Friday, September 9, 2011

On Tour, Sneaking a Ride

A VIP tour began and the work had long been started.  I run the support vehicle, hauling around in the ol' Land Rover with a trailer.  I ended up all over the place, trailer half falling off and secretly fixing a million things.
There are beautiful old Spanish haciendas hidden throughout Ecuador.  These are anywhere from quaint to lavish.  I'm in and out of the kitchens and stables, hanging with the workers behind the scene, laughing eating sneaky meals and drinking coffee into the night.
With my beloved, half broken headphones crammed in my ear, I made my way between haciendas on a tour of my own.

To make things more interesting, I somehow left all the hand drawn maps at the house when I embarked on this week long support run.  I was alone, winging it on one of the most important tours of the year.  It all worked out great.

Monkey Puzzle Tree, a nice tree from the Chilean region.

In the midst of running around taking care of horses, gear, luggage, and picnics, I got asked to take the clients to see the condors.  It so happened that they hang out in this valley.  I was sent in with no information.

What I was not told is that there is a breeding refuge hidden deep in the valley.  We got the chance to walk right up to the cage where they kept the Andean Condors.

At the base of the hills, you might notice the flat top pyramids.  These are some ancient contructions from compressed ash.  They were used in ceremonies.

A female condor and her red eyes

Male Andean Condor.  There were seveal wild condors flying around and one landed on top of the cage right next to us.  These birds have about a 12ft wingspan.

Each person has their steed.

The wild horses of Cotopaxi.

One day, I was surprised when Sally told me to saddle up an extra horse and told me I was riding.
Jeff, an American cowboy from Montana--and excellent rider and good fella.

By the lifelong riders, I was told that what we were on some tricky terrain.  I felt at ease in my naivity even though at points, it got STEEP.  

I found the whole thing more funny than scarey to be honest, especially when on one particularly tricky part, an updraft suddenly blew my poncho over my head.

Patricio was out chagra guide. He, Cesar, and I had bunked in a small room in the back of the hacienda for 2 nights bumpin the hand held FM radio. 

Steep.  The lifelong riders had bug eyes at many points.  It didn't help that the guide and his horse almost fell.  A couple of the clients had a couple skips of the heart as well.  My horse decided to traverse across a couple of steps instead of listening to my "go straight down" command that I was half-assing since I was really trying to take a picture.  He slipped down about 4ft.  The horses are actually incredibly skilled though; for, while rounding up cattle and the fighting bulls, the chagras canter, or full on run on these slopes trying to lasso the runaways.

Is Cesar short, or are there a lot of saddles in a small wheelbarrow?  It was a trick getting this load to the shed.