As part of our 30th anniversary celebration, we toured Ecuador through a 10-day Ecuador Crash Course. Why Ecuador? Ecuador has been interesting to me for several reasons, one being that Ecuador is the country Jim Eliott, an American missionary, gave his life to win souls for Jesus.
A group of 23 people joined this tour organized by Sarah, an American nurse and former Peace Corps volunteer to Ecuador. She married to an Ecuadorian and has lived in Ecuador for the past 25 or so years. She works with Jonathan who was born in Ecuador to American parents. He has been running a travel agency for the past 15 years. They were assisted by Roger, another former Peace Corps volunteer, and Susanna, an Ecuadorian lady and yet another former Peace Corps member. Susanna was the Spanish instructor and Roger was a tour guide. Despite their different life backgrounds, they all have one thing in common. They all love Ecuador.
They organized the tour with all their hearts and energies poured into it. As the tour progressed, we could sense how much they love Ecuador and how they genuinely wanted to share the un-vanished version of what Ecuador offers. I am sure they have their own views on locations and lifestyles, but they worked hard to be as independent and objective as possible.
All participants had quite a variety of backgrounds also. Many have already retired or are quite close to their retirement. Their professional backgrounds were also quite diverse, from a retired pastor to a retired CPA. Ages varied from an 18 year old Canadian high school graduate to a 78 year old retiree who has great grand children. We were in the middle of the pack.
We traveled more than 1,500 km by a bus, starting from Quito and ending in Cuenca through traveling to the northern Ecuador close to the Colombian border and several beach towns on the coast. About half of the group continued for a two-day extended trip to further south close to the Peruvian border, after the 10-day crash course trip ended in Cuenca. The traveled routes are marked in the map included in this blog post.
The trip started from the capital city of Quito that is 9,350 feet high. Quito is a vibrant city with multiple ethnic peoples and cultures. We stayed at a small hotel in the Mariscal District where all commercial and entertainment activities take place. It was noisy until late night but we could feel the vibe of the emerging city. Note that Ecuador's average age is reported to be 21.5 years. Quite young.
We then traveled north to Otavalo, Ibarra and Cotacachi, northern cities of interest to many retirees. These cities are all located in the sierra between mountains. Otavalo has the largest handcraft market in Latin America. Ibarra is the provincial capital of Imbabura with approximately 200,000 inhabitants. Cotacachi is a small town with 10,000 of which 400 represent gringos or migrants from North America. It is also a capital for leather products. Great leather products at low prices. On the way, we crossed the equator line where southern and northern hemispheres meet.
|Equator Line 0,0,0.|
We stayed one night at Canoa Beach Hotel owned and run by an American architect, Greg, and it was a pleasant surprise with American quality rooms and services. Strolling on the sand beach in the morning the next day was refreshing despite the rain that soaked us up.
|Panama Hats originally from Ecuador|
We stayed another night at Puerto Lopez, a small fishing town, but the hotel we stayed, La Terraza owned and run by a German couple, had a panoramic view of the bay. It also had displayed a skeleton of a humpback whale, namely Fritz, that weighed 35-40 tons and was found dead around Puerto Lopez. On the way down south, we stopped over at Montanita Beach which is the surfing capital in Latin America. The beach town was bustling with young backpackers who came to try their surfing skills. It even holds international surfing competition.
We stayed the third night at a hotel by the Salinas Malecon. Salinas is nicknamed Miami of Ecuador. It is one and a half hour away from Guayaquil, the largest city of Ecuador with more than 2.3 million people in population. People of Guayaquil, or Guayaquilenos as they are called, travel to Salinas for their weekends or for their vacation. It was a crowded beach but well maintained. Along the malecon, dozens of condominiums rise to 10-15 stories high.
|Ecuador is the rose capital|
|Tricycles at Puerto Lopez|
Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador after Guayaquil and Quito, with the population of approximately 500,000. Cuenca was a lovely city. Many gringos from the U.S. and Canada have moved to live in this beautiful city, calling it their home, which offers low cost of living, wonderful climate, rich cultural flavor and many colors of Ecuador. It was estimated that the city has 3,000 gringos.
|Woman wearing Panama Hat|
|Eduardo Vega's Work|
|Lisa's Magic Carpet|
|Canoa Beach Hotel|
|Simon Bolivar and Jose Martin|
Additional photos of Ecuador are below. Enjoy them. Better yet, you should visit Ecuador yourself for the first hand experience. Chiao~ - Jeffrey
|Ecuador Crash Course Route|
|E. Vega's Work|
|With Sarah who organized this wonderful trip|
|With Panama hats put on|
|Iguana at Parque Semitario|
|Sunset at Canoa Beach|