Here is an article about my move to Ecuador at the age of 63 and the events of the first year. I wrote it for another website; but, think that you will enjoy sharing this part of my life with me.
Andre Hugo – Travel Adventure
Not every year of life's experience will be as exciting as my first year here in Ecuador; but, it was a great start; - an example of how life's adventure can come to you if you only take some action.
Ecuador is a great place for travelling. Not only is there so much scenic beauty – Amazon Jungle, Andes Mountains, coastal plain and the Galapagos Islands; and, hotel / hostel room rates are very reasonable. For example, for between $ 50 and $ 100 USD one can normally find very nice accommodation. Of course, you could also pay much higher rates at the international chain hotels. Frankly, I enjoy the many moderately priced locations.
Having said that; I do, too often, find a beautiful looking place on the internet only to discover something far less. That happened to my partner and I this past weekend. The website for the Safari Hosteria in Puyo shows a very nice place at reasonable, Ecuador, prices. We booked with the required advance deposit and struck out from Quito, over the Eastern Andes Mountain range on the 4 plus hour drive to the South East of the country, bordering on the Amazon Jungle.
The trip through the mountains at 0530 – 0630 a.m. is spectacular. The rising sun casts shadows across the panorama, highlighting the ruggedness of the terrain. Early morning clouds float above and/ or below the highway elevations. My lady hung out of the car window, braving the early morning chill, snapping photo after photo, hopeful to capture what her eyes were seeing. Unfortunately, on this trip, there was not time to stop.
The grounds of the Safari Hosteria are beautiful, with well-groomed lush vegetation and colourful flowers. We checked in and were led through the complex, past a volleyball court and very nice swimming pool with a bar (closed throughtout our short time there) to our room in one of the one-story, 3 linked accommodations, scattered across the property.
It was clear from the outside that there was a serious lack of maintenance on the buildings. Old aluminum sliding windows showed their age and window screens were often torn. Rooves looked like they had not been painted in the over twenty years since installation.
We went through three rooms, looking for one that was able to provide running hot water, as advertised. The third room, alas, spouted hot water from the shower, after 15 minutes of the hotel staff rushing around trying to make it happen. The bathrooms in each room that we went to were old and grungy. Where shower stall tiles had been removed to repair piping at some much earlier time, bare cement patching filled the space.
It was not where we wanted to stay. Sadly, the hostel that had once been considered one of the places to stay in Puyo, was no longer. It was worn, tired, dowdy and seriously needing maintenance to assure basic functions. We asked for our deposit back. With or without the return, we were determined not to stay one night there.
Fortunately, the employees are the blessing of the place. The lady at the front desk and those who tried to satisfy us with a decent room did all that they could to make us happy. Disappointed, the owner readily allowed the return of the deposit, and we headed off to find very nice, clean accommodation at the Restaurant and Hotel Jardin. The price was only $ 10 - $15 more; but, jump in quality was significant. Finally, we were happy. It is a place that we will return to on our next visit to Puyo.
Despite care in selection places to stay, unfortunately Ecuador has many disappointments, everyone due to failure to do maintenance.
Safari Hosteria www.hostelsafari.com.ec (Not recommended)
El Jardine http://eljardinrelax.com.ec/ ( Recommended )
We left centre town and followed the coastal road North. Manta, Ecuador, is a rapidly growing city with its’ Oceanside waters filled with boats and ships of all sizes. Cruise ships and ocean going cargo vessels are docked, and others wait in line to birth. Across the water, there are possibly one hundred other boats: recreational power boats; sailboats; fishing boats; and, as I passed, a broken wooden row boat with young boys climbing in and out in the surf. The air became filled with the smell of fish, telling us that we were near the fish market. As soon as the fish is unloaded, skilled hands quickly gut and fillet it, and it is quickly whisked away to waiting food stores.
We didn’t stop, as our target was just beyond, and I was anxious to see the rare sight; - wooden seafaring boats, up to 25 metres in length, being built right on the beach. According to “Ecuador infinito”, one of my favorite high quality magazines, “To build a ship about 25 meters long, 7 wide and 3.5 meters at the strut, costs about $ 400,000 and demands the labor of 16 men for four months.” ( I can never decide when to call a boat a ship; however, make a mistake, and a true mariner will let you know very quickly.)
Impossible to miss from the road; there, on a narrow stretch of beach between the main road and the Pacific Ocean, were the large vessels I was looking for, some being repaired and others in various stages of construction.
