Ecuador – February 2009


Here’s what a few sojourners had to say
about the trip:

Maureen & Mike

Priscilla and Global Sojourns did it again! A fabulous group of people met in a friendly, beautiful country to explore together.

For us, Ecuador is beautiful land and wonderful people. The Ecuadorians were extremely warm and welcoming. We loved the vibrant life and unique architecture of old town in Quito. The Hotel was lovely and we were treated as special guests.

The combination of the European influence and native art with the vibrant colors was unique. The visit to the Market with Vasco was amazing — 15 ft high stacks of fruit, veggies, colors, aromas — as far as the eye could see. Plus a fascinating look at local life.

Our 4 hour, 8 course lunch in a beautiful villa, 1,000 feet above Quito looking down on the city was beyond belief. Did anyone take notes of all of the dishes??? I think we actually surpassed the 8 courses.


Peter

While floating in the warm Galapagos waters, three White Tipped Sharks floated underneath me with no regard for my presence but with a focused scanning of the sea in search of food or patrolling their territory. At first I was alarmed to the point of fear, but with time I relaxed and enjoyed the company as I realized they considered me an acceptable guest to their underwater kingdom and not their next meal. With eyes glued on these large, sleek predators, the majestic sea turtle, gliding slowly by almost passed without notice. So I diverted my attention, and temporary fear, to watching the gliding sea turtle until it was out of sight. I felt that some sort of classical music should have accompanied the scene. Floating in attention for the next act in the Galapagos, I came across a school of plain fish, an array of proudly beautiful and multicolored fish and then the playful sea lions swimming up to me with acute curiosity and playfulness. When the underwater show was over, I decided to swim back to our boat, but just before I arrived I glimpsed a manta ray out of the corner of my eye and then a second. When I drew the attention of these graceful creatures to the rest of my boat mates, they had already disappeared into the dark reaches of the ocean.

From the undersea beauty to the informal lectures on finches and Iguanas, I now feel that I’ve experienced the Galapagos and learned of its history, geography and meaning to both science, religion and the environment. But, to me, this was only the appetizer of the trip and the best parts were yet to come. These included allowing myself to be spoiled and pampered at the Hacienda de St. Augustine de Callo, a 5* accommodation built up around an ancient Incan ruin with original walls still in tack and the spiritual aura very much alive. It only got better with the homey environment of Hacienda Manteles and two great physical adventures for me. My favorite included hiking/ running down from the Hacienda to the town of Banos and taking in spectacular views of the massive valley of green and impressive views of the active volcano. From Banos I rented a mountain bike and climbed back up to the Hacienda, completing a long 6-hr day of scenery and sweat. Then we were off to the white knuckle ride on the Devils’ Nose Train with rails that were only inches away from vertical drop offs of hundreds of feet to the roiling river and rocks below – my stomach still churns every time I replay the mpeg video that I took of the ride! The trip was capped with a wonderful visit to Cuenca, a historic city with great charm, few of the ills of large cities and easy and quality shopping – said by someone who can’t stand shopping! All in all, it was a memorable return to Ecuador and leaving me wanting to return as soon as possible.


Sandy & Linda Dee

We did not know what to expect from our first visit to South America; specifically to beautiful, colorful, friendly, fascinating Ecuador. We had studied up on things to do and see, but we never dreamed that we would enjoy a festive parade on our very first day in its capitol of Quito. Our excitement only grew during the two weeks we were touring. From snorkeling with sharks to visiting 150+ year old tortoises to watching the families of sea lions on the Galapagos, to riding the famous Devil’s Nose Train, to hiking trails in the “Avenue of Volcanoes”, to buying lovely handmade items from the indigenous, traditionally dressed Indians, the trip was fantastic on every spectrum. We are ready to go back and we encourage others to visit this unique country that is closer than Europe.

Our favorite things in Ecuador included:

Quito

  • Waking up in a beautiful, historic Quito hotel (from the 1600′s) and hearing church bells ringing
  • Outside of the same hotel we watched a long parade with children in soccer outfits, cars decorated with balloons, several beauty queens marching and being squirted with water balloons (a pre-Easter event) We had read about the many festivals in Ecuador but then saw one within 12 hours of arriving!

