Ecuador always seemed appealing to me, I don’t know why. I had heard a lot about Colombia, about Peru, but not much about the small country between them.
That’s surprising though, because it has a lot to offer!
Upon entering the country (read about my border pain below) I met a fun German guy called Felix. Little did I know I’d stay with him all the way through the country, and meet his home-friend Johanna on the way!
1. A Mess at the Border
My very first experience of Ecuador was a drawn out one at the Colombia-Ecuador border.
When you’re on the road, you talk to other travellers and hear a few more specific stories than You’ve got to go here!. One of these stories I had heard a week before in Salento, a German guy who joint me on my coffee tour told me that I should fly to Ecuador because the land border was hell.
Being on a budget – and after checking several websites that disagreed with this guy’s hearsay – I decided to continue on with my original plan and cross another land border by foot (My 9th land border on this trip).
But what awaited me? Oh boy.
If you haven’t heard, there’s big issues in Venezuela right now. Hyper-inflation, people starving, corrupt politicians, riots on the streets, you name it, they have it.
I knew these issues were going on, but they became much more apparent with the hundreds of Venezuelan refugees I was amongst at this border. I would never call refugees a horde (yeah Daily Mail) but it’s a pretty avid description!
And this was just on one day.
I felt so sorry for them.
Even more so, when after waiting 4 hours at the Ecuadorian border (for a 2 minute stamping procedure), I was put in a line, out the door and all around the Ecuadorian immigration office.
This line didn’t move for the two hours I was there. And then, to my joy/despair, as a non-Venezuelan, I was allowed to by-pass the line and my passport was stamped in a matter of minutes.
If one good thing came from this day, it’s that I met Felix in the bus line (which was also overrun by Venezuelans). We instantly got on and chatted all the way to his hostel in Quito, which I joined him in (a solid 14 hours after I left my hostel that morning).
Note, Felix showed me that huge wad of cash which he received as a gift off a Venezulean guy. Due to the hyperinflation of their currency, that’s hardly enough to buy two eggs.
2. Middle Earth, no Frodo
Ecuador means equator in Spanish, did you know?
Well, for me the equator was the main reason I visited Ecuador’s capital, Quito, which is an hour bus ride south of the line.
I was totally geeking out over this geographical landmark and, like many others, took lots of snaps over the line.
In the monument placed on the original (but wrong) line also had several science experiments which had varying degrees of equatorial importance. Including how I weighed less at the equator due to gravity #LeanIn2018
Either way, it was a fun day out.
3. Baños means Baths in Spanish
Following our time in Quito, which was filled with cheap food and being a bit out of breath due to the altitude, we went onwards to a small tourist town of Baños.
Although this town is touristy, that comes from it’s amazing scenery, great surrounding activities and pleasant people. It’s a tourist town for Ecuadorian and foreigners alike, so I didn’t feel so bad.
Baños, which means baths, is named after the springs and rivers which surround the town. You can bathe in some of the hot springs, or go looking for waterfalls (see below).
One big reason tourists come to this town is for the Swing At The End Of The World, at the Casa de Arbol (Tree House) at the top of one of the surrounding hills.
Felix, Johanna and I ascended the hill by the local bus (We had a heavy night the day before) and enjoyed swinging off the side of the cliffs!
4. Chasing Waterfalls
The next day, feeling a bit more human, we decided to rent some bikes and go for the casual, (mostly) downhill track of Ruta de Cascadas (waterfall route).
Although our bikes could have been better, for $5 for the day we weren’t complaining. I may have felt like I would pass out at any point, but I soldiered on.
The only point I felt really unsafe cycling this (pathed) mountain pass was going through an unlit tunnel, with no lights on my bike, and hearing several cars/trucks gaining on me.
Anyway, along this path we stopped at many lovely waterfalls and picturesque viewpoints.
The end goal was the Devil’s Cauldron, a beautiful waterfall dropping ~100m into a stream.
The photos speak of the beauty of this place. Sanding behind the curtain and hearing the power of this cascade was truly humbling.
5. The Amazon
Another reason people come to Baños is because it’s a gateway to the Amazon.
Johanna and I went on a one-day excursion into the region and saw some interesting things.
Even though it was a bit put on for tourists, we did enjoy being sailed down a river in a wooden canoe and overlooking the forest from a mirador (look out) before hopping on another giant swing!
We also met a community and saw some of their traditions. This bit was heavily put on but it was still pleasant.
6. Is This Europe?
We finished our Ecuadorian journey in the colonial town of Cuenca.
Although I had heard of the charm of this town and how beautiful it was, it didn’t really amaze me.
But when we went for a walk along one of their rivers (Cuenca means basin in Spanish) and into a lovely park, I got major Europe vibes.
The lush green, the overcast sky threatening to be blue, the mild weather all reminded me of English summers.
All three of us agreed it had a very European feel and we relaxed in a park a little before heading to the Incan ruins nearby.
Although we didn’t learn much about the ruins (as the museum was closed), we did meet some shy alpacas!
I feel Ecuador is hardly spoken about, which is a shame because it’s fun, cheap, adventurous, diverse and easy to travel in.
Total Spent: £236.11
Total Nights: 11
Cost per Night: £21.46
Notes: $1-3 a meal was more cost-efficient than buying groceries!