South over the Andes

Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
Trip End Jul 20, 2011

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Where I stayed
Casa de Romero Guayaquil
Read my review - 2/5 stars

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tough to leave the easy life of cruising - even with 6 am starts, but it was back to the road.  We made our connection and had an early flight out of the Galapagos.  Another - yes another - small world story - on the flight to Guayaquil I ran into a defence lawyer I used to work with in Calgary.  He was with his own group of 16 - they rented their own boat and had a great time as well.

Made our way to the Guesthouse in Guayaquil where we had stayed a few weeks prior.  There we met my Dutch friend Andrea who had arrived in Quito about a week earlier.  We stayed the night and caught a mini bus ($12) for the 3 hour journey south to Cuenca.

Carolyn was able to finalize all her flights to Brazil before we left for the islands and she only had a day and a half to spend in Cuenca before having to get back to Guayaquil to catch her flight out.  We had heard great things about Cuenca and she really wanted to see it, even if it was just going to be a really quick look and see.  The minibus saved us a couple of hours over the regular bus and allowed the luxury we had become accustomed to!  Easy to get soft while cruising!!!!.

The drive, up and thru the Andes,  was beautiful.  Cuenca is at 8200 feet - these mountains are high with lush wide valleys between.  We wound back and forth through the mountains like a bat out of hell - Ecuadorian driving is fast and very aggressive and often very stupid.  I think they have one of the highest fatality rates from traffic accidents in the world and I can see why.  Buses are the primary mode of transport and they overtake on double solids and take crazy chances with poor equipment.  Our van was in good condition so that was a relief - still every vehicle drives like they are in a race.  

We saw Llamas grazing and lots of really expensive looking dude ranches, acreages and tidy small mountain towns along the way.  About 60 km outside of Cuenca we entered Cajas National Park.  Very beautiful and renowned by birders. of course with our very recent Galapagos bird experience, we were able to yell 'bird' more easily than we had the week before. 


Arriving in Cueunca around 3 pm, we checked in and the three of us headed out on the town - Saturday and then Saturday night in the big city.. First impressions confirmed what we had heard - it really is a beautiful colonial city.  Clean, organized, booming, as is most of Ecuador,  and really very walkable.  But cold.  The nights are quite chilly - we are in the Andes, and even more chilly for us considering the sweltering heat we had just left in the Galapagos.  Daytime is perfect - bright blue sky and warm from 10 to 4, night is cold and there is no heating.  Deja vu to Mexico!!!!

Sunday morning Carolyn and I took the local bus up to a couple of villages where we heard they had Sunday markets.   This time we were back on the regular bus - 60 cent, 45 minute ride to Gauyaceo and then another 25 cents up to Chordeleg.  Charming villages - picture postcard types with everyone in their traditional clothing and everyone in Ecuadorian hats.   They wear the traditional hat - handwoven and the indigenous people then shellac them to make them solid.  Very interesting clothing choices - it seems impractical - the hat does not cover anything or protect their faces or ears from the sun, it doesn't provide shade like the Vietnamese cone hats - I think they are just for dress up and as impractical as the stupid Police hat.I was always in trouble for not wearing!!!

Sunday morning we decided to take the local bus to some nearby villages where they had Sunday markets.

We had a great day - met some lovely expats who have been living up in the valley for a few years - they were kind enough to give us the lowdown on Ecuadorian living in the south.  Rents are very very cheap - you can get a nice house for $250 month...yes, $250 a month.  and it is beautiful.  Housing is super cheap but I think the cost of living - food and clothing and all that other stuff, is not.  Pretty close to prices at home. 

Carolyn and I meet the nicest people on the bus and Sunday was the same.  Of course we standout - especially Carolyn because the Ecuadorians are all around 5 foot 3 or 4.....I'm normal here!!!!  OK, that might be stretching it! 

We had no idea where to get off so I kept showing my little piece of paper ( like in China) to people and wait to be adopted.  Sure enough an older man with a .little English (he had worked in New York) adopted us and our 'problem to be solved' and made sure we got off the bus and on to the next one without any problems.

All in all a great day.

Monday morning Carolyn packed up and started her travel day from hell.  24 hours straight travelling.  3 hours back to Guayaquil through the mountains, wait for her flight to Lima, Peru.  Fly to Lima, 3 hour layover, fly to Rio, 5 hour layover, fly to Brasilia and start her pampered, live by the pool with staff peeling her grapes and spritzing cool water.  She has had many Rotary exchange students over the years and is going to the home of her student from last year - Marco, who lives in Brasilia, Brazil.  He is an amazing young man and his mom is also really really nice.  Marco spent the year going to high school in Calgary so mom came back and forth a few times.  They have a house with a pool and staff so Carolyn will be well looked after..  She needs the rest so it will be good - she wants to spend a lot more time travelling in the near future.  Work - it does seem to get in the way often!.  I was going to join her in Brazil but it was so difficult to arrange the visa for Brazil that I gave up.  The restrictions Brazil has put on their visas if you do it from your home country is more arduous than any of the other many visas I have acquired.  Now I hear it is really easy to get one from the Brazilian embassy In Peru....maybe?????  I do like grapes and pools!!!. 

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Nancy on

So relieved to read you'd headed back to South America and not towards Asia - didn't know your itinerary. We were worried. We love reading about your travels. It all sounds are our hero!

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