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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tree tomato pie

You know, I never go anywhere without doing serious research first. So I discovered Ecuador has lots of exotic fruits we don't get in the US, and was eager to try them all. High on the list was the tree tomato, a traditional favorite.

Tree Tomato

I had tree tomato juice my first morning in Ecuador, because the hotel puts out a huge breakfast buffet including an egg and pancake station which will make anything to order. And they always have eight different juices. Orange and pineapple are always availble, and six more on top of those.

So, it was okay, but nothing special. Next day, I had the tree tomato compote. Same story. At the same time, we discovered the wonderful babaco, which apparently never leaves the continent. I would pay well if someone would import it. Seriously. Here is the babaco.

Babaco or champagne fruit - Carica pentagona

At the Rondo I had tree tomato pie. As far as I was concerned, that was it for me and the tree tomato. It tasted basically like nothing. Hoever, the next morning, I tried something by accident, having mistaken it for canteloupe. Tree tomato. I almost lost it. Horrible. Well, so I thought I had given it a fair test, and saw no need to try it again in any format.

Anyway, I was having a lot of trouble eating breakfast. I don't know if it was the altitude, or what, but basicallly all I was eating was fruit. I cleverly intuited I couldn't keep anything else down, so I didn't even try. Every morning it was orange (or blackberry or watermelon or pineapple, etc) juice, canteloupe and babaco. For that and other reasons, I actually lost four pounds on this trip. One reason had to do with haring all over creation from 8 AM until 6 PM at high altitude. And, as I said, still other reasons. You'll see.

So this was our day to go to Otavalo, a famous market town, and other sites along the way. We had an extra guide that day, Luisa, who was apparently the shopping expert. Poor thing. I hate to shop, and Joyce is frugal in the extreme. Believe me, this is good or we couldn't afford to go on trips like this at all. But it also means most of our souvenirs are the pictures we take.

Our first stop was a farmacia because we needed some stuff it was good to have a woman along for. There's a farmacia in every block, and an alimentaria (grocery store) or two as well. They have no stores of the size we find "normal" in the US. Every shop is a tiny hole in the wall. Each block has a whole string of tiny little stores because few people have cars and they must carry everything they buy on buses or on foot, so they want to shop as close to home as possible.

Then it was off to the dough ornament store. Seriously. Everything in the store is made out of dough, baked and painted. Here are the kids with a small "Equator Monument" because we forgot to take them out for pictures at the real Mitad del Mundo.


Everything on that shelf is made out of dough. Really. Luckily, they had baskets full of Christmas ornaments, which Joyce is always looking for. She sends them to her family for St. Nicholas Day. I can't tell you exactly how many we came away with but maybe 32, and only a handful are staying with us. And they all made it back unbroken, thanks to yards and yards of toilet paper. See, I knew they had it someplace. Turns out it was all in that shop for wrapping breakables.

Although we weren't supposed to stop there, we spotted another real equator monument (every town has one) and stopped to take pictures with the kids. So now we have both dough and the real deal.


Then we went to a bakery where they make a local delicacy that looks like absolutely nothing. There are only a few places that make this nothing.


So we decided to try the nothing but they had no nothing for sale at that moment. Luisa promised we would find places selling nothing on the way to the next volcano, so we started off again.

Soon we were at a famous overlook to see the Imbabura volcano at Lago Mira. The souvenir shop there sold the baked nothing, so we bought a bag. Criminy! It was delicious! It's amazing how a little stick of nothing actually tasted like something. Joyce found it dull and dry but the guides and I ate the whole bag. Too bad it's not something that travels well. In this picture I have a secure grip on my nothing, to keep it away from Joyce. That's Lago Mira and Imbabura.




At long last we arrived in Otavalo, which in Quechua means "ponchos for everybody" and may I be stuck down if they didn't honestly say this, and anyway, I found it on line.

We didn't need or buy any ponchos (but we got those scarves again!) and we took pictures of their ponchos. It was very colorful, as you can see. Also, the indigenous people are very lovely, and quite small.





Then we went to a hacienda for lunch. We were there four days and hit three different haciendas plus this excellent local restaurant only a guide would know. But that's the next day.

Anyway, haciendas are always lovely and always a good deal. Here's a link to Ecuadoran haciendas. Some of them include a hotel, but all are restaurants. They are just all over the place, and have beautiful gardens. There is NO excuse for eating KFC or McDonald's in Ecuador. We apologized to many Ecuadorans for having exported this mess.

Ecuador Hosterias and Haciendas in Ecuador

Our last stop was the leather-selling town where Joyce got a wallet. Luisa wanted to take us to some other shopping places but we are just not big shoppers so we went back for a swim instead.

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