spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

Trip Photos: Ecuador 2014/15

ecuador176

I love this logo from the Tourism Authority- it appeared all throughout the country and tied everything together nicely.

ecuador358

We based our trip in Guayaquil, part of the Costa, or Coastal region. It’s the biggest city in Ecuador. Boy were we HOT- because it’s located below the Equator, it was summer during our December/January trip.

ecuador19

The day after we landed, Barcelona Sporting Club and Emelec played a league championship soccer match. Unfortunately, our family’s team, Barcelona, lost. But it was cool to see the fans cheering the team on as they left the hotel on their way to the stadium.

ecuador28

We’ve eaten at this restaurant on previous trips- I love the huge red crab adorning the entrance, and that’s it’s posing with the traditional board and mallet we use to eat it.

ecuador289

Mmmmm…excuse me, I’m drooling. Totally obsessed with my Ecuadorian cangrejos, which you see here accompanied by salsa de cebolla (sort of a red onion/lime juice relish), and some aji (hot sauce).

ecuador109

Limones are a staple of the Coastal diet. They are smaller than American limes, but much, much juicier. And quite a bit cheaper than what we pay in Hawaii!

ecuador41

We took a day trip to Salinas beach, and passed many banana plantations along the way. Take a look in your supermarket produce section and see if you can even find a banana that’s not from Ecuador! We are a true banana republic.

ecuador67

My daughter likes taking pictures of her feet on any beach we visit. The water was refreshing, and it was fun knowing that our home was right across that big Pacific Ocean.

ecuador39

I love the way they marked the Mens’ and Ladies’ rooms at this roadside restaurant. These cute little dolls are a traditional handicraft.

ecuador76

When near the ocean, eat fish! This was my dad’s dinner: a whole corvina with rice, patacones (smashed, twice-fried plantains), and an ice-cold Pilsener.

ecuador130

Our next trip was up to Cuenca. This is one of the places where you see the beautiful mountainside quilted with crop fields.

 

ecuador191

Here are the 3 blue domes of the New Cathedral in Cuenca. We took a double-decker bus tour around the city- easiest way to get around with our group of 21 people.

 

museo cuenca

It’s well-known that the so-called Panama Hat is actually made in Ecuador. There’s a Museum dedicated to its history in Cuenca.

 

train3

In El Tambo, we boarded a train for a short ride to El Coyoctor. This site had informative guides who led us through a small village preserved by the Cañari people. The Tren Ecuador rail system was recently restored after massive infrastructure investments and everything looked great!

 

rieles2

This is where the train turned around to go back to the station. Down the hillside, groups of indigenous people were harvesting food and plants. The air was cool, crisp, and thin. Such a beautiful place.

 

This lady was weaving llama wool at Ingapirca. It is sometimes known as Ecuador’s Machu Picchu. While our site is not as big, it’s a great way to see the amazing Inca architecture up close.

 

ecuador207

Vegetarians, look away! Pig is king in Ecuador, especially near the Andes mountains. Here’s a fine-looking specimen.

 

cuenca food

Some of that lovely pig was made into fritada and chicharron, then heaped on top of maiz tostado for a delicious snack. You can also see some season boiled potatoes in the shot. There are dozens of varieties of potatoes along the Andean chain.

 

ecuador171

Here’s a sign written in Spanish, English, and Quechua. Quechua is a native South American language, and one of the indigenous tongues of Ecuador. Our Ecuadorean Spanish is peppered with Quechua words and phrases, as the language is still commonly spoken among the mountainfolk.

 

lago2

My cousin took this panoramic shot of just one of the many lakes and lagoons in El Cajas National Park. You can see how thick the fog gets in the mountainous regions. Altitude here is approx. 13,000 feet.

 

ecuador220

Back in Guayaquil, this sign made me laugh. We have a tendency in Ecuador to add “-ito” or “-ita” to the ends of words. The suffix can be added to signify that something is small in size, young in age, to denote affection, and for any other reason you can think of. This sign is advertising teeny-tiny mortgage rates.

 

ecuador223

We took another day trip out to Puerto El Morro, about an hour away from Guayaquil. You have to drive on several dirt- and sand-packed roads to get there, and feel like you must be hopelessly lost…but then you arrive. They have several different tour options; we chose mangrove/dolphin viewing.

