Hello gentle people of the internet. Hello friends, family. I’ve been remiss in keeping up-to-date with this blog on account of all the relaxation. In fact, it’s been so much relaxing that I’m a tad stressed about it. I don’t actually know what to do with myself half the time. This is apparently a natural phenomenon when you’re used to moving mock-ten, 24/7.

So we’ve been at this lovely farmhouse (hacienda) for the past 10 days. Time appears to stand still here, which is a welcome contrast to the whirlwind touring we’ve been doing the last few months. Getting lost in the breathtaking view, we usually enjoy a cup of coffee or two before the kids are even up. I have to say, it’s sweet bliss! Sometimes we’re awoken by the sound of the cows grazing in the field right below our bedroom window. Other mornings, it’s a convention of parading chickens and their the bock-bock-bocking that stirs our sleepy bones. Regardless, we’ve all settled into the epitome of lazy and it’s been, well, kind of cool!

We arrived last week on a Wednesday and spent the first few days adjusting to a life of no agenda. The girls have been thrilled to just bounce on the trampoline and are equally stoked that they can ogle and hang out with the animals until their hearts are content. The hacienda we have rented was discovered on airbnb.com for what I would consider a bargain price, and we’ve got the place secured for two weeks. I was totally caught by surprise when we arrived and saw that it was an actual working farm, complete with sheep, horses, cows, chickens, roosters and some 80 workers who cultivate the rose gardens down below us for exportation. We are surrounded by the greenest grass and the loveliest of views, along with trees that produce avocados, walnuts, limes, grenadillas and oranges. There is a kind of magic here that I cannot put my finger on. It’s one reason why I’ve spontaneously taken up meditating in a quiet little spot along the ridge of the property. Everyday, if possible, around 5:00 pm when the light takes on that “golden hour” hue, I wrap myself up in a llama blanket and ask the mountains to infuse their special energy into me. But all of us feel it.


An actual working jukebox. First song up, “I’m All Out of Love” by Air Supply. Insert groaning by Alvi.


Our sun room complete with old cooking stove in the background.


View of the farmhouse from where the sheep graze.


As you can see it’s very rustic, but beautiful.


The cock of the walk calling for his girls.


View from the backyard.


Way up along the ridge is Sam’s Special Spot.


Avocado trees in the yard complete with swings.


Sun setting outside of our window.


Clouds rolling in as the sun sets.


Temperature drops significantly here at altitude when the sun goes down.


Girls in their room catching up on their “beauty sleep”, according to Saffy.

Last weekend we had the distinct honour of hosting my friends Joaquin and Diana for the weekend. Joaquin was our official guide at the onset of this crazy adventure; Diana is his lovely wife. Joaquin and I met back in November when I attempted to climb some mountains with a guiding company that employs him. We stayed in touch and I’m so very happy about this. He and his wife Diana ~ she’s the most caring doctor and has looked after many of our woes along the way! ~ have become good friends of ours, and one day we hope to host them both in Canada! Last Saturday, Alvi cooked up a fantastic meal and the six of us hung out like old times and old friends. On Sunday, Joaquin took us to Otavalo, a town known for its markets and the indigenous people who inhabit it, still clinging to their traditional attire and old ways. We all learned a thing or two about the “right way” to barter for goods and as a result scored some additional “stuffs” to cart home with us. It was a fantastic afternoon; the girls enjoy every opportunity they get to spend time with both Joaquin and Diana, as do we.


The beautiful Diana. We love her!


In Otavalo the market has EVERYTHING. Including, Saffron….


This lady. She captivated Alvi.


No iPads, no wifi. Just kids having fun in the street.


This is a common market site. Sorry to all you vegetarians.


Otavalo market. Where bargains can be made!

