Wednesday, February 01, 2006


On the road to Otavalo

Each time we have gone to Ecuador we have tried to see and do different things, but we always make a point of spending a day or two in Otavalo, where the huge indigenous craft market is held. We usually take the bus—the one with the chickens and bags of corn and potatoes. (see January 10 entry) This time Ray and Emily were hot to rent a car and drive there. It's about a two and a half hour drive from Quito. Ray will probably talk more about the car. I was not excited about renting a car, mainly because Ecuadoreans drive like maniacs, the roads are terrible and—duh—we don't really know where we are going. But we rented a nice Jeep and off we went. Marlene was planning to go visit her friend Debbie near Otavalo the same day and she was not eager to drive up alone in the rain, so she went with us. This proved to be fortuitous because Marlene knew some scenic, interesting routes and good places to stop.

Cayambe and bizcochos

The little town of Cayambe is famous for a kind of biscuit called a bizcocho, so we decided to stop and pick some up. There are shops and stands all along the highway selling bizcochos, but Marlene suggested that we drive into the town, down the main street and around the corner from the big church to a place where we could both buy our pastries and watch them being made. We went to the back of a series of small buildings and there were a group of people sitting around a table piled high with dough. They were rolling and cutting little log-shaped pieces of dough about as fast as hands can move. As the dough was cut it was transferred to baking sheets and stacked all around the room, then transferred into an open brick oven where they baked. We left with several warm, greasy bags of fresh bizcochos and a little tub of dulce de leche to dip them in. The dulce de leche is caramel sauce made from milk—pure, sweet deliciousness! The bizcochos are a little dull actually—rather like chunks of pie dough—but dipped in the dulce de leche, they are quite nice.

Debbie's house at Cusin

Just before we got to Otavalo we turned off the main road to take Marlene to Debbie's. Debbie owns a little house on the grounds of a 17th century hacienda called Cusin, which has been turned into a resort. The hacienda house is still there, beautifully restored and furnished. There are guest accommodations, a retreat/conference center, beautiful grounds and gardens and small houses that have been designed to blend with the old architecture.

Debbie used to work at the same school Emily and Marlene work at, in fact, was Emily's supervisor until this year. She retired and returned to the States, but has kept her house at Cusin and was there for the holidays. We visited over tea, got a tour of the hacienda, then bid Debbie and Marlene farewell and headed to Otavalo.

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