Visits to Ecuador


Worried about security? Here is what one visitor says.

Many readers have written to me asking about security in Ecuador. Here is a letter from a friend who recently visited there that answers many of these questions.

"Dear friends,

In Puerto Lopez, I had a wild dayhiking 8 or so miles of beach, climbing a large hill,and parasailing off the coast with a Columbian namedJuan Diego. It was a fantastic 20 minute ride 2000+ feet above cliffs andsea, no rope, no boat, just flying free for a price ofUSD $10.00 (we got a special deal because friends knew the guys, regular price is $15.00!

I will now tell of all my other crazy adventures. Close friends of mine, who have beenmarried a few years and have a 2 yr. old daughter decided to move to Ecuador for anew experience and a change of pace. They boughta house and land in a town called Sosote, 15-minutes drive to the coast of Ecuador and near Portoviejo.

I arrived to meet them in Quito and we started the trip next day bright and early, catching a bus to Otavola (2 hours north of Quito) to shop at the market for allsorts of beautiful, colorful textiles, paintings, etc.It was overwhelming. Everything is handmade and beautiful, and so inexpensive I felt guilty buying it. Everything is bargained for (in Spanish) so Irequired a lot of help, and my friends know how to bargain very low for things. Someday

Before leaving Quito we purchased a tour package to have a 3 night girls retreat" starting. For $175.00 the tour included a room and private bath (with hot water!), atour guide to take us to a museum, lookout points, ancient ruins and swimming in a sulfur lagoon, a boat trip to "Isla de la Plata", a 5km hike on the island and snorkeling off the boat near the island, to a protected beach which was almost deserted and had turquoise water where we walked, snorkeled and swam, and also included 10 extraordinary meals for which we had our own personal chef. Not bad, huh?

Upon leaving Quito the scenery was spectacular as we descended 9000 feetthrough the Andes Mountains, on a very fast bus that passed trucks on the narrow mountain road with cliffs on one side, yikes!

The first few days I had to do some adjusting. Dusty roads, where a day is not unless you see a heard of cows, stray dogs or pigs wandering down the road, even in the towns. Cold showers, sleeping under netting for mosquitoes (there are no screens on thewindows), washing clothes outside in tubs…scrubbing, rinsing, hanging, running down the road to the store for eggs and bread nearly every day, often eating lessthan normal (not a bad thing, I think Americans generally eat too much), a bathroom with a sheet for a door, no T.V (fine with me!), no phone. The amazing thing is that at first I thought I couldn't bear it all-and after a couple days I thought this is a beautiful, happy way to live. I was more peaceful, content and joyful than I've been in years. Thepeople there are poor in terms of money, but they are some of the happiest I know. They live a simple life without things to distract them. They have parties. They live at a slower pace. The children run and laugh and play an are more innocent than Americanchildren of comparable age. They like to plant in the garden, and help with chores.

On the farm I enjoyed doing chores, 3 hours of chatting and washing clothes in buckets with the neighbor ladies makes for a fun morning. I enjoyed going next door in the morning to buy "leche" (milk) for the coffee. I enjoyed drinking juice right out ofa coconut straight from the tree. We chopped down plantains and fried them (called chifles), and they were delicious. I ate fresh mangoes and bananas right from the tree. Iloved swinging in the hammock with the kids.

One day we rode to Puerto Lopez, which is 2 hours south of Portviejo. We went on a bus that stopped in a town called "Jipijappa" (pronounced hippyhoppa), and changed buses there. The highlights of our trip were: #1 A trip to Isla de la Plata, otherwise known as "poor mans Galapagos". It is 100 miles off shore, whereas Galapagos is 600 miles out.However, it has many of the same species. The blue-footed boobies, birds who got their name because they don't move out of the path when you walk through,amused us! It allowed for some fantastic photos. We walked 5km on the sunny, hot and very dry island, soaking in the spectacular views and animal life. Wethen returned to the boat, and were taken to a beautiful spot off the island to go snorkeling. The water was aqua in color, and the view to the bottomcrystal clear. It was my first time snorkeling, and I was thrilled as I swam right along with a school of black fish that had yellow, red and blue markings, andsome yellow with black stripes. It was breathtaking!

Our visit to the beach at Los Frailes, part of the Machalilla National Park. It was practically deserted the entire time we were there, and the water….turquoise…I'm not exaggerating at all. It was by far the most beautiful beach I've ever seen or even imagined. The beach is nestled into a cove, so wewalked to one end and explored tidal pools full of life- I could have spent hours looking at each one. The geology, the rock formations were astounding. (Michelle the history buff really enjoyed this!)

