Mysterious clouds of fog meander through damp mustard colored fields of native grasses surrounded by both rounded and ‘jaggedy’ peaks —part of the Andes mountains chain, with lots of small clear pools carved into the granite rock. The GPS shows the pink road we’re supposeto follow in a ‘zig zaggedy” pattern.
Driving up, up, up and over the 13,675 foot pass into Cuenca after being on the beach side meant a stop at a mountain top cafe (El Torito) to change out my sun dress into warmer clothes. Long pants, a sweater, socks & boots for my body to keep it from shivering in the brisk conditions and a warm cup of coffee by fireside for my soul. A beautiful young mother of three delightful children, Carmen, supplies hot coffee and a kind heart to match. I warm my hands over the fire as one of Carmen’s more curious children, a daughter seven years old comes in and we exchange smiles and names in Spanish. A three year old toddler shyly sticks his round head around the corner of the doorway. I play peek-a-boo until he smiles. He’s wearing a darling hat and has rosy cheeks on a beautiful bronze face. A little alter of Jesus, flowers, crosses, faded photographs and beads hangs beside the mantel. A Spanish guitar lays on one of the colorful woven tablecloths covering the simple wooden tables and a bull’s head on one of the wooden posts combine to form a perfect blend of rustic charm.
For me, sharing a simple cup of coffee with warmed leche, (milk) with my husband Brian and cameraman/sidekick Sid in this quaint roadside cafe as a sprinkle of rain begins to fall along with the smell and warmth of a cozy fire is just the right combination to make this coffee taste better any premium coffee shop in the states.
After receiving permission from Carmen to take her children’s photo, she puts hats on all of them and calls her reluctant husband to join them. He looks like a rugged Vacero or cowboy in his hats and boots. We take their picture together as a family and one with us. While in Cuenca, we have copies made for them because it is doubtful that they own a camera, and probably don’t make it into town too often due to their somewhat remote location.
Sometimes a special place or time remains clear and vivid in one’s memory. This place, this time, this cup of coffee, these exact surroundings with this beautiful familia de Carmen will be one of those timeless images for me.