sausage, beef, and some other type of pork sausage. The food was quite good and followed by a slice of chocolate cake.

After lunch, we walked over to the other side of the patio from where our lunch had been served where they had already set up a painting activity for us. Small bamboo troughs (incense holders) had the basic outline of a condor and we were provided brushes, water, and colored paint to decorate them with. It was fun sitting outside enjoying the nice weather, beautiful scenery, and painting our projects. Once we were done, our masterpieces were “enhanced” by the real artists and would be delivered to us later in the day.

We boarded the bus and had another 20 or so minute drive to the Otavalo market where we would be given time to do some shopping. We were instructed on the fine art of bargaining – expected with the vendors and it was recommended that we go even half the price they asked for and work our way up to about 70% or so of the original price. Lauren explained an additional twist on our shopping adventure. ABD was giving each of us $5 to spend in the market for a gift to be used in a "Crazy Cui" aka “white elephant” gift exchange that we would be participating in later. Challenge accepted. It didn’t take us long to find a couple of items for the exchange – a small painting of local Ecuador scenery with a tiny easel and a glass coffee mug painted with Ecuadorian scenes. It turns out that Rhys was quite the expert negotiator and he enjoyed himself a lot bargaining with the vendors and scored himself a few items including a wood carving of a blue footed boobie for me. (An ongoing joke from when we first booked this adventure). I captured a picture of Rhys bargaining with a local – he looks like a giant compared to the Ecuadorians most of whom are very short in stature.

We re-boarded the bus for the last time that day and returned to the resort to rest and clean up a bit before dinner. There was no hair dryer in our room so I went out to the reception house and was given a hair dryer that didn’t seem to plug into the wall very well and sounded like a small plane trying to take off. It was a bit smoky smelling as I dried my hair so I only dried it about half way and then gave the poor hair dryer a break before coming back later to finish up.

Dinner was at 6:30. I was very excited to have more empanadas and had ordered the sea bass this evening. Everything was delicious. Dessert was some sort of fruit pie which was ok especially since I was really stuffed at this point. We headed back to our room and packed a few things together as wake up call was at 4:15 am for a 4:45 am departure for the Galapagos Islands. Lauren and Robby did drop by after dinner to check on us and to drop off our incense holders which had been “enhanced” by the professionals with some added color.


Sea Bass

Fruit Pie
Next post:  Day 4, 26 June 2017 - Puerto Lago to Galapagos Islands

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