Andes to Amazon  
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Dispatch 3 - Lasso
Ecuador, Chaupi If the traffic in the environs of Quito is not to your liking this more rural milieu may be a little closer to heaven.  We travelled on secondary and tertiary roads the whole day.  Besides lush fertile looking agricultural land with Ilinza to the right and Cotopaxi to the left as backdrops there was plenty of other variety of scenery to engage the mind and spirit:
Ecuador, Chaupi, bicycling on cobblestone road
Ecuador, Chaupi, cowboy

Ecuador, Chaupi, parade of teams before soccer game

  • In these rural areas one practical form of transportation is a horse, hence cowboys. When you consider the road surface, it is not rocket science to figure out why the locals might prefer horses to bicycles.  There is a gradual move from cobblestones to asphalt as the traffic volumes increase.
  • At the town of Chaupi a soccer tournament was getting underway.  We arrived just in time for the parade of teamsEcuador, Chaupi, mascot, parade of teams before soccer game (complete with officials, beauty queens and team mascots).  Never mind it was only about 100 meters from the staging area to the stadium, the participants marched proudly and the spectators cheered enthusiastically, with a backdrop of the farmland and the Andes.
Ecuador, Chaupi, parade of teams before soccer game
Ecuador, mini-market snack food Ecuador, mini-market healthier snack foodMost of the snack food in the mini-markets is pretty much the same as the heavily processed food you would find in similar business worldwide. We were delighted to find a treat in a corn, soybean, banana and salsa snack that was assembled on the spot.
Ecuador, mini-market healthier snack food
Ecuador, Chaupi, bicycling on cobblestone road From the lowlands, 3000 meters, we climbed across the shoulder of Ilinizas, at almost 3800 meters.  We were told that this was the old Pan Americana -- it was deserted now.  Given the condition in places, you could have told me that it was the original Inca Road and I would have believed you.  Much of the highland part of the road was constructed with cobble stone.  Clearly a very solid, durable and stable material for this kind of environment. Such as it was, the road was in reasonably good repair.  I understand that this is similar to how the Inca Kings had the roads constructed, but it leaves something to be desired as a bicycle path.
Ecuador, Chaupi, countryside / farmland
Ecuador, Chaupi, countryside / farmland Despite the challenges of the road it is a spectacular ride.  [On the 2001 tour, the beauty of Cotopaxi was like a siren that wanted to suck a bunch more film through my camera (yes film in those days), the air was crisp and clear and the temperature was wonderful.
Ecuador, paramos At about 3500 meters we got to the "paramos", a high tundra plain of tufted grass, wildflowers and wind.  I felt like I was riding on top of the world. This was part figurative and part literal, but the literal quality gave the figurative an addition lift. Ecuador, paramos
Ecuador, lahar warning sign The presence of signs warning about Lahars is a little amusing.  They are posted about every half kilometer along the Pan Americana, for scores of kilometers.  The first several could be considered informative, but after the first dozen it seem improbably that anyone could get that far without knowing that they were in a region of river valleys leading off of glacier and snow covered active volcanoes.
Ecuador, San Juan de Pastocalle, bull fight After the descending 500 meter vertical in five kilometers the surprise in San Juan de Pastocalle was the festivities of a bull fight.  Again we arrived just in time for the parade.  The main characteristics of the parade were wild dresses, masks and music.  There were men on horse back, marching bands and masked people swinging live chickens.  Asking around we didn't get an explanation for the tradition or the symbolism.
Ecuador, San Juan de Pastocalle, bull fight The locals acted like the bull fight was about to begin so we joined them on the fence of the corral.  It seems like in this bull fight anyone can participate and the bull is not killed -- the town can't afford it and no admission is charged.  Over the course of the next hour several young men darted across the corral, the cowboys rode through with their lassos and occasionally tried to roundup the bulls in an adjoining corral and occasionally some of the bull wondered into the main corral -- maybe they weren't the right bull.  From our less than sophisticated analysis "a bull fight" never materialized. 

Eventually our stomachs over ruled our curiosity and we left without discovering what the climax of a small town bull fight looks like.

Ecuador, San Juan de Pastocalle, bull fight
Ecuador, Lasso, La Cienega Hacienda

Ecuador, Lasso, La Cienega Hacienda, dining room

Time flies when you are having fun or otherwise immersed in new experiences.  It was after four in the afternoon when we finally got to lunch but it was worth the wait.  The restaurant was in an old elegant hacienda, with a tree lined drive, hardwood floors, courtyard garden, private chapel and shrine, fountains, an other decorative amenities.  The meal, including soup, main course and dessert, was excellent as well.Ecuador, Lasso, La Cienega Hacienda, garden Ecuador, Lasso, La Cienega Hacienda, garden Ecuador, Lasso, La Cienega Hacienda, chapel Ecuador, Lasso, La Cienega Hacienda

Ecuador, Lasso, La Cienega Hacienda, staircase

Ecuador, Lasso, La Cienega Hacienda, bust of Alexander von Humboldt

A lot of the early history of the hacienda is grime and includes the abuse and exploitation of the local residence. But is was also a part of the development of science, culture and politics in the region by playing host to a number of notables.  One of these is Alexander von Humboldt (Humboldt penguin and Humboldt current start a long list of honors and namesakes), who spent some time at the hacienda in 1802 while doing scientific study on volcanoes. 

The Marques family, owners during the late colonial period, were fervent defenders of Simon Bolivar and the libertarian cause.  Family members such as Manuel Matheu y Herrera, Francisco Xavier and Jose Xavier de Ascazubi were heroes of the Independence movement -- a number of activities took place within the four walls of the hacienda. The Treaty of La Cienega was signed in the hacienda.  Gabriel Garcia Moreno, Leonidas Plaza Gutierrez and Jose Velasco Ibarra are Ecuadorian historical figures who have resided at the hacienda. 

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