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Wooden mala with Onikas fabric tassel
Still dreaming about Camp Onikas...
V&J Cotopaxi pic  Ecuador VP hiking pic We recently returned from our first Camp Onikas cultural immersion experience in Ecuador. It was absolutely incredible....there are not enough superlatives to properly describe it. The country itself is so beautiful with breathtaking vistas everywhere and the warmth of the people is contagious.  When we travel through Ecuador it seems like the land itself just welcomes us with open arms, it is such a beautiful feeling. This year we visited the amazing Hacienda El Porvenir, owned by Veronica's family. It is a gorgeous, rustic lodge tucked into the hillside with a stunning view of the magnificent Cotopaxi Volcano, the world's highest active volcano. In fact it was named one of the places to visit in 2017 by the NY Times Travel section! Maria Jose Andrade, the owner, was explaining that they have gradually expanded this gorgeous property working closely with an in house architects to preserve the traditional feel and layout of the original family home, with conscious consideration to ecological impact and green practices.  The results are a gorgeous property that is comfortable and welcoming--we felt right at home immediately.  Actually, for Veronica, this was literally the case as she has fond childhood memories of staying at this hacienda long before it was open to the public and was only a private home! Speaking of my co-onika, there is something extra special in traveling with Veronica through Ecuador.  It is super-fun of course but the fact that all of her extended family lives there makes you feel like family too!  And of course, whenever you can travel through a foreign country with a native gal, you will always see and find things that are off the beaten path and only one with local knowledge knows. The highlights of this amazing excursion were the 4-hour horseback ride with an authentic Andean chagra (cowboy) through the Andean Highland Plateau - we'll let the photos speak for themselves! Ecuador horseback guide.jpg  Ecuador horseback riding.jpg

Ecuador V&J horse selfie          Ecuador Chagra statues

And for you foodies out there, the cuisine at El Porvenir was so delicious and definitely a highlight of the trip! Every dish on the menu is carefully prepared and a wonderful blend of traditional Andean food with a modern chef's touch.  We are still dreaming about the fresh caught trout with cilantro pesto and pumpkin seeds, it was just magnificent!

Our Camp Onikas experience next year will be even more fantastic as we are working with El Porvenir's owner to organize an art-related service project with the indigenous community nearby.  There will also be a spa on-site next year, which we can't even imagine anything more divine than a nice whirlpool bath after that incredible horseback ride!  Next year we are also adding an excursion to the northern region of Otavalo where we will visit our cooperative of women weavers and stay at the picturesque Hacienda Cusin, with its manicured gardens and glorious displays of antique textiles and furnishings. We'd love to have you join us in 2018 on this once in a lifetime journey!!  Email us to be added to the info list - we'll be announcing the dates soon!! Ecuador view from VP lodge