Our last morning in the Hacienda and we rushed to breakfast, drooling. The maitre d’, chef, head waiter (I am not exactly sure which – perhaps all) has taken a shine to Tom and ruffles his hair at every opportunity. He also insists that Tom speaks to him in Spanish, so T has been muchos graciasing and por favoring at every opportunity. Breakfast was every bit as good today, and we staggered back to our rooms to pack before the drive to Pablo’s family farm at El Quinche a little way north east of Quito. The tarmac felt unrealy smooth after yesterday’s rock and roll. We swished through charmless concrete hamlets, stalls with fruit hanging on strings, barrows full of watermelons and people everywhere. They are small, the people here, high cheekboned and serious. The women wear hats, sometimes we see clusters of schoolchildren in matching uniforms waiting by the roadside. People cross the busiest fastest six lane roads barely giving the traffic a second glance. Youths lounge on little motorbikes with looks of disdain common to youths lounging on motorbikes everywhere. Goats and cattle graze on the verges and the median. The houses are flat roofed and meager. There are no signs of wealth along these roads. At a point where the road narrowed to two lanes, a woman sat on a speed bump, an open hand outstretched to the cars passing either side of her.
Pablo’s farm is down an ancient cobbled road, deeply gouged by heavy rain and jolting wheels. There are squat bungalows – a door and two windows – either side of the track, with brightly coloured washing strung out like bunting. Entering the gateway to Pablo’s farm was like entering a cool green oasis; serene lawns punctuated with fruit trees and a couple of fat palms. The farmhouse sits around a red-tiled courtyard with a small chapel to one side. It was built by Pablo’s parents and he shares it now with his brother and sister.
From here we intended to go to the market at Otavalo, ninety minutes away. But halfway back up the track an ominous clanging from under our rental car announced that the rubber tailpipe clamp had said “enough already with the bad roads”. We turned back, put Robert and Sui Fun in Pablo’s Discovery and settled in to a quiet afternoon with pot noodles, books, puzzles, g and t and peanuts. Rather nice in fact. I walked around trying to free up a stiffening back and spotted a very large wasp struggling to drag what could only have been a small tarantula across the patio.
The sun goes down like clockwork at 6.30pm and darkness falls on Ecuador like a cape. The rest of the crew arrived back from Otavalo at about nine with a big bag of fried chicken and boiled potatoes. We ate, and slept.