Ecuador is one of the world’s most environmentally diverse places on earth. From Quito, the capital of Ecuador at 9350 feet above sea level, to Cotopaxi National Park at over 13,000 to the galapagos at sea level, we immersed ourselves into the extraordinary culture of this so called tiny country. The Andes mountain range divides the country from north to south which accounts for the biosphere’s 2 seasons…wet and dry. It seems El Nino has caused some confusion as we experienced lots of wet weather in the dry season! Oh well, we had our raingear. We started our days with heart opening yoga and kept the momentum going strong while hiking steep terrain, horseback riding wet muddy trails with Pablo, our very own chagra (cowboy), while always finding the retail opportunity at any roadside bazaar…for silly hats and gloves. Lodging in authentic Haciendas (San Augustin and Zuleta) was definitely the highlight of the journey. Dating from the late sixteenth century, these estates have been in the family of the former Ecuadorian president Galo Plaza Lasso for over 100 years… his grandson Fernando still runs the place and is one good-looking Chagra! Fresh organic farm to table meals kept us coming back for more. Some of us more adventurous eaters got to taste Guinea pig, a delicacy in these parts. Rose plantations are all over the highlands. In fact, we visited one after a rugged hike that exports 24,000 roses a day to the US and Europe. We were not smelling like a rose. As a “giving” group, we visited the local school and donated money to the scholarship program as well as to the local library for after school activities for the children. Check it out, we also supported Zuleta’s Andean Condor Rehabilitation project…www.haciendazuleta.com.
It was a misty morning in the pastureland where ancient monuments of the Caranqul culture still exist dating back to 700 A.D alongside giant ceremonial pyramids from the 13th century. Our Shaman/Yuchak (a spiritual healer) guided us to the most sacred of pyramids and proceeded to lead us all in an individual spirit cleansing burning local herbs and snorting tobacco. Hum…when in Ecuador. It was truly one of the most powerful and transformative experiences for the group leaving us incredibly peaceful.