There was a fire in my bedroom last night. Most other places, that would be the start of a pretty lively sort of story - but in Ecuadorian haciendas, it just means that when you return to your room after dinner, there's a crackling wood fire to greet you and accompany your falling asleep. Plus another hot-water bottle - which was warm all night and still pleasant company in the morning. Heaps better than an electric blanket. I'm really tempted to go retro when I get back home.
What with all that, and perfect freshly-cooked pancakes for breakfast, and a roaring fire in the lounge as I passed through it, I was rather reluctant to leave Hacienda Cusín this morning - but duty called. First I visited Otavalo, a market town I thought I had been to before, but hadn't. The Poncho Market isn't just ponchos, it's all sorts of textiles, woven, embroidered and printed, plus hats and belts and such, manned (and womaned) mostly by indigenous people, who David was at pains to convince me are no different economically from other Ecuadorians, apart from their traditional dress. Certainly those on the streets and behind the wheels of their cars looked as affluent as anyone, and as attached to their phones.
The food market was a lot more of a cliché though, with pig's heads, beef tripe, hearts and lungs, and chickens' heads and feet piled up or draped over things like some PETA nightmare. The town is pretty, though, colourful and clean, and very lively - much like, on a smaller scale, Cotacachi which specialises in leather work, of excellent quality and reasonable prices: everything from purses and stylish jackets to Western saddles, chased and studded and a snip at $1200. This town is, unexpectedly, a favourite with adventurous retirees from Canada and the US, who come for the cheap living, equable climate and free health care.
We had lunch today! At Cayambe, the specialty it sends all over Ecuador: biscoche, crisp buttery biscuits that I saw being made with lightning speed and baked in a pizza oven. Delicious, even if I wasn't able to try the option of dipping them into dulce de leche - though probably a good thing for my cholesterol levels.
And now I'm at the Thermas Papallacta, up in the Andes again with cloud swirling around the tops of the volcanoes, relaxed after my wallow in the pool right outside my garden cottage and waiting for dinner in a chair by yet another fire, half-listening to the soap opera an American woman is watching avidly on her tablet nearby, occasionally muttering comments to herself like "She's so not into him!"