Here In 1975 - still going    
Ecuador vacation
home | interviews | photos | features |BGN issue list | reviews
links | contact us


For past vacations - Click Here

I'd wanted to see Quito and the Galapagos for ages so when this deal popped up with Exoticca, I got Mike, John and Susan on board and off we went. $1999 included almost everything (RT air, two flights in Ecuador, buses, all hotels and breakfasts, a couple dinners, some tours) other than a couple side trips, tips and the charge for getting into the Galapagos. There was lots of pre-planning like getting tetanus and Hep B shots (I couldn't get a Yellow Fever shot in time), malaria pills, bug spray, altitude patches, strong sunscreen and Mike provided the stomach/Imodium pills. Squeezed in some rock the Sat. before with Wolfmother at the Paradise then up super early for the Uber to Logan and an 8:15AM flight. It was my first time with the TSA pre check but it didn't make a difference to or from this time. Easy flights with a stop in Panama City then arrived in Quito where we were picked up by our guide Alex for the hour-long bus ride to Hotel Rio Amazonas. By the time we checked in it was almost 7:30 so we just hung at the hotel, starting at the bar with the "Budweiser of Ecuador", a nice cold Club Premium then dinner in the restaurant where my weird sausage plate wasn't as successful as others' fish dishes.


Arriving in Quito

On Mon. we started with a good buffet breakfast then our tour group met (consisting of 16 adults, many of whom travel constantly) to lay out the agenda starting with a guided tour of Quito. We visited the beautiful Basílica del Voto Nacional and old town in general on a gorgeous day. We saw lots of police around so everyone felt safe. I put on the altitude patch knowing we'd be heading up high on our way to the Amazon. It was a haul there, climbing up to about 13,000 ft. (then back down). We got an okay lunch along the way ending with free shots of some local liquor. More time on the bus passing not so nice houses, chickens, cows, horses and stray dogs. The Huasquila Amazon Lodge was in the middle of nowhere but cute with separate huts on expansive grounds. The bathroom looked like a dorm and the outlets sucked but we had enough room for a small party in there. We were offered a welcome cocktail then we had a surprisingly great dinner of chicken and coconut cake. We did a night walk in the immediate area where we saw a few random jungle bugs, termite homes, nothing too unusual until my first tarantula made an appearance by the pool. After, a bunch of us hung out at the cute outdoor hotel bar (some of those folks could drink). I enjoyed a $5 glass of wine, with ice which was frowned upon along with other foods, but the ice came out of a bag so I felt safe. We'll get to those food warnings later.


We had all picked out a pair of boots for the hike to the waterfall we'd take on Tues. As some of you know, my ankle is fused and shoe options aren't always easy, so getting into pull-on boots with no zipper was kind of impossible. Thankfully there was a shorter pair in my size that worked, kinda. Headed out for our muddy hike where I literally said "Nah I don't need no stinkin' walking sticks" then fell twice going down hard on my wrist and getting dirty. It was humid, I was sweating my ass off, thankfully new friends Karen and Sue took off the boots for me when we got back to the huts cuz my foot was stuck in there and the wrist wasn't working. I quickly washed up, changed to shorts and a sleeveless shirt, put a bandaid on where the ankle had rubbed against the boot, and headed out for the Laguna Kawana Reserva tour. I wasn't sure I'd do this, it wasn't included in the overall tour, but the hotel was very remote and the pool didn't seem entertaining enough for that many hours, so we paid the $80 for a paddle boat ride on a lagoon where there was a bit of wildlife including a monkey following us around. We then had a mediocre lunch (not included, I passed on the slugs) where monkeys hung out watching us eat. We then visited a native village where we saw some cooking, tasted the chocolate they made, and the females got the men in our group to dance around, that was amusing. It seemed like a long bus ride back, jumped in for a desperately needed shower and relaxed at our nice dinner of short ribs and cake. And hung at the outdoor bar until it closed. 

We passed on a slug lunch at another place

The men attempting the native dance


After finally getting our bill paid at the Amazon hotel on Wed. (credit card machine had issues), we got on the bus to head back to Quito with a stop at the "Middle of the World", where you can stand with a foot in each hemisphere. I really looked forward to this and it was a cute little tourist attraction. We had a nice lunch and some time to wander around. I found a great deal on t-shirts, 3 for $20 in women's sizes (not always easy to find) so got a couple gals to go in on it with me. FYI, Ecuador uses the US dollar so while it makes paying for things easy, you usually don't get the super bargains like you do in the rest of South America. We got back to Quito on the late side. John, Susan, Mike and I got a cocktail in the hotel lobby with some of the folks and Bruce and Karen from Ottawa joined us for dinner at this place Miskay I'd found which was excellent. John, Mike and I wandered around a little but sadly "After Hell" wasn't open.  Mike and I found this cute bar "One More" which we closed (it was only 11 something). 


