A Giant Boulder Broke off a Mountain in Ecuador and Smashed into this Restaurant

Here’s how they rolled with it.

In my carsick state, I wonder if El Mestizo might slip through my fingers yet again. Our driver careens around tight mountain curves paying no heed to the steep drops or to the weak stomachs of the foreigners in the back seat. Between deep breaths, I watch the road. I’ve been chasing a lunch at El Mestizo for weeks: First, the restaurant’s reopening date eluded me. Then, protester-led roadblocks confined me to my base in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador. And, a day ago, the heavens opened and deposited a rare and thick duvet of snow. By the time I am finally on my way, part of me thinks El Mestizo and I were never meant to meet.

But as the car almost blows past our destination, my friend shouts ¡Aquí! – we’re here. El Mestizo sits in the warm sunshine above the small town of Molleturo, a 75-minute drive from Cuenca. I scan its charcoal trim and stained-cocoa doorways before my eyes rest on the very thing that drew me here: a giant, two-storey boulder that broke off the mountain last February and smashed into the corner of the restaurant, blocking its front window.

December 2, 2019
An illustration of a couple being served dinner on a boulder

Amazingly, the owners have welcomed the huge hunk of rock that almost destroyed them. They gave it a slick coat of lacquer and a dainty staircase that spirals up its side to where visitors can look down upon the village in the valley below. Nearby, rubble from the landslide is now a coyly arranged rock garden. Entering El Mestizo is like walking into a cave, where the boulder’s jagged surface replaces the wall it demolished.

My stomach has recovered from our topsy-turvy ride and I order my favourite Ecuadorian dishes: locro de papa and pollo a la plancha (potato soup and grilled chicken). The soup is velvety and comforting and the potatoes have been perfectly puréed. Cubes of fresh cheese crumble in my mouth – just what I’d been craving, and well worth the long winding road to get here.

On the way out I pass the giant rock again. It reminds me a little of Ecuador itself, where no matter what happens, like a boulder in a restaurant, people simply embrace it.

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