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Travel Talk: Rodeo day in Ecuador

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Culture & Entertainment

Travel Talk: Rodeo day in Ecuador

Cowboys and chagras!

I'm a creature of habit. My closest friends clock the changing of the seasons according to my weekend diversions. In September I hike;  October weekends find me tearing apart my balcony garden and helping friends harvest their backyard plots; and in November, without fail, I attend the annual Horse Show at the Royal Winter Fair (first part of November) in Toronto (it's the longest running equestrian and agricultural fair on this continent).

Except this year.  I wasn't home.

I was over the moon when my itinerary for my trip to Ecuador was  finalized. Then I glanced at my airline ticket and I stopped dead in my tracks. I was going to be out of town for the Big Ben Jump-Off,  which is the key equestrian event at the Royal Winter Fair - which I've not missed almost two decades. But the gods were smiling.

Little did I expect I would still get a dose of horsemanship in Ecuador. The Bucay Rodeo, on the eastern edge of  Guayas near the Chimborazo province, was an unexpected outing on the second-last day of the trip.

[caption id="attachment_7090" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Cowboys from local haciendas and beyond at Bucay Rodeo (Photo: Doug O'Neill)"] Cowboys from local haciendas and beyond at Bucay Rodeo (Photo: Doug O'Neill)[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7089" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Rodeos in Ecuador are a draw for community and visitors alike (Photo: Doug O'Neill)"] Rodeos in Ecuador are a draw for community and visitors alike (Photo: Doug O'Neill)[/caption]

To say Ecuador offers the traveller a little bit of everything is an understatement. You've got the rainforest, the Amazon, the Andes, coastal beaches, Galapagos, big city attractions of Quito and Guyaquil and small farming communities like Bucay - all within a country that is smaller than the state of Nevada.

Ecuador is also a country of contrasts. I spent the first four days of my trip at the Napo Wildlife Centre in Yasuni National Park in the eastern and central part of the Ecuadorian Amazon region where I tracked caimans (cousins of alligator), howler monkeys, toucans, parrots, three-toed sloths and scores of endangered species, and learned about the enduring culture and traditions of the Kichwa Añangu Community who own and operate the eco lodge.

But then, a two-hour dug-out canoe ride, one motor boat jaunt, a quick plane hop over the Andes and and suddenly I was snorkelling off Isla de la Plata (known as the Poor Man's Galapagos). That's the beauty of Ecuador.

From back-water canoeing...

[caption id="attachment_7150" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Napo  Wildlife Centre, in Ecuador Amazon jungle (Photo: Doug O'Neill)"] Napo River Wildlife Centre, in Ecuador Amazon jungle (Photo: Doug O'Neill)[/caption]

To beaches...

[caption id="attachment_7158" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Los Frailes beach, near Puerto Lopez, one of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador (Photo: Doug O'Neill)"] Los Frailes beach, near Puerto Lopez, one of the best beaches in Ecuador (Photo: Doug O'Neill)[/caption]

To  bucking horses

[caption id="attachment_7092" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Heading into the water hole (Courtesy: Doug O'Neill)"] Heading into the water hole (Courtesy: Doug O'Neill)[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7093" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Galloping to the finish at Bucay Rodeo (Photo: Doug O'Neill)"] Riding through the water hole at Bucay Rodeo (Photo: Doug O'Neill)[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7095" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="The final turn (Courtesy: Doug O'Neill)"] The final turn (Courtesy: Doug O'Neill)[/caption]

Despite the cheers from the folks in the stands (everything sound more dramatic in Spanish) and the food served at the  stalls (plantain instead of popcorn), this Sunday afternoon rodeo in Bucay turned out to be similar to the events I've attended at home in Canada: friendly crowds, riders who are serious about their mounts, horsemanship of amazing calibre and a friendly vibe. Oh, and one more thing was the same: the adrenaline rush while watching a tight race that seemed to be over in mere minutes. Rodeo rituals: Flirting couples,  friendly vendors and food

[caption id="attachment_7100" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="A day at the races, Ecuador-style (Photo: Doug O'Neill)"] A day at the races, Ecuador-style  (Photo: Doug O'Neill)[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7139" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Ecuadorian food by the plateful (Photo: Doug O'Neill)"] Ecuadorian food by the plateful (Photo: Doug O'Neill)[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7137" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Balloon vendor at Bucay Rodeo (Photo: Doug O'Neill)"] Balloon vendor at Bucay Rodeo (Photo: Doug O'Neill)[/caption]

Bucay hosts several rodeos.  I learned that it's a big part of coastal culture. In my broken Spanish I managed to ask about the Montubios, the mestizo cowboys who come from different haciendas to strut their cowboy skills. Farm home stays, trail rides, cross-country (or cross-mountain) riding holidays, hacienda visits and rodeos are becoming popular diversions for visitors to Ecuador.  Sure, it's a different kind of wildlife than what you'll find in the Galapagos but just as memorable. If you're planning an equine vacation in Ecuador, here are three outfitters: 1. Ride Andes organizes horse holidays in Ecuador, Chile and Uruguay. Ask about riding safaris between the haciendas. 2. Unicorn Trails has a specialty in Latin American equestrian holidays, one of which will take you through the majestic Andes Mountains 3. Hidden Trails offers range of horseback riding vacations, horseback tours and horse riding holidays throughout Ecuador. If you don't want to rough it, book in for one that includes a high-end (translation: uber comfortable) hacienda stay Another great site is Ecuador Tourism's official Travel Planner site which will help you organize agricultural and equestrian holidays in the coastal region. Stay tuned for more about my Ecuador adventure as I tell you about Blue-footed Boobies, three-eyed sloths and misbehaving howler monkeys. Saludos.
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Travel Talk: Rodeo day in Ecuador

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