Far away from the comings and goings of high-end hotels and their nods toward accommodating families, Hacienda Cusin, a traditional Spanish hacienda, is a refuge for travellers of all ages. Its off-the-beaten-path location and deep roots in Ecuadorian culture set the stage for an adventure that inspires the mind and invigorates the spirit. The hacienda and the adjacent El Monasterio are the yin to the other´s yang, both playing an important role for families using the comfortable complex as a base during their Otavalo tours.
During the centuries when the Spanish Empire extended deep into South America, the Galapagos Islands were a safe haven and hideout for pirates and buccaneers.
The location was close enough to the shipping routes used by merchant and government ships laden with riches and headed home to Spain that it made a good launching pad for attacks. It was also far enough away from the mainland for a clean get away.
Sites including Tagus Bay on Isabela and caves found on Floreana Island were safe refuge and storage for plunder. Local folklore says that some of the ill-gotten gains of the first people to visit the islands is still hidden in stashes around the islands.
Keep reading to discover the fascinating history of the Galapagos and a few of the notable pirates that visited the islands.
It’s estimated seven out of ten Ecuadorians use medicinal plants. Ethnobiologist Omar Vacas has spent 15 years researching local flora used for centuries to cure diseases. He published an article about traditional medicine used by the Kichwa people in the Napo jungle province. He says the Kichwas are often unaware that this info can be useful in developing pharmaceutical drugs. For example, balsa can reduce labor pains. There are 23 conditions including toothache and rheumatism that can be cured by plants used by the Kichwas. These include uña de gato (cat’s claw), ortiga brava, achiote de venda, palo de tortuga, sábila (aloe), ruda, dulcamara, sangre de drago (dragon’s blood), chancapiedra, chaya, valeriana, boldo, condurango and zarzaparrilla.
Alpacas roam the slopes of the Cotacachi Volcano. They belong to the indigenous community of Morochos. José Flores, vice-president of the community, says the alpacas are the best friends of the highland moors (páramos). He explains the animals don’t affect the topsoil because their legs have pads and their teeth cut the grass like scissors. That’s why the community decided to introduce Peruvian alpacas (currently 57) to replace cattle whose hooves eroded the surface of the moor. The area near the top of the volcano is considered an important buffer zone to the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve.