We spent two nights at the traditional and working Hacienda el Porvenir. It is hard to choose a highlight from our trip, because everything was truly incredible, but if I was forced to pick this might just be it! I’m a sucker for mountainous backdrops and doing anything on horseback. We were greeted with empanadas and hot tea. It felt like we were being welcomed by old friends while sitting in front of the large cozy fireplace. We had traveled from the Galapagos and the heat that morning, so I welcomed the idea of wearing a light jacket. This also meant we traveled from sea level to nearly 13,000 ft, so we were happy to have an evening to relax.
Kate and I had separate bedrooms for the first time in nearly two weeks. We each had fireplaces and stunning views of Cotopaxi when it peeked out of the clouds. It was pretty clear that there was no lack of activities at el Porvenir. Even though we were sharing the hacienda with other guests it felt like we had the place to ourselves.
We were determined to try as many of the activities as possible while we were there. We started our first day with a horseback ride. We were fortunate enough to have Alejandro, the grandson of the owner, as our personal guide. The hacienda has been in his family since the 1800s and it was clear that it is his life passion. It was fairly chilly in the morning so I wore plenty of layers. They were well prepared and layered us with thick wool ponchos and llama chaps (I really, really would have loved to bring a pair of these home with me). After a rain jacket, our warm layers and the poncho, Kate and I joked that these were our cowboy fat suits.
My horse was named Camarero which roughly translates to bartender. The horses have adapted from horses the Spaniards brought over, they are stocky in build and sure footed. They were all healthy looking and listened to commands. We used a South American saddle that is very similar to a Western saddle. It had a pommel, a deep seat and was covered with a cozy sheepskin pad.
We had been told if we were lucky enough to see Andean condors, this is the place it would be. With only 180 left in Ecuador it is a pretty rare treat to see them. As we made our way up the mountain side we couldn't help but notice the large birds circling above us. 1, 2, 3... they just kept coming. We counted 9 condors in total! Our guides were excited to see some juveniles, which is a good sign for the populations. The species has been trapped and hunted into near extinction, but with educational tools from conservationists the locals are learning about the bird's important environmental role. Our guide pointed out plants and told us the names of the surrounding mountains. We tasted huckleberries right off the bush, which is a summertime favorite back in Montana. For being 3,500 miles away from home, there was something very familiar about Hacienda el Porvenir!