The Art of Zen and Brick Laying in the Andes

Posted by in Chugchilán, Places, Typical Ecuador | August 08, 2012
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(Enjoy this guest post written by a Peace Corps volunteer assigned to a small town tucked away in the Ecuadorian Andes: Thanks Ali!)

I recently moved on from the small community of Chugchilan, Ecuador where I spent two years living amongst the native people of the Andes. I learned from and benefited from a lifestyle of simplicity, and lived in accordance with the subtle changes of seasons and earth. I learned so much about suffering, survival, and happiness from the people that live there. I learned what it means to rise with the sun every morning, and to descend from each day with a greater appreciation for those who depend on subsistence agriculture. I had to sit with many things I witnessed such as malnutrition, sickness, poverty, and was humbled by it all.

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Cascada Peguche

Posted by in Otavalo, Places | July 27, 2012
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(Guest Post by Erika Anton about Cascada Peguche just outside of Otavalo. Thanks LilE!)

On my second trip up to Otavalo with Nicole, Greg and Ali we made a quick run (and by run I mean a $2 cab ride) up to Cascada Peguche. A few weeks before, Nicole and I had hoped to see the 18 meter waterfall, that resides 3km northwest of Otavalo, but didn’t get to it.

The entrance to the protected forest where the waterfall is located does not have a fee for people that want to walk up to the falls. Near the entrance is also a parking lot for people with their own vehicles. I imagine there is a parking fee when it is busier around the summer solstice and during festivals like San Pedro y San Pablo and Inti Raymi, but it was very quiet when we went up on a Monday during the early afternoon.

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Behold My Street!!!

Posted by in Places, Quito | July 27, 2012
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Will the construction never end?!?!?!

Resting your head in Otavalo

Posted by in Lodging, Otavalo | July 26, 2012

A brief description of accommodation options in Otavalo including Budget, Mid-Range, and High-End suggestions:


Traveling on a budget? No problem. Most cities, towns and communities offer comfortable rooms with hot showers. In Otavalo, you can sleep for $10pp each night in a room with a private bathroom, hot showers and likely wifi…typically, these rooms do not include breakfast and the snoring from a neighboring room may sound as if it is, in fact, in the bed with you instead of separated from you slumber by the thin walls. Choose this category if you’d like to spend only a day or two as the location in town offers unbeatable accessibility to a variety of restaurants (ranging from typical Ecuadorian to pizza to Chinese!) and the famous market…especially if you want to catch the animal market on Saturday morning as it begins at 6am!!

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Posted by in Chugchilán, Places | July 21, 2012
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(Guest Post by Erika Anton about her adventures in transit to and from the small, friendly community of Chugchilan)

On my four hour bus ride from Latacunga to Chugchilán my bus got stopped for and hour and fifteen minutes at around two o’clock in the afternoon. This was in addition to waking up at six a.m. to make it to Terminal Quitumbe on the Ecovia, and then getting on a bus to Latacunga so I could catch the only bus leaving that day (Thursday) to Chugchilán It was a long day of traveling, but totally worth it.

We ended up waiting for workers to put in eight concrete tubes that were supposed to help with drainage. Passengers got off the bus and entertained themselves with how the construction was being carried out, discussing what the other options were (hiking the last 20+km, how long would that take?, maybe four hours? Etc.), and getting to know each other.

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Parque Metropolitano

Posted by in Places | July 21, 2012
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Nicole and I took the morning off to visit Quito’s super awesome Parque Metropolitano. Metropolitano is the biggest city park in Latin America, several times bigger than New York’s Central Park, and it shows. Once you walk into the main park entrance you seem instantly out side of the urban atmosphere that surrounds the park. It’s safe, it’s covered with trees and trails, it’s quiet. The only real reminder that you’re still in a major metropolitan area are the people. But even then, people in Metropolitano tend to be clustered by the main parking lots. The moment you head off into a trail it feels as if you’re in the woods, privately enjoying the surroundings.

