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Old 09-05-2012, 10:51 AM   #1
familygoboston
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Trip Report: Ecuador-Andean Highlands and Galapagos Islands August 2012

Andean Highlands and Galapagos Islands Adventures By Disney August 2012


Ordinarily, I write a very comprehensive review of my trips, but I'm torn about this one. One of the very special things about an ABD journey are all the special surprises and unexpected touches. I want to provide information for people who are planning an upcoming journey, but don't want to spoil all the fun either. So I am going to review my ABD here in DIS with photos and lots of planning tips included, but I'll put in a disclaimer if I'm going to reveal the surprises..

For this review I will post the day by day travelogue review in black and include "TIPS" in bold italic blue. I do intersperse these in the travelogue so that the reader can see exactly why I make the suggestion, but if you are just looking for planning tips...you can just look for the bold italic sections and the photos, and skip the travelogue.

A disclaimer: ! I am pretty honest, I enjoy traveling, but tell it like it is. I know this board tends to be pretty Disney positive, but if something isn't quite right I'll say so. Of course this is my opinion, someone else on the same trip could have a completely different experience. It will be very long! Already I have 17 pages of narrative with 10-25 photos per page. Also, some people may not enjoy my reviews, I ramble, I digress, I speak parenthetically and lots of people probably find it very annoying. If you are one of those folks, there have to be better reviews out there for you! But if you like to come along for the ride, hear some humble opinions about what worked ( and what didn't), maybe laugh a little, then maybe this is for you! In either case: you've been warned!

Photos: Almost all of the photos are by my DH, who is extremely patient with my art direction (me: "Take that picture, I need it for my review" DH: " yes, dear" ) For those interested he shoots Nikon D 4 for most everything. He also carried the D 800 in the Galapagos and used it in DX mode for the long telephoto shots. I also carried the Nikon AW 100 for video, and DH shot all the underwater shots with it. Additionally, he carried a small Nikon V1 to shoot in the city of Quito, as it is unobtrusive, but still has much of the functionality he wanted. So there are the details about the photos for those of you interested, I actually have no earthly idea what ANY of that means, but will gladly pass along any photo specific questions to the expert;-) Also, if its a bad photo- ( and if you are like me and 95% of the people who see DH's photos, you will not be able to tell its a "bad" photo, but if you are in that 5% and see a bad one, its either one of mine or because I insisted it must be used to illustrate my review over his objections.

A little back ground first:
Our traveling party is my DH and I ( late 40's) our teen daughters, 17 and 15, and we brought my parents ( early 70s) along to celebrate their 50 th wedding anniversary. We have been to WDW more times than is convenient to calculate, done a Disney Cruise, been to Disney Paris, and took a previous ABD to Costa Rica in 2007. We've taken plenty of other trips and cruises too, both with tour groups and independently, DH travels internationally for business frequently, but for this trip chose ABD for a combination of reasons. First, traveling with elders who rarely travel outside the US, I knew they and we could trust the Disney brand to help everyone feel safe and well taken cared for. Secondly, having seen how ABD handles multi generational groups, I knew they would pace the adventure with different options for everyone, and make sure that anyone opting out had a comfortable experience as opposed to being pushed beyond their limits. And lastly, for this particular itinerary, I was very impressed with the wonderful mixture of wildlife viewing balanced with a chance to meet local people, explore local culture and food and see more than one area of the country.

Very few Galapagos trips I researched offer this level of cultural exploration. Not to digress ( ok, I digress) but when we traveled to Africa for a safari, we included a few days to explore some of the local culture in one area where we stayed. What I had originally thought of as an add on, turned out to be a highlight. And I learned something very important about myself; I don't want to explore beautiful natural and wildlife settings without also getting to know the people and the culture of the place. It's important to me to have that context, and connection. Travel to me is not simply a parade of sites or animals, that can happen in a zoo or on TV. Meeting and interacting with real people, being exposed to their culture, foods and lives is the best way to know a place and enrich any natural setting. Given that the Galapagos were settled very recently in human history and only in a very limited number of places- you won't see many local folks (outside of your guide) in the Galapagos, and thus, the ABD with its Andean highlands visit was the perfect set up for us!

Now we are really ready to start!

August 12: The Night Before
Everything is packed. My folks got here from Maine with a dog and a cat to join our dog for 2 weeks. The house and pet sitter was briefed and everyone is ready to go. All was good till my DM wanted a shower before our early flight only to discover that all our plants are in the shower in her bathroom! ( this is a little trick I do to make plant watering easier for our house sitter- who is excellent with animals, but not so great with plants!) I thought we were doing well to have the guest bed made!

TIPS Advance planning and packing tips :
To plan this adventure, I read the anything I could find on the DIS boards ABD section. There was not too much! I am very thankful to Tufbuf for her recent review and to several others who were kind enough to answer questions that I posted. I also researched the Celebrity Expedition boards on Cruise Critic pretty extensively for planning and Galapagos cruising information. And I trolled Trip Advisor to find information about things to do during the pre and post days I planned in Quito.

I also read two guide books; Frommers Ecuador (2nd Edition 2009) and Insight Guides Ecuador and Galapagos (2010). These were woefully out of date and had a lot of misinformation in them. Ecuador, as we learned form our local guides, has been changing rapidly in the last few years, and I found several instances where information was flat out wrong. ( for example - most of the shops and O2 bar at the top of the Teleferico are now closed, it opens earlier than listed, and the names of several museums have changed recently- making it very difficult to communicate with local guides about what we wanted to visit)

My best advice is to go ahead and read them; much of the historical and cultural information was very good, and we found the maps helpful, but get the latest details on pricing, open hours and even museum names from the websites or Trip Advisor destination experts. My best source of help with planning was my TA. We have an excellent TA who put together our African safari and since then I have booked this trip, our upcoming trip to French Polynesia, and a trip to WDW, because I've been so happy with their service.

After all that research; I put together a packing list (an adaptation of one I use for all our trips) and pre departure check list of things to be done before the trip. I almost always start my packing list 6 months in advance. Especially when traveling to places that have a different " season" than the one I will be in a few weeks before departure. Here in NE it can be tough to find shorts in December, so if I have a January departure to a warm place, I like to have my packing list together so I can pick up items in the season they are available and put them aside. About 4-6 weeks in advance I start pulling together the things that I won't be needing to wear and my dedicated " travel" items and lay things out to see how they will fit in my bag, and make sure everything is in good repair ( and fits!).

I know this probably sounds like and excessive amount of planning, but I am actually a very light packer, so this allows me to really pack only exactly what I need, rather than throwing everything in at the last minute and having to sit on the suitcase to make it close;-) I curb my anxiety about whether I have "it all " by remembering there are really only 3 things you MUST bring- your documents, any prescription medications, and lastly the one thing that covers you for anything else- your cash and/or credit cards. Everything else can be improvised, purchased at your destination, or you can live without. This mantra frees me from the craziness that usually characterizes the frenzy before departure.

For this trip we have each packed a roll aboard carryon and a back pack. We checked one large roller duffle to accommodate the extra bathing suits, and sunscreen we need. This larger bag will also make it easier to consolidate dirty laundry as we go, freeing up space in our roll aboards to pack souvenirs we are sure to bring back. I'll put the complete packing list at the end of my review.

(photo of packing)


(photo of packing list)


(photo of pre departure to do list)


Aug 13: Departure Day
Left the house at 6- we were pretty happy to get 6 of us the door on time.

TIPS Not forgetting the important things:
we have a family tradition of checking 3 things. As we drive out the driveway, we stop at the end and I lay my actual hands on all the passports, and other documents we MUST have to be admitted, the prescription medication and at least one credit card. After that- I let it all go, what's remembered, what we've forgotten, from here on out we are on an adventure and will figure it out.

Its always tricky negotiating airports with a large group. Even more difficult with my mom and dad who rarely fly on airplanes and haven't traveled internationally in decades. Due to DH 's frequent business travel along with a pretty hearty serving of vacation travel we are lucky to have " Priority" with American Airlines. So check in goes quickly but after getting in the priority security line, TSA agent eyes my mons carry on and decided moms bag was not carry on size.

We went back to check the offending bag, luckily, being able to once again use the Priority line again, but first had to remove the pills that mom was carrying in her offensively obese carry on. Like dating a tree by counting rings, you can tell a persons age by how many pills they take. I think the ratio goes something like this....1-2 pills for every 10 years of life. So by 70, you've amassed a really lovely, colorful collection of pills and supplements that must be taken every day. My parents are no exception, and as dad says " getting old sure beats the alternative!) Of course the removed pills (cases and cases of them) didn't cooperate by going gently into the back packs- oh no! They pretty much started popping open and rolling around in the bag. Of course this would only be the first time the pills try to make a break for it, but that's a story for later.

(photo of pill cases)


After the contested carry on and pill debacle, we head back to the Priority security line, which luckily is even shorter now, and we zip through security. No thats a complete lie- we hold up security and dozens of irritated and busy business people while hollering at my deaf and incredulous dad that he has to take off his belt..."my belt? Do I have to take off my clothes too?" Did I mention dad hasn't flown in a decade? My mom has a replacement knee that sets of alarms and must be wanded. But is more fun to think we "zipped"!

After security we make our way without incident to Miami...there weren't anymore incidents till it was it was time to deplane in Miami. Then my mother singe handedly held up the plan by forgetting her purse on the seat and having to swim back upstream to get it. And if that wasn't disruptive enough, she also caused my daughter to forget her roller bag. Now, I have trained my girls to be good little travelers; they move through the airport at their fathers pace ( which is quite quick with his height at 66) and they have always pulled their own little wheelie bags, ( we trained them on the kind where you can strap the baby doll to the front, now they've graduated to full size!) So missing her roller bag- DD1 gets up and immediately says to her grandmother " I have to get my roller bag" to which Grandmother says " oh not to worry, I saw your dad take them all down". So we start off and get into the terminal and just as we are about to get on the first escalator DD1 says " where's my roller bag?" Umm...it would still been the plane in the overhead. So now dd1 and DH are swimming upstream to get back on the plane to reclaim the bag.

Bag saved, lunch at the food court and it's time to sit and wait for our Mia- Quito flight. Which was uneventful- except for another pill incident. This time DF and DM must take some of those pills they packed since its lunch time. Unfortunately, pills end up on the floor of the plane, DF is very upset that a pill might be lost ( except that in fact they packed two extra weeks worth of pills - just in case. Just in case what, I'm not exactly sure, but if Armageddon happens and we need to stay on this trip an extra fortnight, my parents are prepared!) )I come back from the lavatory to find my mom on her hands and knees on the floor where she is sure she sees a pill she missed. In fact, she rescues... a cocktail peanut, that just looks like a pill!

The rest of the flight was unremarkable- except for the part where the flight attendant asked if all 6 of us were together and when we told her it was to celebrate my folks 50 th anniversary, she proceeded to slip me a big bottle of champagne to celebrate. Except, did I mention my DF is a recovering alcoholic? Well, it was very thoughtful!

After landing in Quito at about 6:30 PM, we proceeded downstairs to a queue where we filled out a customs form. We had already filled out the immigration form onboard the aircraft, one per passport. The customs form is one per family. They are particularly looking for people bringing boxed electronics back for the US to sell ( we saw at least two boxes of brand new electronic items go into the overhead on this flight) . We had plenty of electronics, but everything was coming back with us in 2 weeks! The line was a bit slow, but because of our large flight, a couple of extra immigration agents were added and things moved pretty well, about 15-30 minute wait. Then we picked up our luggage, which you can actually see on the carousel from the immigration line ( there's our bag...there's our bag again, there's our bag...well, you get the idea! )
We collected the bags and queued up again, this times for customs. They looked at the customers form and were scanning every single bag coming into the country, with one single scanner. This queue was about 30-40 minutes long, but the ABD guides told us some have been held up as much as an hour or more if more than one flight comes in at a time. We could see our ABD guide holding the sign outside the secure area every time the door opened. Later he told us that the customs agents have been checking everything because of this tax on new electronics coming in, and not wanting people smuggling electronics ("nope, officer, no electronics to declare, we are just here to see ****ies!")

Our ABD transfer guide then led us through the airport, which was pretty chaotic with families greeting arrivals, little children selling candy, and plenty of porters and cabbies. It was busy, but no one bothered us, or appeared to be overly aggressive about approaching people. My 70 YO parents were each pulling a fairly large bag, my father carrying a 3rd, plus small back packs (at that elevation and tired form flying all day) and they were finding it hard to keep up with the transfer guide. He was parked easily a 1/4 mile from the terminal and I felt he should have at least offered to assist the elders with a bag. He dashed ahead with his sign, while my folks were huffing to keep up. I was disappointed because I had specifically booked ABD because I could assure my parents that they would not need to touch their bags once we were being handled by ABD. As the host of this adventure for my parents, I was disappointed that this was their first contact. Not cool, and definitely not very ABD like, since we had no problem the rest of the trip; with our guide Laura even joking with the group on our last day at the Quito airport when folks went to pick up bags... "step away from the bags!". So this was unusual IMO. The transfer guide was otherwise informative and helpful on the bus, and it took about 20 minutes to get to the Marriott in fairly heavy traffic for 8:15 PM on a Monday night.

