Saturday, November 16, 2013


After two months of being based out of the loud, crowded capital city of Quito and filling any of our free time with weekend trips to places like the Amazon rainforest, it was about time for some rest and relaxation. Enter the small village of Vilcabamba. Kelly’s cousin Alice stayed in Vilcabamba a few years ago (you can read about Alice’s travels in South America at her blog and recommended it highly, and it sounded like just what we needed after all of our travel and city-living. Long story short, I am now typing this from the balcony of a small cabin overlooking the mountains, breathing in the fresh mountain air with only the noise of roosters, donkeys, and cows to disturb the soothing sound of the wind blowing through the trees. While nobody should underestimate just how much noise a rooster can make, it’s still an amazing change of pace from the honking horns and roaring bus engines in Quito.

Before I go on about how much we love our new home-for-the-month, I should probably back up a bit to describe the timeline between Quito and here. We booked a flight out of Quito and into Cuenca on a Sunday, and decided to take that Friday and Saturday to visit Quilotoa, a bright blue-ish green lake at the bottom of a giant crater surrounded by a hiking trail. Due to the lack of a direct and timely bus route to the lake, we had heard that the best way to get there was to rent a car. I now know that if the best way to get there in Ecuador is renting a car...there is no good way to get there.

Not to worry the mothers and the fathers, but Ecuadorian drivers are absolutely insane. No offense to Ecuadorians, but their behavior on the road crosses the line from risk-taking to just plain dumb. The specific behavior inspiring my outrage is the act of passing on blind curves when there is only one lane of traffic. It wasn’t uncommon for us to see a driver with his entire family in the back of his open bed pickup truck whiz around a car on a curvy mountain road when he clearly had no idea if anybody was approaching from the opposite direction. Ecuadorians aren’t known for their good punctuality, so why they feel the need to risk lives to gain a few minutes of time is beyond me.

Ecuador also ain’t the best at signage/maps, but to keep from griping too much I will just state that we got lost at least 6 times on the drive and it took us twice as long to get there as it should have.

This view was worth the nerve-racking drive
Luckily, Quilotoa was absolutely beautiful, and we still had time to do a decent amount of hiking around the lake. We stayed at a cozy little hostel right near the lake that had a wood-burning stove in each room that they lit for their guests at night. Central heating is rare in Ecuador because the temperature rarely gets consistently low enough anywhere in the country to require it, but that night we were extremely thankful for the stove.

That Sunday we found our way back to Quito with less problems than we had finding Quilotoa, but it still wasn’t pretty. We flew to Cuenca, a small colonial city in the southern part of the country, where we spent 5 days. Cuenca was way more up our alley than Quito. It is much more quaint and quiet than Quito, with a beautiful river running through town and plenty of amazing and cheap restaurants. It feels more like a European city than anywhere else we’ve been, and it is obvious why Cuenca is gaining popularity as a retirement location for foreigners (primarily U.S. ex-pats).

Last Friday, we took a bus from Cuenca to our final destination before returning to the U.S. for the holidays…Vilcabamba. Since we don’t plan to do any more travelling for the next month, we’ll have plenty of time to dedicate an entire post to the sheer awesomeness of Vilcabamba and how much we love it here. For now, I will suffice it to say that there are multiple hiking trails literally right outside of our door, and a river about 5 minutes from our cabin that we have made it a point to take a dip in almost every day this week. The center of town is small and quaint, with multiple organic grocery stores and farmers’ markets. The area is full of people like us who came here for a vacation and never left. Don’t worry mom and dad, we’re coming home, but if this town existed in the U.S. we would move here in a heartbeat.

This is one of the many spectacular views just a short hike outside of our door
That’s all for now, but hopefully our next post will have a picture of a beautiful waterfall that is about a two hour hike from our cabin. We’ve already tried to find it 3 times, and yes, I blame the lack of Ecuadorian signage and maps. Luckily what Ecuador lacks in logistics, it makes up for in beauty. 

- Brian

PS – I feel like I ragged on Ecuador a lot in this post. But I must say that the only way we made it to Quilotoa was due to the friendliness, patience, and helpfulness of all of the Ecuadorians along the way who were kind enough to point us in the right direction. Ecuador, I hope you know I love you. Have I ever told you about how much I love your almuerzos? And have you lost weight?

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