Ecuador is a small country about the size of Neveda. We are anchored off the western coastal lowlands. The eastern upper Amazon jungles and great Andean range down the middle are the other two regions. It is a varied and exciting country with the inhabitants ancestry dating back before the Inca Empire. We have decided to stay up in the Andes in the cool mountain air to get our fill before spending months at sea. It is a good plan except that the torrential rains in the lowlands have washed out the roads. Our advance Express bus tickets are cancelled the day we are to head for Quito the capital. We are determined to get though so instead hopped local buses all the way. The smaller buses proved to be more exciting, arrived only 2 hours later, were cheaper and gave us a wild ride over flowing mud lakes where the roads used to be. We were able to get a much better look at the amazing tropical cloud forest with it’s delicate misty atmosphere encouraging rare and exotic plant growth.

     Leaving the security of Ariel for a change of accommodation and new modes of travel
Quito is a large city, bustling with traffic and noise but a perfect jumping off point for our excursions and a regrouping place with an efficient transportation hub.


Quito Ecuador

We found the small local transportation system to be excellent, like having a private chauffeured bus. We always found one waiting to go where ever we wanted and ready to leave only minutes after we arrived. We always got the prime front row seats leaving the space in front for our small unchecked bags. Since late 2000, after Ecuador’s worst economic crisis, the US dollar is now the standard currency. Many of the bus fares were under a dollar and it was strange to go so far for so little and using American dollars. Hotel room rates on the average were $4 to $5 apiece with private bath and hot water.


We spent one day in Quito adjusting to the high altitude which at 9200 feet was necessary for our sea level adapted bodies.    




Just outside Quito at La Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world) where the equator passes through, we found a scientific research project exploring this past discovery using GPS. ( It is now known that the monument is in fact 300 meters away from the equator but that a pre-Inca site on a nearby hill was built exactly on the equator proving this ancient civilization had more accurate calculations.      



In old town Quito there are a cluster of about 15 churches all built on top of ancient pre-Inca solar sites. On the solstices and equinox the sun shines in on the faces of the Christ above the alters. 

Much of the Indian weaving seen in the markets depict the layout of these sites in their designs.

We went to 3 major market towns, Otovalo, Saquisili, and Riobamba each visited by Indians from outlying villages and each wearing a particular style. The weavings of Otovalo, made on backstrap looms, have been used in the area for over 4000 years and today these proficient weavers are know as the most prosperous Indian group in Ecuador.

The many colorful Indian groups of Ecuador


Otavalo Indian weavers and new generations modeling the goods.




  The music of Otovalo has also become very popular. These very business minded Indians can now be seen all over the world playing their Andean flute music.

The ‘shigra’ is a woven bag made from the agave or century plant and seen by the hundreds at the more rural Saquisili market. In Riobamba a modern town of 126,000 it was interesting to see the contrast of Indians on market day still clinging to their old ways and style.

Just outside Otovalo in the Valley of the Dawn we stayed at a hacienda owned by a local who raises horses.


It was here Steve got to see his first llama. Unfortunately it was the first and last visit with Steve as later that evening we accidentally saw the old llama being butchered.



We were glad we had ordered vegetarian for our evening meal.


 The area is also reputed to be a powerful place and sacred vortex of power formed by 3 volcanoes, the male Imbabura and two female consorts Cotocachi and Mojando.

It was in the village of Cotacachi we met one of the only female ‘shaman’ or medicine women who heals with food, herbs and manipulation through prayer, physical touch and connection.



We were also introduced the local drink ‘Caneluzo’ made with sugarcane alcohol, passion fruit and cinnamon and a colorful local market.



Traveling mostly along the backbone of the Andes we were able to get a glimpse of the many volcano’s making up the range including volcano’s Cotopaxi and the great

                                                                         Chimborazo covered  in snow.



But the most spectacular site were the huge plumbs of cloud and ash billowing into the blue sky from the very active Tungurahua volcano.





The small town of Banos situated in a valley on the slopes of the volcano was our destination. Banos, meaning ‘baths’ is what the town is noted for.

The warm thermal waters are heated from springs at the base of the volcano. One of our best days was hiking up a very steep trail to a vantage point for a close view of the volcano then along a mountain trail with spectacular views of Banos below.


 Continuing on through another valley alive with waterfalls we climbed down to a huge cascading

The falls at Rio Verde.

But probably the most memorable day of traveling inland was riding the train down out of the Andes on one of the steepest train decents in the world.

                                        Hair raising ride down the El Nariz del Diable

Just below the town of Alausi the train begins a series of switchbacks down an area called El Nariz del Diablo (the devil’s nose) This hair-raising ride with sheer cliff on one side and thousands of feet drop off on the other is enhanced by riding on TOP of the train.


Even the conductor climbs aloft to collect the tickets. At the switchbacks the rails end then the train must go onto another track decending downward only BACKWARD. 

         No one saw the huge boulder on the track including the engineer who was up front.

Suddenly there was a bump and jump and we were derailed. No one screamed, no one leaned and no one breathed.

We slowly moved forward climbing down over the engine to the narrow ledge. It took only an hour and a fascinating show of how to get a train back on a track before we continued our decent.

One and a half hours to get the train back on the track

Our time away from Ariel was a great way to change gears and enjoy a different kind of travel. Keeping an open agenda, our backpacks small for versatility and our minds open we returned with a great sense of fulfillment, more relaxed and a greater acceptance of the long trip ahead.
                                             A different kind of travel than being on Ariel