Monday, February 24, 2014

Ecuador: Puertolago, Condor Park, and Otavalo

Overlooking Quito from the east side of Pichincha volcano
There is no shortage of things to do in and around Quito, Ecuador.  The city is large, with a population of 2.2 million, and is situated on the eastern slope of Pichincha, an active volcano in the Andes mountain range.

At 9,350 feet above sea level, its climate is ideal and like perpetual spring, in spite of its location on the equator. Nearly every day we were there, temperatures hovered around both sides of 75° F.  It could be cool in the morning and a jacket was required, then by noon, it was much too warm for that. Then by late afternoon, it cooled off nicely.  The climate is just about perfect.

On our second day in Ecuador, Karina's husband, Marcelo took us north of the city, toward Otavalo, a city famous for its open-air marketplace. Marcelo's sister Cristina and her boyfriend Paulo joined us for the day, while Karina stayed home because of a cold.

We stopped first at Puertolago, a resort on San Pablo Lake, just off the Pan-American Highway, for a delicious lunch.

We began with empanadas, for which Ecuador is known.

Mom had ceviche, also an Ecuadorian signature dish, consisting of tomatoes, onions, beans, shrimp or fish, cilantro, lime, and other spices.  There is a variation in ceviches throughout the country, but all have a similar consistency (soupy) and basic taste.


While Mom loved it, I'd had it several times before on previous visits and I much prefer the locro de papa, a creamy potato soup with bits of chewy cheese and avocado dropped in. In fact, this soup is my very favorite Ecuadorian dish, and I order it just about any chance I get. I had it four times during the two-week time we were here and though all of them were good, the version I had here at Puertolago was the best.  Sorry, no photo of it though. (I'll show a different one in a later blog post.)

I don't remember exactly what this was, but the presentation was fun!

The view at the restaurant was idyllic and made me want to be out in the lake, floating about in view of the beautiful Imbabura volcano (inactive).

There are several cottages available to rent, with beautiful landscaping all around and alpacas grazing in the grassy yards between the cottages.  We took a leisurely stroll before leaving for our next stop, El Condor National Park, a rescue center for raptors.

Parque Cóndor

I'd never seen a condor of any kind before, so I wasn't prepared for the size of this Andean vulture, one of the largest birds in the world, with a wingspan of up to 10½ feet.  Not a pretty bird by any means, the condor nonetheless is impressive.

In addition to our little group, students from Boston University were visiting Condor Park.

We went further into the park and as I turned a corner, I was met with a bald eagle.  I was no more than 10 feet away from it and I was so overwhelmed by its grandeur and what this bird represents for me as an American.  It was an emotional moment that I wasn't expecting.  I felt like I should salute it or something.  What a handsome creature!

There were other birds there as well, being rehabilitated, with many of them to eventually be returned to the wild.

Peregrine falcon

Barn owl

The view of the valley from the park was pretty impressive, too...


We had one more destination for the day - Otavalo.  It was my third time there but I noticed this time that there were many more vendors crowded into the open air market space.  Otavalo is a very popular tourist destination, due to the collection of various sellers of local handcrafts.  Otavalo itself is known for its textiles, while nearby Cotacachi is the center of the leather industry of Ecuador.

Central market in Otavalo

Being late in the day, we had to make good use of our time there, as the market closed a little more than an hour after we arrived.  It was enough time for us to purchase some jewelry and artwork, as well as a little sweater for my soon-to-be-born second grandchild.

Mom and I both purchased a few pieces of art here.

My favorite piece of art I bought was from a local Ecuadorian artist, Diego Buitrón. Born in Otavalo, he now lives in nearby Imbabura province and his work is featured in galleries throughout Ecuador. His work has been included in exhibitions for The Global Awareness Project in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Artist Diego Buitrón at the market in Otavalo, with the piece of art I purchased.

I like it because it's got texture.  Painted on canvas, there are threads attached via the paint medium, and there are other textures which I'm not quite sure what they are.  The piece I purchased depicts a cloud with rain.  I love the blending of colors. I don't know how I'm going to have it mounted or framed, but it needs something really special. I'll be scouring Pinterest to get ideas and I welcome suggestions from you, dear readers!

It was getting to be late in the day, and the market was closing, so we headed back to Quito for a leisurely evening of rest before leaving on an overnight trip the next two days.  We went through Cayambe, where many of the flower farms are located.  This was evidenced by the acres of greenhouses we saw in the area.

All the white patches in the Cayambe valley are greenhouses.  Lots and lots of greenhouses.

The headache that I was greeted with upon landing at the airport two days before finally left on this day.  Someone mentioned that coca tea may have been of help in treating this symptom of altitude sickness. It's sold everywhere in Ecuador, but is illegal in the U.S. unless it's been decocainized.  I didn't try it because I found out about it a little too late. Next time!

NEXT:  A volcano crater and the cloud forest in Mindo.  (That means butterflies and birds!)


Kristin said...

I loved reading about your holiday. That is some condor, never seen one before. The eagles here would never let us get that close. What a memorable trip!

Kylee Baumle said...

Kristin ~ That's the first time I'd ever seen a condor too. And the eagles here would never allow this either. The trip was fabulous! I've got lots more to show and tell!

Mohan Babu said...

Hi Kylee. The visual tour of Ecuador was breathtaking and I loved the section about the Condor park. I love these weird birds more than the prettier ones because these are harder to spot. The Andean vulture looked surprisingly more presentable than the ones we see in discovery or NGC. The owl and the eagles are impressive too.

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