A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Category — Ecuador

Ecuador Road Trip

August 12, 2008   9 Comments

Into The Volcano

We left the main road at Latacunga, and each successive town we passed seemed smaller, poorer and more primitive.

We were headed to Laguna Quilotoa, a volcanic crater lake that is indisputably one of Ecuador’s most breathtaking sights.

Laguna Quilotoa

Our guide Patricio drove cautiously along winding switchback turns as we made the ascent to 12,800 feet. It took us nearly two hours to drive 50 miles on poorly paved roads.

We reached the village of Quilotoa at dusk. A tiny village has taken root on the southwest side of the volcanic crater to cater to tourists.  It’s about the only place in Ecuador where the accommodations are actually run by local indigenous people.

Several Quichua families run very rustic hostels – most have no heat and no hot water.  What visitors sacrifice in comfort, they gain in the opportunity to spend time with indigenous families.

Laguna Quilotoa

Laguna Quilotoa

But the prime attraction is the crater lake itself, and it is truly an awe-inspiring sight.  We hiked down 800m from the crater rim to the aqua-green alkaline lake below.

Laguna Quilotoa

But instead of climbing out, we took the easy way back to the rim.  Young Quichua children lead caravans of burros up the steep, narrow paths.  The ride up is harrowing at times – but it sure beats walking.

And considering the altitude, it’s the best five dollars (per person) you could ever spend.

August 7, 2008   6 Comments

Observed in Laguna Quilotoa

In a remote town high in the Ecuadorean Andes, a small group of indigenas men gathered around a 19-inch color TV watching a crystal clear DVD copy of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, less than two weeks after it was released in the United States.

August 7, 2008   3 Comments

Heating Up

Cotopaxi National Park

“It’s global warming.”

Until that moment, our native guide at Cotopaxi National Park had only spoken to us in spanish.  But she had learned enough english to point out the environmental threat to Ecuador’s second highest peak.

Pictures in the national park’s museum clearly showed how far the snows had receded over the past thirty years.

On the day we visited, mountain bikers began their descent of the mountain from a point covered by snow just a few decades ago.

Cotopaxi National Park

But the snow isn’t the only thing to have disappeared from Cotopaxi National Park.

Twenty years ago, orange-bellied Atelopus frogs were a common sight around Laguna Limpiopungo, near the base of Cotopaxi.  Today they are nearly gone.

Cotopaxi National Park
Laguna Limiopungo

Scientists have offered several theories to explain the disappearance of the frogs, including a degeneration in air quality and an increase in UV-light levels.

But it was a 2006 study by Nature that largely solved the riddle.  It showed that a fungus was wiping out the frogs – and that the fungus was thriving because of global warming.

I doubt our native guide read Nature, but she knew what was threatening her livelihood – and one of the best hiking and trekking destinations in the world.

With her limited english, I couldn’t tell if what she said next was a question about the climate or the condition: “How does it change?”

August 5, 2008   1 Comment

ADIP: Otavalo Day Trip

A Day In Pictures
Otavalo Day Trip

On Saturday we took a day trip north of Quito to the Otavalo Market and surrounding area.

Otavalo has been a crossroads and market town for thousands of years.  Today tourists from around the world visit by the busload to bargain for rugs, sweaters, jewelry, art and local crafts.

While the market has become a bit of tourist show, it has made Otavalenos the wealthiest, most commercially successful indigenas (indigenous people) in Ecuador.

As we traveled into Ecuador’s northern highlands, the views were spectacular.

Mountain View

The market lived up to advance billing: colorful, vibrant, offering most every product imaginable.

Street View



Knit Hat

But the Otavalenos were more interesting than anything offered for sale.

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August 1, 2008   6 Comments

A Beautiful Surprise


None of us knew what to expect of Quito.  Frankly, I’m not sure I knew it existed before we decided to travel to the Galapagos as part of our round the world journey.  But it has been a beautiful surprise.

Flanked by volcanic peaks, blessed by near perfect weather and home to friendly and helpful people, Quito has proven to be an excellent starting point for our adventure.

We’ve been spending most of our time in Old Town, the historic center of Quito.  It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978.  In 2006 the city completed a massive multi-million dollar restoration program that has revitalized Centro, as the Quitenos refer to it.

Narrow streets, colonial architecture and lively plazas make it a great place to wander.

Here are some of the sights from our first days here.

A view of Quito from our hotel’s rooftop deck.
City View

View from the Plaza Grande.
Old Town Quito

View from Plaza San Francisco.
Old Town Quito

Detailed stonework on the La Compania de Jesus.
Old Town Quito

Conor mets a street performer on the Plaza Grande.

Street Performer

You can see more pictures of Quito here.

July 29, 2008   5 Comments

Kids’ First Ecuador Adventure

Caroline and Conor have published their first posts on their blog – be sure to check them out.

Also, we’ve posted our first batch of pictures from Ecuador.

July 27, 2008   2 Comments

The Way

July 27, 2008   9 Comments

Finally, Quito

Quito Hotel Roofline

After a tearful goodbye to friends and family and a long day of travel, we arrived safely in Quito last night. We were able to get a good night’s rest and awoke to a beautiful day. We are taking it easy today, acclimating ourselves to the altitude and planning our time in Ecuador. Good stuff to come.

July 25, 2008   15 Comments

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