Middle of the earth and on the road

Thurs. I had found a great deal with Tours by Locals to visit the dormant Pululahua volcano and a couple hummingbird places. The Vietnamese in the group also wanted to come so 8 of us piled in with our nice guide Juan Pablo aka JP (we explained the JP connection to him) and headed out at 8AM or so. The volcano wasn't what I expected, people live there and it just looks like a village in a deep valley.  Did a hike around the area where I asked JP if they have ticks there. He didn't know what I meant but didn't think so, let's just say some bugs were lurking (but more to come later). The hummingbirds were fun, the place had amazing coffee then to another bird place and a hike around the river and some not as good coffee. Sadly, no time to shop for t-shirts. We got dropped off at the TelefériQo gondola but the Asian crew skipped it. That's too bad cuz it was worth it, going up to >14,000 feet and soaking in that obviously great view. Got back to town later than I'd hoped and needed to get some food. While wandering around old town, we fell prey to the "Quito Pigeon Shit Scam". I had texted everyone about this the day before we left but no one read it, and I should have been more attuned to it. We rounded a corner and one guy came up talking about pigeons and 3 of us had unknown crap on our backs. He's being all "helpful" wiping it off but then two more guys came over, that's when it dawned on me what was happening. I told everyone to cross the street and at the same time, 3 people walking by told us to be careful. Mike finally made it across the street and nothing got taken but he was a little more upset by this than me and John. We all definitely needed to wash up, chill and eat so we hit this cute place I'd seen in the Bishop's House previously, Café del Fraile, where they had a happy hour but I actually went with an ice cold beer. Three of us got good sandwiches, with tomato and lettuce (this is key), Susan got ceviche, it was good. Until it wasn't, but more on that later. I'd read about the nice cocktails at Casa Gangotena in a swanky hotel and that was nice. But the big Christmas parade we'd seen going on jammed up the town and we had to walk a way to get a taxi back to the hotel. Which normally we could walk but it had been a long, long day.


Back to Quito

Sadly our time in Quito was coming to a close and it was too late to visit the big market or the monastery for their homemade brews or to see any of the parks. Mike and I hopped in for quick showers to try to get out for a little nightlife. Hoping that After Hell would be open on a Thurs. but alas, even tho a web site says they're open we had no luck (or didn't know the secret code). After wandering around, we ended up on the balcony of a loud bar where we got 3 supersized beers for $10 (after telling him we weren't paying a cover charge) and watching the action. 3 giant beers, I was good for about 10 oz, Mike had one and part of another. He hates leaving behind any food or drink but we just had to call it a night. At the hotel my stomach was feeling VERY full even tho I hadn't eaten anything since the late lunch. It was loud on the street, I couldn’t sleep but took a pill and thought things were ok. Until they weren't. Let's just say bright and early Fri. morning things went very bad. I was gonna hit the bakery around the corner to take a snack on the plane but was prevented from that. We'd heard Bruce was having "issues" and I joked that I'd grab aisle seats with him for easy bathroom access. Then everyone was saying they had issues. Mike was passing out his Imodium to folks, but he was mostly ok til later. 3/4 of the group got it including John who then got Covid on top of things, but he didn't know that til he came back. Pretty sure the lettuce and/or tomato were the culprits, it sure wasn't fun.



Took more Imodium and drank lots of water on the flight to the Galapagos and finally started to get back to normal. It was silly to wait for a bus at the airport, the hotel was about 1/3 of a mile away tops.   The Galapagos Planet Hotel was not the height of luxury for sure. We had an orientation then did a quick walking tour thru the main drag of town. So many sea lions, they're the equivalent of our geese I think. Mike took a swim after with sea lions around him. John was feeling grossly sick so Susan and I walked around town, joined some other Canadians Maryellen and Norm at a spot with pretty bad cocktails but Norm didn't care, he took my crappy drink. Susan got a rice dish to take back to John and I met folks at a place called the Post Office for a drink. Norm had about 7 wines haha. Mike eventually showed up, it was kind of our hangout place for the 3 days there. 


Hummingbirds hanging around Mike

So at some point on Sat. I noticed I had a bunch of itchy bites on my ankles which I assumed were from the volcano walk or when we were by the river. On top of that, the bandaid I'd used to deal with the boot issue irritated my skin on the lower ankle (this is something that can happen to me), it was pretty ugly esp. on the left side. The bites turned disgustingly pussy and very red then pus showed up on the right ankle. A bunch of us went to snorkel early that morning (had only done it once before, needed to get used to it again) and I thought the salt water might dry that shit up but no such luck. On top of things, I spaced on putting sunscreen on my back and it was crazy burnt. This gal Valeria at the hotel was helping a person with a fall she took and I asked if she had anything for my gross bites. She thought I should go to the emergency room which was not what I thought she'd say. But you hear these stories of flesh-eating diseases and I was starting to get a tad worried. She took the cab with me to the kind of sad looking ER where we waited about 45 min and she translated everything for me. The doctor gave me a couple packs of free antibiotics and lotions and told me to buy one anti-fungal soap from the pharmacy for all of $2. So with the price of cab rides it was $6 for visiting the ER in the Galapagos. How much do you think that would have cost in the States? I wasn't up for the group tour to see tortoises at La Laberia so I hopped in the shower with my new soap, found an iced coffee and got a giant slice of cake at Café San Cristobal, walked around town and got a nice happy hour drink at Muyu with a gorgeous sunset. Later on, Mike, Susan and a dragging ass John met at Post Office for dinner where I had a good fried shrimp sandwich. 



On Sun. we went to the San Cristobal Interpretation Center with Norm and Mary Ellen to learn about the islands, then to the most convenient beach. It was stiflingly hot so we soon headed to lunch. Very pleasant on their upper deck, did 2 for 1 margaritas with John but made the mistake of eating Susan’s salad with my plantain/meat dish. The four of us tried to watch the sunset at Post Office later but it was cloudy and John took off as he still wasn't feeling well. Susan, Mike and I walked around the main drag looking for a cocktail ending up at  Midori Sushi. Then a stop for ice cream for Susan and Mike then we saw Bruce eating by himself across the street cuz his wife had also gone to the ER with super bad "issues". He had a pizza he couldn't finish and a slice was exactly what I was craving so that worked out well. We all walked back to the hotel and I could feel my own issues coming on again, I think eating that salad was a dumb move. It was a long nite but an Imodium or two in the morning seemed to take care of it. The joys of traveling in South America.



Mon. it's time to fly to Guyaquil still feeling a bit funky but okay. We had to wait for a bus to go the 10 min walk to the tiny, crappy airport then the not well-planned day had us arrive in Guayaquil at 5PM so too late for the scheduled city walk. At least the Hotel River Garden was a real hotel and felt like the Ritz after the last place. We just regrouped and went to a restaurant on my list, La Pata Gorda, where they serve lots of crab dishes. As a back story, Guayaquil is not a safe place these days and everyone was on guard (more info here:; Maybe too much (although the fact that a gang took over a TV station a month after we were there may justify paranoia). Susan and I were ready to walk the maybe 15 min but we played it safe and took a cab (which took forever to come). I paid attention to the route and it seemed fine, plus after sitting on our asses all day, I really wanted to walk the short way back. No one else would join me so I was left to walk back by myself and obviously had no issues. It ended up being quite pretty along the park and river with tons of people and families out.   

More Guayaquil

On Tues. 6 of us went up the 444 steps to the cute Santa Ana neighborhood. Couldn't believe John came out for this strenuous excursion. I would have really liked to have come back later to this old section with lots of little bars and restaurants. We took a quick ride on the cable car to the other side of the city then Mike and I walked to Rea Records (on the street the cab took) where the nice young metal guy employee suggested a couple Ecuadorian bands for us. We stopped in the Metropolitan Cathedral which was beautiful. Got to see tons of iguanas in the park outside the church. Grabbed lunch then headed back for the afternoon guided walk but we'd done 80% of that stuff already, so I joined them for a stop at the big market then left to grab a happy hour drink at a tiki bar next to the hotel. People had decided to have a group dinner that evening in the hotel, so the 16 of us gathered for an ok meal. Most people were kind of spent by that point, but Mary Ellen, Norm, Mike and I went across the street to this rooftop bar Juliana that was on my list. Cute place with fun drinks and a view. Even  Norm and Mary Ellen had slowed down so one drink and that was our last activity in Ecuador. Besides my stomach being off on the ride home, it was an easy flight back and while a few things went wrong, it all made for a good story (c'mon, tarantulas, trip to an ER, bird shit scam, etc) and I'm glad I went.


home | interviews | photos | features |BGN issue list | reviews
links | contact us

Copyright © 2017 Joanie Lindstrom. All rights reserved.