Whenever I thought about traveling abroad, I will admit Ecuador was not in my top ten countries to see. But, when Kris’ college roommate invited us to his wedding in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, we booked our tickets and I immediately hopped on Pinterest to figure out what I needed to see and what things we needed to try.
Our first stop was Otavalo Market. We took a bus from Quito to Otavalo (due to construction, this took about 2.5 hours instead of 1.5 hours one way) and I immediately had my umbrella stolen. Sad. But better the umbrella than anything else. The market was huge and had just about anything you could want. Some popular things were jewelry, textiles made from alpaca, t-shirts, bags, blankets, and leather goods. We snapped up some gifts and I even managed to barter in Spanish (by very slowly counting out my Spanish numbers on my fingers) to get an alpaca infinity scarf for $7. Ecuador uses the dollar, so no money conversion needed.
After the market, we went to the wedding and sat with these familiar faces:
Lots of dancing and fancy food. Also, waiters walked around with glasses of whisky all night. Whew. We managed to stay up until the end of the wedding at 2 a.m.
After the wedding activities wound down, we headed south toward Banos, a tourist-y town set by the Andes and the Amazon. We stopped briefly on Cotopaxi, a volcano with about 19k elevation. On the way up, my head started to hurt from the pressure. Here we are with the bride and groom:
Can you tell we felt very tall our entire time there? Especially my 6’7″ husband, who got lots of comments and stares.
Banos itself was so pretty that it’s hard to explain. The combination of mountains and greenery and waterfalls and clouds was almost too much for my eyes to absorb. The first night we took a party bus called a Chiva up the mountain (which was also a volcano) and took in the view.
The next morning, we tackled seeing Casa del Arbol to ride the swing at the end of the world. Our van driver actually drove way, way past it and got the van stuck when he tried to back down the one lane mountain road. We hopped out just as a man with a machete came along and tried to cut away the overgrowth to get us out. It didn’t work, and so, at 10 in the morning on a Tuesday, I found myself walking down a mountain in the Andes with nothing around but clouds and cows.
After walking about a mile, we finally found the swing. It was a little scarier than I thought it would be to swing out into the clouds!
After the swing, we paid a local farmer to drive us down the mountain in his pickup. Not entirely recommended, but it was either that or walk down the rest of the mountain.
To be continued…