Tag: Montanita

Ecuador – Bagged it!

As I write this, Ted and I are sitting in an internet cafe on our last day in Ecuador (it’s taken us a while to post it though!). We leave in several hours to head to the airport and onto Peru. Ecuador has been very good to us and has been a very enjoyable first stop on our world travels. We´ve loved a lot of things, didn´t like a few, and learned quite a bit along the way. Below are some of our Top Moment Lists in attempt to summarize Ecuador in a nutshell!

In no particular order…

Top 10 Things We Loved
1. Ecuadorian Spanish – The Spanish here is spoken relatively slowly and people seem to enunciate very well. It was great for those of us who were very beginners (Sarah) and for those that were trying to brush up as well (Ted).
2. Overall value – From great accommodations for $20/night to delicious lunches for $5 and cheap, cheap bus rides anywhere you need to go – Ecuador is a steal of a deal.
3. Our time in Pucará - We loved getting off the beaten track, having the opportunity to live with a family and take Spanish lessons. A big thank you to our friend Peter for making it possible.
4. The evening of our homestay in Pijal – The community warmly welcomed us – teaching us how to make their rolls for dinner, sharing sips of sugarcane alcohol with us, and dancing and playing music until it was time to go to bed.
5. Our guide Jose – Jose was very good to us over the 3 days we spent with him – from hiking around lakes that only foreigners like to walk around (his joke), to arranging a mid-hike snack (popcorn and juice) at his mother-in-law´s house in a nearby village, to helping us with our Spanish. Jose was a treat.
6. The Black Sheep Inn – The whole experience. I loved our warm hosts, our amazing accommodations, the friends we met there, the delicious vegetarian meals, the beautiful hike, and the list goes on.
7. Pailón Del Diablo Waterfall (the Devil’s Cauldron) – This amazingly powerful and gigantic waterfall was a 10-12 mile cruisy downhill bike ride from the tourist town of Baños. We didn´t know what to expect but it entirely exceeded our expectations and blew us away.
8. Montañita - Courtney and Jed were warm and welcoming hosts and we got to play on the beach, go surfing and eat a lot of seafood. Si, perfecto!
9. Whale watching – I´m a water girl and I could barely contain myself from jumping in and swimming with the beasts. I couldn´t believe how many we saw and how close we got to them. It was incredible.
10. All the spectacular volcanoes – We knew Quito was at altitude (around 10,000 ft.), but we didn´t know that it was surrounded by so many gigantic volcanoes. We lucked out and finally got to see them on a clear day – some over 20,000 feet!

Top 5 Things That We Didn´t
1. Getting our stuff stolen – Hands down, this was the biggest bummer of our time in Ecuador.
2. Upset stomachs – We each had a bout with it and it isn´t fun. Obviously.
3. A bus ride that Lonely Planet quoted as 8 hours (ugh), taking closer to 10 (double ugh).
4. Wine costs the same as it does at home and beer comes only in the pilsner variety.
5. Adorable puppies. Normally puppies are not a bad thing but when they are roaming the streets and most likely homeless and potentially rabid, you shouldn’t be petting them, and that is just torture.

Top 5 Favorite Foods and Drinks
1. Jugos and batidos! Name an exciting tropical fruit flavor – they´ve got it!
2. Intag coffee – Straight from the source, a community-driven economic success story and delicious.
3. Set-menu almuerzos – Hole-in-the-wall shops serving a multi-course meal for a total of $1.50 to $2.50 per person. It usually came with a delicious soup and the main consisted of some meat (either beef or chicken) with rice and salad. Muy bien!
4. Popcorn – I know this isn´t that exciting but I love popcorn and they serve it everywhere, and it is delicious.
5. Fresh seafood – We ate the majority of our seafood when we were on the coast in Montañita and loved it loved it.

Top 5 Things We Learned/Found Interesting/Found Entertaining
1. There were significantly less tourists around and particularly American tourists than we had thought there would be. No matter what “touristy” things we did (hot springs!, waterfall hikes!, gondola rides to the tops of mountains!), we were always pleased to see significant numbers of Ecuadorians there with their families doing these things along with a couple Germans and maybe some Brits thrown in.
2. Outside of the big cities (and quite a lot IN the big cities as well), nearly every structure – home, shop, school, etc.- is made from cinder blocks. Sometimes they´d get plastered over and/or painted to make them look nicer, but for the most part not-so-much.
3. How prolific and useful knee-high rubber boots can be – from hiking in the rainforest, to working at a minga, to getting the mail.
4. Ecuadors biggest exports are: oil, bananas, flowers and shrimp. In fact, 1/3 of the roses purchased in the U.S. for Valentine´s Day are from Ecuador.
5. It´s perfectly normal for a woman speaking Kichwa (the most widely spoken Indigenous language in the region), clothed in her traditional dress with a baby strapped to her back to be walking down the street on her cell phone.

