Bananas and more bananas
Sunday morning. Breakfast at 6.30am. Surely not? Oh yes, we depart at 7.30am (not by popular demand!) but because our guide Fernando has decided to include a visit to Machachi market and use an approach to Cotopaxi National Park via a little known back road. By 8.30am we are strolling around the market. It is huge, colourful and friendly, and we are clearly very unexpected visitors. The locals welcome us and we enjoy plenty of good hearted banter as we wander around the stalls and inspect the goods on sale. The fruit and vegetable section is amazing and we decide to try some fresh pineapple which proves to be very refreshing. Richard also buys a whole branch of Ecuadorian bananas. These are small bananas with a great taste. There are around 75 bananas on the branch and it is heavy. Really heavy. Apparently the local way to carry a large bunch of bananas is on the shoulder so Richard has a go. By the time we make it back to our coach the lowest bananas are squashed and banana juice is seeping down Richard´s shirt. Best not to tell Dawn so we will keep this a secret please.
Leaving Machachi we drive over the mountains towards the north gate of Cotopaxi National Park. The road changes from tarmac to cobble stones and we discover we are driving along an Inca trail. The scenery is stunning as we bounce along. It is pretty much single track all the way and we don´t meet oncoming traffic for sometime, until two jeeps appear over the horizon. We are in the middle of nowhere and strangely there are 12 dogs running alonside the first jeep. The driver is finally persuaded to back up to a wider point and the 12 dogs follow him obediently!
At the National Park check point we meet two local guides who join us for a visit to a shallow lake that sits on a plateau below the Cotopaxi volcano. We can clearly see the snowline of the volcano but cloud cover prevents a full view of the top. This means Richard is buying the drinks at lunch. After a pleasant walk along the lakeside we hear thunder and rain coming so we reboard our coach and drive to Hosteria La Cienega, a beautiful old Hacienda with a few rooms, a restaurant and attractive gardens.
All in all, a great day. And there is no doubt we have been off the beaten track!
PS: Anyone fancy another banana?