Thursday

Thursday
Off on the days adventures….
Our first stop was at a “locals only market” in a town called a Salcerdo. For some of the group it was a bit on the disturbing side as the animals, chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs were in sacks, cramped cages or gunny sacks ready for sale along with fruits, vegetables, fish, household goods, clothes and a choice of two elixirs that would cure cancer. Romy wanted us to get a real feel of a non tourist market and this one certainly was it. She confided to me that she bought a new bra at the market for $5.00.
Back on the bus and we were off to Cotopaxi to visit an export Rose farm. The operation, which is one of a few and are all certified and part of a cooperative but privately owned. The workers make about $450.00 a month and work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and are fed breakfast and lunch daily. The entire operation is monitored by computer as the Rose that is exported must be perfect. Each market that they sell to, USA, Russia, Europe etc have different requirements, stem length, thorns or no thorns, leaves or not and some require the addition of greenery and baby’s breath. We were allowed to walk thru the growing houses and also the final production area and the workers were listening to music and it was amazing to watch the workers prepare the stems with virtually no effort and each one was perfect. At the end of the tour we were each given a beautiful stem.
Our next stop was for lunch in the private home of Ieda Lopez, an artist, and were we ever in for a special treat! She has lived here for years in this home she and her late husband, also an artist, had designed. Every nook and cranny contained an original piece of art and we were told that everything in the home, including the home, was for sale. One of the gals, Cindy, bought the table cloth that was on her table at lunch. We were seated in three areas and Ieda had three local ladies helping her serve but she had done all the cooking herself. We started with a tamale that was just a flavorful masa and a pico de gallo salsa accompanied and was the perfect compliment. The main part if the meal was served family style starting with a very flavorful Waldorf style salad, a platter of avocados drizzled with a light honey type sauce, a bowl of creamy flavorful mashed potatoes and the main course was a creamed chicken dish with basil. For the two of us vegetarians we were served, in place of the chicken, half of an avocado which was stuffed with a well spiced garbanzo filling along with our choice from all the sides. The final finish was a frozen custard that was the perfect palate pleaser. Wow, what a meal and we also had our choice of a glass of Chilean (red or white) wine which put the entire dining experience into the “perfect” category for sure.
We were given the run of the house, which was quite extensive, for viewing and shopping. The real highlight was the upstairs master bath almost entirely done in stone. It gave the feel of being outside with nature while having a luxurious experience. I told Wayne that the marble addition is out and it needs to be totally redone in rock!! Can you hear him laughing…he did agree that this bathroom was stunning.

Back on the bus and we headed to another local artist who did the traditional Ecuadorian paintings done in bright acrylic colors and depicting the volcanos, animals and life in the countryside of this beautiful country. While we watched he created a very simple but beautiful painting on the traditionally used cured sheep skin. The tradition started when they made drums and then it evolved into the paintings as the people realized the better marketing opportunity of the small paintings for the tourists. These paintings are seen for sale on the streets and in the markets that cater to tourists and all the artists follow the same style with just slight variations.

On the way to our Hacienda La Cienega, where we will spend the night, we stopped at a commercial dairy farm. The production is done by machine but those who wanted were given the opportunity to try and milk by hand. What a hoot, both for those milking and the rest of us that were watching.
Our hacienda was at one time the former residence of a very wealthy family. Our rooms, which varied from the former owners residence to guest cottages, was done by lottery and as our names were called we picked a room number out of the bowl. When our name was called I sent in “my lucky Wayne” and he drew room number 3 which was absolutely perfect and in the main part. We had a balcony overlooking the beautiful front garden and entrance to the hacienda. There was a small separate sitting area with a desk and large mirror. The only downside was that we had two small beds which has been common off and one during this trip.
Dinner was on our own and we had purchased, the day before, a bottle of cab wine and Rick and Edy had bought a Merlot so we sat in the lobby and shared a little before dinner libation.
During dinner, at the hotel, we were treated to a group of 5 musicians who serenaded us with marvelous Andean music. Yes, another CS was purchased.

I have failed to mention that during this entire trip we have had fabulous weather with any real rain happening at night except for the torrential downpour in the Amazon while most of our group was on the raft. Thank you Pacchi Mama!!!

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