Upon arriving at the JW Marriott, we were greeted by a hotel staffer in traditional dress and offered a local juice and hot towels. Very nice!

(photo of JW Marriott)


The ABD transfer guide gave us our room keys, and said his goodbyes. We did go to the desk to get the room keys changed over to reflect my DH Gold Elite Marriott status so we would have access to the Elite lounge on level 9, and to have a credit card on file for incidentals. We did head to the lounge to get the teenagers some desserts ( served 8-10PM) and stock up on water bottles for the next mornings tour. There was a lovely deck overlooking the city, and this was our first night time view of Quito.
After getting to our rooms and cleaning up a bit, we hit the hay! We had a guide from Ecuadorian Tours that had been set by our TA for 10 AM the next day. We had a note in our room from our Adventure Guides, Laura and Robby, that they would be in the lobby at 9:30, and (again in the evening), so we would have a chance to " check in" before our day tour.

TIPS Arrival Day and Travel Tips:
We decided to book our pre and post nights and air through ABD. The air cost not one penny more, we were able to choose our preferred flights, my DH was able to use his FF# to access his favorite exit row seats. He also has status at Marriott, booking through ABD cost us no more per night, and we had breakfast and transfers included, even 2 days AFTER our adventure was over. It was a completely seamless vacation and cost no extra. My DH was also able to get "credit" for the nights in Quito with Marriott. There was no reason not to book it all directly through ABD ( via my wonderful TA)
Also, we planned to arrive one day ahead, which in retrospect was a very smart thing to do. While we may not have had a big "jet lag" to deal with (only 1 hour time difference in the summer because of DLST here in the Eastern US), some people had flights arriving into the late evening the night before our journey to the Otavalo valley area started. Others were arriving from the West or Midwest, so Jet lag would have more of an effect. The first day on the ABD bus is a long one, starting early, so I really recommend trying to get in the night before, (pay for a pre night)so you have the "first" day of the adventure to relax at the hotel, meet the guides and other adventurers or explore a little of Quito.


JW Marriott is a very high end Marriott and one of the best accommodations in Quito. It is very much designed to cater to the international business person, so you will find that most of the amenities and design is similar to what you find in other parts of the industrialized world. A gleaming lobby filled with roses, a very efficient front desk, a well stocked Elite lounge on the 9th level. Several excellent (and expensive by Ecuadorian standards) restaurants and shops.

(photos of lobby)









The rooms were very large and well appointed, with plenty of outlets for charging and a clock radio with and ipod dock. The beds are huge, comfortable and have loads of pillows. Service and housekeeping was excellent, and prompt.

(photo of the room)


The bath was large with a single sink, soaking tub, separate shower and toilet enclosures. Free bottled water was provided in both the bath and bedroom, for teeth brushing, however my DF and I each accidently brushed with tap and had no ill effects. Also, JW Marriott has a more up to date plumbing system and items such as TP can be tossed into the toilet. Here is a good place for potty talk...

TIPS Potty Talk Tips: (I work with pre schoolers so am quite comfortable with potty talk, if you are not, just skip past this section)
-OK, here it is...the water: As Americans were are told not to drink the water in South America, as the sanitation of water is different and can upset US travelers tummies. This is known as Tourista, Montezuma's revenge and other fun names. But bottom line (no pun intended) is its best to drink bottled or purified water. In the hotel rooms, this includes not brushing teeth with tap water. In all our ABD hotels, we were provided with bottled water for this purpose. Any water served at hotels and restaurants on the ABD tour and in the Marriott were assured to be using purified water for their juices and foods. No one in our family suffered with this problem, so they obviously do a good job.

-I always eat yogurt when traveling, without getting to graphic the probiotics in yogurt are very protective from getting bouts of so called "tourista" . Both DH and I have had very good luck since eating yogurt, or in his case taking a daily probiotic. One difference is the yogurt here is very thin, no difference in taste, just the consistency, I actually drank it like a smoothie a couple of days.

-The toilets: In most of Ecuador, the plumbing is designed in such a way that nothing, including TP, can be tossed into the toilets. Most public bathrooms in non tourist or low budget areas do not offer TP at all. In some places there is a small charge (10-25 cents)that you pay the woman attending the restroom (and I must say its usually a family affair, she will be there with her mother and several young children who wander in and out of the bathrooms) at the entrance. For this, you will get a little wad of paper. This paper and anything else that you might think about tossing into a US toilet should be thrown instead into the basket in the stall. In nicer places, it is a covered foot pedal can, in lesser spots, an open basket. Attended "banos" will also have soap, others may not. In the case of your ABD, your guides will always have TP and hand sanitizer for every bath stop. If there is an attendant, the guides will pay them after the group has finished, so no need during the tour to worry about these things. If you are moving around on your own during your pre or post nights, I recommend that you carry a packet or two of kleenex, some hand sanitizer, and a few coins (US coins are legal tender in Ecuador)for this purpose. Hand sanitizer is worth using even after washing with soap and water. We washed often and avoided being sick! In the end (ok, I planned that one!)its a good idea to have your doctor give you a prescription for antibiotics in case you do end up with a protracted problem. A bout or two is just your bodies way of getting rid of what it sees as a threat, but more than that and you might find relief with the antibiotic. We get them whenever we travel to places where we are concerned about health care access and never use them, but better safe than sorry!


Up Next: Our first day in Quito!
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EuroDisney, Paris 1994
Disney Magic Bahamas Cruise 2002
ABD La Pura Vida Costa Rica 2007
ABD Andean Highlands and Galapagos Islands 2012
Photo Review: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2987674
WDW- visits since 1976, lost count a long time ago.
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:01 AM   #2
familygoboston
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Day 1 Aug 14 Bienvenidos, First day in Quito

Day 1 Aug 14 Bienvenidos, First day in Quito

We were up at about at 6 due to the time change. ( because we are from the East coast in DLST we moved the watch back 1 hour when we got to Quito; winter trips will not need to change time at all from the East Coast) We had planned to meet for breakfast at 8:30 ( included in our pre night rate). We actually headed down just after 8 since everyone was up and feeling well. We had been concerned about managing the altitude in Quito. When you fly into Quito, you arrive in a valley surrounded by volcanoes as high as 18 thousand feet; a valley that is 9000 feet high, so what look like 9000 foot peaks are actually higher and what appears to be "sea level" is in fact, very high altitude. We had read about the altitude and were concerned about it, so we were wondering how we would feel the first day.