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I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face

Posted by in Misc | July 11, 2012
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I never thought I would be a person that would be totally comfortable living in big cities. However, as I looked out the window of my apartment tonight on the glowing lights of Quito, I felt this sense of belonging. It makes sense that I feel that way though. I have a community I belong to.

Almost every morning I walk downstairs to the market, and buy two fresh baked pan de quesos and yogurt for less than a dollar. The woman who owns the market is patient, speaks slowly to me, and gently corrects my Spanish, which I greatly appreciate. Not everyone takes the time to communicate with someone who is not fluent. Sometimes, when she is busy with other patrons, her little boy comes out from behind the counter to practice Spanish with me.

There are also places I like to frequent, like Shwarma Kalib, where the owners recognize and warmly welcome me Although, this particular place has been closed the last week. On the up side, Kalib being closed has provided the opportunity for food exploration.

I have discovered places for empanadas and which corners the street food vendors are located. I love me some street food. Especially the ones on kebabs. I would risk stomach maladies again for a tasty frittata.

Quito may be growing on me and I may like what she has to offer.

Inti Raymi Festival: a weekend of danger, complexities, excitement, dancing and more

Posted by in Cotocachi, Events | July 11, 2012
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June 22-24….Erika and I headed North to Otavalo and Cotacachi to witness the annual celebration of Inti Raymi. We were lucky to be so close to the Imbabura Province of Ecuador which, along with Cuzco, is one of the two core communities who keep this tradition alive. Celebrations last about a month but two days was enough to catch a quick glimpse.

 First, a little background:

Celebrations of Inti Raymi began in the Ecuadorian Andes with the spread of the Incan empire and merged with existing celebrations which later also merged with Catholic festivities/beliefs during the period of Spanish colonization. That said, the festival today is an exciting mix of traditions that would take much longer than a weekend for me to sort out so bear with my brief synopsis!

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Making Canelazo

Posted by in Misc, Typical Ecuador | July 10, 2012
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Canelazo is by far my favorite thing to drink in Quito. Canelazo is a hot drink made with naranjilla and aguardiente an anise flavored liquer. In Ecuador you really have no choice but to get the brand name aguardiente Caña Manabita a 5th comes in at about $3 so your not gonna break the bank getting the good stuff. The good aguardiente

Anyway, the best thing to do is goto the Supermaxi or grocery store and by the frozen concentrated naranjilla juice mix. The procedure for producing the mix yourself is just way to time consuming to be vale la pena. Once you’ve made up your naranjilla mix add in about 2-4 cloves, 2-3 sticks of cinnamon and 2-3 heaping tablespoons full of sugar .

Now heat up the mix but be careful. The naranjilla has a tendency to foam up so you have to watch it. Unfortunately you also need to keep the heat going so the cinnamon and clove flavors permeate the mix.

After about an hour on low heat pour the mix into a coffee mug with a shot of your Caña Manabita and take the whole apparatus out to your chilly balcony and enjoy.

Otavalo Saturday and Animal Market

Posted by in Events, Otavalo, Places | July 09, 2012
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(Guest Post by Erika Anton about a weekend at the famous Otavalo Saturday Market)

For anyone who has not made this connection, people like going out of town on the weekends if possible. It is no exception for Quiteños, so plan on spending some time in lines and on buses if you ever leave Friday night to make the trip up to the giant, famous Saturday market in Otavalo. I was grateful to be with Nicole so at least one of us knew where we were going/what we were doing.

When we arrived at Carcelen, one of the northern bus terminals in Quito, there were two main lines of people extending from the ticket counter at one end of the terminal out the front gates. We ended up waiting in line for about an hour for tickets, but we also made an English speaking friend from Germany who was meeting his friends up in Otavalo for the celebrations. We may have helped him cut in line.

The two hour night bus ride had a movie playing very loudly in Spanish, which Nicole and I were not interested in. If you want to sleep on the bus on evening trips, I suggest bringing some music to listen to or an awesome set of ear plugs. I had both, but if you make friends at the bus station or have a travel partner in crime, the time you spend on the bus flies by.

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