The Best Hacienda in Ecuador? — The Answer
We’re back in Seattle – it’s cold and the rain is pounding down outside the Shoofly Pie Shop in West Seattle, close to the MM offices. As winter try’s to push it’s way in early on the last remaining days of summer (up to two feet of new snow in the Cascades!), I’m finally able to find the time to write more about our trip, and answer the question from the last blog; is Zuleta the best hacienda in Ecuador?
The whole family is here to eat pie and talk with Laurel, who recently visited Zuleta and wrote a piece about it in Culture magazine. She mentions that she nearly wept when she first saw the place- it’s that good. And as we share stories she asks Grace what her favorite part about Zuleta was – to which she replies in between bites of hot apple pie, “well, the horseback riding was good,” and she pauses shyly, “but, one morning, really early we got up and walked around the place and we saw horses mating.” We’re of course in stitches as she retells the moment and adds that Fernando’s relative who helps run the stables was there to assist in the process. He explains that this is the very way many a Plaza kid has learned about the birds and the bees, adding to a long list of what must be many traditions here at Zuleta.
I suppose, to a curious 8 year-old mind, that her reply is no surprise, but the possible answers could have included seeing the rare spectacled bear, a moment we even had Fernando beside himself with joy as we all viewed this elusive animal crashing through the heavily vegetated slopes in search of food; or it could have been seeing the wild Andean condor descend from the high thermals to visit the captive Andean condors that Zuleta has and is breeding for release into the wilds; or some Indiana Jones moments when we explored the first of many mounds recently unearthed that contain pre-Inca ruins, another facet of the place that obviously is close to Fernando’s heart as he explained to us the discovery and what it holds of interest for archeologists; or it could have been just being a kid running free, jumping into hay, and just being at a hacienda in Ecuador…,
So, to answer the question- is Zuleta the best hacienda in Ecuador? – yes, they all have a certain element of charm, but Zuleta’s is unsurpassed.
On the last day of our visit Fernando and I took an early morning drive up in the hills. A casual, friendly wave came from each person we passed walking along the road as we climbed higher and higher to a point we could survey and talk about the options for Mountain Madness groups to come here for trekking – the possibilities are difficult to narrow down as there are so many. But, what comes from the conversation more is seeing a man driven to make good on a vision that includes sustainable tourism, community involvement, and providing some magic to all that visit. What a place!