(photo of Quito valley graphic)


TIPS Managing the Altitude Tips: - We had done some reading and talked to our travel Dr about the altitude, he prescribed diamox in case of a bad reaction to the altitude, but we again expected not to need this and didn't. We had read a study which concluded that ibuprofen taken a day ahead and then during the high altitude stay can be preventative. They reported that more research is needed, but it seemed a simple low risk thing to try, and we are often taking ibuprofen for muscle aches or cramps or headaches anyway, so we did try this. We also hydrated on plane and on landing and made sure we took it easy (no working out at the club the first day- or any day for that matter). DH was unwell with a headache in the early morning the first day, but he's susceptible to migraines triggered by any number of things we experienced that day ( changes in temp, atmospheric pressure, missing meals, dehydration.) So as he started to feel a headache coming on, he took one of his migraine prescriptions on an empty stomach and then suffered with a bit of nausea. This could have been related to the altitude, but he's had this problem before many times at sea level, and since none of the other 5 of us had any ill effects, I'm inclined to say it was just him. The rest of us did feel a little winded if walking up stairs or doing something vigorous, ( like carrying luggage through the airport)and DD1 and I both had the slightest of headaches, which went away immediately when taking our ibuprofen. So all in all, I would say this is a " don't worry, but be prepared "scenario, it seems only a very small percentage of people are bothered enough to affect their trip, and if you prepare as if it was like the chance of catching a cold- could happen, so have some medicines and a plan, but it's unlikely. Its a good idea to have a good travel physician to work with, we have one who is excellent at assessing the real and perceived risks of a place and counseling and preparing us for what we can expect to happen and be ready if a worst case scenario comes up.

The included breakfast was held downstairs in Bistro Latino, the indoor cafe with a view of the pool area. It's an extensive buffet with an omelet and egg station. In addition to all the usual eggs, bacon, pappas, ( breakfast potatoes), pancakes, there was hot cereal, cold cereal, yogurt, sushi, ceviche, breakfast meats and cheeses in addition to pastries and fruits I would never have imagined existed ( but also all your comfortable favorites). 3 juices were offered, neat blends of strawberry and papaya, and all those other fruits, as well as orange.

Coffee is poured- be aware that it is offered as " black" and "con leche"; con leche is really half coffee half milk, so if you want coffee with a splash of milk or cream, you'll need to get black and just get some milk or cream from the cereal bar. Communicating to the waiter that you only want a little is tricky as most of the waiters don't speak much English, so unless you know enough Spanish to explain the nuances of American coffee, you are probably better going with the Ecuadorian flow, (when in Rome) or fixing up your coffee yourself!

My girls had a ball at breakfast, eating shrimp ceviche ( which in Ecuador is made with cooked shrimp and is easier on our American digestive systems than raw ceviche found in other areas) and banana leave wrapped corn and chicken empanadas as well as all those wonderful friuts? Every day we played a tropical fruit version of name that tune ..." this one has a tomato/kiwi taste, that one is like mango peach " Man, fruit is fun here! My personal favorite was guaynabana, which I had in yogurt and as helado (ice cream) whenever I could. It has a green spiky avocado look, but tastes like a kiwi mango mashup...really, its impossible to describe these fruits, you just have to try them all!!

(photo of gauynabana yogurt)


After an enormous breakfast ( in our family we tend to eat only 2 big meals so we can be on the go the rest of the time.) We went to meet Laura and Robby (our local guide) at 9:30 AM.

(photos of Robbie and Laura, and a little preview of the GI)



They had the table set with guest rosters, ( thank goodness, or it will be the last day before I remember everyone's names!) the " Story" and the other surprises...those on prior ABDs knew what was coming...but for newbies, it's fun to just be surprised a bit! We got the run down about our official first morning ( bags out by 6:30 and breakfast all together at 7:00.) Then they helped folks to who had come in a day (or more) early to plan their day in Quito. We meet several other ABD families, and as usual, we found them to be the same kind of positive upbeat people we've met on our other ABD journey.

This is another advantage to ABD's in our opinion. We've been on trips where we've met some real jerks; snarky, entitled, jaded , negative people who go to a new place with a closed mind. We've found that the very nature of the Disney Brand seems to self select people who are not like this. How many of you fellow "Disney -philes" out there have seen the eyes roll when you say Disney...yup- those people, they won't be on your adventure, and that makes it better before you've even stepped foot on the bus;-)

And yet...While I love Disney, I don't want my trips to foreign countries to be anything but authentic, otherwise, I could just go to EPCOT. What I learned after being a skeptic myself ( but not being able to resist a kids travel free with parents special in 2007 that saved us 5 grand.) was that ABDs provided some incredibly authentic experiences, that I couldn't arrange on my own. A HS dance troop, native Costa Ricans sharing their art work and history in their native language translated to Spanish then to English by our guide. A trip to the pineapple plantation that I was sure would be hokie, but instead was a real look at an important agricultural business and the real people who make it work. I came home a convert. Paraphrasing the worlds most interesting man from the beer commercial " I don't always take an organized tour, but when I do, I often take ABD. But I digress!

We took a map of Quito they offered and met our driver from Ecuadorian Tours in the lobby. We had expected Pablo to be just a driver, possibly with limited English skills. Instead we met Pablo, with impeccable English, and an extensive knowledge of his city and country- the history, the geology and the flora and fauna. He not only drove but provided narrative about things we passed and while we were expecting to just be dropped off at the Teleferiqo and the Museum , which were on our agenda for the day. Instead, provided we paid the $4.50 for his ride on the tram, he not only accompanied us up the mountain, but led us on a tour of the geological and geographical features, as well as pointed out plants and talked about their traditional uses by native people. We quickly decided, we would increase his tip from driver level ($5 pp per day) to guide level ($10 pp per day) he was worth every penny!

Teleferiqo is a must do we almost didn't do! We had read on Trip Advisor not to attempt the gondola ride in the first 24 hours upon arrival at that altitude. Quito sits at about 9 k feet and the gondola whisks you up mount Pichincha in 10 minutes, another 4 k feet to 13 k feet! That's some thin air! But out group really wanted to get an early overview of the area, and we decided if we were all feeling ok we would do it. We were so glad we did! The views are amazing. Our guide told us that the gondola is made by POMA, who make most of the major ski lifts in the world and have a good safety record if maintained. Our guide assured us it was safe, but warned us off of ziplining in Mindo later in our trip, so I have no reason to think he was not being honest with us.

