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Travelogue by Andrew N. Grimes, Link

Exploring couple discovers Ecuador's beautiful side

Welcome our contributing travel writer Andrew N. Grimes of "In the Rest of the World". Over the course of 30 years the Grimes family has traveled to over 100 countries on 6 continents with camera in hand. Their passion for travel coupled with their interest in photography has led all of them to further explore the intricacies of cultures throughout the world. Today we present the pictorial travelogue of their recent trip to Ecuador - a country of great natural wonders and unique culture.

Recently my family took a trip through Ecuador, an amazing country with great tradition and a lot to offer. On our week-long trip, we took in the local nightlife of the capital city – Quito, visited the Teleferico (gondola) on Pichincha, attended an amazing Ecuadorian wedding outside of the capital, scoured the markets and shops of Otavalo and Cotacachi, hiked the caldera of Lake Cuicocha, soaked (literally) in the Peguche Waterfall, and took in the sights of El Lago de San Pablo.

Our trip began in Kentucky, where our two first flights were either delayed or canceled, something that seems more and more frequent these days. As we scrambled to find other flights, we somehow talked our way into upgrades on flights to Miami and Quito, granted on an altogether different airline than we intended to fly.

City surrounded by active volcanoes,
where everyone drives like a lunatic

Arriving in Quito approximately 12 hours later than originally scheduled, we dumped our bags at a hotel, washed our faces and headed to the Teleferico (gondola) on Pichincha. Pichincha is an active volcano that provides an amazing view of Quito from high above the city. Quito sits in a valley, surrounded by active volcanoes and the slopes of the Andes Mountains. After being picked up at the airport by our friend, he soon informed us that his driver’s license was expired and asked me to drive instead.

For those not lucky enough to have visited Quito before, everyone there drives like a maniac, and roads aren’t exactly well marked. White-knuckling the wheel all the way up the windy Quito hills, we managed to arrive at the Teleferico, which finishes at an elevation of approximately 4100 meters where the oxygen is scarce and the lungs burn.

Having not grown accustomed to the altitude yet, we quickly grew dizzy and started drinking Canelazo (a warm local fruit drink made with an alcohol known as firewater) to calm us down. The combination of the booze, the lack of oxygen, and the jetlag led to an interesting view of the surrounding area.

Weddings last till no one can dance any more

The next day was wedding day for a family friend being married in a small church outside of Quito. The church and everything about the ceremony was incredible, and the bride and groom could not have been happier.

Following the ceremony, there was a fabulous reception where the band played for nearly six hours, taking only one break, and rarely allowing anyone to leave the dance floor. Following Ecuadorian tradition, a table was set with candy made special for the event, and the parents of the bride handed out crazy head adornments to anyone that would put one on.

We didn’t realize beforehand that an Ecuadorian wedding will last until no one can dance another step. So, we made a valiant effort to keep up with everyone there, but alas, we had to hang up our dancing shoes and head in for the night before we all collapsed in a heap on the dance floor.

Get soaked!

The following day, my wife and I split from the rest of our friends and family to spend a few days in the Imbabura province of the country. We chose to stay in the town of Cotacachi, where everything in the area is relatively close by.

Our first day trip took us to the incredible Peguche Waterfall where we proceeded to get absolutely soaked by the spray of the fall.

It’s an amazing site as the village far below is supplied water by a winding path leading through the trees.

Many of the locals use the water around the fall to swim, wash their clothes, and even bathe. Luckily for us, the sun came out at just the right time as we hiked to the top of the fall, providing us with an inspiring view.

Following our morning in Peguche, we returned to Cotacachi, the center of Ecuador's leather industry. The town is filled with shops overflowing leather goods of all kinds. We perused the stores for awhile, stopping to make some excellent bargain buys along the way. Whether it is boots, jackets, belts, handbags, or anything else made of leather that you can imagine, Cotacachi has it.

Crater Lake Panorama

After our first day in Imbabura, we decided to visit Lake Cuicocha, a two mile wide caldera and crater lake at the base of the Cotacachi Volcano. The caldera was originally created by an eruption approximately 3100 years ago that covered the area in volcanic ash. The volcano has since been dormant, but it still makes for an amazing view. While it is possible to take a boat ride around the intra-caldera islands (actual lava domes), we chose to hike around the lake, something much more difficult given our continued lack of altitude acclimation.

The extra effort though paid off, as we hiked to the highest peak for the ultimate panorama.

Having spent the morning hiking around Lake Cuicocha, we made the trip to Otavalo, a town known for its textiles. The Otavalo Indians are renowned for their textile work and play host to one of the most incredible markets in all of South America. You can spend hours walking through and around the booths of the Otavalo market, which we definitely did – buying presents for family and friends and artwork for ourselves. Even if you miss the main day for the market, every other day seems to have nearly as much to offer, so don’t miss Otavalo if ever in the area.

On our way back to Quito, we stopped in the town of San Antonio, where the local specialty is wood carving. The main square prominently displays carved statues, picture frames, and furniture. There are some fabulous wood carvings in this area, and although we had no way to bring them back with us, we bought two extremely unique picture frames. After having them wrapped, I knew I would be carrying the frames on the plane with us all the way home – an always enjoyable experience.

Following a drive back into Quito which took twice as long as it should, we arrived at the airport. Upon arrival, we found that our flight had been delayed approximately seven hours, placing our departure at 2:20am. Since this was the only flight back to the US that night, we had no other option but to sit and wait. While waiting, the airport was closed due to inclement weather, so no flights were going out or coming in. Realizing that this was not a good sign, we tried to find another option but were turned back at every counter. So, after a seven hour delay, stops in Guayaquil and Atlanta, we returned home only half a day later than expected.

Ecuador is an incredible country with a lot to offer. Whether you are into culture, wildlife, nature, or something else, Ecuador has it. We love it, as I’m sure most people would if they took the time to venture up or down to the equator.

Article by Andrew N. Grimes, "In the Rest of the World" for Dark Roasted Blend.
(want to become our contributing writer? contact us, see guidelines here)


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Category: Travel,Photography
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just finished viewing your magnificent photos and Wonderful article on your travels to Ecuador.
Thanks for sharing the Beauty with us. It is much appreciated.
Terry T

Blogger Andrew said...

Thanks so much. I hope everyone enjoys our pictures. This is a great site that I hope to contribute to more in the future.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The waterfall pictures are amazing! What a great trip! Thanks so much for sharing!



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