 

ecuador260

Here’s a shot of the mangroves and a tree full of native birds. Puerto El Morro is home to the largest colony of frigate birds in Ecuador. We had an excellent guide on our boat, who pointed out the pink birds, which are a species of heron. We also saw lots of swoop-and-scoop pelican action.

 

ecuador242

Dolphins! These dolphins live in the estuary, bordering a large river and the open ocean. We enjoyed watching them interact in small groups very near our boat. Though they are used to the small boats coming to observe them, I was glad to hear that tourists are not allowed to touch them or feed them. One woman on our boat complained that the guide should have brought a bucket of fish to attract the dolphins so her daughter could reach out and touch them. Our guide firmly told her why that would be a terrible idea.

 

viejo joker

We made sure to be in Guayaquil for all the New Year’s celebrations! If you remember my previous post about our reasons for the timing of this trip, you know all about the años viejos that we burn/blow up at midnight. This is a small Joker located outside of a residence…

 

ecuador268

Here are some larger-sized ones in the city center. Once they get this big, the creators/owners start to charge money for the privilege of taking a photo with them. A huge amount of time and work go into these, so we definitely thought it was worth the $0.50 or $1.00 it cost…

 

ecuador272

And here’s an absolutely huge Batman año viejo. He was located along the Ruta de los Años Viejos in the city center. Residents and neighborhood apply for permits in order be able to build and display these massive monigotes on the city streets through January 6 (Three Kings’ Day). Unlike the personal versions, which are of course burned on New Year’s Eve, these are burned in pieces, at a location outside the city, with lots of firefighters present.

 

ecuador292

We headed out for another road trip, this time north to Quito. I loved this “Chocla” statue, a tribute to the importance of corn in the Sierra. You can see the fog covering the top of the hillside to the right in this photo- it never did clear enough for my husband to see Chimborazo and Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s biggest volcanos. Oh well, that just means we have to go back 🙂

 

ecuador296

The sign says, “First Church in Ecuador, constructed in 1534.” This church can be found in Riobamba, along the Pan-American Highway. It is small, but significant. A nice little stop.

 

ecuador297

And here’s the church itself. The Iglesia Balbanera has survived the many, many earthquakes that have hit this region of Ecuador. It’s made of solid rock, and has sustained very little damage over its 480-year existence.

 

Visiting Mitad del Mundo monument just outside Quito. Here we are on the Equator line, toes in the Northern Hemisphere, heels in the Southern Hemisphere! We’re all wearing black shoes because….it was a coincidence, LOL!

 

ecuador336

Another tribute to food- we Ecuadoreans love to eat. This is a monument to fritada, our irresistible preparation of fried pork chunks. The paila, or pan, is big enough to sit in! Rumor has it that one of my relatives has photographic evidence of that fact…

 

ecuador385

Parque de las Iguanas in Guayaquil. These guys take residence in the city center, surrounded by office buildings on 3 sides, and a church on the other. You can walk among them, and take plenty of photos, but are discouraged from feeding them. I’d also advise you to be aware of the iguanas in the trees above you! They sure know how to aim their poop, haha. We saw at least one person get hit, ew.

 

ecuador301

I leave you with this stunning image of the famous quilted mountains of Ecuador. It’s been fun sharing these, as it forced me to think about the details that make a picture special, giving me an even greater appreciation for my homeland. I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures, and may they inspire you to see your own native lands with fresh eyes!

 

Advertisements
3 Comments »

…and we’re back, baby!

So, we had a great time in South America, and visited 11 out of 24 provinces in Ecuador.  Not too bad.

On the way there, we had a tight connection in Panama City, and were delayed on the tarmac, meaning we had to run through the terminal to get onto our last flight.  We were the second-to-last group to board….the last group being my parents, who had also been delayed on their flight from NJ.  At least we made the flight….our suitcases didn’t.  But we were able to pick them up the next day, though one of my mom’s bags didn’t make it until 2 days after that.

We had a fantastic time seeing family and friends, and OMG eating the food.  I lost count of how many ceviches I ate.  SO fresh and yummy, and CHEAP.  And I didn’t have to make it myself- that was the best part.

