Thursday, January 29, 2015

ECUADOR- Market Day at Otavalo

Otavalo is famous for its market and I can see why! Blocks of wares of all kinds are for sale. You can find fruits and vegetables, meat with whole pigs hanging ready to cut, spices of all kinds, many types of potatoes which are a staple of Ecuadorian cuisine, colorful textiles which the area is famous for, toys, clothing...everything! And the price is right!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

ECUADOR- Otavalo and Environs

We travelled around the areas of Otavalo and Cotacachi to meet local people, see the beautiful mountains and lakes and spend some time in the town.

Crater Lake:

Went to visit a family that makes the tradition hats for several groups of indigenous people:

We saw some great doors around Otavalo:

Monday, January 26, 2015

ECUADOR- Hacienda Cusin

Hacienda Cusin is a restored 17th century estate at 8500 feet in the Ecuadorian Sierra region of the Andes. The prominent Luna family purchased it at auction from Philip III, King of Spain in 1602. The purchased estate comprised of about 100,000 acres held until the Land Reforms of 1945 and 1964.

The main house, other buildings and gardens are charming. The area is surrounded by mountains and amazing vistas. It is very close to the market town of Otavalo and Lago San Pedro, the biggest lake in Ecuador. There are dormant volcanoes in the area and other interesting sites to see. More about them in later posts!

ECUADOR- Modern history of Hacienda Zuleta

Galo Plaza Lasso showcased his technologies at Hacienda Zuleta, using Holstein cows, systematic seed selection and tractors, making it his flagship. He  was a bullfighter, diplomat and ex- president of Ecuador. In the 1950's he gave up almost half his 250,000 acres by giving all his workers land to build a house and farm as well as each got a cow. Land Reform law did not come until 1964, when the law stated that all hacienda owners had to give land to each worker. Galo was way ahead of his time!

We drove for 45 minutes and saw great farmland that was once part of Hacienda Zuleta! 

Even the mountains were part of the hacienda property:

Cobblestoned roads:

ECUADOR- Hacienda Zuleta

In the late 16th century, King Felipe II bequeathed the Zuleta region to the Jesuits, who implemented their Spanish methods of farming and cattle and sheep raising, drastically changing the Ecuadorian culture of farming. In 1713, under the direction of King Filipe V, the property was confiscated and transferred to Canon Gabriel Zuleta. Upon his death, the farm passed to the Posse family, who were inspired to bring the hacienda back to its 17th century grandeur.

The original inhabitants date back to 800 AD until the arrival of the warring Incas in the late 1470's. Within the ground are 130 Caranqui Mounds dating 1200 AD. By 1534 the last Incan king had been captured and assassinated by the Spanish Conquistador, Pizarro, leaving the Inca empire in collapse and allowing a free for all for the land-hungry vassals of the Spanish crown.

It wasn't until the farm was sold to Jose Maria Lasso in 1898 and passed through two more generations to Galo Plaza Lasso, the ex-president of Ecuador, that Zuleta recaptured its original prosperity as a productive farm. Galo was the first to bring Holstein cows, systematic seed selection and tractors to Ecuador.

In recent years, the historic doors of this amazing hacienda have been open to tourists seeking unmatched hospitality, great food, historic setting, hiking, horseback riding all in the magnificence of the Andes.

We had an amazing visit and loved every minute of it. Below are some photos taking in and around the hacienda and its environs.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Panama- Gamboa Rainforest Resort

Deep in the heart of the Panamanian rainforest lies the completely unique Gamboa Rainforest Resort in the in the former Canal Zone. It is a beautiful building complex with gorgeous plantings and a wonderful staff. They offer several free excursions into the rainforest. 

We also went on a motorboat ride in the Panama Canal and later an aerial tram ride over the canopy of the rainforest. We saw howler monkeys and two other monkey species, parrots and toucans, other birds and crocodiles. 

Gamboa is a small town in the Republic of Panama. It was one of a handful of permanent Canal Zone townships, built to house employees of the Panama Canal and their dependents. The name Gamboa is the name of a tree of the quince family.

The hotel:

In the Panama Canal:

The aerial tram:

Monday, January 19, 2015

El Otra Lado- Paradise in Portobelo, Panama

El Otro Lado is a private retreat situated in an exceptional enclave of Portobelo Bay, mixing design, culture, nature and luxury in a unique manner in order to offer its guests authentic, exclusive and custom-made experiences.

El Otro Lado is by far the best luxury boutique hotel at Portobelo Panama, situated just over an hour from Panama City, and surrounded by the National Park of Portobelo, El Otro Lado is the perfect place to relax and disconnect while contemplating the exuberant vegetation. With views of the sea, its four exclusive houses of eclectic tropical design integrate simple details with traditional handicraft of the Atlantic Coast. We are in The Sea House.

A streak of truly unforgettable experiences, El Otro Lado will take you to a harmonious and dreamlike place which is equipped with all the comforts of modern life.

Our cabin:

The hotel resort:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

En Route to El Otra Lado- Panama

The drive from Panama City to our next destination took over two hours. We drove north toward the Caribbean Sea into an exceptional enclave of Portobelo Bay. I took lots of pictures on the way which show life as it is in Panama.

It was raining and overcast when we left, even though this is usually the dry season and it does not rain! It cleared up the further north we went.