Seeing the world, one country at the time

Ecuador in a Nutshell

Ecuador is a country rich in contrasts, from its humid, tropical coast to its snow-covered volcanoes, to its Amazon forests and volcanic Galapagos islands. It hosts an unbelievable variety of peoples and cultures, from the Andean natives, to European descendants, to the coastal blacks and the jungle Indians like the "Colorados" (reds). Ecuador has some of the best leather, textiles and crafts in towns north of Quito. Quito, the capital, is nestled in a valley with dramatic views of the Pichincha volcano. You can find Colonial architecture in Old Quito and colonial towns like Cuenca, farther south. In between there is trekking along the Volcano Trail with accompanying thermal baths, and on the western coast, the Sun Route. That is where you find beach resorts, eco-lodges and the Panama hat (no, it’s not from Panama). Further north on the coast live the joyful, marimba-dancing inhabitants of Esmeraldas. Ecuador should have a bit of everything. After all, they lay claim to the “Center of the World”, the 0 longitude, 0 latitude point along the Equator, which the country is named after.

We began our visit to Ecuador under inauspicious circumstances, having just lost my most precious belongings. We were also shocked to discover their currency is dollars. That is how ignorant we were and when having to pay for a taxi, our change was in copper-colored Sacagawean dollars, prompting me to believe they were fake. They weren’t. That was the most common form of payment. Our friend Helene was there to save the day, offering her lovely home (and a hammock) in Guayaquil for us to relax, recuperate, clean up and reconnect with the US in the form of CNN, cable tv and magazines. There isn’t much to see in Guayaquil except the waterfront and old town, but she organized a wonderful and much-needed beach weekend at an eco resort where we ate Ecuadorian ceviche (much different than Peru’s), lounged in hammocks and learned to bodyboard. It was Heaven!

Then we flew to Galapagos, another trip highlight. It is a special place and we were lucky to be stuck on a boat for four days with a uniquely wonderful group of people, while exploring the islands. (If you are going, please contact us – we have many tips!)
We delayed our return to the mainland, having fallen in love with boobies, sea lions and iguanas. From Galapagos we returned to Helene’s to clean up and repack before heading to Quito. BIG mistake. We should have flown to Quito, a much safer option. Within minutes of pulling into our bus station Lars had his camera stolen. The incredulity and shock was complete and repeated. This was a very expensive piece of equipment that we couldn’t afford to replace, and no way to photograph what lay ahead – Quito and Carnival in Brazil! We were shattered and hid out for the next five days at the Pablos, family friends who welcomed us wholeheartedly into their fold, though their daughter was home briefly and they were about to move back to Chile.

We would have stayed in their place watching movies and working on the photos that Lars had (luckily) downloaded to his laptop if it hadn’t been for the Codovezes. Old friends from our years in Lima and a very established Ecuadorian family, they were gracious enough to take us around Quito, explaining not only the sights of Quito, but their personal history, as one of Victoria’s ancestors was instrumental in the liberation of Ecuador. We visited the Center of the World, where they had taken my Dad 30 years earlier. It sits on the 0 longitude, 0 latitude point of the Equator on the globe. There we discovered how being on either side of the equator really DOES make a difference in which way the toilet flushes. They were also instrumental in getting us out of Ecuador when the time came to return to Peru for our flight home.

I think there is still a lot to see in Ecuador and we only took in a tiny percentage. It merits another visit someday.