Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ecuador Map

After the last updated map let-down (I never explained the places visited, I'm sorry), I pledge to do better and quicker.

We didn’t volunteer in Ecuador, so no color code is necessary. You’ll notice I went ahead and included the location names right next to the map. Is this helpful or not?
32 – Tulcán – early morning of 2/22 – An all-night bus from Cali, Colombia took us to the border earlier than anticipated. We waited for the sun to rise to make for a safer border crossing into this small Ecuadorian town.

33 – Quito – 2/22 to 3/05 – We stayed with Eleana Figueroa (Ele), Joe’s family’s former foreign exchange student, her brother and sister in Quito. They have a nice apartment a little ways north of the city center. And they were INCREDIBLE hosts! Here Joe’s mom came for a week, also using their home as a central base for other travels. We were all impressed by the unique, beautiful churches and plazas, along with happening, hip neighborhoods Quito has to offer. Though polluted, Quito was a good place to be.

34 – Otavalo – 2/26 to 2/27 – We, including the mother, fell victim to Otavalo’s main tourist attraction—it’s lively, touristy market. Everything we owned ended up spewing forth soft alpaca accessories, minus our wallets, which weren’t spewing forth much at all. Juleen proved the master market negotiator of the three. A hostel situated amid the rolling green and rocky volcanoes, plus good pizza made the short trip even more pleasant.

35 – Riobamba – 2/28 to 3/01 – A traditional Ecuadorian lunch—fritada, mote, plantains, empanadas de queso, potatoes, fried whole corn kernels, salad, etc—with Ele’s family, followed by a light dinner of guinea pig made this trip synonymous with food. Meeting Ele’s fam was great too! We see where she got the great hosting skills.

36 – Baños – 3/01 – The few hours we spent here were not enough. Baños is a great traveler and adventurer hub with more than enough to offer, and an incredible setting with 360 degrees of steep mountainous terrain surrounding the small city to boot.

37 – somewhere within the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve – 3/06 to 3/09 – Seven hours in bus from Quito to the jungle frontier town of Lago Agrio. Three hours in a private van farther eastward. Two-and-a-half more hours into the Amazonian ecosystem in motor-powered canoe. We thus ended up at Jamu Lodge, quite a luxurious place given its environs. See the preceding blog for more info about what we did.

38 – Cuenca – 3/11 to 3/14 – Seventeen hours in bus from Lago Agrio got us to Cuenca, soon to be our favorite city of the journey. Incan ruins, great museums, a riverwalk, not to mention Ecuador’s staple beautiful plazas and churches, a happy gringo community—what’s not to love about Cuenca?

39 – Loja – 3/14 – The way out of Ecuador took us through Loja. Though there didn’t appear to be much to do in town (we were told the place to watch American sports is the bus terminal, for example—luckily we didn’t find the Purdue-Minnesota basketball game), it’s supposedly surrounded by national parks. We can attest to the pleasantly mild climate. Another night bus, this one with a border crossing into Peru, took us out of Loja and the country.

Ecuador Wrap-Up
It seems this country has a lot to offer. The fact that it’s smaller makes its distinct climates and locations much more accessible, which is a big plus compared to relative giants Colombia and Peru. It was also significantly cheaper than Colombia—another bonus. Though we didn’t volunteer, spending time with Ele, her family and Joe’s mom made the time substantive enough that it didn’t seem like we were lacking in the I-need-to-be-productive department; this has haunted Joe especially during previous extended traveling phases of the trip. In the end, we highly recommend the parts of Ecuador we saw (particularly Cuenca, Julie and Harold!), and we’re anxious to see more.