Our last two nights in Ecuador were spent in this beautiful hacienda in Paute, about 45 minutes outside of Cuenca. Top shelf service! From the moment we were picked up by our driver, Christopher we were treated like royalty. Christopher was attentive to our needs and pointed out many places of interest along the way as well as giving us some history of the area. Fernando, the rooms division manager was/is maravilloso! He is impeccable in his attention to the customers needs and even called our cable company in Quito for us to make sure we had discontinued service as we are leaving Ecuador.
It turns out we had the place to ourselves since last weekend was a holiday weekend and they were packed. The food is delicious, fresh and mostly organic as they have gardens on the premises. The customer service is outstanding! The staff has catered to visitors from around the world and it shows in their prompt attention to your comfort without being cloying. The superior rooms speak of days gone by yet they are updated for modern convenience. Plenty of hot water, gorgeous patios, pools, Turkish baths, massage rooms and two restaurants. A charming fireplace in the original part of the home is surrounded by comfy couches and a bar nearby where you can drink warm canelazo to take the chill off even more. Or sip your drink of choice as you sit on the veranda overlooking the original entrance of the Hacienda overlooking the Rio Paute.
Fernando gave us a tour of the grounds and told us the history of the Hacienda which dates back to the 1790’s. It was a sugar cane plantation and rum distillery. There is also a salon that invokes old Spain and houses beautiful antiques and tapestries from the original home and can be used for meetings, weddings and the like. A lovely pond for paddle boating and horse back riding is included in your room rate. If you EVER get to Uzhupud/Paute you won’t be disappointed by this elegant historic inn from another era.
Monday, November 2 is officially the first of a two day celebration of the Independence of Cuenca. However, the celebration really begins on Saturday. Monday was a surreally gorgeous day here. The city sparkled. The humidity was low. School and work is out and the streets in El Centro, the walkways along the Tomebamba river and the nooks and crannies throughout the city are filled with the booths of artisans and crafters of every genre from all over Ecuador. There are huge woven rugs from Salasaca (must see), artistic jewelry from the Amazon, macana (ikat) weavings from Bulcay and Gualaceo and yum, delicious ceviche that is as good as Peruvian. People are happy and women walk arm in arm or hand in hand with their daughters and friends. I smile as I watch them, I am drinking it all in. The artwork of the Ecuadorian culture is amazing, I think creativity oozes from their pores! It seems like they are in constant artistic motion.
Artisan from Amazon
Weaver from Salasaca, many of these rugs are made with red dye from the cochineal insect.
Jennifer and I enjoyed the many artisans booths in town along the river.
On Tuesday we left for Baños de Ambato, about 7 hours away by bus. Some of the most spectacular scenery I have observed since we’ve been here along the way. Ecuador is one of the most beautiful countries in the world I think, but then again I haven’t seen every country. Our trip included mountain biking down the avenue of the waterfalls (me of course, Chet took a taxi) visiting the thermal baths, thus the name of this town, taking a trip to view the volcano Tungurahua and swinging off the edge of a cliff (not as bad as it sounds and very fun).
road to/from Baños de Ambato
snow capped Chimborazo an inactive volcano
another view of Chimborazo
A view towards Tungurahua, an active volcano.
View of Baños de Ambato
Baños de Ambato
along the avenue of waterfalls Baños de Ambato
fellow mountain bikers on the avenue of the waterfalls, 20km/12 miles of pure joy!
Pailon Del Diablo/Devil’s Cauldron waterfall
crawling through this cave is an experience, brings you to the higher point of the falls.
swinging bridge at Pailon del Diablo
Chet at Salada thermal baths in Baños de Ambato
Cascade in the center of Baños
It has been said that life changes quickly and dramatically. Just when you think you have the pieces in place someone or something moves the pieces. As a modern day (trying to imitate) Sarah (and boy do I have a loooong way to go) it is time for me to pack up our tent and head out.
Many tears have been shed as we get ready to say goodbye to Cuenca. Yes, we are moving back to the States for various reasons, nothing traumatic, serious or life threatening. Chet and I have prayed and reevaluated our situation here and some responsibilities back in the States and made the decision to return. To ease the transition we also are enjoying the English meetings once again. It has been quite fun actually to have the whole of Cuenca as our territory!
Our plane leaves Cuenca on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 headed for Alabama. We plan to settle in a small city in northern Alabama that is renowned for the blues. I mention it simply because I happen to love the blues so what a happy coincidence to land in an area that hosts a great Blues Festival every summer. Most importantly we are eager to meet our new congregation and get busy in the work that Jehovah has us to do there. We made a small wish list, prayed and lo and behold we have a place to live when we arrive, that will make the transition easier as well. So on to a new adventure! How long will we be there? Who knows?!
I will forever be grateful for this awesome experience, we recount almost everyday the exciting times we had here, the things we learned about ourselves, each other and this beautiful country and culture, we will miss so many things but especially our dear friends in Paraiso Congregation. There were ups and downs true and I am so happy that you all shared this journey with us. Your encouraging words and prayers for us were very much appreciated. We hope that we have inspired you to take the proverbial leap and taste and see what Jehovah still has in store for you! Whether your move is across the globe to Myanmar or around the corner to Chocolate Bayou, Texas or Whynot, Mississippi (real places) for a week, a month or the rest of your life in this system we are certain you will never regret it! After all…Why Not?