Ecuador: Heritage, Haciendas and the Andes

| September 3, 2013

After leaving the tropics of Costa Rica, Alex and Marko headed to the cooler climes of the Ecuador’s Andes region.  Venturing 3,000 metres into the mountains, the duo was met by an assortment of cultures and wildlife, as Ecuador is home to 17 nationalities and an array of indigenous fauna.

Revitalised after their laid-back week in Central America, Alex and Marko threw themselves head first into the country’s historic side with a stay in the world’s firest UNESCO Heritage Site and capital of Ecuador, Quito.

Sampling a taste of both worlds, the boys first stayed in the modern Hotel Finlandia before moving on to the city’s historic quarter at the Hotel Patio Andaluz.

After adjusting to the altitude by ogling at the ancient city’s well-preserved ruins, exploring its cobble-stoned streets and coloured houses and fueling up at Restaurante Cinco Sentidos, it was up to the highlands with visit a to the hacienda culture.  Ecuador’s hacienda communities were founded by Jesuit missionaries long before the Spanish arrived on the scene, and are vast ranch properties dealing in livestock and agriculture.  While many have been transformed into modern day hotels, some remain true to their traditional ways, and were a welcome insight into conventional Andean life for the brothers.

Embracing the local vistas, many of the haciendas were dotted along the Avenue of Volcanos, just begging to be explored.  Getting into the swing of things, the brothers tried their hand at cabalgatas, horse riding with local cowboys, at Hacienda El Porvenir.  Dressed from head to toe in local attire, with tanned hats adorning their heads, their ponchos hugging their shoulders, and their furry chaps blowing in the breeze, the Vagabrothers were transformed into chagras.  Suffice to say that after Alex’s horseback crash into a barbed wire fence, the pair was happy to be planted back on terra firma once more.

Ecuador is home to 31 active volcanoes, giving mountain bikers and hikers a thrill.  Biking down the Cotopaxi volcano to Hacienda Hato Verde, the boys reached their next activity of bullfighting, an historic art of baiting bulls into charging at the bullfighter for the crowd’s amusement.  Thankfully for Alex and Marko, their hosts took pity and set them against a young calf instead of the traditional 500gk bull.  Still, Marko had a close shave when the cow nearly became entangled in the cloth and wrapped around his leg!

To recover from their adrenaline-filled day, Alex and Marko headed to Hacienda Zuleta, where activates are not the centre of attention, but rural relaxation.  After putting their feet up for a few hours, the duo decided to hit the hacienda’s history by exploring the surrounding area.  Visiting a textile embroidery workshop and the oldest indigenous legacy on the property, they learned about the local culture, and the hacienda’s charitable work in the community, donating its farmland to its former employees.

Spending their last few hours living as the locals do, Alex and Marko sampled cuy, the traditional Andean dish of roasted guinea pig, practiced their farming skills by attempting to milk a cow, visited the local cheese factory and passed by the condor rehabilitation centre, where volunteers work to save Ecuador’s national bird from extinction.

Returning to Quito, the pair decided to travel in style, by boarding the Tren de la Libertad.   Cursing through the Andes like a snake through grass, the train weaved at a mere 10km/hr, allowing Alex and Marko to relish the ever-changing views, from the mountainous Ibarra region they’d just left, to the sugar-cane fields of Salinas.

Once back on Quito soil, a press conference ensued, where the brothers gushed about their time in Ecuador, before one final meal at the Restaurante El Ventanal.

Want to find out where Alex and Marko’s bucket list takes them next?  Then don’t forget to tune in and subscribe at BBBtv, and follow their blog posts for more of their worldwide excursions. 

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Category: Biggest Baddest Bucket List

About the Author ()

She’s lived in 15 houses in 21 years, been bowled over by a silverback in Rwanda, attacked by horses in Cheltenham, skied up trees in Bavaria, crashed a moped in Thailand and buried alive in South Africa - this army-brat is made of strong stuff. The newest member of the creatively crafty content team, Laura has work published with Lonely Planet and ABTA magazine, the ASTA Network and The Sunday Times. With a bucket list to die for (excuse the pun) and a gob that won’t stop gabbing, she hopes to become a travel writer, gossiping her way around the globe.