February 21, 2012

Salinas - Carnaval Getaway

Can you spot the Alpaca?
This weekend was Carnaval (or Carnival if you're saying it in English). You may know it as the time around Fat Tuesday. In Latin America, this is when cities go wild with parties, costumes, and parades. Specifically in Ecuador, water, flour, foam, dye and other stuff gets thrown around by kids and adults alike. Luckily, our friends suggested going to a small town called Salinas about 6 hours from Quito. It was much calmer there - although I did pack extra clothes in case we got doused with water.

Salinas is this beautiful Andean town, which was almost perpetually shrouded in mist. We did see the sun peek out a little on our last day. The main draw of this town is that they have a few thriving cooperatives making cheese, chocolate, weaving (and yarn making), salt, essential oils and more. We saw many Ecuadorian tourists come through the town while we were there, but not too many non-Ecuadorians. I think this made the town more down-to-earth although it still catered to tourists with various shops selling local goods. Meghan, Tamara and I were so excited to see wildlife, aka llamas, alpaca, chickens, donkeys, and pigs (they're apparently called "chanchos" here according to Meghan).

On Saturday, our friends (above-mentioned ladies and another Greg), my Greg and I took a very early bus from Quito to avoid the crowds and finally got to Salinas after hitching a ride with in the back of a local truck (or "camioneta"). There's no buses out to Salinas so this is the best way (besides hiring a taxi) to get out there. We walked around the town and enjoyed hot chocolate and coffee at a little cafe. Our nights were spent in front of the fire in our hostal and playing games.
Salinas town square

On Sunday, we started the morning with a short, but steep hike up to the cross overlooking the town when it wasn't raining. The view from up there was fabulous - we're still amazed at how Andean farmers use up every inch of surrounding land, no matter if it's at a very steep angle, to farm. Later I learned from our tour guide/village youth, Alex, that there were caves behind where we climbed. One has two stories and the other cave houses birds. I'm not sure if he meant bats because he didn't use the word in Spanish for bats, but I don't know what other birds there are that live in caves.

Next, we took a tour to a few of the local factories. Alex took us to the factories that make cheese, chocolate (smelled divine), soccer balls, salt mines (salt is only used for animals now), and soy products. They had quite a few varieties of cheese (for Ecuador, that is) and we bought two kinds to bring back home with us. They also have a few shops in Quito so that might save us from eating the same mozzarella or queso fresco for the whole time we're here.

The chocolates also were fantastic and we enjoyed quite a few while we were there. We found a great fitting Alpaca sweater for Greg and cute Alpaca gloves for me to use on the colder Quito mornings.

See...Fog everywhere!
We just couldn't get enough of these guys!
Our group minus one of the Gregs
"Greg, I'm not sure I'm ready for my close-up!"
yummy cheese!
Salt mine pools
It was a great trip to get some fresh air (although much more damp and colder than Quito) and see a new place. I'd recommend stopping by Salinas if you're going nearby to a city like Riobamba, Ambato or Guaranda.
Carnaval "float" for the Salinas parade


  1. It looks so pastoral! I must admit, though, the cheese is my favorite photo:)

    Thanks for posting, Ayelet.