Angry Bulls and Active Volcanoes

A day in the life of an Ecuadorian chagra

I rose at the crack of dawn and left the rustic warmth of my cabin.  Catching a glimpse of the Cotopaxi Volcano not far from me, the cool crisp mountain air refreshed my face as I followed the cowboy down the muddy path to the horse corral.  This was the beginning of my day in the life of a working hacienda, large estates found throughout Spanish speaking countries that are homesteads, ranches and farms.

We started rounding up the horses and driving them down the path towards the main lodge.  The chagras, local cowboys, knew each horse by name, were familiar with each animal’s temperament, and would pick a suitable horse for each person.  While our horses got prepared, I was getting geared up in my own cowboy-wear – leather chaps, a heavy traditional poncho and a helmet for safety.  I was a little disappointed that they didn’t give me a lasso.  Probably because they didn’t want people yanking other people off their horses by mistake.  Or on purpose.  😄

We were on our way, along the path out of the hacienda, gradually climbing up the mountain and towards the volcanoes.  It wasn’t long before we reached a gate, with this sign.

I asked Santiago, “what are toros bravos?”

“Angry bulls,” he replied. The more accurate translation would be “fighting bulls.”

Ummm….. so we’re going that way? Yep, right through the gate that said, “Danger, fighting bulls.”

My poncho had lots of bright red. Like the red ink on the danger sign. You’re probably thinking omg please tell me you turned around, but what would be the fun in that? It’s my job to chart these paths and test them for you. It probably made my long list of questionable life choices. But I’ll share a secret with you. One of the best ways to overcome fear or adversity is knowledge. For example, did you know that bulls are partially colour blind and cannot see the color red? Besides, I had my trusty helmet, so if it came down to a bullfight I was ready. Best case scenario we’ll have fresh steak for lunch. Worst case… best not to dwell on that one.

We continued our upward trek. The horses knew the path and were pretty much on autopilot. I just had to control the pace and nudge them in the right direction every now and then. I stopped several times to take in the beautiful vista behind me as we rose, my unique vantage point providing a phenomenal 360° view of mountains and valleys. Herds of wild bulls were roaming freely. None approached us, because clearly they could tell I was the scariest cowboy they had ever seen and didn’t want to die. At the top we celebrated with a warm beverage before making our way back to the hacienda, where a hot, delicious halal Ecuadorian steak was waiting for us. I could get used to this life.

Halal Steak Ecuador
Halal Steak Ecuador

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