Somewhere along the way, Alvi and I began to concoct a secret plan to get his mother down here. The house, the view, the magic, it was all just too special to keep to ourselves for too long. We made the pitch on the weekend and by Monday evening, Irene Plavins had joined us! I was so proud of her; she’s just turned 80 (though you would never know it to look at her) and has a fairly full dance card. But the prospect of coming down to a part of the world she had never seen before, while being able to spend precious time with grandchildren was too tempting and now she’s here!

While at the airport, we were waiting anxiously for Oma’s 10:45 pm flight via Houston to arrive. With flowers in tow and armed with enthusiasm and our cell phones for photos, we stood amongst 3 dozen other well-wishers watching and waiting for her to appear through the doors. It seemed like an eternity, but at long last the doors from the customs area opened and there she was! Not 3 minutes later, so at precisely at 11:24pm, the world as we knew it began to rock. And I don’t mean in the Tragically Hip sense. We had not even left the arrivals area when the lights all flickered off and the ground beneath us dropped a few inches. People all around us screamed in terror and ran as fast as they could for the doors to the outside. I had no clue what was happening, but I had a horrified 8-year old crouched down beside me sobbing. “I’m too young to die at 8!” Alvi and Piper were attempting to pay for the parking pass, while Oma, Saffy and I were waiting with the rest of the crowd when the 4.7 magnitude earthquake ~ epicentre directly underneath us ~ shook the entire airport and surrounding 50 kms. After grasping what had happened, checking our pants (Saffy claims she pooped hers), and gathering back our sanity, we hit the road around midnight for the 45 minute drive back to our hacienda. Along the route was clear evidence of the earthquake: rock slides scattered across the highway, police and other workers cleaning up boulders that had come down from the mountains and areas with no power, therefore no streetlights whatsoever. Looking back, it was an exciting but no-need-to-repeat experience for us all. Irene felt very welcomed 🙂

As Chairs of the Entertainment Committee, both Alvi and I came up with a list of things for Irene (Oma) to do other than the most obvious: enjoying the ambience of the property. To assist us in our adventure endeavours, we rented Joaquin’s Prado for the remainder of our days here, enabling us to take short day trips in and around the area. One such trip was back to Otavalo to show Irene the market; I think it’s safe to say she was impressed! Her haul was mighty impressive, as well!


Emptier streets mid-week. Luxurious shopping space for us all!


One of the locals in her traditional attire.


Oma about to make her first purchase: a poncho made from alpaca/llama wool.


The girls keeping warm during their shopping. Otavalo is higher altitude (10,500 feet) and the sun had disappeared for the day. Thank you to Oma for the warm shawl!


Infinity scarves available in every colour.


Long-stemmed roses for sale. 24 for $2.


Trying to capture the essence of the twisty, curvy, very exposed roads in this country.


Shockingly, Alvi was able to capture in clear view the stunning Cayambe Volcano with its massive, glaciated peak. Sitting at 19,000 feet, this was one of the mountains I climbed in November. Alas, I did not summit but we had a good go of it!


Gorgeous lights towards the end of the day as we were driving by these fields.

A few days later we discovered an Animal Sanctuary in the little town of Guayllabamba and opted for a three-hour tour. It was incredible! I was expecting something akin to our Chippewa Park Zoo but this place was a million times more impressive. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.


Always willing to pose, our ham, Piper.


This guy. Not as sweet as he looks…. hissed at us most of the time.


We were so close to this leopard!


King of the jungle. Obviously continents away…


“Yeah, baby!!!”


This guy might as well have been at the spa, while he was groomed by his buddy. Who then ate everything he picked out. Classic!


Absolutely lovely little place. Quito Zoo, in Guayllabamba.


No shortage of these guys. Piper was enthralled. “My new bestie, mom!”


Trying hard to get a “selfie” with the llamas.


They’ve grown so much….



And now we look forward to welcoming some additional houseguests, my dear friend Colleen and her son Evan! I’ve known them for nearly 12 years and the adventure bug has bitten them both, too. There will be tales to tell in due course. Blessings to you all!