Lessons learned on this trip:

  • Follow my own advice!  I always tell people to keep a spare shirt and undergarment for each traveler in their carry-on just in case the luggage doesn’t arrive.  I packed stuff for my kids but nothing for me or DH!  Had to borrow pajamas to sleep in and clothes to go back for my suitcases at the airport.  DH stayed home in his borrowed pajamas until I got back with the suitcases.
  • Prepare in advance for altitude sickness:  I know all about acclimating, but that wasn’t possible.  However, I could have asked for meds in preparation for our bus ride from Guayaquil to Cuenca.  Going from sea level to over 10,000 feet in less than one day had me throwing up and feeling very poorly all night.  A quick call to my cousin’s doctor and a 10-minute visit to the pharmacy meant I felt much better after a few hours.  But I would rather have avoided it altogether.  Luckily, the kids did fine.  And I learned the lesson quickly.  For the next road trip up to Ibarra, I was prepared and felt fine the whole time.  DS did get carsick, but I blame it on the curvy mountain roads, since once we got to a flat and straight area, he was fine.
  • More like a lesson confirmed: family time is great, and part of the reason we travel to Ecuador is to become enveloped into the family fold, with all the craziness, crowds, people talking over each other, 24 people trying to make decisions and suggestions and plans at the same time.  We’re used to a quieter home, so the hustle and bustle is fun.  But…we’re used to a quieter home, so sometimes the 4 of us need a break, and “4 of us” time.  I had scheduled an outing the Puerto El Morro, to do a boat ride through the mangroves and see river dolphins.  Not that I didn’t want everybody to come along, but I planned it so that it was just our group of 4, plus my cousin’s wife (who was driving), and my niece (who is the same age as DD).  It was a relaxing hour-plus ride there, a great time seeing many, many dolphins and pelicans, and a nice almuerzo (bigger lunch meal) afterwards.  A perfect break from the 4 dozen other relatives, and we were refreshed and ready to get back to the noise and fun.  I’ll continue to choose some activities on vacation that are reserved for our smaller group, should we decide to travel en masse again in the future.
  • Expect the unexpected: Remembering my last Christmas-season trip, I was prepared for an invasion of grillos, (gross flying cricket-type bugs). They come out during the summer, and especially after the torrential rains that happen in the summer.  I think I saw a sum total of 10 grillos over 3 weeks, and it only rained (lightly) 2-3 times while we were there.  Also, I expected to be able to use my credit cards at more locations…but wound up having to conserve the cash I had brought to make it last until the end of the trip, since most places either did not accept cards, or would be obligated to add the IVA tax on top of the purchase price to use the card (approx. 12.5%).  DH had brought more than I said he needed, which was good advance thinking on his part 🙂 So we were OK while there, and I even came home with a bit of leftover cash.

Overall, I think we all had a really excellent time.  I felt completely at home, and got the sense that all the traveling we did to get there and back, plus the road-tripping within the country, continued to add to the kids’ life experience and general awareness of how people live in other parts of the world.

My DD mentioned more than once that she’d love to travel back and live with family members for a time- while that’s not likely, since I’d miss her too much, I’m more willing to entertain the notion of her doing air travel on her own within the next few years because of the maturity and responsibility she showed while traveling.

DS formed a nice bond with my grandfather (his great-grandfather).  I got some great pictures of them yanking on each other’s ears!  Long story on the ear thing.  He also loved watching all the año viejo/año nuevo burning and fireworks…from the relative safety and silence of the car, lol.

DH enjoyed seeing other parts of Ecuador.  We had mostly stayed in Guayaquil, with just a short jaunt to the beach at Salinas on our last trip in 2009, since we only had 10 days.  On this trip, being able to see the Sierra (mountainous area) and visit the Mitad del Mundo monument was great for him.  Plus he got to go on a short train ride (Baños del Inca route on Tren Ecuador).

On our next trip to Ecuador, I’ll be planning to visit the Galápagos Islands.  DS will be old enough and mature enough for all the walking and touring.  DD will be in college by then (!!!).  I already can’t wait.

I’ll share some trip pictures in another post 🙂


I always say that in order to get past the “vacation is over blues” you have to plan another trip.  Now that we’re back, and I have some additional information about our physical whereabouts for the next few years, I can confidently say that we are going to Disney World this October!  Already set our trip dates, and will be rescheduling our hotel reservations tomorrow (moving them from July to October).  Also researching flights, and trying to decide which day to attend Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and what family costume to wear!  Got many other things to plan and decide, including what restaurants to eat at, and how to organize our FastPass+ choices.  Busy, busy, busy.

love to plan

1 Comment »