Hacienda la Alegria – Ecuador
We stayed at Hacienda la Alegria in Ecuador for a week during October, when the weather is usually fairly dry and temperatures are just starting to cool down. Hacienda la Alegria is owned by Gabriel Espinosa, whose passion, enthusiasm and professionalism shine out from the moment you meet him. As soon as we arrived at the hacienda we were treated like one of the family, being introduced to the various horses, dogs, cows and alpacas that live there. It’s a working farm, built and expanded on the principles of ecotourism. While speaking to Gabriel about the land and animals he cares for it’s clear to see he is deeply passionate about the ecosystem that surrounds him, along with what the future holds for tourism in Ecuador.
There were four people in our group of friends, three who were experienced riders and one beginner. The experienced riders were offered a different mount each day from Gabriel’s herd of mostly home-bred horses. The beginner rode the same horse each day and by the end of the week had progressed to being able to enjoy six hours in the saddle to reach the Cloud Forest. All the horses were all beautifully cared for and wore the traditional tack of South America, which was very comfortable even after hours in the saddle!
A highlight of our week was a two day ride to the Cloud Forest, an overnight stay at the Orchid Hospital and a morning guided tour by Osvaldo – an expert whose motto is ‘Agua, comida y amore’. His careful application of water, food and love has the ability to revive more than just the orchids which find themselves under his care. To reach the Cloud Forest we crossed a range of mountains which gave us spectacular views including, as the name suggests, a glimpse of life above the clouds.
In the Cloud Forest itself we felt like we had been taken back in time, completely surrounded by nature and mystical birdsong. It was possible to get completely lost in our own thoughts as our horses carried us along the misty jungle pathways. Returning to the hacienda after long days in the saddle we were always greeted by a delicious three course meal, involving the freshest local ingredients and enjoyed alongside Gabriel as part of the family. It’s possible to do as much or as little as you like during your stay at Hacienda la Alegria – for those wishing to get involved with caring for the horses and learning more about the farm animals you will be welcome to do so. Alternatively, if you’d rather arrive to find all the work done for you that’s fine too.
Despite only staying for a short week we returned to England revitalised and full of stories to tell about our time in Ecuador. A stay at Hacienda la Alegria would be suitable for all the family, young and old. We can’t wait to visit again one day soon.