(photos of teleferiqo prices and cars)


You can see ( if the weather cooperates) for miles in every direction. This is where having a good guide is worth it. Certainly you can take a taxi and go up the gondola and see the view. But the guide was able to point out key volcanoes (though on this day we couldn't see the snowy peaks above the clouds), show us the direction in which we would be heading on later parts of our trip ( Mindo and Otovalo ) as well as point out the geological forces and features that create this landscape. There is a net work of worn dirt tracks, and they are easy enough to follow on your own, as you are above the tree line, so you can see where you've been and where you go. But we did feel the altitude, especially climbing. Despite being in very good physical shape ( vigorous New England hill cycling 50-75 miles a week) we did feel winded when walking up hill. My older folks did fine, but we took it slow. And DM only went 1/2 way then headed to wait inside.

Do walk to the area where the horse back riding concession is, there are the most amazing views along this route, and an incredible " gorge" that you can overlook right by the stables. Just follow the dirt track and stairs up past the concession building and follow the signs for " caballo" ( horses for rent) The whole walk is short - cant be more than a mile, but at that altitude it's a good hike and has amazing views.

(photos of teleferiqo views and summit)









When you see this sign...keep going...



for this beautiful view!





TIPS Teleferiqo Tips:
-the guidebooks all say it opens at 10 weekdays, 9 on weekends, but it really opens at 8. This is because mornings are often clearer, and the best chance to see the snow covered peaks. Be prepared for the weather at the top, its a mountain!
-dress appropriately, it is windy and maybe 20 degrees cooler at the top. We wore fleece tops, long pants and windbreakers, a nice hat for our ears and possibly light fleece gloves if you are sensitive to the cold. My DF did the whole hike (1 hour ) in short sleeves, but he's a nut! The rest of us wore our fleeces, windbreakers and hats and were comfortable.
- the guide books also mention shops, concessions, and an oxygen bar. Most of that is not there anymore; our guide told us the shops could not make a go of it with the cost of rents, and they are abandoned concrete buildings now. This is for the better IMO, and seems to bring the place back to its more " natural state"
- there were 2 food concessions at the top, but beware! One had a huge orange sticker taped crime scene style over the door deeming it closed ( and to the best of my Spanish ability, the notice was from a governmental public health inspection agency) My mother witnessed this at the other open concession; a worker took 4 used mugs into the men's room, rinsed them out in the sink and returned them to the cook, who filled them with hot soup to sell to patrons. As you can imagine we didn't eat there, and I don't recommend you do either unless it is a packaged snack.
-the bathrooms are like many public flush toilets in Ecuador, toilet paper and soap is not provided, so it's a good idea to get yourself a couple of packets of Kleenex to carry around ( not needed on the ABD, guides carry TP for you! So add that to threads about whether an ABD is "worth it")
- buy the express pass, it's $2 more, but they alternate taking people from the regular and express, but because the express is shorter you will get on and back down quicker.
-enjoy the families around you...this is a popular day trip for local families and we enjoyed watching the families enjoying their day!


After descending, we walked back down the hill to our van, and headed over to the Museo Nacional Del Banco Central, which is now called the National Museum of Quito. There used to be an entrance fee, but now it is free to all.

(photo of sign)



This museum is essentially an art museum. It has ceramics, and metal work organized by the periods they were made and by the peoples (tribes) who made them. So the art becomes a remarkable chronological journey through the anthropological and geographical history of the earliest peoples of Ecuador. There are excellent Spanish and English descriptions introducing each time period and the peoples, but the individual artifacts are described in Spanish, so here again, it was well worth having a knowledgeable guide. Our guide was able to share the nuances of the materials used in the art and how they related to where the people were from (such as shells used by coastal people)

Each time period also included a diorama of the villages of those people's including earthen features they created that still exist throughout Ecuador today. The dioramas clearly show the people engaged in all their living and art pursuits, so that especially for children, they can get a clear picture of these peoples who created the interesting art they see.

(photos in Museum)

(Over view of the museum)


(ceramic work on display)

After that gallery, we moved on to the Incan conquest and occupations, and displays of incredible gold works. We ended upstairs in the Spanish Colonial works on the second floor, with excellent examples of the Quito School, when the Spanish forced indigenous people to make religious art, and developed their own unique style.

(photos of gold and Quito school works)



(entry to the "Gold Gallery" Incan works)


(The pregnant Madonna- example of Colonial era "School of Quito" work)




I must say, due to our short 5 hour day with the guide, we only had about 1 1/2 hours at the museum, you could easily spend 2 or more, but we were pretty much done in by 2:30 PM and after a quick detour to see Plaza Foch, which is lovely tourist area with outdoor cafes and shops, we headed back to the Marriott.

We decided on a "lupper" at the Mexican Restaurant at the Marriott, enjoying fajitas and steaks at the Don Porfirio. The food was excellent, and we the dining room to ourselves! After lupper, we went back to our rooms to relax a while and pack up for the early bag collection. After packing and resting, we decided to wander a bit and take some photos of the hotel, and DD1 sketched some of the beautiful flower arrangements in the lobby.

At about 7:30 we headed back up to the lounge on 9 to get the teens some snacks ( the rest of us still weren't very hungry,) and then we went to get some gelato from the coffee shop in the shopping center that is attached to the hotel. This can be billed to your room. It is at hotel rates, vs buying food on the street, which would be far cheaper, but less convenient since its recommended that evening visitors to Quito use cabs rather than walking. There is also an art gallery and a jewelry shop as well as the usual hotel shop and an upscale ladies shop.
After gelato, it was back to the room to relax and get ready for an early bedtime!

TIPS Tips for Quito on your:
-the elevation is very high, for the Teleferiqo, a warm fleece, windbreaker/rain jacket over, hat and lightweight fleece gloves. It's very windy and cold at the top. For walking around town, I found long pants, a short sleeve shirt with a light layer ( fleece or safari style short) over it to be comfortable.
-We did not wear jewelry ( I left my diamond home and wear a simple white gold band I travel with in the developing world) on this part of the trip. We carried small cameras in our pockets, rather than a large camera bag. I used a money belt with copies of our passports and the bulk of cash we needed. I used a small ID wallet with a clip that I clipped to my belt loop and tucked into my front pocket to access quick cash at entrances etc. If I needed more cash for the next stage or place, I'd use the ladies room or a quiet corner of a museum to access more cash from the money belt into the clip wallet. We had no problems as we had a private guide and car, but we used the same precautions we would gave for walking or talking public transit in any large city.
-As mentioned earlier we packed some Kleenex packs and wished I had remembered my own hand sanitizer.
- (tips on tipping;-) Some internet research told me that for private guiding in Quito to expect to tip $5 per person per full day for a driver, $10 per person per full day for a guide. You will have both a driver and a guide if you book tours with Ecuadorian Tours, unless you request just a driver. Remember once with ABD...you only tip the adventure guides... that's it!
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:05 AM   #3
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Day 2 Aug 15- Middle of the Earth, Out to the Otavalo Valley

We have our first official ABD breakfast this morning. We get all our trip details from Robbie and Laura and all our fellow adventurers introduce themselves. We are out onto the bus by 8 AM and meet our driver for the trip, Miguel. With about a 2 hours drive ahead, we settle in for a narration by Robbie of some basic history and culture of Ecuador, while watching amazing scenery roll by and chugging up and down the Andean foothills, on the Pan American High way.