Few people were working at the time, only a few men digging around the propeller of a fishing boat that was being repaired.
There are not many places in the world where such craft is still practiced; so, I’ll share some photos with you.
What would you do, if anything, on finding a community longing for education; but, with no school to facilitate their getting it?
My friend, a wonderful lady who dedicates her life to helping people, animals and the environment found herself in such a situation where she lives in the Intag Valley of Ecuador. Here, poverty dictates that youth leave school after grade six to work the fields, etc; to help the family survive. There has been no local school, teachers or government support to help them further. Grace became aware of the strong desire for more education. And, people were willing to commit individually, as community, physically and with all the energy possible; but, without help, they could not make their dream come true.
What did Amazing Grace do? She mobilized the community, government and charities. She created and led a project that included funding projects such as raising and selling pigs, construction, etc. I asked her to tell the story and this is what she wrote.
" Tracy Wilson from The United States and myself, Grace Lush, from Canada have been working over the last 3 years to make this adult education school happen.
Isn't that an amazing story? I should clarify that Grace does all such things and has a wonderful, happy time as well. She has a ready smile and the love of everyone who meets her. How could one not want such a friend?
I've collected a few photos from Grace's school project to show you. ( Photos provide by Grace)
Grace is the Project Administrator of Touch The Jungle in the Intag Valley of Ecuador.
I invite you to learn more about Grace and Touch the Jungle. There is always more to be done and support needed. Will you be ready to help her when she has need?
To read my previous blog entries on the adventures of Grace, go to my blog index and scroll down to Grace.
Lloa is a small, remote village, South of the Pichincha Volcano, which is the Western boundary of the Ecuador Capital, Quito. Like all cities, towns and villages it was built around a church and a central park.
I treasure opportunities to visit such rural areas because there is a purity in their life and struggle.
A local greeted me as I got out of the car and, with much enthusiasm, promoted the fine dining at a near-by restaurant. - Keep in mind that what is fine dining varies in interpretation.
As I circled the park, looking for photo opportunities, I saw an old woman sitting on the sidewalk beside what looked to be a small pile of straw. A younger lady sat on a bench in front of her, and a dog slept nearby. I went and sat on the bench to converse, curious as to what the two were doing.
The two were clearly very poor indigenous people.
The old woman had a ready smile. There was life in her eyes. Her hands were large for a woman, almost as if swollen from years of hard, manual labour. She explained, as she demonstrated, how she took handfuls of wheat and rubbed them against a brick to separate the wheat from the chaff. Then, she picked out each, individual grain that she used for her daily meal or sold if she had a surplus. The younger woman, apparently her daughter, sat with her but contributed little to her mother’s effort.
Imagine spending day after day sitting on the sidewalk picking grains of wheat in order to live. The senior woman was a dear sole who seemed to not think of hardship; but, just got on with her chore. Her congeniality graced her, and I treasured my moments with her.
It took only a few more minutes to walk through the rest of the town before heading on my way. In several places, the sidewalk was appropriated by residents to dry various food grains in the sun. Doing this is common. I’ve seen piles of grain spread on the flat roof of a house and on the side of paved highways around the countryside. Several places also sold raw milk in whatever containers they could find.
It was a good day !
There is much beauty and history to appreciate in the Ecuador sierra – high in the Andes Mountains; the Northern frontier of the Inca Empire; a new world jewel of old Spanish colonialism; and the place closest to the sun than any other on earth. While Ecuador has Amazon Jungle, coastal plains and beaches and, not to forget, the Galapagos Islands, the sierra is where I call home and feel most comfortable.
Recently, my lady and I drove North from Quito past the well-known towns of Otavalo and Cotacachi to the city of Ibarra. For those not familiar with Ecuador, the sierra North of Quito is hot and dry; while to the South there is abundant greenery and temperate climate.
Our plan was to take the train from Ibarra to Salinas and back. (Be careful - There are several towns in Ecuador named Salinas.) Called the Tren de la Independencia (the Independence train); its’ name honours a historic struggle for the country’s freedom and the abolition of the slavery of the early colonial years.
Visitors to Ecuador will notice numerous train routes being promoted as the country re-establishes a railway system that had been allowed to die. The current government has recognized the important role in history that the railway played and the opportunity to contribute further in the tourism program. Riding these rail lines is promoted to provide comfort and spectacular scenery. This was to be the second railway route that I was to travel on. The first was the Nariz de Diablo, further South. I enjoyed that ride and will seek opportunities to explore the other routes when I can.
