All in all we really enjoyed our time in Ecuador. For the most part it’s a beautiful country with a rich diversity in both geography and population. The locals are generally quite helpful and friendly people, and it also doesn’t hurt that it’s a VERY inexpensive place to visit. Here are a few random thoughts/observations/take-aways from our time there:
Things we saw a lot:
- Dogs. Nearly more of them than people. They roam the streets of every town and city. Most are friendly, although we did have a couple of run-ins with a few who weren’t.
- Ice cream shops. Ecuadorians apparently have a serious love affair with ice cream. Every block seemed to have at least one, and there were loads of vendors walking around selling it.
- Loud TVs. We never ceased to be amazed how every restaurant, cafe, hotel, and shop had a TV on, always with the volume cranked up to 11.
- Litter. Folks in Ecuador have a very cavalier attitude towards litter, and it’s unfortunate given the otherwise abundant beauty of the country. Most trash is simply dropped on the ground or tossed out the window of a vehicle once it’s no longer needed. And, since most trash these days is not biodegradable, it just continues to pile up. Even far into the countryside the roads were lined with refuse.
- Cabinas. A cabina is a little shop where you go into a little booth to place a phone call. There must have been one on every block.
Things we didn’t see at all:
- Bars. You can order a drink in just about any restaurant, but not once did we see an establishment dedicated to the practice of tossing them back. On a related note, we were never able to purchase a beer other than either of the two, count ’em TWO, local varieties. I did see a bottle of Fat Tire behind a bar inside a restaurant once in Cuenca, but it must have been for display purposes only.
- Misbehaving children. The little ones in Ecuador were remarkably well-behaved, able to sit quietly and calmly on their parent’s lap for hours and hours on a bus without making a peep. I’m pretty sure we never even heard one cry during the three weeks we were there.
- Restaurant service of any degree. They take your order and bring your food when it’s ready, but that is literally the extent of service there. I guess it explains why 10% is an awesome tip.
Best meal: Probably the dinner we had on Floreana Island in the Galapagos. The resort we stayed at there was so small and basic that it didn’t even have a restaurant, so in the evening they loaded everyone into this open-sided truck and drove us down the dirt road to some old woman’s house. She had a kitchen in the back room of a little shop and some plastic tables set up on the front patio. Make no mistake though, this old woman put on a serious spread. The food was ridiculously fresh since she grew most of it in her backyard, and there were heaping mounds of grilled fish and chicken, fried yucca, salads, juices, vegetables, and desserts to name a few. It was the sort of farm-to-table restaurant that every new, hip restaurant in Denver is trying to achieve, but this was the real deal, glorious in its simplicity and flavor.
Worst Meal: To be honest I can’t recall having a bad meal in Ecuador. Most of them were quite basic, some variation on the standard theme of chicken, rice, and beans, but none of them was bad. Kel once dipped her spoon into an opaque soup only to come face to face with a chicken foot, but even that was the best $1.75 lunch we’ve ever had in our lives.
Most unforgettable experience: Swimming with a juvenile sea lion in the wild. To relive just those five minutes alone I would gladly spend the money and time required to return to the Galapagos. We were snorkeling in shallow water when he appeared out of nowhere, twisting and turning and darting all around us. I dubbed him “the Golden Retriever of the ocean” due to his playful and enthusiastic nature. He was keenly interested in bubbles, so I would splash my hand to create a cloud of them that he would swim through, all the while maintaining eye contact with those huge brown eyes of his. It was a moment I’ll never forget if I live to be a thousand.
Experience we’d like most to forget: We took a private van from Cuenca to our next destination south upon learning that spending an extra $4 would cut our journey’s time in half. We were pretty sure it was going to be an interesting ride when we climbed into the van and saw the driver cracking his knuckles and putting on driving gloves Our suspicions were confirmed twenty minutes later when we heard the thump-thump of him running over an errant puppy.
Well folks, that’s it for Ecuador. Thanks for following along and be sure to stayed tuned as we enter the mystical and fascinating country of Peru. More to come…