Juan's request caught me by surprise. Our good friend had invited us to spend the long holiday weekend (Quito Independence Day) with him at his inlaws' hacienda in the countryside. His own family was at the coast, so we jumped at the chance to enjoy some horseback riding and relaxation in beautiful surroundings.
He was calling to tell me that he and a friend wanted to ride their bikes out there and wondered if I would mind driving his truck and meeting them. Well, let's see. I've never driven in Ecuador--I can't remember when I've driven a stick shift truck--the hacienda is about 45 minutes away, much of it over winding, hilly, and incredibly bumpy dirt roads. Why not?!?
When he brought the truck by and drew me a map my enthusiasm wavered. Several of the roads had no names and were identified by "you'll see a small bridge going over a tiny creek" or "turn left at the sign that has writing on the side that you can't see." Still, we soldiered on, loading up with our luggage and provisions and, against all odds, arriving without a hitch.
These two knuckleheads were biking pretty much the same route we had just driven and we knew they were going to be exhausted and famished, so we immediately set to work preparing lunch. Good plan, because they arrived shortly thereafter--exhausted and famished.
We were under the impression that just the three of us would be staying there, but after eating a friend showed up to visit, then Juan's brother and his wife arrived to spend the weekend as well. Later in the evening a friend of his dropped by for dinner (the other two guys had departed). The next day Juan's mom & dad called to say they were coming to spend Saturday night with us, and they surprised us all by showing up with her sister. And Sunday the sister's daughter and her dog arrived unannounced to hang out for awhile. None of this was a problem--the damn house is so big it can sleep 25 or more. It was yet another interesting and entertaining view of Ecuadorian life.
Friday afternoon was warm and gorgeous, so we enjoyed being outside surrounded by beautiful vistas.
That night we enjoyed an incredibly delicious meal of filet mignon (lomo fino to the locals), then went on a full moon horseback ride. Very unique and memorable. Saturday Juan and two friends went on a full day ride deemed too advanced for the rest of us, so we lounged around and went on a hike through the gorgeous countryside.
Along the way we encountered various cows
and two young horses and their "nanny."
We weren't aware that the end of our journey involved a "Stairway to Hell."
Mom, Dad, and Aunt Louisa showed up, and later Cynthia & I enjoyed making "gringo food" for them-spaghetti with homemade marinara, salad, and garlic bread. They must have liked it because not a scrap remained.
Sunday we went on another ride--this one much more vigorous and in broad daylight.
For two hours on dirt roads--across pastures--up (steep) hills--down (steep) hills--walking, cantering, and galloping. What an experience!! We were exhilarated and exhausted at the same time.
Now we're back in Cuenca, sore beyond belief and ready to do it all again. What a great adventure!