Appreciating Ecuador

Sorry about the delay in new posts, but Rita and I just spent 10 days exploring parts of the northern Andes in Ecuador. Once again, we are almost overcome with the beauty and variety that this small country has to offer. I’m sure there will be more details on our trip here and in various International Living publications and web content, but for now, let me give you a brief overview.

We started by flying into Quito’s airport on a Friday, where we picked up a rental car and drove to Cotacachi to spend the first three nights. Beautiful scenery and great roads all the way, and we absolutely loved the town. Our hostal, La Cuadra, was run by an Ecuadorian family that could not have been more welcoming or friendly. We had a nice, clean room with a view of the mountains and a private bath. It was just a little over $40 a night, and included a terrific breakfast with some of the best coffee we’ve ever tasted.

View from La Cuadra in Cotacachi

View from La Cuadra in Cotacachi

Saturday we visited the Otavalo market, which was a terrific experience. It covers a large part of the downtown area, and you can find anything from live animals, produce, meats, dairy, crafts, art, and more as you wander around the displays. I bought a new charango, and my wife picked out a beautiful painting for our home back in Salinas.

Small portion of the Otavalo markets

Small portion of the Otavalo markets

Sunday we visited a crater lake at a little more than 10,000 feet for some spectacular views of both the lake and the surrounding countryside. Less than an hour later, we were in the busy city of Ibarra having lunch at a large, modern mall.

Laguna Cuicocha

Laguna Cuicocha

Monday was a drive back to Quito to visit the Mitad del Mundo, the tourist park at the monument marking (almost) the equator, then we dumped the rental car and took a cab into Quito for the rest of the week. We made friends with the driver, and got his cell number to arrange for a tour of the city later, and to have him pick us up at our hotel to go back to the airport at the end of the week.

Mitad del Mundo

Mitad del Mundo

Tuesday we had a tour of the neighborhoods of Quito with a local realtor, and enjoyed a wonderful lunch where she took great pleasure in ordering samples of local delicacies to see if we liked them (we did!).

Wednesday we reunited with our new cab driver friend, Geovanny, who took us to see the tourist train station, El Panecillo, Ichimbia, and the historic district.

The Virgin at El Panecillo

The Virgin at El Panecillo

The next three days were a whirlwind, as we were involved in the International Living Fast-Track Ecuador conference in downtown Quito at the Swissotel. We were there as Exhibitors answering questions about what it is like to live in Ecuador in general, and on the coast in particular. I also gave a 30-minute presentation that offered an overview of the southern beaches, and finished with a look at the opportunities on the Santa Elena peninsula where we live.

We weren’t done yet though – Sunday our plane back to Salinas didn’t leave until the evening, so we took a cab to the Teleferico. This is a cable car that takes you from an amusement park, which is at a mere 10,000 feet, up to near the summit of Mount Pichincha, letting you out at 13,006 feet. What an incredible view!

View from El Teleferico

View from El Teleferico

Anyway, here we are back again at sea level, and getting back into the swing of our simple life on the Pacific coast. I’ll be back in the groove soon, but for now we are still marveling over how many different things we saw, the beauty of this country, the wonderful meals, and the friendly and interesting people we met.

If you are an expat living in Ecuador, I encourage you to take advantage of the wonderful travel opportunities here, and to get out and see for yourself the variety of experiences Ecuador can offer. If you plan to visit, I would allow at least two weeks to sample as many areas as you can. There is so much to see in this small country – I hope you learn to appreciate Ecuador as much as we do.