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We Are Flying Solo

September 19, 2010

Day 2.1: Hacienda Pinsaqui. And Horses!

Otavalo market was a lesson in variety.  I saw one wizened woman crouched in a doorway, proferring a live guinea pig (they are a staple meat there, called cuy) by the neck.  The unfortunate brown creature hung from her fist with dull eyes, resigned to its fate.  Around a corner was this poster (left).  Yes, it is an announcement for an international conference on the commercial production of guinea pigs.  I was most amused by the long list of "Dr.'s" listed as speakers -- I would love to say I had a doctorate in guinea pig farming.  Alas, I never did get to see a guinea pig ranch -- perhaps their cutting horses are tabby cats!

The landscape had changed dramatically since leaving Quito. In the environs of the city, concrete houses were crammed into every available space. Now, the landscape had begun to open around Otavalo, nestled next to a lake and the volcanic presence of Imbabura.


Looking toward Imbabura and the town of Otavalo:

Up to now, human development has oft resembled a war zone, no patch of land untouched by hard-scrabble subsistence living. Half-finished, crude buildings of cinderblocks with untrimmed rebar protruding six feet into the air haunt the landscape. Cattle are tethered by their horns to metal stakes hammered into the ground to forage on stubble and ribby dogs slink around corners.

So it's a blow to pull off the PanAmerican Highway into green lawns, hydrangeas, and an exquisitely maintained 18th century hacienda (ranch). It sprawls long and low, seemingly going on forever. I am spun back and forth between guilt and wonder. Heavy oak doors are painted a deep, rich blue and our room key looks like it unlocks someone's dungeon cell.

And it's finally time to meet the horses! I am about to burst from excitement as we change and then hustle down the path to the designated paddock. They are already awaiting us and watch curiously as we are briefed on the rules.

I am introduced to Capuli, a dark bay youngster (only 5 years old) with a gentle face and small fuzzy ears. He is mostly Criollo, which is the native breed of tough little horses who work at South America's extremes, and he has a little Spanish horse thrown in somewhere. He is also best friends with Tostado, who our guide Gaspar will be riding, which means that I must bend to the will of the horses and stay up front.  It's hard to take a picture of a horse when you are standing uphill, so here's the little guy with some crazy camera distortion!

Mum was matched up with a sturdy little roan named Antares (yes, after my favourite star!).  He was an excellent horse, always taking care of his person with patient experience.  Doesn't she look excited (apparently dorky grins of glee do not run in the family)!?

And Anna, the lovely Finnish girl who made up the third member of our group, started out with Gitano, who completed the colour spectrum with his white coat (although we later learned he loved to turn himself brown with cowpies and mud).  And yes, she thwarted the Helmet Nazi and wore a hat!!  The Finns are brave and hardy souls...  Doesn't Gitano look excited too!?

At last, it was time to RIDE!!!


  1. Your last post and the first part of this one made me quite sad, so I was happy to see some nice LIVE animals in the latter part of this post. ;-) Lovely, sturdy, steady-looking ponies!

  2. Awww, sorry, Frizz. I learned that it pretty much sucks to be an animal in Ecuador, except for a few lucky horses scattered about. People don't generally worry about animal welfare when they are hungry. I promise live animals from here on out!