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We Are Flying Solo

September 21, 2010

Day 3: Traversing Imbabura

Today is our first ride from one hacienda to another. All told, we will ride for six hours. We will traverse the side of the volcano Imbabura and cross a high saddle, then descend into the valley of Zuleta to spend two nights there. It's a beautiful day and we climb quickly.

The landscape changes often. We break away from crumbling villages and move higher into a green zone. Rich volcanic soil is hemmed by neat stone walls. Mountain summits are wreathed in clouds; it is said that when they are not, when the skies are clear, the volcanoes are flirting with each other.  I guess when they erupt, that means someone got turned on.

The horses have already been going for several hours when we come to a spring in a rocky meadow and they eagerly dive in for water.

HaHA! I caught mum smiling when she wasn't looking! And Anna is riding a new horse today.  Gitano is tagging along in the rear as spare pony and the bay she has now is Cuchofito, a 26 year old purebred Criollo.  He is very proud and confident (and a cryptorchid so must steer clear of mares!) and a well put together horse.  It's easy to see why he is still sound.  Later, I learned that Sally, the company's owner, bought him literally off of a slaughter truck, starving and half-wild with fear.  It took her two years to get his feet back into shape.  Looks pretty dangerous now, eh?

As we cross to the next mountain, we pass through a small village full of children playing in the streets. Many are excited to see the horses and we are followed by shouts of "Hola, caballo!"

We must continue on and now we are in a clean, soft pine forest. Even the air smells high. As we move out of the shadows, we break out into a high, beautiful grassland and suddenly I am cantering across the breadth of the Andes.

I can tie many things around my torso at once!! Capuli and Antares just want to know when the next snack stop is.  Many people graze sheep on these high slopes and entire groups of month-old lambs spring in surprise across the trails in front of us. They freeze, then bolt back to the ewes, bleating in chaos. Slowly, we wind our way down into the valley, even passing a riotous party. Two men are completely passed out on the road, one sprawled in the pothole where he fell. Capuli and I almost step on the other, as he is huddled under a blanket, but at the last second I see feet(!!!) sticking out!

Heading down the switchback, the scenery begins to change yet again. Hillsides are a patchwork of greens, browns, and golds, fields climbing in graceful curves as far as people are willing to carry things uphill (if it were me, they'd all be within ten steps of the bottom).

Heading down a walled road, it becomes obvious that there is more money nearby. Round hay bales are wrapped in white plastic (the first hay I've seen since arriving) and green fields are serenaded by high irrigation systems. Then we see a hanging sign and we are here: La Merced Baja, and some very beautiful suprises are in store.


  1. What an amazing trip - thanks for taking us along!

  2. It truly was amazing, Kate, thanks for reading my ramblings! And I haven't even gotten to the best part yet!

  3. Six hours in a saddle?! My bum hurts just thinking about it! I would definitely need to invest in a pair of those Comfy Rumps padded underwears.
    Looks oh so loverly and FUN! And, geez, those are some fit, hardy ponies.

  4. Here's the secret Frizz -- everyone there puts two sheepskins on top of their saddles. Makes like much better! And yes, the ponies are amazing, they climb up and down all day long, hardly breaking a sweat. Better them then me...