September 27 through November 15, 2006 found us in Ecuador. Our adventure started with a 2:00 am departure from Redding to make our 6:00 am flight out of Sacramento. Other than being tired from too little sleep the flights were good and we arrived in Quito, Ecuador at 11:00 pm. By midnight we were in bed in our hotel ready to see Ecuador the next day.
In Quito we met up with David’s Compadre (godfather to daughter Ana), and long time friend Padre Jose. He’s a Swiss priest who does his missionary work in South America. David met him during his first Peace Corps service in Columbia in the 70’s. We stayed with him and his friend Raquel Gonzalez. Raquel invited us to go to a party at a friend’s house two hours away, and five days later we finally made it back to Quito. Can’t complain though, because we had a blast and were treated to wonderful Ecuadorian hospitality.
Ecuador is beautiful, friendly, and inexpensive. The dramatic changes from the Pacific coast, to the Andes, and then down to the Amazon Basin are spectacular. It’s a wonderful place to visit.
On our own after Quito, we headed to Baños, a beautiful little town at the foot of the Tungurahua volcano, with hot baths and great hiking. It was a four-hour bus ride an it seems the buses are a perfect place with a captive audience to sell wears. You get vendors selling snacks and drinks, as well as those that sold everything from snake oil to CD’s.
Somehow we seem to attract adventure. After a week in Baños, we were ready to move on, and decided to head toward the Ecuadorian rainforest and the Amazon Basin. Ecuador has three distinct regions. The Costa (the tropical pacific coast on the west), the Sierra (the central highlands of the Andes), and the Oriente (the eastern rainforest). East and west are low, hot, and humid, and the central highlands can be downright cold.
Our first stop in the rainforest was Tena for a few days and then south to Macas. In Macas we found a Shuar guide named Froilan. He offered us a stay in a typical Shuar family home, which included, typical food, thermal pools and a true jungle experience. Boy did we get a true jungle experience. For more on the Shuar-Achuar check out their project link.
Cuenca for three days was great and one of the large cities we actually really enjoyed. Great colonial architecture, good museums, and a visit to a Panama Hat factory. After Cuenca it was to Vilcabamba for rest and relaxation. Just about all there is to do in Vilcabamba is hike, get a message and relax. We did all three!
Our last weeks in Ecuador were spent in the Galapagos Islands and back in Quito. The Galapagos Islands were spectacular! A once in a lifetime event that we hope to do again. We spent 3 days in Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz and then spent 8 days on a cruise tour visiting several other islands. We snorkeled with sea turtles, sea lions, and penguins. It’s pretty awesome to have a sea lion swim right up to your mask and check you out.
After the Galapagos Islands we headed back to Quito for our final week in Ecuador. Three days in Otavalo for the indigenous crafts market allowed us to complete all of our Christmas shopping. Image all done before Thanksgiving. That was a first!!
We returned to Quito, celebrated our first anniversary, and spent our last few days with Padre Jose and friend Raquelita. We visited museums in town, La Mitad del Mundo (The Middle of the World), and the TelefériQo. Ecuador, and Quito are on the equator at La Mitad del Mundo. We visited the museums and took pictures with a foot in each hemisphere. Very cool! The TelefériQo is a 2.5 km sky tram from Quito up to the top of Cruz Loma at 4100 meters. The air is pretty thin up there, so you don’t run. Usually it’s a spectacular view, but we saw it in the fog. Still a great time, and since it was our last day in Ecuador we took what we got.