Fotos y texto por László Károlyi
Driving south from Quito on an incredible path known as Volcano Avenue is surely one of the most spectacular journeys, a lifetime experience. Less than three hours away we arrived to Riobamba, to an idyllic spot with five hectares of spectacular gardens, the kind that we read about in descriptions made by magical realism authors. Wonderful!
In his traditional attire, José, an award-winning Chef and gourmet expert from Spain welcomes us. The conversation takes us through a fantastic description of his culinary recipes, all of which have been created in different parts of the world but speak about his love for Ecuador and its gastronomy. Once we are comfortably seated in front of a magnificent fireplace in a cozy spot at the restaurant, he says, “I am going to prepare a combination of my culinary art and will be providing with wine acordinly, so please enjoy and let me take care of the rest”.
Impossible to narrate the parade of flavors that fusion traditional Spanish cuisine with Andean seasoning. Incomparable! Wines… a wonderful selection of strains from the new world that ask nothing from the old world.
“Dessert will be sent to your room,” says Isabel Hurtado de Valdiviezo, owner of Hacienda Abraspungo. “It’s late and you better rest.” Isabel smiles while accompanying us to the room, or should I say, to what seems like the chambers of a monarch in exile. Wonderful! The endless bed covered with rose petals and the oceanic Jacuzzi treat us to unthinkable rest and relaxation. Dessert arrives, an indescribable handcrafted pudding in three variations, which main ingredient is the world famous “Cacao Arriba”. An elixir that provokes ecstasy sensations from the first bite.
Enjoying a steaming bowl of coffee, while the morning air transports the magical aroma to a dozen people who collect all sorts of equipment in absolute order, Isabel tells us, “You are very lucky. The expedition to the Altar departs from Abraspungo today. “But I do not want to get married yet!” I replied. Laughing, she explained that the Altar is the most beautiful and isolated mountain in Ecuador, and is also the only one in the world where a highland tsunami had occurred. A highland tsunami… and how is this? Isabel explains that a portion of one of the seven peaks suddenly fell on the lake at the base, causing a gigantic wave that covered and destroyed a large part of a forest. Incredible, this definitely has to be seen!
We gathered some clothes and got on a well-equipped 4×4 vehicle to embark on a journey that sounded like one in an adventure book. We drove beyond where the paths ended, reaching the point where the guide informed us “from here onworlds on mule back”!
The expedition included people from all ends of the woods. With mood to their bellies the mules ride thru impossible paths. Our new friends where on a mission, they had been assigned by one of the most prestigious magazines, specialized on this matters, and insisted that we do not take photographs. So we parted. Our decision was to continue our journey southward, where we would take the mythical train of La Nariz del Diablo.
We arrived in Alausí right on time to take the noon train and where immediately surrounded by such impressive scenery that made that turn this experience into an unforgettable one. We knew then that this is something you definitely have to live to understand. This incredibly modern train zigzags down the mountain flanks!
While listening to a very civilized explanation imparted by our guide, I dibagate about the past and tried to imagine the complications that accompanied the construction process of these tracks thru such a dangerous crossing. The thorough explanation we enjoyed increased our interest in learning more about this wonderful country that we, as Ecuadoreans, truly love.
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