Lo siento, we have been putting this update off long enough. Time has really slipped away on us since leaving Panama. We have been in Ecuador for 10 days and we have so much to catch you up on.
We arrived in Quito on March 13 and began a seven-day adventure that was an organized tour arranged through Gate 1 Travel. Jo-Anne and I have never been big fans of organized tours, but we took a chance on this one and I’m glad we did.
We were met at the airport by a representative from Gate 1 whose name is Paul. A very handsome English speaking Ecuadorian with a smile and an aura that told you instantly this person was going to become a good friend and so it was. Paul took care of all of us as a shepherd tends his flock and that smile never left his face. A week with Paul as our tour guide cured any stress we may have felt before the trip. Each and everyone of us on that tour was special to Paul and I cannot express enough what an amazing employee Gate 1 has in his commitment and dedication to his job.We all loved Paul!
Then there was our driver Jonny. He was as special to us as Paul. Another handsome Ecuadorian whose commitment to his job really showed. We travelled safely to our destinations every day because of this man. We owe our lives to him actually. Many a twisting turning road he drove on, taking us to spectacular heights of over 14,000 feet in the mountains and down again. Many places on the side of the road were sheer drop gorges. Other places the road had eroded or a recent mud slide had occurred and Jonny each time skillfully maneuvered our massive tour bus through each obstacle and got us to our next stop along the way. We all loved Jonny too and we’re very thankful at the end of each day for his amazing driving skills. Did I mention how good he was at backing up?
There were a total of 35 on the tour. We started from the Hilton Hotel and our first day exposed us to the old part of Quito, visiting narrow cobblestone streets and exploring most of 16th-century Quito. The highlight was seeing La Compañia Church or the Church of San Francisco and the Cathedral of Quito. We saw a street with seven churches on it but not enough time to visit them all. What we did see was amazing and the stories Paul told us about their history was captivating.
Here on this street of churches we caught the first glimpse of the locals selling their wares.
Then, it was off to the Middle of the World Monument, where we stood with one foot in the Northern and one in the Southern Hemisphere.
Day two had us visiting a water fall in the morning
and a visit to a local musical group that made instruments including the famous bamboo flutes. The whole family performed for us.
The afternoon found us visiting the famous Otavalo market, one of the largest in South America and run by local Otavaleño Indians. JoAnne found a beautiful alpaca cape and sweater and I found a sweater too. That night we stayed in a cabin on a lake that was very romantic. When we came back from dinner someone had lit our fireplace and put hot water bottles in our bed.
The next day found us driving through the most amazing and breathtaking views. After a lengthy and slow drive up, up and up into the Andes we reached 14,800 feet above sea level,
and then descended into Papallacta where we spent the night in a lodge surrounded by thermal hot springs.
On day three we arrived at La Punta Ahuano, a tiny port on the north bank of the Napo River. From here, a motorized canoe took us to a lodge on the Amazon River where we spent two nights enjoying the sounds, serenity and magnificent foliage of the Cloud Forest and the unique Amazon culture.
The first afternoon we took a short canoe ride across the river to an island and walked through the jungle to a traditional aboriginal village of the Quechua. We were invited into a home given some treats and then had a demonstration on how to use a blow gun.
All the next day the two of us and a few others opted out of a strenuous hike and an obstacle course in the jungle for a quiet relaxing day by the pool and a leisure stroll around the grounds of the lodge.
We left the jungle the following day and drove most of the day to get to our last night on the road which was a beautiful old and modern hacienda.
A few stops along the way.
We had several other amazing experiences and sights that eventually led us back to Quito.
A visit to a rose plantation was spectacular
and the end of a wonderful introduction to Ecuador. We said good-bye to our new travel acquaintances and then flew on to Cuenca.
We have a small two bedroom, two bath apartment here that is above a little shop with a picture window overlooking the hustle and bustle of the street and the locals below. We are very comfortable here with modern conveniences. This cute little place will be our home until the end of April.
Stayed tuned for our adventures in Cuenca.