Then we visited ancient ruins of the Monteña culture, 500 yrs. old. Michelle was elated as we were allowed to collect a few pieces of 500 yr. old pottery that hadbeen upturned when a bulldozer went through near the ruins 6 months ago…only in the third world….! We also went swimming in a sulfur lagoon while we were there.The water was very smooth and soft. There were many other fun events, these are just the highlights!

The day after we returned to Sosote, we were planning a fiesta. The neighbors werea huge help, making sure the "gringos" threw a proper fiesta! At 11:30 pm the night before the party, 4 neighbors (an older lady, Oralia from next door and 3teenage girls) walked into the house with a tray full of homemade candies and bright, multicolored tissue paper with fringed edges to wrap them in. We were justabout to go to bed but, instead got to work – laughing, chatting and wrapping little candies till after midnight. The next day the house was a buzz. Ladies came over to cook for the fiesta. They asked "where is your fire?" and we realized that the cooking was to be done in huge pots over an open fire, outside! They cooked for hours, rice w/veggies and flavoring, chicken-including the feet (I definitely picked at my food). It was the real Ecuador experience. I was also privileged enough to be invited to another lady's fiesta while visiting Sosote. They really throw a party, games, lots offood and dancing.

My last Saturday was quite eventful as we decided to do a beach walk north of San Clemente. We travelled light…no backpack, cameras, water, pistol. The boys often carry a pistol for safety when traveling around. We had stopped to visit a familyon our way from the bus to the beach. I finished my water bottle at 9am. By 11am wewere walking around the point in San Clemente, it juts out into the ocean, cliffs with boulders below. It is possible to get around it at low tide. We walked andwalked, discovering tidal pools, coral and amazing shells. We were mesmerized.

We had actually gone pretty far when we decided to turn around and climbed a huge hill of limestone so flat it looked like the side of a pyramid. We made it back to the point at3:30 in the afternoon. As we approached, a fisherman sitting on the beach jumped up and started screaming in Spanish saying if we crossed the point now, we'd die (he gestured his hand across his neck, as though we would lose our heads). He saidyou couldn't cross until 8pm. There were no towns or even places to get water. We were definitely going without until we crossed that point. The fisherman found a spot on the cliff and asked if we would like to sit out the tide on the cliff. We thought we could make it. We began crossing the point on a smooth part about 6 feet above boulders and crashing waves. Suddenly we realized we were far out and everything was flat, nothing to hold, and we were slowly slipping down. We thought we were going into the pounding surf, for sure. But the fisherman pulled us back just intime. We climbed up the cliff and waited about five hours for the tide to come in. This was like a movie and some it was a spiritual experience. This was so peaceful and such a reflective time! reflective and very patient person!(I was the one who needed to learn patience). Ididn't get water until 11pm.

At 8:45 we climbed down the cliff in the dark, with bats squealing above us! The water was still a few inches deep some of the places we had to walk. I felt very intimidated by the ocean at night when I could not see what I walking on. I had seen at least a hundredmen of war wash up on the beach during the day. But,again I just had to do it. I walked behind Heath andat one point he said, "Look at your feet!!" My heartalso jumped when I saw the phosphorescent plankton…responding toour movement through the water. I was too nervous toreally appreciate it at the time, but I dreamed aboutit a few nights later!

We got into town and walked quickly, not stopping for food or water, hoping to catch a bus, we made it to the bus stop by 10. There were no busses going our wayand hardly any traffic at all. We were working on being courageous enough to hitch hike without a pistol, After close to an hour, we decided we were not that interested inhitch hiking, there would be no busses until morningand we would find a hostel for the night. So we walked into town and bought a large bottle of cold water and rolls.

Next morning I woke early at the hostel surprised by a sound so foreign Ijumped out of bed…my heart pounding. It was just the phone. I hadn't heard one ring in two weeks, and it scared me silly.

I hope you enjoyed these bits and pieces of one of the happiest times in my life. In conclusion, I must encourage you all to travel, as much as you can. Goto a place in the world where the culture is different than your own, you will be amazed how enriching it is. You see, the places I went and people I met in SouthAmerica will be a part of me for the rest of my life. It has given me a new perspective. I have a connection to another place in the world, for which I feeltremendously blessed and lucky."

I thank this friend for sharing her story. It tells me a lot about how peaceful Ecuador still is. Hope to see you there some time.

Gary


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