It is Nov 2, 2015 and I am at the airport, preparing myself to have my once in a lifetime trip and feeling very curious about what is waiting for me on the other side of the world.
Yes… As the title says: I am flying to South America, Ecuador.
I am from the Middle East, which is pretty far from there, so the flight is going to be very long, even though we are making one stop at Madrid (Spain) and continuing to Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
After around 16 hours flight we finally landed in Quito. I had suffered during the flight a lot because I am allergic to dust, our plane seats were dusty which I did not expect and I did not have my pills in my back-bag. So imagine yourself sneezing all the time on a +10 hours flight, with teary eyes and red nose, yearning to get some air… but you are stuck on a plane. Lesson learned for next time.
My journey started the next morning in Quito. We stayed at the Dan Carlton Hotel, which was a really good and nice hotel. I had to wake up very early despite being jet-lagged, feeling tired and the blue bags under my eyes, because there were many places to see and check.
So we toured in Quito visiting the old colonial center, the basilica church – a beautiful place inside outside, the President Palace and all around it.
After hanging around the independence square, we headed up to El Pancillo to check the observation upon the city. The view was fascinating, seeing the mountains in Ecuador makes our mountains look like a tiny hill which I am not sure to call them “mountains” again, Quito’s mountains are huge next to Israels mountain.
17 km northern Quito, up above between the fogs, there is a nice lodge, in which it’s hidden in the clouds above the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve.
It looked so peaceful and the kind of a place where you want to go and escape everything… I forget its name, but of course I had to do some googling and I found it.
It is El Crater Hotel.
A moment before we went to have lunch at a close restaurant, my eyes caught a rusty swing near by and I could not resist but to go see it.
It is one of my favorite memories of the trip…
We continued around 25 km north to Quito.
It is a special point, it is the equator line.
At the end of the day, on my way back to the hotel, I realized that I still have much more to see. I felt more curious about this country, and it was interesting to see this side of the world which is different than mine in many things.
Before I continue the blog, I must say that I feel now a bit regretful for not finishing it before. Obviously it has been two years since, and writing now this blog refreshes my memory, makes me relive this adventure and I am glad to put down in words every moment I experienced there.
In the next day, our destination was Otavalo – an indigenous town in north Quito which is known for its famous market for weaving textile.
The city is very rich with culture and traditions: its men beautify themselves with white trousers, rope sandals, blue or grey double sided poncho and braid their hair like a horse tail, while women wear embroidered and colorful blouses with long black vests and scarfs, they adorn themselves with necklaces and glass bracelets.
People of Otavolo use looms until this day to create their clothes and wall carpets.
The main square of handicraft scarfs or such is called Poncho Plaza. I bought a beautiful beige warm scarf from there which is made from lama wool.
Here is a short funny story: I had been told by our guide that the local sellers usually want to sell you fake scarfs – which aren’t made of lama/alpaca wool as it claimed to be. Unluckily for them I learned their act: at first, they display and tempt you with real scarfs so you can feel it and think it is real, but once you are convinced, next thing they do is to pull you a new one from the back, making you think it is the same but new one rather the one in the display and basically fooling you.
So I know my scarf is real 😀 because I insisted to buy the display one while the seller was insisting to give me a “new” one. Now you know how it is done!
Well after visiting the handicraft market we made a small stop at a local hotel (more like a fancy farm) called Hacienda Pinsaqui to have lunch.
We encountered a welcoming band that were playing traditional music, they were very kind and accepted to take a photo with me.
Unfortunately I did not the chance to photograph the people of Otavalo closely, but if you google otavaleña (which means “Otavalo woman” in Spanish) you can see the traditional wear of the lovely women of Otavalo.
I must confess that I incredibly love meeting people different than me.
I love to see how they wake up in the morning. What they eat, what they believe, what they wear, what makes them happy and how they see the world… and what I love the most, is that: once I see it, I try to understand it, learn it, involve with it, make a memory out of it and then be able to capture it forever in my mind.
Otavalo was interesting, I enjoyed my time wandering the center and around it.
It was time to go back to our hotel because the next day was a big day, which was leaving the city life to the green wild jungles of the amazons.
On our way to the jungles, we managed to make a little stop at the Termas de Papallacta – a hot spring spa and resort. It is one of my favorite memories of the trip.
“If there is a paradise on earth, then I am sure I found it…” – I said to my father who was with me all along if I have not mentioned.