Galapagos Islands

  • Snorkeling with sharks, sea lions, sea turtles and a myriad of fish
  • Riding in the motor boat to see various islands and rock formations such as Kicker Rock
  • Visiting the sea lions and seeing them in the boats
  • Riding the tortoise and having it bite me (that one is from Sandy)
  • Hiking to the Wall of Tears
  • Getting to know our fellow travelers, who all had interesting stories
  • Drinking milk out of a coconut, that had just been cut out of a tree,
  • Walking on the beach to visit iguanas of all sizes and colors
  • Meeting Tina and learning about a Swiss girl falling in love and moving to San Cristobel
  • Renewing my love of the ocean and all of its hidden treasures beneath the surface

Mainland

  • Staying at the hacienda that was built around a Inca temple – just maybe our favorite lodging ever!
  • Hiking around a lake, with Cotopaxi (the world’s largest active volcano) looming above us
  • Walking to the rose gardens and learning how they are grown, processes and packages to send to the US and Europe
  • Going to the market in Latacunga and seeing where the real Ecuadorians shop
  • Hiking and marveling if we were in Ecuador or the Swiss Alps
  • Seeing Kim and Jack wearing their new Panama hats
  • Riding through rural villages and seeing the children, shops, everyday life in a village
  • The rainy day in the bus was wonderful – read, gazed out the window and loved it
  • The exciting Devil’s Nose Train ride was scary, beautiful and will be a long time memory

Dave

Choosing favorite moments in a country so full of surprises as Ecuador is very difficult. Scuba diving with hammerhead sharks off the Galapagos Islands, hiking through the incredible beauty of the Andes under a live volcano, recuperating from exhaustive treks in the comforts of natural hot springs, drinking excessive amounts of fine wine with a great group of fellow travelers were all memorable. However, for the sheer awe factor, nothing surpassed the ride on the roof of the devil’s nose train as it snaked through the heights of the Andes offering an unbelievable thrill……..


Dan

Overall, I had a great time in Ecuador– I thought the Ecuadorian people were fabulous, courteous and loved Americans. The country is gorgeous. The places we stayed in the Andes were outstanding (St Augustine and Manteles), as were the staff there (especially in Manteles with Ernesto and Ceasar). The food was delicious (though too rich for my taste) and I loved Cuenca, and could have easily spent an extra day there. I enjoyed the physical activities as well, which included diving, horseback riding and hiking along the fabulous Andean trails.


Priscilla

What I so enjoyed about this trip:

  • the outing at Rumiloma- I loved the trip to the market with the chef, getting cooking lessons and tasting the various fruits on the verandah with a view Quito in the background, and the 8 course meal with the various wines and aperitifs!
  • coming face to face with a sea lion while snorkeling
  • swimming with iguanas
  • taking “the ride” through Kicker Rock… twice!
  • hearing Heidi shout “shark!!!!” to make sure we all knew where to find them!
  • snorkeling with sharks, sea lions, large schools of fish, turtles and all sizes of colorful fish at Champions islet
  • hiking to the Crater and lava fields on Isabela
  • arriving at San Augustin and a wonderful dinner after a long day of traveling
  • riding bikes down Cotopaxi
  • watching Trent and Kim interact with the llamas
  • lunch of choclo y queso and a fresh green salad at Manteles
  • hiking in the mountain cloud forest above Manteles
  • Cesar’s enthusiasm for his hacienda and hosting guests
  • seeing Sandy’s broad smile on the roof of the Devil’s Nose train
  • going off in various directions during the day and coming together at night to share stories of the day
  • hearing Diane, Dave, Trent, Linda, Sandy and Kim laughing away in the bar from our room 2 floors up at Patio Andaluz
  • seeing Kim’s “finds” in Cuenca (a black leather and crochet dress!)
  • traveling with such nice, interesting, enthusiastic people

Trent

Everyone was very nice company and we all had great adventures together. My favorites were the hikes to the volcano and the cloud forest. Rumiloma was a special treat for a marginal cooker like me. I am greatly indebted to Kim for saving my ear from infection. Hope to see everyone again on another trip soon. Perhaps a jungle adventure!


The rest of the gang: