Number of Days in Ecuador: 20
Areas Visited: Guayaquil (2 nights)- Montanita (4)- Banos (4)- Tena (2)- Misahaulli & The Jungle (3) -Quito (4) -Tulcan (1 night in the border town)
Average daily cost for lodging: around $7
Most Expensive Hostel: Splurged on a double room at a fancy boutique guesthouse in Guayaquil, when the dorms filled- $30 or $15/per person. Well worth it at the time.
Least Expensive: El Centro del Mundo in Quito- just $5.60 per night. Well worth it considering this price included free breakfast and free rum & coke on Mon-Wed-Fri… A big reason why we had so much fun in Quito.
Number of beds slept in: 8 hostels over 20 nights (i.e. a much better ratio than in Peru)
Average meal cost: $2-4 (we were extremely cheap, sticking with the menu del dias, which typically involve soup, a hearty main dish of meat, rice, veggies or beans, fresh juice, and if lucky- dessert for $1.50-3…a steal
Hours spent on buses: Aprox 21 hours -i.e. nothing compared to Peru
Time Spent ill: 0 – WOOHOO! My stomach has toughened up, it appears
Strangest things sold by street venders:
-Puppies: There were street venders in Quito literally selling puppies. Holding one or two in each hand and walking around Old Town.
-Lamps on the beach: In Montanita men were walking up and down the beach selling floor lamps. Why anyone would buy a floor lamp while on the beach is beyond me, but they must have had some luck at some point.
Things we’d like to bring with us when we go home:
-Amazing, cheap fresh fruit and juices. I’ve been taking advantage of the fact that I can get fresh fruit for next to nothing on every corner. In Ecuador, I went through a Maracuya (passion fruit) obsession. Such a strange and amazing fruit. Also I ate a ton of amazing (and amazingly cheap) strawberries.
-Street food in general. It’s so nice to just be able to pick up a delicious snack or meal quick, fresh off the grill, or blender, etc. for $1 or less at nearly any hour of the day/night. Any bus you take, at any stop, an army of venders bombard the bus selling skewers, fried chicken and potatoes, ice cream, homemade chips, fruit salad and more. All you have to do is sit comfortably in your seat and let them seduce you with their treats. Though overwhelming, it’s good fun.
I truly wish the economy of the US was set up to support street venders more. Sure- they can undoubtably be annoying, my overall feeling for anyone selling something on the street is love. I’ll miss hearing their annoying voices yelling “Mango, mango, mango”
-Dancing culture: whats not to love about going out on the weekends and dancing the night away. It gives purpose to a night of drinking. It seemed that all Ecuadorians were professional dancers (especially the men- which was new for us, haha). If children in the US grew up dancing, maybe less of us awkward white people would be terrible dancers, and we all may be a little more fit and a little more happy.
There- I think I just found an answer to a few of our biggest problems…just dance.
–Adventure sports in Banos- Canyoning, whitewater rafting, bridge jumping…
-Our 3 day Amazon Tour: It was just enough time to get a nice taste for the jungle- a little trekking, plus learning about indigenous culture, cooking, dance, crafts, etc. It definitely left me wanting more. I´d like to go back- maybe delve into the Colombian Amazon?
-The Quito Nightlife: we took advantage of the fun salsatechs and bars near our ¨party hostel¨ in Quito. Also, the people we met in our hostel were quite a hoot. Quito was a blast.
Favorite Hostel: We stayed in some pretty satisfactory places in Ecuador, but one that stands out above the rest was probably Plantas y Blanco hostel in Banos. For $8 a night, we got a clean dorm, nice bathrooms with consistantly hot showers, bed sheets changed daily, daily clean towels (a luxury). The Wifi was good. The rooftop cafe was better. The breakfast was the best (homemade breads & jams, pastries, juices, and good coffee. Lovely views of the surrounding volcanos, cathedral and city.
As far as bang for our buck and the place I had the most fun-definitely El Centro del Mundo, in Quito. However, the beds were dreadful.
We had really excellent luck with the street food in Ecuador. In fact we ate incredibly cheaply in Ecuador. It was not uncommon for us to have an entire meal for $1.50-3. I think my most expensive meal was around $5. It wasnt uncommon for us to spend more on dessert than on our main course.
The highlights included the meat skewers and grilled corn on the cob in Montanita, and Shawarma- a wonderful middle eastern food consisting of slow grilled meats in a pita wrap with lettice, tomato and yummy yogurt sauce, that instantly became a favorite -typically around $1.75 each. Also, the Pina Burger in Banos, stood out for me (no picture unfortunately), which was a juicy burger on a homemade bun with cheese and fresh pineapple. Finally I had a highly satisfying salad of beans, tomatos, onions, plantain chips and corn, marinated in lime juice and garnished with fun salsa and cilantro (ceviche del choclo): that I will be daydreaming about for years.
-The lack of free breakfast in Ecuador
-The weather; especially in Banos- we were unable to go on a bike ride down the road of waterfalls because of uncooperative weather.
-Trying to find a good rainforest tour. We wandered all over creation, searched the depths of both internet and guide book and talked to randoms before finally we stumbled on our tour operator.
-The price of drinks (other than beer) in big cities. However this was probably a blessing in disguise.
No biggie, can´t win ém all…
Regrets? I can´t say there is anything I regret about our time in Ecuador. If I must chose something-I suppose I would say that I wish we had mustered up the energy to go to the Saturday market in Otavalo. However, I fully intend to return to Ecuador someday to visit The Galapagos. I´ll just have to hit it then…
On to Colombia! Perhaps my most highly anticipated stop (I´m currently in Cali, Colombia, where we will begin Salsa lessons tomorrow!)… After Cali, likely we are off to coffee country, next to Medellin, and on to Cartagena, Santa Marta and the Carribean coast. Columbia splurges? A 7-8 trek to the Lost City; and sailing from Cartagena to Panama?
Also possible- a surprise side trip to somewhere south of the equator? Not sure?
That´s the beauty of having no set schedule…