Ecuador – Day Three: Cochasqui, Cayambe & Las Palmeras Inn

Today we traded the noisy city of Quito for an hour ride up a winding cobblestone road, 10,000 feet up in elevation to the Pichincha Province. Here we toured the Cochasqui, the most extensive pre-Incan ruins in northern Ecuador. It’s an archaeological park covering 210 acres that consists of 15 truncated pyramids and 21 burial mounds. It was quite a hike for me through these hilly grounds, but the llamas definitely made it worth the heavy breathing and racing heart.

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We fed the llamas salt right out of our hands. Both gentle and curious, they quickly won our hearts after their willingness to pose for selfies with us.

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Along our ride to Cayambe, known for its rose farms, we stopped for stunning mountain views, however there were no views as beautiful as the one into the back of a young Ecuadorian woman’s van. She’s selling roses along the side of the road and I think this photo wins my favorite of the day. These gorgeous, locally grown roses were being sold for $2/dozen. If I would have had a vase with me I would have bought several dozen. Instead, we gave her a few bucks for the photos.

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Roses are the fourth largest export of Ecuador, following bananas (third), shrimp (second), and oil (first). We passed countless greenhouses and rose farms today on our drive. Apparently, Ecuadorian roses are considered the “best” roses in the world due to the fact that they grow on the equator and are pulled in both directions by the sun, making them the straightest and tallest roses ever grown. Roses are grown here year round as the growing conditions in Ecuador are prime because of its location near the equator.

Our tour guide, Effe, did buy us some Chirimoya fruit along the side of the road just so we could have a taste. It has a creamy, sweet texture with large black seeds that look like apple seeds, but bigger. Fittingly, it’s nickname is “custard apple.”

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Café De La Vaca in Cayambe offered us the best meal many of us have had so far in Ecuador. Since it’s fava bean season, our appetizer was steamed fava beans with fresh cheese followed by a flavorful corn soup. The pork chop entrée was incredible with a few interesting side dishes…one was a sweet cabbage with pineapple and raisins and the other was refried fava beans with queso fresco. Dessert was a passion fruit mousse. You almost had to roll us all out to the bus after this meal. It was fantastic.

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During the last half of the day, we continued on to Otavalo. Otavalo means, “the place that welcomes everyone.” This felt ironic as we walked through the streets with a few children pointing us out to their mothers and shouting, “gringos!”. We dropped off our laundry to a local woman for $1/kilo who will wash our work clothes overnight, and headed to our new accommodations for the next couple of nights.

Las Palmeras Inn is the most quaint 150 year old hacienda with old cottages and exquisite flowers throughout its grounds. It’s architecture represents the traditional Andean house with its garden cottage-like feel and wood kiva-like fireplaces. It’s one of the most peaceful and tranquil places I’ve been in a long time. They grow most of their own food that they serve here in their large gardens and raise their own Guinea pigs that they serve to their guests for dinner. The poor babies! Take a look at this place in the slide show below…

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My little cottage is so pretty. While we were at dinner, they built a fire in my room and added a hot water bottle to my bed so it would be warm when I returned. It was a pretty chilly night here in Otavalo so I was happy to be cozy inside. Below are some photos of my cottage, #5.

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Dinner was served to us right in the Las Palmeras Inn dining room. We had corn soup, grilled chicken, and banana cake for dessert.

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So far…this place is my favorite. Tomorrow…Otavalo Market.

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