The old railway station in the centre of Ibarra has been completely renovated and is now a clean, modern facility that any community in the world would be proud to call its own. It serves only the Tren de la Independencia. There are no commuter or freight services.
In demand, tickets must be purchased in advance and picked up at the station no less than an hour before departure. They are inexpensive, and two can take a ride for about $ 40 USD.
Next to the train station is a large mixed, product and produce, market typical in Latin American rural areas. As the train moved slowly out of the station, I took photos of a local character dressed in old, clear plastic sheets and a woman offering goats for sale on the sidewalk. Along the route, security guards riding motorcycles appeared as if by magic to assure safety at railway crossings.
The inside of the car that we rode in was new, clean, comfortable and air-conditioned. A friendly, always smiling, young attendant provided ongoing descriptive and historical dialog in both Spanish and English. A light snack was provided on-route.
The mountainous countryside is arid with lots of sand, few trees, scrub plants, large canyons, bridges high over river gorges and six tunnels through mountain rock. The ride took just over one hour.
Salinas is a small, hot, dry, poor town of 2000 residents in the middle of no-where. They are descendants of colonial slaves, brought from Africa to work cotton and sugar fields. No cotton is produced there today. Sugarcane is the major industry and employer of the town. The railway now employs about 100.
Waiting for our arrival was a local dance group. Bare footed; they shuffled while music pumped loudly through speakers. Colourful dress recalled their heritage. The heat was obviously affecting them; but, one young lady held her head high with pride and gave us her best. During the show, passengers sat on steps in the shade of the station and on chairs under a white canopy. The scorching sun and mosquitoes prompted some to plaster themselves with lotion. Fortunately, mosquitos don't like my blood and I was almost unaware of their presence.
After the dances, tourists were divided into groups to walk through town to a museum, a church, a store where local women sold confections, and to dine at the local restaurant. Construction was rudimentary cement block with little enhancement, indicative of the poverty of the place. Plant life was unseen, with the exception of in the characteristic Spanish colonial park in front of the church. Painted murals on buildings along our path depicted the history of the town and served as decorative art to enjoy.
Though there wasn’t much to see, I appreciated witnessing people making the best of living in a place where I would only want to quickly pass through. The community was doing its best to better its’ situation; was welcoming; and anxious to be the best hosts that they could be. I, particularly, enjoyed the visit to the confection store and speaking with the staff. The museum was room filled with photos of black heroes from around the world who fought for emancipation and respect, with what I thought was, disappointingly, relatively little local content.
After about three hours and sunburn, (I had misplaced my hat) we re-boarded the train for the ride back. Enthusiasm evident on the ride to Salina had faded. Passengers were tired, quiet and, apparently content.
In summary, it was an modestly interesting adventure and I am happy that I took the time to discover the route of the Independence Train.
I love to share my pursuit of life's adventures with my readers. This blog is different. Some writer, anonymous to me, wrote a script that Abbott and Costello would use to have people rolling in the aisles. It is likely that only those over 50 years old will fully appreciate it; ESPECIALLY if they hear the voices of Abbott and Costello as they read. I send a huge THANKS to the author. You have brightened my day.
You have to be old enough to remember Abbott and Costello and too oldto REALLY understand computers, to fully appreciate this.For those of us who sometimes get flustered by our computers, please read on...
Below is an introduction to Solo Trekker 4 U, the initiative of an intelligent lady determined to level the playing field to give solos the break that they deserve.
Read the following introduction from the founder Elizabeth Avery.
" From my days in middle school, I began to have a great and growing curiosity about distant lands. My appetite was further whetted by foreign language classes and exchange programs on two different continents. As a result, after graduation I tried, if possible, to see a different country every year. Although it was much later in my career that international travel coincided with business opportunities, my yearning for particularly remote destinations catapulted me off the beaten path from the Pacific Islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki to Montenegro on the Albanian border.
Subsequent business trips to southern Africa were easily combined with vacations in 5 countries. Later Latin America, Australia and Europe afforded me the opportunity to combine business with pleasure.
I have typically traveled alone and experienced the premium charged single travelers for business or leisure and more limited easy access to top quality. However, my defining moment as a solo traveler came about in China in 2009. I joined a 5 star river cruise and tour only to discover that pairs traveling together had access to a $2,500 rate for early booking for 2-for-the-price of-1. I had paid approximately $7,500 or “1-for-the-price- of-2 (or 3)”?
