Ama la Vida!
09/03/2014 - 09/16/2014
The official slogan of Ecuador reads “Ecuador, Ama la Vida”, or “Ecuador, Love the Life”. I have been in Ecuador for almost 2 weeks now, and wish I could stay longer already. The country is stunning and definitely lives up to its name.
In Quito, the markets and streets are full of history, music, color and food. Churches constructed in the 1500’s mark the corners of streets, while markets selling bananas, papayas, yucca and mora berries fill the spaces in between. Green rolling hills and volcanos surround the sprawling city, which is the closest capital to the sun. I couldn’t help but smile walking through the busy streets while music poured from the pockets of pedestrians and the windows of the residents.
A couple hours north of Quito lies Otavalo, the largest market in South America. Art, clothing and street meat are plentiful here and definitely was worth the bus ride north. The market is full of native people dressed in traditional clothing, tourists browsing the stalls, and men trying to sell their goods. By the end of the day, I haggled my way through the jewelry, art and street meat with a few more items in my over-stuffed backpack.
In Cuyabeno. The Amazon greeted me with a slap in the face. The diversity of the Amazon is startling. I have seen it on television, but it is a completely different beast when you are standing in the mud, looking up at the canopy that swallows you into its belly. I felt in awe at how purposeful every tree and animal is. I learned about trees that cure malaria, and the bugs that cause it. The plants that provide hallucinations and the animals that the shamans channel. There was beauty, danger and some darkness that pushed my limits. The guide tried to possess every single woman traveler that visited the lodge, while we bonded together with what another Ecuadorean male traveler called “the universal force of female compassion”. Before I left Seattle, I was afraid of nearing house spiders. By my last night in the jungle, I was sharing my room with a tarantula that cast a shadow across my hut’s floor.
Tena has been a wonderful surprise. Meant as a stopover recommended by a fellow traveler, this small Amazonian gateway has a ton to offer. The whitewater rafting is world renowned and the wild life follows you into the streets. In fact, it is difficult to escape sometimes. Yesterday, I was bit by a tapir while walking through the park! The bruise on my knee in the shape of beast teeth will remain a souvenir for the next few weeks, long after my bathing suite dries.
Today I am boarding a bus to Banos. I am hoping to soak in the natural thermal bathes, go canyoning in the waterfalls and biking through the mountains. Here lies the “swing at the end of the world”, where visitors in the past weeks have sat and watched the Tunguhuara Volcano erupting in the not too far distance.
Ecuador. Love the life. I can see why it houses so many expats that refuse to leave!