A great long while ago, when the world was full of magic and the animals could talk, Quito (which means the center of the earth) was the name for the entire Republic of Ecuador. Quito is now the capital of Ecuador and host to some 3 million people and a four-hour flight from Miami. It is in the same time zone, and uses US currency + Ecuadorian change. A lot of US $1 coins are in circulation, which as an original Canadian made me feel right at home.
I went to Israel in 2019 with Momentum (for parents with children 18 and under being raised Jewish), which you can read about my experience, here. Out of a group of 14 women, 3 of us accepted the invite from Marnies to experience Ecuador, where she purchased a condo with her family in a small fishing village.
What is in Ecuador? Well, let us begin with what isn’t in Ecuador—salmon and Starbucks for a start. There is salmon but due to the pacific ocean keeping at 80 degrees the entire year, salmon must be imported from Chile and goes for $40 a lb. Ecuador is known for its roses, coffee and birds (they have more than 50 varieties of hummingbirds). They said no thank you to Starbucks when it wanted to move in, but KFC is popular in the cities.
This was was my first but not last time visiting South America. I think I worried it would be difficult to communicate, or people would snub me for being yet another American who isn’t hip and no habla espanol solomente lyrics from Shaquira—escucha me? I also wasn’t sure about eating guinea pigs (we have three at home), which I would have tried if my friends had, but was spared this time.
We flew out of Tampa at 8am and were in Quito by the afternoon. We stopped to gaze inside one of the newer Churches—built in the early 1900’s before arriving at our 4 ½ star hotel, Mama Cuchara. Cuchara is Spanish for spoon. After we finished enjoying our dinner at the hotel restaurant (the local potato soup, “lorcas” was so delicious), we returned to our room to find the decorative pillows neatly piled in the closet, two gourmet chocolate drizzled coconut deserts left for us along with glass bottles of waters and a sweet note to enjoy—bon provecho!
Our fabulous tour guide, Gina, told us about the roses. Because no matter what time of year, in Ecuador (which literally means equator) the sun rises at 6:33 and sets at 6:33, the roses grow straight up, vying for even more photosynthesis. They believe women have a better touch for tending the roses, thus mostly women are employed at the rose nurseries just outside of Quito, and they have daycare on premises available for the employees. Ecuador has the amazon basin, the Galapagos, the Andes mountains and the pacific coast as well as hot springs. The Galapagos are something you need to plan a year in advance to visit, with a guide (which is required) and be prepared to spend around $5,000 per person (which includes meals). But we did learn about a park they call The Fake Galapagos, Isla De La Platas. Whale watching season is in the summer and people come from all over for a chance to be whale perverts.
After a delicious custom breakfast at the hotel, Gina and our driver, Santiago picked us up and we began the trek to the Cloud Forest, two hours away. We stopped at a hummingbird sanctuary along the way where we saw dozens of hummingbirds or colibri.
Due to the high altitude of Quito and feeling out of breath just going to get breakfast a few steps below our room, we opted to do the zip line instead of the hike in the Cloud Forest. Cloud in Spanish is, mindo. I used the zipline as a private opportunity to communicate via shouting my praise to Gd—namely THANK YOU FOR MY LIFE and I love you, as I slid over the broccoli trees. I agreed while zipping that even though it is scary, once home I would try my hand at opening my own business since I had been holding back some of my natural gifts, which my friend had recently pointed out, is really doing a disservice to the world. I started shouting “Oh pordios!” upon my re-entrance from the zipline. We had a lovely time with Mindo Aventura and 10/10 recommend this.
After Mindo Aventura we went into a small-town Gina described as “hippie” and I told our driver, Santiago in universal speak that, “YOU DA MAN!” and also practiced a line my friend Michelle had given me in Spanish, which was directed at no one in particular caused Santiago to grin from ear to ear, something about eating shit.
We ate lunch (breaded fish with fried plantains and one of Ecuador’s national beers) with stray dogs quietly roaming the restaurant looking for scraps and affection. Down the street we took a tour of artisan chocolate being made, and learned all about the cocoa plant and chocolate (which means drink of the Gods) making process. Between tasting samples of chocolate we refreshed our palates with fruit pieces. We drank the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.
We flew domestically to Manta (49 minute flight) on the coast. In Manta our driver Miguel waited. We stopped at a bodego to get groceries along the way and I learned that my friend Rebecca would not eat cheese from a bodego, because she’s from New York.
My favorite part of San Clemente was buying things from a small store and the cashier and I using broken English/Spanish to communicate and a lot of body language. International travel reminds me, how so much of our communication comes from intention and not just words. I also enjoyed seeing a family of four on a scooter and a man with a large dog on his. A note of caution: the sun is no joke in Ecuador and I recommend being prepared by dressing like a beekeeper, all the way down to your feet. The indigenous cultures in South America can be traced to ancestry from other parts of the world and Ecuador’s Inca ancestry can be traced back to Mongolia. There are noticeable influences in the art and even in the faces of the people when you learn this. On the way back to the U.S we made one last stop at the official center of the earth tourist attraction which had a lot of history about the indigenous population as well as reminders of when porn used to be on pottery. The people in Ecuador were so warm and live so simply. I can’t wait to go back and take my daughter.