Cotacachi is a green valley protected by a ring of mountain peaks. Observing the changing colors in the patchwork of farms and fields that blanket the mountainsides is one of my favorite past times. Since Ecuador has a dry season and a wet season, half the year the pastures fade from vibrant green to lesser greens, tans and browns.
If you’ve ever followed Diez de Agosto out of Cotacachi, past the main market and La Banda, just as you reach the end of Rancho Santa Fe you find yourself at the top of a hill. The road dips down, the town ends and suddenly you are in the country.
This is no ordinary countryside. It shimmers with a high intensity of light that turns the fields a shimmering electric lime-green. The first time I saw it I stopped breathing and half-expected to see hobbits.
The fields, pastures and gardens that stretched before me were and still are of the most brilliant green I’ve ever seen, like looking through a piece of green cellophane. I swore that when I visited Ireland there was no other place on earth so vibrantly green, but this magic spot rivals the meadows and bogs of fair Erin.
And the green stays year-round. Why? Because the whole area is saturated with water. It gurgles in springs, rushes along waterways, seeps from bogs, even flows through underground rivers.
Cotacachi’s water source, a spring called La Marquesa, is a mile from town and very near a blue-green bubbling spring known as La Virgen that originates in a tiny indigenous village. The Marquesa’s rushing waters flow through a pipe to the town’s thirsty populous. Both springs also feed deep ditches called acequias, that bring liquid life to the fields of nearby haciendas and fincas.
Green fences are made from tall, skinny sauce (sow say, a kind of willow) and lechera, a rubber tree that oozes white sticky sap. Break off a branch of one of these trees and stick it in the water-rich ground and in a matter of weeks it will sprout and grow into a new tree.
The land is agricultural except for a ring of residential developments and a few homes. Cows, sheep and goats eat their fill, patiently watched by elderly men or women or young children.
Theses horses used to graze on the land we bought.
So did this prize bull.
It’s a place to sink into, to rest your weary body and soul, to breathe in the fragrant air and to sleep deeply. Is it any wonder Gary and I bought a little piece of this green to enjoy? It’s the perfect place for us to retire in Ecuador.
La Marquesa tumbles along our northern boundary. La Virgen embraces two other sides of the property. Springs feed a marsh and small pond where carizo (cane) and watercress grow.
Whenever I feel disconnected from nature, surrounded by too much concrete, car fumes or noise, I can turn my thoughts to our land and I feel instantly refreshed and enlivened. I dream green dreams and all is well in my soul.