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Peru with Mountain Madness

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!