First impressions of Ecuador

We’ve only been in Ecuador for a few days and we have already fallen in love.

The people are warm, generous and very patient as we stumble with speaking Spanish. Everyone greets us with a smile and “buenas dias” – and we hope that is as far as the conversation goes because beyond that they only get back blank stares from us. Today I told a nice man that I “no habla Espanol” when he rattled something off to me. He said “me neither” in English, with a twinkle in his eye.

A friendly Otavalan women waving hello.

Yesterday I was waiting in line at the public restroom. Being used to the American way of personal space I wasn’t crowding the woman in front of me. As a result other people kept getting in line in front of me. The woman in front of me was a lovely elderly woman who barely reached my shoulders in height and was decked out in the most beautiful traditional dress of the indigenous people of the region. She promptly came back to me, grabbed my hand, put me back in line behind her and hugged me to her side to keep me there. It was such a sweet experience.

Our days have been filled with adventure. That is why we are out here, after all.

By far the biggest highlight was getting to see the volcano Cotopaxi erupt. Cotopaxi is located just south of the capital city Quito and is clearly visible on a clear day. Although the volcano had a small eruption last week, the show it put on yesterday was bigger and more spectacular. This volcano hasn’t erupted in nearly 140 years. We were truly blessed to get to see it in action!

Once in a lifetime experience to see a huge volcano erupting! (Cotopaxi)

A panoramic view with Cotopaxi erupting in the distance.

We explored the handicraft market in Otavalo, where the indigenous people of the region are famous for their weaving and textiles fashioned in ornate traditional patterns. I bought a beautiful scarf made of alpaca – which promises to come in handy when we travel to colder climates soon (or at least that is what I told myself to justify taking up precious luggage space with my new purchase!).

Some of the woven handicrafts at the Otavalo market. 

We then spent several hours biking 18 miles around the town of Otavalo along an old railroad line and down the bumpiest cobblestone roads known to man. It was great fun and we were thrilled to be out getting some real exercise after a couple of days of hotels and plane travel.

Glenn biking along the old railroad in Otavalo.

The next day we hiked to the summit of Fuya Fuya, which is a peak that makes up part of the Mojando volcano. The crater of the volcano has collapsed and now contains a beautiful lake where the locals come to fish, have picnics with their families and watch the silly tourists climb the mountain.

We conquered Fuya Fuya! (14,190 feet in elevation)

This hike was a true test of our physical endurance. Although the entire hike (up to the summit and back down again) was only 2 miles in length…it takes nearly 4 hours to complete due to the steepness of the climb and the crazy high elevation (turns out there isn’t much oxygen above 14,000 feet!). We crawled along at a snails pace, which seemed to be the key to making it. Slow and steady wins the day. Both Glenn and I got a little dizzy from the altitude, but overall we did great.

Glenn and our guide Jorgen taking a bit of a rest with an amazing view before pushing on to the final summit.

We then visited yet another volcano (Ecuador has seemingly more volcanoes than you can count) called Cotacachi, which has a beautiful lake in the crater that was very reminiscent of Crater Lake back home in Oregon.

The amazing crater lake of Cotacachi.

We then rode our bikes down the volcano, through surrounding towns and agricultural fields. Similar to my experience in Vietnam, being a crazy gringa riding a bike with a camera on my helmet makes for quite a site and I am greeted with puzzled looks, smiles and waves along the way.

Bet these fellas didn’t expect to see the likes of me when they decided to wander out to the roadside on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Below I have included more photos of our adventures. Next we are headed up and over to the other side of the Ecuadorian Andes Mountains and then into the Amazon jungle!


In addition to woven goods, families also sell food stuffs like corn and quinoa at the open market.

Time for lunch! These roasted pig vendors were very busy.

Trying to get our van off the “new and improved” road and back onto the old road. Everything is relative I guess.

Passing a local woman while riding down the teeth-rattling cobblestone road.

Laundry day! Glenn’s favorite day of the week.

Relaxing at the beautiful historic ranch house called Pinsaqui.

Ranch horses wondering if I’ve brought breakfast. 

Mojando Volcano and Fuya Fuya

The grasses along the hike up Fuya Fuya were magnificent.

Glenn and Jorgen making their way up, up, up.

Even more amazing scenery on the way back down (we did a bit of a loop).

You can get an idea of how steep the climb is in this picture – and this wasn’t even the steepest section!

Some of the beautiful plants we found along the way.

Biking Cotacachi

Took a small hike to view the Cotacachi crater lake before biking to the nearby town of the same name.

Always something fun to see along the roadsides.

Young love.

Every Sunday the band plays in the town park and the locals dance.

Thanks for following along! More to come soon.

7 comments on “First impressions of Ecuador

  1. Pingback: Flirting with disaster. (Great Ocean Road, Australia) | A Life More Extraordinary

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  3. I LOVE your photos and commentary. Yes, alpaca is so soft and warm and I look forward to wearing the sweater I got in Peru again this coming winter, when we are cold and damp and you are in some wonderful climate…. well hopefully wearing your scarf!

  4. I keep finding myself saying (out loud, as it escapes before I can think to be quiet!) “WOW!” I have a feeling I’ll be continuing to do that with your successive posts! I just love that you guys are getting to experience all this, and appreciate the wonderful bonus that you’re so graciously sharing! It’s killing me a bit, though, as it’s totally feeding some serious wanderlustiness at a time that we aren’t able to travel. But your writing is so fantastic, it’s the next best thing to bring there! So thanks, and please keep it coming!

    And if you randomly happen to get detoured to Thailand along the way (don’t think it was on your agenda, but you never know with you two adventurers!) I’ve got a brother there that I’d love you to meet/ check up on and who I’m sure would love to share the highlights of his new home town with you!

    Continued safe, wonderful, and crazy fun adventures to you! (And good luck with saving space in your pack with all the great souvenirs you’re bound to run across!) 😉

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