What is THAT noise? I struggle awake and check the time - it's just past 6 am and I realize THAT noise is the sound of horses neighing. I rip open the curtains which reveal a window framed by a giant vase of gorgeous handcut pink-tinted roses and beyond, the Andean mountains, shrouded by morning clouds. Right below my window, Hacienda Zuleta's stable of horses is being brushed and fed. As they stomp and shake their manes, I can see steam rising from their glossy coats.
Breakfast is served in a private dining room - a selection of fresh cheeses and artisan breads made right on premises, served with eggs made to order. The coffee is thick and rich with flavors, and the fruit juices are freshly squeezed. I opt for the "Moro", a type of tart but delicious blackberry. I'm joined by the owner, Fernando, whose family has owned and operated this working hacienda for over a century. The family touches are everywhere, from personal photos of children, the friendly family dogs who faithfully follow guests on hikes, and the many fireplaces in the house, always lit to warm its guests.
We set off on a leisurely hike past the organic gardens, wave to farmers tending to the farm's many horses and cows, and follow cobblestone paths that meander the paramo under towering mountains. If you're lucky, you might spot a spectacled bear. The resident naturalist knows each one of them by name and can recognize each bear by their unique facial markings. The naturalist, a blonde Brad Pitt lookalike from France, is also in charge of the Andean condor rehabilitation center on the property. He shares fascinating information about these gorgeous raptors, who boast wing spans of close to nine feet. In the horse fields, we meet two American archaeologists who've spent weeks uncovering ordinary looking grassy mounds. Underneath are hidden the remains of clay homes, revealing facts about how the indigenous cultures lived many centuries ago. Pointing at me, he notes, "You're actually standing on an unmarked grave right now."
Today I learned the Spanish word for ghost - it's "fantasma."
I hopscotched across four different time zones, finally arriving In Quito's newly opened airport at 10:30 pm. I'm here in Ecuador to attend the largest meeting of Latin American travel specialists and the top outfitters and hotels in the continent. But first, a little overnight break to commune with nature. Why not? Ecuador boasts the highest biodiversity in wildlife anywhere in the world.
A driver named Christian is happy to meet me but when he tells me that the country hacienda I'm staying in is still a two-hour drive away, I try to steel myself to stay awake just a wee bit longer (not easy considering my 4am wake up call that morning!)
We roll through a darkened countryside, a nearly full moon highlighting the steep canyons and never-ending rolling hills. The last 35 minutes of the drive is on a deeply rutted dirt trail, once a cobblestone road. It's a bone-rattling, teeth-jarring, hang-on-to-the-seat-of-your-pants ride. I laugh and grip tightly to my seat. What a welcome!
Finally, at about 1am, we enter a private gated entrance to Hacienda Zuleta, a working ranch/country estate that was once a presidential retreat. Rodrigo, the night watchman, takes me and my luggage to my room, where a roaring fireplace has died down to warm embers, a king sized bed with a fluffy duvet is covered with rose petals, and a delicious bag of buttery cookies and chocolates await me.
I sink into the bed, exhausted and excited to see what tomorrow brings.
Summer is coming, and there’s no better time of year to visit Himalayan destinations such as Tibet, Ladakh, Kashmir, and the Spiti Valley. Not only is it a beautiful season in the mountains, but it’s also a time of many cultural festivals that bring the region’s traditions to vibrant life.
Travelers interested in Buddhist traditions often think first of Tibet when choosing a destination. The region is currently open to travelers, although the many summer festivals are somewhat dependent on the ever-changing political situation. But whether or not they occur as scheduled, the region is still a wonderful place for visiting monasteries, exploring the local culture, and trekking through the incomparable alpine landscapes.
Beyond the region most travelers think of as Tibet – Lhasa west to Mount Kailash and south to Nepal – is a much broader area of Tibetan culture. “We refer to the area as Tibetan Lands because there are whole areas to the east of the Tibet Autonomous Region that are now in Yunan and other parts of China but used to be part of Tibet,” says Myths and Mountains President Toni Neubauer. “These areas are a very different world and a very different ecosystem.”
Our Myths and Mountains family is made up of intrepid travelers who inspire with the way they embrace new cultures and experiences with open arms. We take great pleasure in crafting unforgettable, personalized adventures and sharing the joy of discovery, every step of the way. Here are 25 of the most amazing experiences our travelers have enjoyed during Myths and Mountains’ first 25 years.
1. Circumambulating the sacred peak of Mount Kailash in Tibet
2. Trekking to Everest Base Camp
3. Getting married in special destinations like Bhutan, the Galapagos Islands, and Cambodia
The trip wasn’t advertised specifically as textile-focused, but with a bit of special Myths and Mountains tweaking, Joan Clark and Susan O’Dell from Chicago discovered ample opportunities to indulge their love of weaving and other textile traditions during their journey to Peru last July.
With Myths and Mountains’ Artisans of Peru itinerary as a foundation, Vice President Allie Almario worked closely with Joan and Susan to customize the program, adding and adapting elements to make the trip a one-of-a-kind experience that was everything the travelers had dreamed of, and more.
Both Susan and Joan have a long-standing interest in textiles. Susan is a weaver and a spinner, while Joan has been sewing since childhood and considers herself a tailor. She still cherishes the Singer sewing machine she bought with Green Stamps she collected in high school.
Together, Joan and Susan have traveled to many parts of the world, collecting a variety of indigenous weavings and other textiles along the way. When they saw the “Artisans of Peru” trip listed, things clicked. “We both had been looking for a textile trip, and there weren’t very many out there,” Susan recalls. “When we talked about our interests with Allie one of the things that really sold us was that we were able to plan with her what our travel experience would be, for example by seeing different collections that weren’t necessarily on the original itinerary. I’ve traveled with other travel organizations in different ways, but Myths and Mountains is the only one that has been interested in letting us shape the trip.”