What Ecuador Means to Me ~ Love

It’s been a while since my last post. My original plan to stay in South America until May changed when my son Cody surprised me by moving his wedding date up to March 7. After attending his beautiful wedding in Kansas, I decided to escape the remainder of this cold winter by hanging out in Florida & Jamaica (more about that later). The warm sunshine, serene atmosphere and sound of the surf was the perfect time for me to reflect on my adventures in Ecuador and the ways that travel has changed me. At some point I’ll be posting some practical travel tips, but for this post I just want to share a little about what the journey meant to me. I have always heard that travel changes a person, but had no idea at the start of this journey how profound these changes would be. It all started with the planning process and the letting go of “things” almost an entire year before setting out for Ecuador. I had no idea what freedom would come with the simplicity of having only a few material possessions. It’s hard to believe I was recently able to fit all my worldly possessions into one vehicle, but more […]

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My Last Days in Ecuador | Vilcabamba

Vilcabamba – what can I say about Vilcabamba – paradise, oasis, sanctuary? It was a place like no other that I visited in Ecuador or anyplace else for that matter. Nestled in the Southern Andes it is referred to as the Longevity Valley. It is unclear why, but there are stories of an uncommon number of residents over the age of 100. Some theories behind this phenomenon are the minerals in the water, the healthy diet, exercise, and laid back lifestyle. However, some who have investigated believe the age claims are an exaggeration. Whatever the truth is, I loved the place and was not ready to leave. My last two days in Ecuador were bittersweet as I relaxed and enjoyed spending time with my new friends at Madre Tierra, a beautiful sanctuary on a hill overlooking this Valley of Longevity. Every room at Madre Tierra was decorated differently. We toured each other’s rooms one night and Bev’s “Hobbit Room” had to be the best. It was so tiny, only someone her size could have even stood in there – I hope she got some pictures! I fought back tears as I hugged my new friends goodbye on my last day in Ecuador. […]

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Ecuador Road Trip | Ingapirca & Cuenca

Our next stop was Ingapirca, an Inca-Canari archaeological site. My guide David shared interesting facts about the history of the area along with details of the exceptional stonecutting done by the Incas. From  Ingapirca we drove to Cuenca for a few relaxing days. I enjoyed being able to walk around the old town area of Cuenca and view the architecture in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. There was a lovely coffee shop across from my hotel where I was able to sit outside, listen to great music, and enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. I learned the process for making Panama hats at the Homero Ortega company, and the fact that Panama hats actually originated in Ecuador, not Panama.

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Ecuador Road Trip | The Devil’s Nose Train

On day 18 of my 25 day road trip in Ecuador, we drove from Banos to Alausi. Like so many other days on the road, it was full of amazing landscapes, beautiful Andean indigenous people, and interesting sites along the way. From Alausi I was able to take a train ride to Nariz del Diablo (The Devil’s Nose), the steepest descent of any section of railroad track in the world, with beautiful views along the way. That is if you look past the drop straight down the side of the train. I can’t imagine what it must have been like riding on the roof, a practice banned a few years ago after a tourist accident. The two and a half hour ride included a short stop where we were treated to some traditional dancing and refreshments. I even got a chance to dance with them at the end – wish there had been someone along to take a picture, but it is a great memory!

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March 1, 2014 by cathyfitz Ecuador, South America 0

Ecuador Road Trip | Baños

Baños de Agua Santa, commonly referred to as Baños, was the perfect place to rejuvenate and “clean myself up” after four days in the jungle. While staying at the Sangay Spa Hotel right next to a beautiful waterfall, I was able to send my clothes out to actually be laundered in something other than dirty sink water; took a long, hot shower with clean water; and got a much needed mani/pedi to dig out the remainder of the jungle mud. All that followed by an awesome Ayurvedic massage (the prices are very cheap here for massages) and I felt like a new person! It was so relaxing to take leisurely walks around the peaceful, tranquil city. Baños, in central Ecuador, is located on the northern foothills of the Tungurahua volcano which actually erupted just a few days before we arrived. The eruption did not cause the city to be evacuated as it had been in 1999, but we were able to see a dusting of ash on the leaves of trees and bushes. There were also occasional tremors while we were there. Unfortunately, it was too overcast, or there was still too much ash in the air, for us to be able to actually see the volcano. The […]

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Ecuador Road Trip | Four Days in the Jungle