(photos of driving on the bus and Miguel)



Our first stop ( except bath breaks) is the Quitsato Mitadad del Mundo- the monument to the middle of the world. The popular equator line where you can straddle both the north and south equator or hop back and forth from summer to winter. The guide for Quitsato does a little talk in which they introduce a new map where the equator is in the middle of the map. It's an interesting perspective...I'm sharing the map with you-'whether it catches on- we will see;-)

(photo of Quitsato map)





(photo of monument)







After the monument, we travel another 20 minutes to a Rose Plantation, this one uses organic methods, such as planting mint with the roses to prevent pests, and raising their own animals and plants to make a fertilizer cocktail to feed the roses. We see the rose operation from plants to shipping; all narrated by Carolina in Spanish, then translated by Robbie to English. Carolina is a professional botanist who runs the whole operation. Digression here: She is one of the few women we see "in charge" of anything here, except for Sra. Cotacachi, the weavers wife... we noticed she handles all the money;-). We do see several women officers on GE II and some business women in the hotel, whom we notice all wear grey suits, which makes me think of the 1990's in the US, and that seems just about right;-)

Back to the roses! We learn that the reason roses are a major export for Ecuador is because the sun is directly overhead, all year long the roses grow very straight. many of these roses go to Russia where the market is for very long roses.

(photos of the Rose plantation)

















Back on the road again, our next stop is lunch at the Molino San Juan. We have a hot drink of conalazo there, which is like a mulled cider, and hear a brief history of the Hacienda from the owner and her representative. This lunch is Ecuadorian specialties and is very, very good.

(photos of Molino and food)







On the road again after lunch we head to the village of Peguche, here we visit the home of a well know family band, Nanda Minachi, who also shows us how to make pan flutes (called zampona) and he plays many other South American instruments for us. His family performs a tune and then we make our own zampona, with lots of assistance!

(photos from Minachi home)











Coming up: more Day 2
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:10 AM   #4
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Day 2 Aug 15- Middle of the Earth, Out to the Otavalo Valley (con't)

We also visit Jose Cotacachi , a well known artisan weaver, who demonstrates weaving and Sra Cotacachi demonstrates how dyes are made from a beetle found on cacti and natural additives such as sulfur from the volcanic eruptions, juice from limons (there is no word to differentiate lemons from limes) that grow on trees here. There is a chance to buy woolens and weavings here and they are of amazing quality. I'm a llama and alpaca wool fan, and often shop for these in the States, and for work of this quality I would see prices 2-3 times higher in US shops!

(photos of Cotacachi)
(the European loom on which Jose weaves most of his work)





(at an Andean loom, sitting on the floor)




(Sra. Cotacachi explains how dyes are made)



(and the kids get to try it!)



This village is a highlight for us. Many local people are doing laundry in a flowing stream, others are cooking "tipico" typical Ecuadorian food on open fires in their homes. We are invited to shops connected to their homes and it was clear that both were family run operations. It is fun interacting with the local folks and they seemed happy to share their crafts with us. It doesn't feel "staged", but rather like someone arranged for a special visit with local artisans, which is in fact what happened!

(Peguche Village photos)





Our next stop is our hotel for the next 2 nights, Hacienda Pinsaqui.

(photos of HP)

















We were greeted by a musical group and walked to the entrance and were provided with a delicious fruit drink and the owner gave us a brief history of the plantation. Then we walked the grounds in the shadow of the volcano, which were lovely! There are horses and llamas on the property as well as beautiful trees and flowers. There are fountains everywhere and a beautiful chapel. But the whole place is very rustic, and old, if you prefer everything very new and modern, this is not it. However, these are considered the best accommodation in this area.

We were led to our rooms which are set up in a group of 4 rooms surrounding a courtyard with a fountain and outdoor seating. The rooms have a huge armoire and either a king and small daybed or a set of twins. There are wood stoves in some rooms and they placed an electric heater in our room too. There are very high ceilings and the room is painted yellow ochre. The best part is the windows, one overlooking the courtyard, one overlooking the horse corral and another overlooking a small porch. The bath is simple, a tub, shower, and vanity. As with most Ecuadorian plumbing, a trash basket for all toilet paper, which cannot be thrown in the toilet. The only toiletries on offer are a bar of soap and a plastic packet of shampoo. Another thing to note- face clothes are not used here and therefore not provided.

TIPS Toiletry Tips: We don't usually pack shampoo because we carry on our bags, but here I would, (or carry the provided shampoo and conditioner form the Marriott with you on the rest of the trip)both the HP and the ship offered only shampoo, and with the dry season, I felt like I needed conditioner. We ended up buying a bottle in a shop before going on the GEII. Also, in Ecuador, all the plugs are compatible with US appliances, so you will have no trouble with razors or charging electronics. Every bath on our tour had blow dryers in the room, so you don't need to bring that.

We were in room 28. 25 - 28 were located in one building. Our room had a king size bed and a small daybed (therefore it could be a triple). It had a large armoir and two nightstands, an electric heater and a wood stove.

(photos of HP room 28)











We had an odor or sewage near the bed, which is quite far from the bath, so we can only speculate it's near the leach field or a pipe servicing this building(it is on the down hill side of the building) it's not noticeable the second night, so maybe it had just been pumped? Additionally the horse starts before dawn prancing near his oats dish in the corral and this sounds just like people rolling luggage above you. This went on off and on all morning from 4:30-6:30 till I looked out the window and noticed the horse. ( boy, those hooves are loud and reverberate on hard packed ground!) I took a video of him and when he spotted me in the window, he moved on! So if you are in this room or room 27 and it bothers you I'll bet if you make some noise or flash you light or cameras flash, he'll move.

(photos of horse)



There is a dance troupe to entertain us before dinner, which has some Ecuadorian specialties like shrimp ceviche and potato soup, but also familiar things like steak, chicken breast and spaghetti bolognese. After dinner we head to bed because it was such a busy day!


(photos of the dancers)





Up next: Day 3
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:16 AM   #5
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Day 3 Aug 16-Where Condors Soar, more exploration of the Otovalo Valley and Peguche

Started the day at 4 AM with the horse just outside our window stamping his hooves around his bucket- hoping I guess that I'd wake up and give him some hay and oats! And this was supposed to be sleeping in day! We are still adjusting to the hour time difference and are up early anyway, so we were off to enjoy our breakfast buffet.

