“Flowers and plants are silent presences; they nourish every sense except the ear.” ~ May Sarton
While in Ecuador in 2006 and 2007, we traveled with friends who once lived in the country for four years and were returning to visit old friends and favorite places. As travel companions, we got to experience this beautiful country through their eyes.
One such place on the itinerary was Hacienda Cusin near San Pablos del Lago and south of Otavalo. After spending a night in Quito we drove our rental car north on the Pan American Highway for the two hour scenic drive.
At 8500 feet, Hacienda Cusin is a restored 400 year old estate. At one time, the property comprised of over 100,000 acres and was purchased through an auction from Phillip II, King of Spain, by the Luna family, in 1602. Since then it has passed through several owners, fell into disrepair and much of its acreage sold. Its present owner of two decades bought acreage back and restored the buildings to its Andean heritage and added on extensively. It is a five star place to stay at and the grounds and friendly staff make sure it remains that way.
I felt I had stepped back in time.
White washed walls, Spanish tile roofs, earthen ware pots, randomly placed, looked like it had been that way for centuries, belying the improvements and additions.
The main reception room was warm and inviting. Its owner’s taste for icons, art and handmade tapestries intermingled with cozy seating areas made it feel like home away from home. The adjacent dining room with its heavy wooden tables and chairs reflected the heritage and nobility that once lived here. Aromas coming from the kitchen area reminded me that I was looking forward to dinner.
Flowers danced along the walls and fence rows in a haphazard manner, colors and species intermingled as an informal garden should be. The rich lakebed soil makes a fertile ground for the garden’s restoration.
The beauty of this place is the serenity and peace it exudes as one walks down its paths meandering around the guest houses, some with their own water garden.
There is a library and monasterio (conference center) adorned with hand painted murals as well as dried ears of corn.
Arched windows with colorful hand painted designs add artistic interest to this walkway.
A stable with horses, llamas and even turkeys is worth a walk to just to be outside and notice how close we are to the 15,000 foot snow capped mountains of Imbabura and Cotacachi. Quite the back drop.
This lovely private dwelling was home to our expat friends for several years. It now belongs to another couple from the US who graciously entertained us with a wonderful dinner, Ecuadoran style. Hacienda Cusin granted several expat families property to build on while they lived in Ecuador. We stayed in another private home on the estate that was vacant at the time.
True to the local custom, Valencia, who used to cook for our expat friends, Robert and Paula, prepared and delivered cuy (roasted guinea pig) for Robert…his breakfast. He was in his glory.
Of course, we had to stage it, add the beautiful hacienda grown roses and take pictures.
We watched as Robert ate his cuy.
I believe the rest of us had eggs.
Photography by Ron Mayhew