Posted by: jimndianne | December 27, 2009

Cotacachi again!

19 – 20 December 2009 Ecuador

So this time our role was a little different as we became the guides showing Peter and Annie around some of the houses and sights we had previously seen. Revisiting them was interesting as we seemed to have a more in-depth view of the whole surroundings. Just love that town and the people! Our friends were most impressed with how clean it was, how well laid out and the lack of traffic .

By Saturday afternoon the rain had almost 017 ceased so we went to the market at Otavalo (20mins from Cotacachi) and let Annie and Peter loose amongst the stalls. They had a great time buying ponchos, jewellery made of Tagua, (which is vegetable ivory and is as hard as elephants’ ivory), shawls and other fabrics. Being back there didn’t stop us topping up on a few extra things as well. In the afternoon, we visited a neighbouring town, Ibarra, which has much larger commercial and industrial activities. We located a lake and also a car racing track which came as a surprise. Had a meal on the way home at a local restaurant – three courses for $3 per person and none of us could finish our plates! Locals seem to think we need fattening up as their meals are always huge. By now very tired, we returned to our hostel and were in bed early. The photo to the left is of Imbabura mountain which overlooks Ibarra. Again it is an inactive volcano.

Sunday saw us two off to have an early breakfast at ‘Serendipity’, a nice little cafe run by a lovely lady, Nancy, from the U.S. Then we proceeded to La Mirage spa, set in beautiful gardens with peacocks wandering around, where we had each booked for a different treatment. Jim had decided to have the 90 min. Volcanic Clay Body treatment while I was looking forward to the 90 min. Purification Treatment. The latter was to be performed by a local female Shaman, who had inherited years of experience from her father, also a recognised Shaman in this region. The Shamans have a great vision for the countryside and use many plants for healing purposes, as well as using the elements of fire, water and earth in order to call the spirits for assistance. The healing power of the Shaman is obtained through the use of magical substances like crystals, candles, smoke and eggs. A Shaman will always carry these objects around.  Shamanism, the belief that man can interact with spirits and the supernatural, is practised around the world, and of course in places like Ecuador, every village has its Shaman, or Curandero.

I had some idea of what to expect but was still stunned by the whole performance. I was first asked to undress and wearing just a dressing gown was then led to the Purification grotto. This was a semi-darkened room with a huge fire burning in the single fireplace, while upon the mantle-piece around twelve large candles flickered. A big basket of bright flowers completed the picture. The Shaman, named Estella, a woman in her forties, whose long, dark, curly hair was worn in a wild frame around her face and shoulders, bade me remove my gown and stand straight in front of her. She began chanting quietly, then took a large mouthful from a bottle of clear alcohol and spat it right into the fireplace, which roared into life! Estella then stood in front of me and proceeded to spray the alcohol from her mouth onto my body, first in front and then across my back. While continuing to chant quietly (Santa Maria, Santa Maria, bless this senora, give her energy) Estella told me it was the beginning of the cleansing process. She first selected two candles which she began rolling across my arms, legs and body, all the while chanting quietly. Then, after taking a large drag from a candle (representing Fire), she blew the smoke over my hair and face, repeating the process at the back of my head. She next selected two eggs, possibly three, representing the Earth, from a basket beside the fire, and proceeded to roll the eggs, one at a time over my body, dusting me off each time with large handfuls of scented herbs. She then donned a feathered headdress and matching necklace and repeated the alcohol spitting, but this time through the candle flame, which shot large fiery tentacles at me, giving me a bit of a fright! All was well though. This was designed, she said, to assist in releasing negative energy. After 20 minutes, this part of the purification process was over and I was led across to a beautiful sunken cerise coloured bath, full of floating rose petals, red and white! I was invited to step into the bath, which was quite hot, and to relax there with my head on a comfortable padded pillow, amongst the rose petals and scented water! Delicious!! It was very easy to lie back and just immerse myself in complete relaxation for around 20 minutes more. (That is not me in the bath but was an identical situation)

Time to be assisted from the bath, where Estella wrapped me in a towel and gently patted me dry! “You my baby,” she smiled. The final part of the session was forty minutes of firm but pleasant massage with scented oils on my body, including a very relaxing head massage! At the end of it all, Estella presented me with a vegetable ivory bracelet of coloured seed pods which I continue to wear as I type this. She then led me to a separate room where Jim was waiting and we both sat back in our dressing gowns in comfort, feet up on footstools, sipping herbal tea and discussing our various treatments. Personally, I loved the entire experience and felt totally at peace for hours afterwards and a real sense of tranquility for days. Jim will now tell you about his own experience…

For my Volcanic Clay Body treatment, like Di I undressed, but put some paper panties on and the towelling robe and was led off to a room where the action was to take place. The parlour had a roaring fire going and in the middle, sat a marble table which looked very much like a mortuary table, i.e. a shallow bath 200mm deep x 2m long and half as wide. Lying in the bath was an airbed and after taking off the robe, my lady, of around 60, instructed me to get on the bed – no hanky panky here!!! Well I did have a shower than morning but obviously that wasn’t good enough as I was soaped and scrubbed all over several times -cleanest I have ever been! Ok, out you get, she indicated and proceeded to place a large plastic quilt, which was twice the width of the bath, over the airbed. This was followed by an aluminium foil blanket then a plastic sheet. Ok, get back in the bath she said! So with me sitting on the plastic sheet she grabbed a bucket of black gritty mud and smothered me with it using an 8” wall papering brush. And I thought I was clean! Lying down I was then wrapped in the plastic followed by the foil and finally the other half of the quilt. So there I am all snugly wrapped up like a fish for the BBQ and  she plugged in the quilt to an electric socket!!! So whilst I was ‘cooking’ for 20 mins, the face got the gritty mud treatment. It went up my nose, in my ears and well the hair changed colour, believe me. It didn’t taste too good either. Ok, off with all the blankets and another massive wash all over. (I’m sure I keep finding bits of grit still in odd places and it has been nearly a week since the ‘event’).

So now all washed up, I was led off to another roaring fire in a den all dark and with soothing music to have a fairly gentle 30 min massage. In all, a great experience but next time I will opt for a Swedish massage only with a scantily clad masseuse running up and down my back!!

After all of this attention, it was time to head back to the Hostel de Arbolito and ready our bags for the return trip to Quito, where Jim and I would spend a further two days before flying out to La Paz, Bolivia. The trip down the mountains was uneventful, fortunately, as there were very few cars on that windy, steep road and we arrived at the Sheraton Hotel in time to check in and take up residence in one of the two timeshare rooms booked by Annie & Peter below.




  1. Wow – both of the treatments sound amazing, what an experience!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: