“Why Ecuador?” That’s what everyone asks. We first visited Ecuador 6 years ago. Not that I have a bucket list, but Ecuador probably wouldn’t have been on it at that time. It’s not a country that people talk about much. Sandwiched between the pre-Colombian ruins of Peru and the newsworthy drug cartels and the long-advertised mountain grown coffee of Colombia, not much had been said to me about Ecuador other than Darwin’s adventures and discoveries on the Galapagos Islands.
It is the Middle of the World, but after you’ve been there, done that, then what?
Good friends of ours said they had booked a tour to Ecuador for that summer of 2013. “Going to the Galapagos?, I asked. “No”, they replied. Why Ecuador?, I thought at the time. Then they told me the cost of their Gate 1 Tour. My next question was, “Can we come with? I don’t think we can afford to stay home at that price!”
Our first visit to Ecuador was very enjoyable. The cost of the tour aside, I finally got to visit the Otavalo market that I had read about since I was 12 years old but never thought I would see myself. It was my 3rd visit to the Amazon Basin, a watery world and rain forest that I never tire of. The Andes, the youngest and longest mountain range in the world did not reach quite the same altitude as locations I had visited in Peru that caused me to succumb to “el soroche”, a very unpleasant altitude sickness.
But still, you ask, “Why Ecuador?”
Volcanoes–Ecuador including the Galapagos has 33 potentially active volcanoes. The northern part of the Ecuadorian Andes was formed by volcanos, the southern part by shifting tectonic plates. Who doesn’t need a little excitement in their life?
Roses–Ecuador is the third largest exporting country. They purport that theirs are larger than those of Colombia and the Netherlands.
Waterfalls–Devil’s Cauldron was the scene of Russell Crowe’s jump in the movie Proof of Life with Meg Ryan.
Organic chocolate–A visit to the Cacao plantation was enlightening. Natural fallen fruits of other tropical plants create the fertilizer. The producer provides the cacao for Pacari Chocolate that has won numerous International awards. He also packages some of his own. I bought unsweetened cocoa powder and chocolate discs for baking. Check back later for some of the recipes that I will try them out in.
Mountain and Amazon grown coffee beans–So good, we brought some back to gift, but oh well, you will have to receive a brewed cupful when you visit us. #toogoodtogiveaway.
Eduardo Vega Ceramist–We bought cups and saucers of his design. You can have your cupful of coffee in one of them!
Indigenous markets–The photos say it all, We didn’t visit any this last trip, but saw these in 2013.
Crafts are also sold in the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal and by indigenous ladies near the cathedral in Quito. I managed to find just a few (ha! ha! my husband says) things to buy.
Jewelry and Textiles–Wonderful quality and selection at great prices.
The Amazon Basin–Like out of a novel or a movie, whether Peru, Brazil or Ecuador, I have enjoyed them all. A return to Punto Ahuano on the Napo River and Casa del Suizo was anticipated and not disappointing. This time around we skipped the 2 hours rain forest hike with chair zipline and balsa raft float down the river. We opted for a swim at the pool, a pina colada, reclining in the hammock and time for photographing tropical plants.
Iguanas–So many and so big in the park across from our hotel.
Ceviche–We tried Ecuador’s renowned ceviche for lunch. Theirs is different as the fish or seafood is precooked and has clam broth added. Helpful for those squeamish of eating raw fish. It is even served on breakfast buffets.
Thermal Springs–Papallacta has thermal pools right outside your room and also larger pools and spa with eucalyptus waterfall steam baths.
US Dollar as currency–This is great for tourists as you won’t get exchange rate charges on your ATM or credit cards. It is not equally great for Ecuadorians as they are not able to devalue their currency to make their export products more competitively priced.
History–How about Simon Bolivar’s last residence before arriving to liberate Quito? (Simon, that is, not us)
Gate 1 Tours–There are many tour companies, but quality for the price it would be hard to beat Gate 1. A National Geographic tour participant made the comment to me at our hotel bar that NG only used the best hotels–HELLO–we were at the same hotel!
All I have left to say is, “Why Not Ecuador?”