At long last, the tour through Ecuador has come to an end. Last stop, Cuenca.
For those of you who stuck with me through the Quito chaos, sailing 8 days through the Galapagos, and five stops along the Wanderbus circuit, I thank you. While the country of Ecuador is only half the size of Texas, there is much to see here, with enriching cultural experiences that are as varied as the topography. So while it has been a bit of a struggle to get the blog caught up, I wanted to get it all down before the memories began to fade. Continue reading
While the Wanderbus is a wonderful way to wander through Ecuador, it’s not perfect. The bus only rolls through town every other day, and not at all on Sundays. So when planning out an itinerary, sometimes one can get “stuck” for longer than they would like.
I arrive into Alusi the afternoon before my scheduled Devil’s Nose train at 8:00am the following morning. Given that the train ride is only 3 hours tops, it would be ideal if I Continue reading
I’ve expressed my love for trains on many occasions on this blog. Doesn’t matter how touristy, how pricey, how short or how long, if there is a train in town, I’m going to hop it. I attribute this love to many things. First, I came by it honestly. My Dad hopped into an open box car and rode all the way from Texas to California when he was only 18 years old. Wanderlust runs deep in the genes. Continue reading
One of the many things I appreciate about the Wanderbus itinerary is the stops made along the way to patronize local merchants, immersing in the local culture. When it’s time for a bathroom break or a snack stop on the bus, where some tour operators might utilize gas stations and mini-markets, Wanderbus incorporates some type of local Ecuadorian experience. In most cases, these stops afford the chance to not only get a better understanding of Ecuadorian customs, but also try the local cuisine. The next leg of our journey will be making a stop in the Ozogoche Lakes region within Sangay National Park, where the local indigenous women will be preparing lunch for us. Continue reading
The Lonely Planet travel guide describes my next stop along the Wanderbus route, Baños, as a “mixed bag.” Between their description of “garish tour operators, cut-price spas, and budget accommodations” that’s not exactly a glowing endorsement to lure me in, particularly when it is also billed as the “adventure center of Ecuador.” Too much testosterone. However, the name of the town which is actually Baños de Agua Santa, means “baths.” In other words, hot springs! It would take a pretty abysmal description to get me to skip a place named for its hot springs. Continue reading
As the Wanderbus climbs up the winding roads gaining elevation, we near our next stop for the day, Quilatoa Crater. The bus will be continuing on after a brief stop at the overlook, but I am choosing to “hop off” to spend a couple of nights here. I ask Darien, our English speaking guide if he knows the location of the hotel I have booked, and if I will need to take a taxi. He laughs out loud and says, “A donkey, maybe. But not a taxi!” Continue reading
The Wanderbus is not just a mode of transportation looping around Ecuador. There are times when the bus veers off the main route, in this case the Pan-American Highway, and acts as a tour bus while our English speaking guide provides commentary on a destination. Cotopaxi National Park is one example of this guided excursion off the main road. Continue reading
Ecuador is one of the few countries offering the option of independent travel with all the conveniences of an organized tour, serving up the best of both worlds. The “Wanderbus” is a hybrid solution for those of us who prefer flexibility and solitude of solo travel as opposed to feeling like cattle being herded through the masses, following the umbrella-waving tour guide while making all the mandatory carpet and jewelry shop stops. The infrastructure feels like “cheating off someone else’s homework” to visit all the highlights while letting someone else map out bus schedules, connections, and arduous hours of research that can otherwise wear a person down. Continue reading
When back in Quito trying to secure my last minute Galapagos cruise, I was under a lot of pressure to make my decisions quickly. It felt like a high stakes game, committing to the cost of the cruise without airfare, then trying to nab seats before the airfare went up or sold out. I had only a few minutes to decide what my return destination would be, and when. I opted to stay in the Galapagos five extra days, thinking the cruise would only leave me wanting more.
That might have been true had I reversed the order and done the land portion first, followed by the cruise. But on the heels of the heavenly cruise, Puerto Ayora felt like hell, or at least Continue reading
The Beagle has a clever way of getting guests up and out early so the crew can begin to prepare for the next round of guests arriving that same afternoon. We will be up before sunrise for a boat tour around the estuary, Black Turtle Cove. No sweaty hikes requiring another shower. No swims requiring the packing of wet clothing. Just a cool morning ride around the lagoon in the zodiacs. Continue reading