As with many countries on our trip, we didn't know quite what to expect from Ecuador. We knew there'd be mountains, and beaches, and chocolate, so naturally we were pretty psyched, but what we found was so much more than those things. We found people who loved the outdoors and the country they lived in. We found a country recovering after economic hardship and making themselves into something better and stronger. We found changing landscapes and scenery at every turn of their incredibly smooth highways. And we found a country that we could see ourselves calling home.
Arrived in Country: January 6th, 2018
Left Country: March 4th, 2018
Miles Driven: 2,065
Highest Elevation Visited: 15,998 feet
Lowest Depth Reached: -21 meters
Number of times we crossed the equator: 17 times as we zig-zagged our way across Ecuador
Breweries Visited: 8, Ecuador has a growing craft beer scene due to the high concentration of Ex-Pats in the country.
Import Taxes paid on 1 foreign-made truck part: $160
Hours for KP to become a kite surfer: 20 hours (more time than it took to solo an airplane but he did it!)
1. Favorite town: I’m going to break the mold here and pick a big city. I really liked Quito. It’s hours from anything cool you’d like to do, has tons of good food (and brew options), plus you can find movies in English. 😊 It’s also at 9k feet with a couple great workout-centered parks.
2. Favorite meal: Valentines Day dinner with my beautiful wife. Also, there was some seriously good steak.
3. Most unexpected thing: How nice the roads are in Ecuador. After Central America and Colombia, wide smooth pavement, relaxed drivers, and low traffic levels were a treat.
4. Favorite encounter: We passed a family of four on one of our hikes in Cotopaxi. They were waiting out the rain under cover, but still had a long way back to camp. We felt bad (and lucky) in our North Face and Columbia rain gear, plus the kids were pretty young so we went back and picked them up in the truck. Turns out we were neighbors in camp, so we shared dinner together over their open camp fire. Taylor made chili and they grilled a huge plate of meat over the flames.
5. Favorite Beer: Some of the best beers we’ve had on our trip we’ve found in Ecuador. There’s a craft beer scene slowly brewing here. Many are ok, a few are amazing. Our trip through the jungle to the mythical Beerkingo brewery with The Long Cruise and the subsequent global problem solving, IPA downing, Viking picture taking session was one of my favorite afternoons of the entire drive South. I may have actually cried when we finally arrived at an actual brewery after slogging through the mud and over a soccer field through rural villages to be handed ice cold, delicious samples pulled straight from the kegs.
We also managed to sniff out an Oregonian owned brewery, where Willamette Valley locals use Willamette Valley hops to brew the best Northwest IPA anywhere outside the actual Northwest. Maybe inside it too.. After the owner found out we were there, enjoying his beer, we were invited to a private party in the back to sample brews and new appetizers with a small community of other NW expats.
6. Favorite drive: My favorite drive was the route up to Volcan Cayambe. A perfect blend of beautiful and remote, with a fun and challenging last few miles scrambling up the mountain aired down in 4-lo, topped off with a chilly campsite at 15,000’. This is what I thought overlanding would be.
7. Best free experience: Cotopaxi National Park. The entrance is free, camping is free, and the whole thing is breathtaking. Plenty of trails to explore and rocky, stream cut roads to drive. Camping in a pine grove with the smell of campfire. Pretty hard to beat after all those rainy months in Central America.
8. Most frustrating thing: Roundabouts. Nobody knows how to drive in them. They even have roundabouts with stoplights.
9. Favorite experience: Learning to kiteboard with Javier and Mike in Santa Marianita. We loved the beach, the town, and the people. After three weeks it felt like home and I’d look forward to the wind kicking up each day. It was awesome to learn a new sport that I’d watched other people do and decided I’d never be able accomplish.
10. Best thing about the country: The National Parks. They’re beautiful, free, and everyone is friendly. There are tons of good hikes and plenty of open space.
Favorite picture: I love the motion and energy captured in the is picture. We’re striding our way into a whole new hemisphere!
1. Favorite town: I really loved the town of Mindo in the cloud forest. It reminded me a lot of Sisters, OR, but with an Ecuadoran spin. We didn’t spend enough time in town to know for sure, but I think we would have really liked staying there a while. Also Quito gets an honorable mention, it’s been my favorite “city” of the trip I believe.
2. Favorite meal: On Valentine’s Day we had lunch at this little stand at the Vegetable market. The food was exceptionally good; Pork, Mote, avacodo, a little salad, and fried balls of mashed potato! Delicious and about $3.50!
3. Most unexpected thing: High Altitude towns and how much they affect me! They are beautiful, I love the mountains, but most of Ecuador is situated well above 6,000 ft which I find is really hard on me, but I'm getting better each time!
4. Favorite encounter: Our impromptu fruit farm tour on the way to the coast. We found a restaurant on iOverlander that allowed camping so we decided to stop and camp for the night. The family that owned it also owned the farm behind and the son and his cousin decided to take KP and I on a personal tour showing us the many different types of fruits, theit favorite swimming hole, and introduced us to some of the 42 family members that live on the farm (including Abuelo pictured with KP here)! They sent us off with a new route to our beach camp and a bag of oranges the next day. So sweet!
5. Favorite Local Beer: Pilsener is a good solid cheap bar. I had a lot of good microbrews in Ecuador as well, so I’d say in the category of Microbrews the IPA at Bandido Brewing was my favorite, but it’s almost cheating since an Oregon brewer made this with Willamette Valley Hops… but it counts!!
6. Favorite drive: I decided to drive on our day of wandering through the paramo of Cotopaxi and I was so glad! Beautiful day, beautiful 4x4 road, and some really fun river crossings (KP would call them streams, but he’s a dick!)
7. Favorite campsite: I want to say our camp at Cayambe at 15,000 feet because it was gorgeous, but the altitude sickness kind of ruined it, so I’m going with our camp on the beach at Santa Marianita. Every morning we would get up, get in a workout or a SUP before the wind picked up, then have a long leisurely breakfast at Donkey Den, then KP would kite and I would do whatever I wanted until the afternoon when we’d start drinking Pilseners and either cook dinner or go to one of the many awesome restaurants around. Oh and the camp was free!
8. Most frustrating thing: Watching KP try to drive through roundabouts in Ecuador. If the person in front of him doesn’t go immediately whether the roundabout is full of cars or not, he loses his shit! Granted, he was in the car when Nick got into a fender bender with a guy who stopped in the middle of one, but this annoyance started long before that happened!
9. Favorite experience: Watching KP stand up for the first time and ride on his kite board. He looked so natural I actually didn’t realize it was him at first! It was so awesome to see him work so hard and achieve this goal.
10. Best thing about the country: Landscape diversity! This country has so many different landscapes from desert, to ocean beaches, to rainforest jungles, to high altitude paramo. And it’s all just a couple hours drive away on really beautiful good roads!
This picture of the sweet note that was left on our windshield by the Ecuadoran family we had dinner with. It says: It was a pleasure to meet you guys, we wish you all the best in your travels and adventures. From, Janis and Thomas and our parents Beto and Ximera.