After 4 weeks of exploring our first South American country, we are officially hooked.  While we’re pleased with the amount of ground we were able to cover, as always when you’re traveling, we discovered more that needs to be done.  We’ll be back for sure – the Galapagos and the Amazon are calling our names.

For a few more highlights of our time here, check out our ‘Best of Ecuador’ photos.


Ceviche on the beach!  Who´d of thought you could get semi-raw seafood out of a tricycle cart while sunbathing.


Nothing Cheers Me Up Like the Beach

I think it was lucky that we were headed to the beach when our stuff got stolen, because though I was bummed to have been the victim of theft, we were thankfully in a relaxing, beautiful environment to get our minds off the frustration.

Courtney, a friend of mine from my triathlon training group in Boulder, is currently living with her husband Jed in Montañita, Ecuador for several months. Courtney and Jed are also on a bit of one-year sabbatical themselves posting up for three months at a time in four different locations around the globe. They were conveniently in Ecuador where we were and they were nice enough to invite us to visit.

They´ve got a great pad within blocks of the down-town area and the beach. Montañita is a tiny little town that caters to tourists – both local and not-so local. There are lots of different languages being spoken, lots of fruity cocktails to drink and lots of dreadlocks. Though very different than the rest of our Ecuador experience, I have to say that it was quite a treat – almost like a vacation from a vacation.

We ate delicious and inexpensive seafood every night. Courtney and Jed got us out on surf boards and shared some tips. We enjoyed several of the fancy drinks they make there with our favorite being the hard to pronounce capiroska (vodka, sugar, lime juice and limes). They make a similar drink with sugarcane alcohol but Courtney recommended the vodka version!

Ted and I were also lucky enough to take a whale watching tour. We were told that we were nearing the end of the season so it might be hard to find the whales. Also, if we did find them they might not be breeching or as exciting as they are in July and August when they are trying to attract mates. However, we not only saw LOTS of whale, we saw them close up, we saw them far away, we saw them jumping, the whole works!

A huge thank you to Courtney and Jed for their hospitality! I should also thank Courtney for her help with the police report because her Spanish is fantastic and came in SUPER handy.  It was such a treat to visit your little paradise and I hope we can rendez-vous again with you on your next stop in Argentina!

We´re a Statistic

On one of our most recent bus trips to Montanita (along the coast) to visit some Boulder pals, Ted and I got robbed. Well, robbed is the wrong word as nothing was taken by force – I guess you would say we were burglarized. No matter what you call it, it sucks!

When it was all said and done, the creeps got away with an iPod, Ted´s sunglasses, $40 cash oh, and our COMPUTER. Yep, they scored big.

They were able to easily access our precious cargo because we conveniently had it stored above our seats on the bus. We had been very cautious of our things and carried our day packs on our laps for all of our previous bus rides. Seriously, this day was the first day we had ever stored our bags up above. Obviously, we should not have done this and that is why it is so incredibly frustrating to have learned the lesson we already knew!

However, to our credit, the bus we were riding on was an “executivo” style bus that requires passengers to have pre-purchased tickets and only makes select stops. It had air-conditioning, showed a movie (Pistol Whipped starring Steven Seagal, seriously) and was less than half full. We were a short distance from our final destination and I guess you could say we just got falsely comfortable/confident. The other buses we have ridden on have been packed with people, standing and sitting, and there is so much coming and going it would be silly to abandon our bags up above. But not on the fancy executivo bus, right? WRONG!

The bright side of this story is that we had the experience of riding in an Ecuadorian police car, visiting several Ecuadorian police stations, and submitting a police report (for travel insurance purposes) that was typed in front of our eyes by a stoic Ecuadorian police detective on a TYPEWRITER. Yes, it was quite the experience.

So, the moral of the story (that we already knew) is that you should not store your stuff above you on the bus and there is no such thing as being too vigilant.

Oh, and also that you can´t let the little things get you down. The stuff that was taken from us was just stuff. We were super-bummed that it happened but at the same time, there was absolutely nothing we could do at that point to change the outcome.

So take that you f-ing thieves! I hope you can´t figure out how to access our password-protected computer, that you hate bluegrass and jamband music, and that Ted´s big head makes the sunglasses worthless to you!

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