Worst yet, as a solo traveler even at the best resorts there could be challenges. One Christmas Eve as a guest in another 5 star hotel, I found that even having requested ahead, I was initially told there was no space for me in the dining room. The alternative? It was suggested that I have the $200/person Christmas Eve dinner in their bar. Similarly, at a great US ski resort as a guest in that hotel, they could not find a spot for me for Sat. night dinner in the main restaurant.
After traveling to 57 countries and all 50 US states, I concluded there had to be a better way for solos looking to explore the world. At first blush, the easy solution offered is generally to travel with a friend or family member. However, the reality in today’s world is that virtually everyone has competing job or family obligations. In addition, just because I am elated with my booking a “Cambodian Christmas” for 2014, my friends would rather explore certain places in Europe where I have been already.
Coming from the private equity investment banking sector, I spent a year researching the issue. In Dec. 2012, I launched www.SoloTrekker4U.com providing unlimited free access to our community website, to those traveling alone and seeking to connect with well-priced 4-5 star travel. From great airfare deals, camel treks in Morocco to Madagascar or art history sojourns in Europe, there is something for everyone.
What is often misunderstood is that solo travelers are actually a broader group than singles. Family members and married couples may pursue separate interests, hobbies or sports from African safaris to Milan Fashion Week without realizing that they, too, are solo travelers! In addition, entrepreneurs and small business employees generally also travel alone and pay approximately 24% more than corporate groups. In the most extreme cases, leisure tours can cost solos up to 100% more in single supplements.
Our goal is to build out our membership to create bargaining power for solos to level the playing field. Solos dust off your bucket list and get on the move! A whole world awaits you. Please join us today since the more solo travelers come together the stronger our collective purchasing power to get the best deals and more competitive prices! "
I think that this is a GREAT INITIATIVE and encourage each of you to visit the site and join in to temper the discrimination against solo travellers.
Better yet, tell all your friends, partnered or single, to join and spread the word. You will be doing some of them favour.
Tuesday of this week, a new Hilton hotel had its’ official opening in downtown, Halifax, Canada. According to my son who represented me, it was a grand event. Almost a dozen of my photos, enlarged beyond anything I had seen before, decorate the walls in the lobby area. One other, a Halifax local photographer shares hotel wall-space with me. I salute him. The hotel manager reports that, since the “soft” opening in June of this year, guests report, in person and online, that their hotel stay was enriched by the photography. One lady, who I met when visiting the hotel in July, told me that she had been biking around the province, Nova Scotia, and the pictures fully represent what she had seen. That, I believe, is what the Hilton hotel management wished to achieve.
Guests at the opening were given commemorative books which included my photography.- I look forward to seeing my copy the next time I am back in Canada.
Let me say that I am very pleased with the hotel’s treatment and presentation of my photos and recommend that anyone visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia, consider staying at the Hampton Inn by Hilton, superbly located in the centre of the city, surrounded by all of the great tourist sites that the city has to offer.
For those who may wish to see a few of my Nova Scotia photos, not necessarily those in the hotel, see below.
To discover more about the Hampton Inn by Hilton, go to
“Grab your camera and get over here!”
Those were the cryptic words of my friend, Leslie.
Shortly thereafter I arrived at his Quito, Ecuador home in the suburb of Tumbaco, camera in hand. Leslie was waiting outside to ensure that I did not disturb the hummingbird nest in a small tree by his front door.
It was impossible to take photos without approaching the nest and parting a few branches. The mother flew to a nearby perch and watched as we admired the nest and the two eggs lying within. You probably know that a hummingbird is a very small bird, and its nest and eggs are very tiny.
The mother came to trust Leslie’s comings and goings, and his curiosity; eventually not flying away at his or my presence.
Not long after my first visit, the eggs hatched and two chicks made their appearance. You can see the white, bald, head of one. Do you see the second?
The chicks grew rapidly, and their feathers blended into the nest, making them hard to see. Look closely and you will see the beaks sticking up over the side of the nest.
Only days later, one, then the other disappeared to live their own lives.
Leslie’s hummingbird had such confidence in him that she returned some weeks after her first brood left the nest, to lay more eggs and repeat the cycle.
There are over 200 species of hummingbirds in Ecuador and watching any one of them is a joyous occasion. Here are some photos of hummingbirds at the guava tree adjacent to my terrace.