All I could see is green all around, blooming trees, fresh air, hot pools and clean skies…
After we entered the water for some minutes, my father and I had a small conversation about the place… suddenly he realized that he could see better and he did not need his far-sight glasses.
“I am sure the hot water did something to you” – I said being shocked as well.
(A scientific explanation would probably be because of the hot water, which might had affected the blood pressure in a way that it influences the nervous system etc…)
The air was super clean that I could breath perfectly… it was curing my allergies.
Have I already say that I found Heaven on earth?
I am sharing with you more of this wonderful paradise:
I knew I was close to reach the remarkable rain forests of the jungle since the weather started to change a bit and all you could see around is green mountains.
It was absolutely the most exciting part of the trip.
The Amazon Jungle
Finally I can tell you about the best and most exciting part of my adventure.
As I mentioned before, it was my first time experiencing a country with tropical places or generally the other side of the world. Every place I wandered in this country was new to me, weather it was the people, the views I got to see or the traditional food and all that jazz… I do feel that I have to take a deep breath and say, that the amazons is the most amazing place I have ever seen yet in my life…
On our way to our forest lodge, we stopped to chill a bit since it was a long ride from the hot springs, the roads got more steep and the jungle was more crowded and wild as we got closer, as expected of course.
So we found a small coffee place and decided to check it out and rest for a while observing more of this beautiful place.
Basically, we were heading to north-east of Ecuador. The massive forests are part of the big amazons jungle in which they grow more than 10,000 species of plants and in there between, there is a whole world of wild animals such as: giant anacondas, noisy little monkeys to capybara…
During the trip I was not satisfied with only capturing photos, so I took many short clips to combine them later and make a summary video of the trip. I still have to edit them of course, but when I do, I promise I will share :).
To get to the lodge, which was in the middle of the jungle, obviously we had to use boats so luckily it was not raining and the water was calm.
The fact that everything was dominated by only trees and water with no machines and technology, made me enjoy more.
It was not about passing by, taking a photo and go back home, it was much more than that: I wanted to feel what the local people feel everyday, to fit in the jungle, to compete its challenges and to understand this kind of a lifestyle… it was about letting the bugs bite you, walking the forests while stepping in the dirt and let it stuck, and feeling the rain drops on my face in the middle of nowhere.
We stayed for 5 days at the solar Itamandi lodge which is hidden inside the jungle.
If you are looking for a good lodge, I am telling you this one was not disappointing at all, I felt comfortable and relaxed during my stay there.
Our room was wide, simple, and it had a small balcony on the river side with a cute home swing.
On one side of the room there was no walls but only a mosquito net, which at night it made it possible to feel the warm breezes while sleeping.
Everyday in the morning, the usual staff served a unique warm soup with bread and butter. The staff was young, very kind and friendly, I immediately befriended with them.
The day I arrived was Nov 6, which was my birthday! So they managed to surprise me during dinner time with a lovely tasty cake which they made it specially for me.
I had no idea about it, later I figured out that our nice guide organized this.
I did not have my camera on me, nevertheless, I managed to save one photo from that night. (I apologize for the photo quality, it was shot from my phone).
Let me tell you that one of the thrilling times about staying at the jungle is that at night you can’t avoid hearing the river flooding, the heavy rains or just laying in bed listening to the sound of the wild jungle. Of course I also got to see fireflies flickering around which I hadn’t seen one before.
The first day at the jungle was too much good to see, but the next day was even more exciting: we went to hike inside the wet forests… The hotel staff were nice to us and gave us a tree stick and bags to cover ourselves against bugs.
We were accompanied by a young local nature guide, his name was Franklin.
For me it was all green everywhere, but Franklin knew the rain-forests very well, every kind of plant and tree… he enlightened us with his knowledge about old tribes and taught us the culture of the jungle. He also made me a crown made of leaves, I still keep it to this day and I managed to take a picture with my dads phone, since it was raining I had to leave my Canon in the hotel room.
Hiking the forests was G-R-E-A-T! and the terrific times when it occasionally rained, as a person who loves nature and discovering the world I was enthusiastic and curious most of the time.
We have been told about a place in the middle of the jungle which is a home for rescued animals. So we took a boat and went to see it, on our way I tried to capture photos of the beautiful amazons scenery:
While boating our local guides were making a special sounds to attract the monkeys, as a result they actually showed up and we could see them.
After arriving the animal shelter, we were welcomed by a young biology students and animal lovers from different countries, who comes to volunteer there. They have been doing it for years which I was impressed to hear, obviously not many people would risk and leave their home behind to come live in the forests.