In Ecuador the jungle area is called the Oriente. It is on the eastern side of the country and even though it encompasses almost half of Ecuador’s territory it has less than five percent of the total population. My trip to the Cuyabeno reserve in the Amazon began with a 30-minute flight from Quito to Lago Agrio (I swear when I got off the plane it smelled green). Outside the airport I met the others who would be joining me on this adventure. Fabian & Nora from Germany and Katie & Megan from the United States (currently living and teaching in Quito). They were all much younger than me, but I did my best to keep up and had a blast. We boarded the bus for a 2-½ hour ride, stopped for lunch by the river and continued another 2-½ ride by canoe to our lodge. It was a little disappointing to learn the lagoon in front of our lodge was nearly dry due to the lack of rain, but we decided to make the best of it – after all we went to the jungle for adventure. The canoe took us as far as possible before we got out and […]

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Ecuador Road Trip | Quilotoa & Chugchilan

The atmosphere in Ecuador has been so welcoming, it’s really very nice. The pace just seems slower and people really take the time to acknowledge each other. Rarely do you walk past anyone who does not greet you with a Buenos dias, Buenas tardes, or Buenas noches. In restaurants, strangers will wish you Buen provecho (which means bon appetite, or enjoy your meal). And, we have stopped more people than I can count on the street to get directions – the newly improved roads are not very well marked at this point. I hope I can keep this practice of greeting others when back in the states – it’s something I have loved about Ecuador. While I’ve enjoyed all the people of Ecuador,  the beautiful countryside and the people who live in the indigenous communities  have really intrigued me.  They are obviously strong, hard working people. The women, even the very elderly, always have a baby, an animal, or something on their back as they walk up and down these mountains and hills. Quite often there would be large groups working the fields.  Even more amazing to me is how most continue to dress in their traditional clothing. Each group has […]

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Ecuador Road Trip | Cotopaxi & Hacienda La Cienega

On day 10 of my 25 day road trip we drove to National Park Cotopaxi.  Unfortunately as we began the hike to the refuge from 14000 ft. to 15000 ft and then on to the glacier, I had my first problem with altitude since arriving in Ecuador. My head began to pound and I started having tunnel vision, so we came back down. I’ll have to try and tackle that one again the next time I’m in Ecuador! I’m glad my guide David suggested we start back down as soon as I started feeling bad – I’m not sure I could have made it much longer. I spent that night in another beautiful historic location – Hacienda La Cienega. The main building is over 300 years old, but kept immaculately clean. The staff here were awesome – I’ve never been waited on so much. One waiter in particular was very concerned that I was traveling alone. We had a long conversation with my broken Spanish and his broken English, but he never did understand why I was there alone. There was a beautiful chapel in the courtyard. The grounds were kept as immaculate as the buildings.  

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Ecuador Road Trip | Termas de Papallacta

Soaking in the natural hot springs at Termas Papallacta was heavenly, especially after spending the past few days in damp chilly places trying to keep warm by a fire. The rooms surround the pools of natural hot springs on the property so you literally walk right out your front door and step into a hot thermal bath – amazing! There was a nice hiking trail near the lodge that I was able to enjoy both the evening when I arrived and the next morning before leaving. I sat in this field for a long time watching the llamas – their faces are just so full of personality! Trying to capture shots of these little hummingbirds was more challenging then a photo session chasing a one year old – they were zipping by my head like crazy! This little guy on the other hand, was just hanging out eating breakfast from the nearby foliage. Other than the hot soak and great nature walks, my favorite thing at Papallacta was the use of a hair dryer. It was the first place I have stayed in weeks where I could actually blow my hair dry. I’ve slowly gotten rid of extra weight in […]

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Ecuador 25 Day Road Trip | Cayambe

From Tulcan we headed back south to visit Cayambe.  When taking road trips, there never fails to be road construction and traffic delays, no matter what country you are in. One thing I love about Ecuador  is there are always vendors available to sell you drinks and snacks while you wait. Cayambe is known for their famous bizcochos. David took me to the bakery where Priest Rafael Méndez still uses the traditional brick oven bakery, making the best bizcochos in town. They were the most amazing, flaky, melt in your mouth biscuits I’ve ever tasted! Our next stop was the real Equator. Yes, I was at another location on the equator a few days ago, but this one claims to be the “real” equator. This archaeological site is located exactly on the equator, showing verification with satellite technology, GPS and Google Earth. Not sure what’s true, but it was very interesting to see facts of how they have found evidence that the Quitu-Caranqui Indians before the conquest of the Incas, could get to the exact positioning of the equator in this archaeological site. We spent the next two nights at Guachalá Hacienda. This is the oldest Hacienda in Ecuador, and the oldest building dates from 1580. I loved […]

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