At 8:30 we headed out on our bus with Miguel and the guides to go to Peguche Water Falls. We had a nice hike up to the falls, and lots of photos, then a hike back. Disney even tips the ladies managing the rest rooms for you!

(photos of Peguche Water Falls)









After the falls we go to Park Condor for a discussion about the parks mission and to see the giant condor- a symbol of Ecuador and other SA countries. The Condors cannot fly, but we see them in their enclosure and they are magnificent if rather ugly birds. But this male does his best to pose for the cameras and we enjoy seeing him, even if we cannot see one in flight!

(photo of condor)





We watch a flying demo and see several birds of prey including two noisy kestrels and an owl as well as an eagle that flies off and returns to its handler.

(Photos of birds- scroll through them really, really fast...see it flies!)










We hike around ( actually up and down, it's quite hilly here) several cages with resident birds that were either born in captivity or are too injured to be released.

(photo of the view and the "corazon" the heart shaped landslide on the volcano)





After returning to the bus, we are take to a small field overlooking the volcano to fly kites. It's a very windy day and the kite strings keep breaking and the kites fly away to the edge of the field, where we chase them around and rescue them to give to the local children who are attracted by our kites from the village below and know if they come up, they will get to see the " gringo" kids and bring home the kites afterwards. They are shy, hanging by the edges till our guide Laura encourages them to join in and some of the adults offer up their kites.

(photos of kite flying)







Finally the wind and flying sand send everyone back to our bus, where we drive down the hill to lunch at Puerto Lago on Lake San Pablo, in the shadow of the Imbabura Volcano. Here in a beautiful lake side dining room with a view of the lake and Imbabura beyond, our family tries the " Tipico" a typical Ecuadorian lunch of pork, plantains, sweet potato patties and corn. For dessert we all enjoy the Guanabana helado. A sherbet made from local fruit that I have been enjoying in yogurt and helado, but cannot pronounce for 2 days! Finally, my daughter reminds me of the muppet song ...manomanom...do do do dodoot. And after much practice I get it;-)

(photo of Peurto Lago)



(photos of lunch)





Puerto Lago appears to have motel style rooms and several people seem to be envious we are not staying here rather than the Pinsaqui.

(photos of Puerto Lago)





Coming up: more day 3
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:27 AM   #6
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Day 3 Aug 16-Where Condors Soar, more exploration of the Otovalo Valley (con't)

After lunch we head to the Otavalo Market, Laura prepares us all for what to expect and encourages everyone to get involved in shopping by explaining a little game. The market is colorful, and when we go, very quiet. We are pretty much the only tourists going through.
Before we go to the market though, Robbie offers to take us 5 blocks away on foot to where the people themselves buy their food, clothes and staples. This is eye opening...whole roasted pigs laying out ready to be cut and sold. Because the Spaniards claimed all the best parts of the animals for themselves and left the offal for the native people; traditional cuisine often includes food made from the hooves, intestines tongue and brains of animals.

Though most Ecuadorians have access to cuts of meats today, these dishes are traditional and many families still enjoy them on certain occasions. The people in this part of Ecuador are very short in stature, largely because so many generations were denied those good proteins.

Only 6 of us chose to go with Robbie to this Market and we made more of a spectacle for the people there than they did for us! Marching through their market was my 6 foot 6 inch tall blond husband and my nearly 6 foot tall blond daughter! Everyone was looking way up at us with big smiles and much awe!

(photos of the real market)





After seeing the real market, we make our way to the Otovalo craft market, which is really set up for tourists. Overall, we did not find the people here to be aggressive (in keeping with the culture of the people of Ecuador, who are very peaceful) A vendor might pick something up to show you, or wave their hand toward their stall, but there is none of the aggressiveness we have experienced in other markets in the world.
We tend to be power shoppers, so we quickly home in on the items we want- a panama hat for DH (exact same brand hat as he saw at Tommy Bahama for 130 he negotiated from 30 to pay 20) a colorful scarf of the type the local people wear for DD for 8 ( negotiated from 12) and a blue woolen poncho for DD2 for 20 ( started at 30). We also purchased a water color painting (which adds to my native art collection that I buy and never get around to hanging!)

(photos of Otavalo craft market)













(Photos of stuff we bought from the craft market)



While my DH and the girls continued shopping, my mom and I met Raoul, our ABD shadow guide, or as I like to call him - the advance man. Side note about Raoul, he was the classic fixer, local guy with the contacts who made sure when we arrive everything is ready to go, he also provides a little muscle when we walk around Peguche with the female guide, though I can honestly say, we never saw anyone that looked threatening or drunk or disorderly on the streets. We saw fewer beggars than I do on an afternoon trip into Boston.
I found that people in general, everywhere we drove or walked seemed to be very industrious, lots of people heading to work or doing chores (such as washing clothes in a creek alongside the road).

At first I thought that may be because Raoul had arrived to Peguche in advance and paid off the ner do wells to move along so we wouldn't see them. But this trip Raoul drove with us in his private car with mom and I and another lady on our trip, back to Peguche where the 3 of us wanted to buy some more woolens from Jose Cotacachi's workshop. They weren't expecting us in Peguche on this day, and pretty much we experienced the same environment, so I truly believe this is how the village and it's residents live, rather than something that was "arranged" to look a certain way for us.

At Joes Cotacachis, Jose and his wife, the Señorita of the house, helped us pick out more woolens we wanted. I got a beautiful scarf and had admired the turquoise sweater purchased by the Dear Other Lady on our tour (would this be DOLOOT? - this is getting just ridiculous, let's call her C {since that's the first initial of her name;-)}) I hadn't seen that sweater on our first stop, and wanted to get one. I promised her I would not wear mine on the trip and they live in Indianapolis, so I could get away with buying the same one;-)

In all I probably spent close to 500 dollars on woolens, here, for 2 beautiful baby alpaca sweaters, an art weaving for my daughter 1 to take with her to college next year, a pair of fingerless gloves for DD2 ( for photography!) as well as the scarves for myself and DH. As far as comparisons, similar woven scarves by an artisan in Maine would be priced 200-250, while in Jose's shop I paid 40 for the same excellent quality. You could pay 20 at Otavalo, but it would not be near the same quality. The similar sweaters that I have priced (Alpaca and Llama) in shops in Maine, are well over 100 per sweater. Here they were 45 and 65. My daughters knit poncho was only 20 at Otavalo, again, not near art quality, but still lovely. I bought a similar woolen wrap in the airport shop, a little higher quality by a local designer and it was 62. This gives you some idea of what things might cost, and help with how much cash to bring. Jose's shop did take credit cards for big purchases, but you would not get the discounts of $5-10 per item that he gives for cash. A reminder that Ecuador uses the US dollar, so once you get the Spanish numbers down, you don't have to do a conversion! Our guide told us for the Otavalo craft market to offer about 50% of the asking price (Quanta Questa?- how much?) and expect to negotiate to 75 percent of the asking price. I dont ordinarily post pictures of stuff I buy, unless they are representative of the art and artisans in a place, so I share these so you can get an idea of the beautiful things made in this area!!

