Thursday, November 29, 2012

Spa in the high Andes

After a week in the Amazon, with the heat, the mud and the lack of hair dryer it was such a pleasure to drive for 10 hours up to a hot springs called Papallacta. The weather was cool everything was clean and there were thermal springs all around and you could get an hour long message for $35.00! Connie and I thought we had arrived in heaven.

We got our room allocations and headed to the Cabana which had underfloor heating provided by the hot springs and joy of joy's a bath. Everywhere we had been staying so far had showers and I really am a bath person.

Right outside was a hot pool, so we donned our bathing suites and jumped in.  Unfortunately shortly thereafter I started to feel a little nauseous and decided to lie down for a little while.  Well a little while turned out to be 12 hours! I was suffering a little from the altitude, we were at over 3,300 metres high and I guess the quick ascent along with sitting in a hot tub was too much for me.  So I can not describe to you how good the food was at dinner that night at a local restaurant, but everyone told me it was wonderful.

The next morning I was a new women and so I went along with everybody else down to the same restaurant for an Ecuadorian breakfast. This turned out to be warm fresh buns (that tasted better than they look) with melting queso fresco inside.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cassava bread In the Amazon

One day while we were in the Amazon we went to visit a village a further 2 hours up the river to where our lodge was.  The people living here were still living as their ancestors had for centuries, with the addition of some electricity and Internet.  Given these additions I wonder how hard it will be to keep the children of the village continuing this life style.

One of the staples of their diet is cassava.  The cassava plant grows easily here and matures in about  10 months. At the time of digging up the root tubers, a shoot is replanted, so that there will be another plant ready for harvesting in less than a year.  I do not have any pictures of the digging up of the cassava root as I was distracted by chickens and lost my way through the village.

I took this picture as they headed off, the next time I looked up there was no sight of them.  After what seemed like 30 minutes (probably closer to 5) I along with the monkey that had adopted me found them but missed the whole digging up demonstration, the tubers were peeled and sitting in a bowl of water. But I was relieved that this was not the last picture ever of my husband.

The young women demonstrating for us now took the tubers and grated them, using home made graters in a beautiful hollowed out length of mahogany.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sucking mud and hunting Anacondas in the Amazon

The first day that we were in the Amazon, our guide excitedly told us we were heading off in the canoe to go see an anaconda snake. We were all given wellington boots as it might be a little muddy, (boy was that an understatement).  Now this whole trip did not seem like such a good idea to me, as I was not sure I wanted to get up and close with an enormous snake that could strangle me to death.  But any way off we headed in the canoe across the lake.

At first it was beautiful, with that lovely late afternoon sun giving a warm glow to the jungle, and we were canoeing on the Amazon after all, and then we ran aground. The only thing to do was get out of the canoe and walk it to the island that held the snake, at first just a couple of people.

Then everyone was out walking with the warm Amazon river flooding over the top of the boots!

The worst was yet to come.  When we arrived at the island the water had recently receaded to expose what we lovingly christened sucking mud.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cuyabeno Lodge

After over 2 hours in a canoe with an outboard motor we arrived at Cuyabeno lodge situated on a shallow (very shallow as it turned out) lake.

When we arrived there was no sight of the lodge just a muddy foreshore, apparently we were going in the back entrance as the lake was low and the closer access at the front was inaccessible.  As the week drew on, each day we had to access the boats further and further away.  First things first, we were taken to the eating area where we were served lunch immediately as it was already past my
normal lunch time.

Our meal started as most meals do in Ecuador with soup (sopa) the eubiquitos soup, locra de papa is basically a potato soup with fresh cheese and avacado in it. Since leek and potato soup is one of my favourite comfort foods I was happy to have this soup often.

The main course consisted of pork, beans plantain and potato fritters.  The food was good, fairly plain, and not too rich, which as the temperature was about 30 and humid was good thing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Over the Andes to the Amazon

After 2 nights in Mindos it was time for our epic bus trip up and over the Andes to the first big leg of our trip the Amazon.  We left early in the morning as this bus ride was about 12 hours and that is exactly the amount of day light you get when you are right on the equator.  We climbed up and up until we reached the height of the pass at around 13,000 feet.

