Verdé

May 10, 2008 - Quito, Ecuador

Green was the first thing that came to mind when I thought of Ecuador, and after spending a month in the beautiful country, I can confirm that most of the country is in fact a shade of verdé. Flying into Quito over huge peaked mountains and countryside, it´s clear that this is a place where Mother Nature plays a huge part in Ecuadorian life.

Windy country roads sometimes climb to heights well in excess of 3000 metres, where it is impossible to travel more than about 50km/hour, especially when the roads are narrow and landslides are constantly being cleared. There were six mostly-small landslides in a 20km stretch from Rio Verde to Baños just a day before we arrived. The short journey used to take more than four hours but five tunnels have recently been blasted through the side of the mountains and the trip now takes about 15-20 minutes in a jeep with no seatbelts. A great improvement, but I had to hold my breath every time we drove through the water running in through the top of the unlined tunnels.

It´s currently the rainy season in Ecuador and it has been rare to go more than two or three days without my purple raincoat making an appearance. Usually intermittent showers, the rain wasn´t enough to spoil the white water rafting or canyoning, but it definitely makes the landslides more frequent.

There´s also nothing quite like floating down the Napo River in Ecuador´s Orient on a hand-made bamboo raft that´s falling apart as the rain is pelting down and there´s lightning on the near horizon. (On reflection, I seem to have spent a substantial amount of time outside of the boats rather than in them on the rivers. First the raft, then I checked out the rapids a bit closer than I´d hoped near Baños.)

The Napo River forms part of the Amazon Basin and it was a wonderful experience to walk through the green jungle... and wade through a tributary up to chest height in bathers and gumboots (I´ll spare everyone the photo). People living around the Napo River appear to have a simple and stress-free life. They have little money and still rely on the bountiful jungle to provide materials for their houses and some food, as well as traditional dress and handicrafts. The main forms of transport are small dugout canoes and motorised longboats, and time feels like it passes much slower. It´s a far contrast from the bustling animal life in the Galapagos, but both are magical in their own ways. The jungle seems far more secretive and mysterious. It takes a while for it to reveal itself but it´s wonderful to discover much more than just vegetation. Underneath the surface bird-eating spiders lay in wait and deadly ants scuttle across giant plant fronds. No anacondas or pirahannas here.

The wealth in the main cities in Ecuador are in stark contrast to the country areas. I really enjoyed Quito and found it quite an easy city to get around, but Cuenca´s historic buildings along the river and the general ambience of the place is even more beautiful than the capital. Both cities are in valleys, and the mountainous snow-capped peaks provide a gorgeous backdrop to Quito, but I liked the feel of Cuenca a bit more. They are progressive cities with all the modern conveniences (including a wonderful chiropractor in Cuenca!), bustling atmospheres and amazing food markets where the selection of fruit and vegetables in particular could colour any artist´s pallete and chef´s menu.

I have found Ecuador similar in many ways to Guatemala. It has exceeded my expectations and will be a country that I will always fondly remember, from the natural scenery and wildlife of the Galapagos Islands and mainland countryside, to the wild rivers, volcanoes and historic cities. It has been a remarkable month in a little piece of paradise on earth.


Pictures

Crossing into Peru
The boys check out the waves at Punta Sol
Digga, Dave, and the pig - Punta Sol
Punta Sol sunset
 
 

8 Comments

Betsy, Jock, Mary Lou:
May 11, 2008
Hi Katie, we met in the bus on the way to our different tours in Ecuador. We are so glad to have found your web site. We also loved our trip to Ecuador: the hot springs, the waterfalls, Otovalo.

We're going to watch your trip now. Have fun!

Betsy
Denise Otkin:
May 11, 2008
The jungle sounds wonderful, I envy the people who can live a slower paced life and still be happy with what they have. This is one place I have always wanted to see. Be safe, and i'll look forward to your next adventure!
Cara Lanyon:
May 12, 2008
Bird-eating spiders???!!!!!
Katie:
May 13, 2008
That`s right. The spiders kill the birds and eat part of them. From memory, I think it was their wings. Our bird-eating spider had been hiding in a log, so we didn`t get to see it in action.
Rose:
May 15, 2008
Yes Katie this is me back home in NZ. Enjoyed reading you comments on Cuba and the other countries your have visited since, is your Mum going to join you?
joan purcell:
May 24, 2008
Dad said to say hello.I read your account of your trip so far.How wonderfull.Best of luck I hope to see or hear more on your return to Australia Best wishes from Joan at Yea
Sue:
June 21, 2008
Hi - ran across your blog when I was looking for a chiro in Cuenca or Quito... have enjoyed reading your travels alot! I was wondering if you could give me contact info for the chiro you saw - I sure could use a good one at the moment!! Even just a name or a clinic name or street - whatever you can remember would be wonderful! Thanks in advance!
Greg Schmidt:
June 26, 2008
When you were hang gliding, you commented about hanging around with a Hunky Guy, and I remarked "Hey if you thought hanging around with hot guy was a treat, try tandem parachuting, that way your “strapped” to hot guy.".

After seeing your Parachute photo, I see you acted on the comment!
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