(photos of Jose C's woolens )



TIPS for shopping:
-Its a great idea to familiarize yourself with basic Spanish phrases of how much? Thank you, Please and the Spanish numbers.
-vendors aren't pushy and they wont hold your change trying to get you to buy more, or claim they don't have change even for close purchases (like $8 out of $10). Overall we found the people just lovely!
-if we purchased something, my DH would ask if he could get a photo; most glady obliged, ( as you can see from the smiles) but random snapping is discouraged and we were also discouraged from paying people for photos, especially children, as it might encourage people to take their kids out of school for that purpose.
-Ecuador uses American dollars but often vendors can't break large bills. We found it really useful to have lots of 10's, 5,s and 1's for the market
-pack an extra duffle to stash your dirty underware in and put your finds in a better quality suitcase for the journey home, many of the wood crafts are delicate.


So after the private shopping trip with Raoul, he took us back to the Hacienda, with a side trip through a town with many witch doctors offices. It was fun to see their interesting signs and again, another industrious little village. We never felt unsafe anywhere around here, though, these were not Disney recreations of villages, they are real towns with dirt and some trash and old buildings as well as half completed buildings. It felt very different from what I know, but also very authentic and Ecuador is very family oriented and we saw families together everywhere we went. I was again reminded about how people in the world are more similar than different!

Back at the Hacienda, our group had been briefed for our busy travel day to the Galapagos the next day, and I headed back to my room to show my DH my purchases and get the details. The details are likely to be somewhat different for each adventure, but the general jist of it is that we would bus back to Quito, await our flight in a VIP lounge (with free wifi!), fly to Guayaquil and then onward ( while staying on the same plane) to the islands, where we would then have a couple more bus and ferry transfers before arriving at the ship. It would be a long travel day and much thought needs to be given tonight to what things ( such a souvenirs and heavier clothing) could go back for storage at Marriott, which things needed to be tagged to be checked through to the ship and which things we would need to hand carry on the planes. While there was a painting demonstration and craft and cooking lesson before dinner, we had to do some packing first!

Our girls did some painting while we got packed up. Then we had about an hour for them to pack, and wander around getting some photos and just enjoying the Hacienda. At 6 we watched and the kids got a chance to try making empanadas. DD 2 participated while we relaxed on a bench and watched. She is our cook, and she reported that this was easy, and we would try it when we got home.

The kids then also made guaynanaba helado and had little samples of that. Fully formed and cooked empanadas appeared as if by magic, and were passed around. Our planned BBQ turned into a kitchen meal when it started sprinkling and the owner decided to take it inside. This was a little disappointing because the courtyard is beautiful, but in either case we would have take our food to the dining room to eat. Being a BBQ tonight's meal was heavy on meats, with a nice soup to start. If you don't like something or have special dietary requests (such as vegetarian or you don't want pork on your plate) you will find they make every effort to substitute for you. I find this overly accommodating, given how much food is offered in any given day...if you miss a soup, or leave something on your plate, it won't be more than 2-3 hours before another snack or meal is offered. I find it hard to believe that even the pickiest or most restricted eaters could go hungry!

After dinner everyone hit the hay early...a 5:30 AM bag call motivating everyone to get bed early. Tonight, as soon as I heard my stallion starting his stamping 3 feet outside my window, I shone my headlamp out the window and flashed it; he quickly stopped and move away, and I didn't hear him all night!

TIPS Packing recommendations for the highlands:
-Be sure to have a very warm sweater or fleece, the Andean foot hills get very cool at night.
-A flashlight or head lamp is useful here as the fluorescent lights are dim and it helps seeing into your bags and also for making your way on the cobbles stones at night after dinner.
-Shoes with socks. Lightweight fleece gloves for evenings walking around the hacienda. The hacienda had electric heaters and cozy fireplaces, and we were never cold in our room, but at night the dining room is open to the outside ( the doors are left open) and it gets cool. I'm a hearty new Englander, not prone to feel cold and even I wore a lightweight fleece and a rain coat every night at dinner. I wore my fleece gloves to walk from home from dinner. Several folks bought wool sweaters in Otavalo, and wore those. It's definitely cool in the evenings, and even during the day, pants and short sleeve shirt are fine even in the afternoon.
-When moving on from the Highlands, you have the option to send stuff back the Marriott- it will be in your room when you get back. These heavier items (except the rain/widbreaker, which you'll need to see the tortoises on Santa Cruz) can go back in your "extra duffle". There is also a little surprise that will help with carrying your toiletries and pjs onto the bus on days when you have to get your luggage out bright and early.
-a map or guide book, to follow along the route, and make notes. This was enormously helpful in learning the names of the towns, and which volcano we were looking at. If you don't care where you pictures are taken and prefer to just " go along"; that's fine too, but we like to be able to names to the places in our photos and reviews and this was very helpful! I like that the notes are on the map rather than just in a note book, where I would have trouble remembering exactly where something was.
-pack a roll of colored duct tape- this is handy for marking your similar looking "surprise" and ABD backpacks and as you will see later, useful while snorkeling.

Coming up- heading to the Galapagos!
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:40 AM   #7
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Loving your trip report! It is so comprehensive. My pre-planning travel style is very similar to yours. I also check for passports before we leave the driveway!

Can't wait another instalment.
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Old 01-14-2013, 06:21 PM   #8
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Guanabana

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Originally Posted by familygoboston View Post
Finally the wind and flying sand send everyone back to our bus, where we drive down the hill to lunch at Puerto Lago on Lake San Pablo, in the shadow of the Imbabura Volcano. Here in a beautiful lake side dining room with a view of the lake and Imbabura beyond, our family tries the " Tipico" a typical Ecuadorian lunch of pork, plantains, sweet potato patties and corn. For dessert we all enjoy the Guanabana helado. A sherbet made from local fruit that I have been enjoying in yogurt and helado, but cannot pronounce for 2 days! Finally, my daughter reminds me of the muppet song ...manomanom...do do do dodoot. And after much practice I get it;-)
You should be able to find guanabana juice (or nectar) in the latin section of your local super markets in the states. Look for Jumex or Goya brands. We used to buy them both in Indiana and in Texas!
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