Here we got out of the bus for a photo opportunity, the air was noticeably thin if you walked very far it felt like you were in really bad shape and short of breath.  But it was very beautiful and rugged and there really was hardly any traffic on the narrow winding road. Back on the bus for the descent down to Lago Agrio (also known as Nueva Loja) which is at 980 feet. Though we were right on the Equator, up at 13,000 feet the temperature was cool and there was a fresh breeze, I would remember this fondly in the heat of the Amazon. Lunch took a spectacular nose dive, as it was what every you could buy at a gas station.

I chose fried salted beans, yucca chips, pork rinds and a cold beer! I can not remember the last time I ate so much salty snacks and it was not all bad. As we descended down from the mountains the weather got warmer and warmer until we arrived in Lago Agrio after dark, which steamy hot.  This is not a city I would recommend traveling to it is not very beautiful and apparantly not really safe. It is an oil town as this is the heart of the oil fields.

Lago Agrio

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sachatamia Lodge Mindo Ecuador

Mindo is a couple of hours drive from Quito the Capital of Ecuador and is a little lower in altitude and therefore a little warmer. It is in the cloud forest though so it is prone to low cloud and rain.  The  Sachatamia Lodge is made of wood as are all the cabins which gives the interiors a wonderful warm feeling and the exteriors blend in to the landscape.

 Around this lodge there are thousands of humming birds, of many different varieties.  They are not shy and if you patiently stand by one of the many feeders they will even sit on your fingers!

The lodge has a wonderful place to sit to look at the view, watch the birds and even have a drink a the same time.

Many of the group that I was in were avid bird watchers some of them even making a living studying birds so you saw this a lot.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cafe Cultura Quito Ecuador

Old Town Quito in the central square

I have just returned from a trip of a life time to Ecuador, it all started by arriving at Cafe Cultura in Quito after midnight early Tuesday morning after a mammoth trip starting at 4:00 on Monday Morning. We arrived at this amazing lobby with wood fires burning and walls covered in murals.

My husband (who had proceeded me by a couple of weeks) had waited up and led me to our room. Each room at Cafe Cultura is very different, several of them being around the back which are accessed by a covered walk way.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Apple pie with pecan crust

I was asked to make an apple pie for Thanksgiving and decided to try out something that I have been thinking about for a while, creating a crust using ground nuts in place of some of the flour. Pecans seemed to be the nut that most complimented apples so I used ground pecans.

First I roasted 200 gms of pecans until they were just becoming fragarent.

Then I ground these in my small food processor until finely ground, but stopped before they started to turn to pecan butter. I kept out a few for decoration.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Home made crumpets for the crumpet club

My good friend "The Cottagers Wife" dubbed myself, Connie and herself as the crumpet club because of appreciation of English Literature and TV, Downton Abbey in Particular.  We met this past weekend to watch the first two episodes of season 2.  Connie was the only one that had not seen them at all, but I was happy for an excuse to watch again and break out my Mother's Minton china.

Since we were calling ourselves the Crumpet club, I thought that it was important that we had crumpets, and in fact I thought we really ought to have home made crumpets.  This is not something I have ever made before or even had for that matter.  But for some reason I actually have crumpet making rings in my cupboard, I have no idea why or when I got them, but any way it was obviously meant to be.

I found the recipe on Delia Smiths website a fairly reliable source for English recipes. And they turned out to be much easier to make than one would have imagined. You can use any ring a cookie cutter or egg ring, if you don't happen to have crumpet making rings in your cupboard.
8oz (225g) flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of dried yeast
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 (275ml)pint of milk

Heat the milk and 2 fl oz (55 ml) water together in a small saucepan till they are 'hand hot' or you could do the same thin in the microwave which is what I did. Then pour into a jug, stir in the sugar and dried yeast and leave it in a warm place for 10-15 minutes till there is a good frothy head on it

Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, make a well in the centre then, when the yeast mixture is frothy, pour it all in.