Rescued animals don’t usually survive the jungle if they are left alone after being rescued since they are used to human environment and they don’t know how to to adapt afterwards by themselves.
So the animals stays in big cages inside the jungle to be protected from dangerous animals or wilder animals, until they learn how to fit, which after they can be set free. Even being in cages, sadly some of the animals were still terrified when humans pass by or get close.
Before I continue, I must confess that holding a camera sometimes is kind of a an obstacle and hard job.
I wanted to capture everything… but I did not want to be busy taking “Good” photos. Taking photos distracts me from observing the nature as it should be and as I wanted, so at some point I decided to stop and focus more on my surroundings.
After checking the animal shelter, which was great and I got to see an Anaconda! we continued to see the tribes lifestyle who live everyday in the jungle…
I was very eager to meet the little children of the forest and visit their home.
We stopped on a small island to visit one family of two parents, one grandmother and three children – one son and two daughters (see photos above).
The family lives alone with no neighbors, the father takes the boat to bring food to the house, while his mother and his wife take care of their children.
At the beginning it was difficult for me to watch these little kids live in the middle of the forest with this circumstances.
“Are they happy?” – I wondered and asked.
Not easy to process how these children live everyday… but I can tell you that these tiny children can wander the forest alone and know how to get back home by themselves.
It is their home and the only home they know.
I have been told by a friend that it was offered to the children of the amazons to move out to the cities, but they did not want to. So the answer for the main question is: Yes.
These little children and their family are very happy to be in the amazons if you are still wondering about it. They chose to live that way, they love the wild poor life and they don’t want to be in the cities.
Their life is very simple, which was about doing everything together: weather sleeping together or waking up together.
The kids play football, females and males and help their parents with carrying the babies or doing chores.
Because many tourist come to meet them, the local parents are used to see new people every time. They welcome them to their houses and never minding strangers to play with their kids or carry their babies. I have never met such humble and shy people. They are the happiest people I met, with the biggest smile on their faces.
While I was spending my time there, I’ve been told by our local guide that one of the babies mother works at our lodge and that she leaves the house for days sometimes to work for her living. She comes back every once and a while to see her child…
I didn’t know when was the last time the mother saw her little angel, so I immediately grabbed my camera and shot her baby.
Later of course when I came back to the lodge I looked for the mother and showed her the photo. She smiled.
(On the right – the baby who was hold by our guide).
As their guests, the little kids organized a traditional dance for us. They paint their faces, wear straw skirts and adorn themselves with chains and handicraft necklaces. It was super cute and I enjoyed it 🙂 .
Love is spread in that amazon community, there is no worries, there is no complications, only simplicity and happiness.
I am glad I got to see the simple living of these people, learn about their culture, get involved with their lifestyle.
I am always curious about new things, specially when it relates to culture or peoples behavior. I will never forget that place.
“Teach me, and I will forget.
Show me, and I will remember.
Involve me, and I will understand.”
After the rain forests I went to a an interesting city in the mountains called Baños, which is located on the northern foothills of the Tungurahua volcano (which means – Throat of fire). The city is a religious center as its citizens are catholic where some believes that the virgin Mary appeared nearby a waterfall to protect the city from natural disasters.
30 minutes from the city there is the famous Pailon del diablo waterfall.
We stayed at the Sangay Spa Hotel at Baños for two days. It was a pleasure to see the city, specially at night, it was very lovely and magical.
After seeing Baños our next destination was Chimborazo volcano – The highest mountain in Ecuador (about 6,3120 m). On our way we had lunch at Refugio estrella del chimborazo resturant – which I loved so much, they serve amazing food and desserts.
So finally my last day I spent at Quilotoa, a water-filled caldera and it is the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes.
I loved the site, it was between the mountains with a small population, and I bought a poncho from the local sellers which is made from alpaca wool.
So this was my last adventure which afterwards we headed back to Quito so we can leave the next day back to Israel. My home.
I could not believe it was time to say goodbye, I spent 13 days away from home to see this beautiful country. It was the longest trip I did, but definitely the most exciting and exotic one. I saw many interesting things, different cultures and traditions, new faces, and I met lovely people who showed me a new world. There is more to see, sadly my time there was over, without a doubt I would come back in the future to discover more.
I totally recommend anybody who can afford traveling to Ecuador to do it, specially the part of the amazon jungle.
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough” – Mae West
So this was my Ecuador diary, follow me so you can read my Portugal diary.
Excuse my writing skills, it is my first travel diary, looking forward to write more.