Actually it is rather presumptuous to use the word Andes in this segment as truly we traveled a very small portion of this spine of
Ecuador. Fortunately, in driving to the destinations, we were able to sample the topography, mountains, farming, towns and villages, etc.
so we do have limited visual memories of this part of the world--and they are beautiful visions.
La Estancion Interior
Then, unexpectedly, we stopped--seemingly at an abandoned train station in the little
hamlet of Machachi. Obligingly, we rather ungracefully clamored down from our
perch--wondering why we were being dislodged and found another magical travel moment.
Walking inside the building, we discovered a delightful, colorful, ambience laden
restaurant--bowls of fruit, welcoming native drink, fine place settings and a bevy of
Ecuadorian ladies in native dress waiting to serve us. We were at a wayside inn which
would be a fun overnight stay as it sits in the middle of the real, non-touristy countryside.
 But, alas, we were there just for a mid-morning Ecuadorian meal--corn meal, sweet
tamales, eggs and other tasty delights.  Wanting to stay and enjoy La Estancion longer, we
meetings in the formation of Ecuador.
   Eventually our "Andes Express" stopped so that we could continue on our way
in a non-descript van--but--again, the unexpected. A cycle race was in progess and
the highway was closed to traffic as bicyclists from a multitude of South American
countries gracefully slid by us. We waved and cheered for those who had braved
the altitude to follow their passion.
  Eventually we reboarded the train in order to connect up with the vans at
another location. We were on our way to Hacienda La Cienega--but--two more
treats awaited us along the way.
Potatoes--Potatoes--Everywhere  Saquisili Market
Casey and his flute. Saquisili Market.
Thursday is the day of the indigenous Saquisili market. People come from all over to sell and shop here. In many ways it is more authentic
than the famous Otavalo market as it is much cheaper, not as touristy--sort of the local "flea" market where you can find all types of
farm goods, woven products, pictures, flutes, clothes, etc. There is one entire section  with nothing but a vast variety (50) of potatoes. You
can get everything from live chickens to large wheels of brown sugar. The market moves from town to town during the week. It was a
great opportunity for Casey to get a sense of a new culture; although, we always needed to stay alert in order to keep Casey from petting
the free roaming, rather scrungy looking dogs which little boys are drawn to like magnets. My journal notes read: "I am not certain as to
whether Casey is recognizing the poverty he sees. He does not seem to be afraid or intimidated by his surroundings or the environment."
Market view
Men of the market--Saquisili

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Ecuador Coat of Arms
Ecuadorian Flag
Serendipity--creates the magic in travel and our trip down the Avenue of the Volcanoes began in just such a way. Our guide,Yamondu,
and Giovanni, our driver (both of whom Casey adored), picked us up in the van and then told us we had a treat in store--we were going
to be taking the train rather than the van. Admittedly, upon first hearing this we questioned the why and were a little skeptical.
But---this turned out to be one of those always to be remembered treats which travel sometimes offers. Our "train" was a dilapidated,
one car, broken seated joy ride.  The track had at one time been a major rail link but now lies dormant except for the occasional use of
our"train. My journal reads: "It was old, rickety, uncomfortable and totally fun! We rode along the countryside with little villages along
the way--cows crossing the tracks, dogs madly chasing us and, to our eyes, seeming to be near victims of railroad kill. People in native
costume could be seen as they scrubbed clothes on large rocks, soap suds dripping down. Little children waved as they scurried after
their mothers, carrying babies on their backs, to some destination." Fortunately, there was an engineer and his spotter who watched the
track to warn of cows, dogs, and any other mammal that might cross--along with watching the cross roads when we went through villages.

After having been on the road a short time, the train hiccuped to a stop and we were told that if we wanted to we could get out, walk to
the back and climb up on top. This sounded like too much fun to miss and so all three of us climbed the outside ladder, settled in on the
cross bars and soon found ourselves jerking along with the wind blowing through our hair.  Again, my journal reads: " I am so glad we
went up as it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. We bounced along, out in the open air, sitting on wooden slats with only little metal
railings to hold on to--a good bump and we would all have gone flying into the roadside crevices or, worse yet, in front of the train car.
The views of the volcanoes and particularly Cotopaxi were spectacular.  Just seeing the countryside, unfinished houses, little primitive
farms, rose greenhouses, vacunas, cows, pigs, sheep, geese, etc. gave us a such a unique perspective on rural life in Ecuador. We had a
Our chariot--you can see the
This is not Amtrak!
Traveling along--it was a little chilly up here.
Rolling right through town
La Estancion Interior Courtyard
couldn't as we needed to
reboard our chariot and
continue on to the elegant and
historical Hacienda La Cienega,
the scene of many important
events and
Finally--Hacienda La Cienega! We were ushered into a large, authentic hacienda room with a huge (non-authentic) bathroom. The
hacienda and grounds are very lovely. We wandered for a while--trying to feel what it was like "then". Several events important to the  
various stages of Ecuadorian history were plotted and planned here along with preparation for early exploration of Cotopaxi Volcano. It
was quite cold in this area--so if you ever come, do include warm clothes. The small room heaters do not do too much to ward off the chill.
Later, we were afforded the opportunity to experience life as it was at the hacienda--functioning by candlelight. The electricity became
quite quixotic--periodically the lights would come back on but just as we were settling in again, they would be gone. So after eating by
candlelight, we had a good excuse to snuggle in under several layers of blankets for a cozy nights sleep in a Real Hacienda.
Cotopaxi Volcano
Hacienda La Cienega Grounds--Casey and Ken
Entrance to Hacienda La Cienega
Casey and his friend--Yamandu
Hacienda La Cienega and Cotopaxi