Category Archives: Ecuador

Looking Back: South America

Looking back on our time in South America, it’s hard to imagine that I would have fallen in love with the continent quite the way that I did. When I first decided to plan this trip, I was debating between going back to spend time in Asia, which I loved and knew that I could easily fall back into. But I’m so happy that in the end, I decided to try something new.

Colombia

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugWhen Kim and I landed in Bogota, the adventure was full of “firsts”. I can still remember the first delicious empanada from a street cart, our caffeine-fueled days (including my first time riding a horse!) in Salento, and eating picada on Calle 70 or catching the cable cars in Medellin. We also made it up the 740 steps of La Piedra on our day trip to Guatape. But the highlight has to be getting to visit with Emily and Bryan once again (after six years) and toasting their engagement! In Cali, we also were able to experience country club living and to catch a futbol match featuring some of the worlds most energetic fans who made up for the world’s laziest cheerleaders. Returning to Bogota, I got a great education in street food and some of Colombia’s food traditions, thanks to my excellent AirBnB host, David.

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Colombia Photo Galleries (still being updated!)
>> Food highlights: caldo de costilla, ajiaco, empanadas, stuffed arepas, guanabana, guarapo, bandeja paisa, casuela de frijoles, lechona, pandebono con arequipe

Ecuador

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugWhere do I even begin? Ecuador was my favorite country in South America. I started out with a trip into the jungle near Tena with Andres and Carter, who later became partners in all kinds of food adventures. I fell in love with the beautiful mountains and volcanoes, the historical buildings in Quito‘s Centro historico, standing on the Equator line at Mitad del Mundo, the street food and the great friends that I made there. I loved my tour down the Avenue of the Volcanoes to visit Cotopaxi the Nariz del Diablo train, plus a side trip to Banos (where I got to try ziplining!), the “swing at the end of the world”, and Lake Quilotoa, which literally took my breath away – and not just because of the altitude! Celebrating my first thanksgiving away from home with the Espinoza family really made my time in Ecuador special. Meeting fellow travel blogger, Dyanne (aka The Traveln Lass) in Cuenca and spending a food-filled and family-centric 24 hours in Loja made it so hard to want to catch my bus on to Peru, but eventually I did.

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Ecuador Photo Galleries
>> Food highlights: hornado, choclo mote, chuntacuro (not my favorite, but happy I tried them!), seco de chivo, cevice, locro de papas, emapanadas de morocho, salchipapas, guayusa tea, encebollado, picada, mote pillo, cecina, horchata, cafe lojano

Peru

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugWhen I first got to Peru, I was coming off of such a wonderful time in Ecuador that it never really had a fair shot. But all was forgiven with my first bite of ceviche in Lima. Oh, the seafood! I spent my time in Lima gorging myself on ceviche, including my last meal at one of the mercados in Surquillo, where I got to meet up with Henry and Megan of the Borderless Project, before heading onto the overnight bus to Cusco. I loved the cool temperature and the holiday atmosphere there as the town got into the spirit of Christmas. I took a fantastic cooking class on Christmas night after a Google Hangout with my family, and returned to my hostel to find the entire place gathered around a holiday meal. I also made some great friends to come along on food missions (hola Noelia, Ross & Diego!) and even to drag me out for a night dancing! To celebrate the new year, I headed to Machu Picchu with a day trip to the Sacred Valley en route, and then the train from Ollantaytambo. I spent New Year’s Eve overnight in Aguas Calientes and woke early the next morning to greet 2015 among the ruins of Machu Picchu. Finding my own little corner to sit and reflect and to watch the clouds swirl in and out of the ruins was exactly what my heart needed – time to sit and reflect and to breathe it all in.

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Peru Photo Galleries
>> Food highlights: In Lima, ceviche, ceviche, and more ceviche! In Cusco, anticuchos, rocoto relleno, pisco sours, chilcanos, chicha morada, lomo saltado, spicy adobo, and finally getting to try cuy.

Bolivia

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugBolivia is definitely a country that I’d like to return to revisit – the three weeks I spent there were not enough! I based myself in La Paz and slowed down enough to really try to get a feel for the pace of daily life – frequenting the mercados (I especially loved Mercado Lanza and the sprawling Mercado Rodriguez on the weekends), using local transportation, having inexpensive almuerzos for lunch. The ruins at Tiwanaku and the crazy lunar landscape of Valle de la Luna were both easily done as day trips. One day, my new friend Freddy and I caught a bus out to stay overnight in Copacabana and I can still remember the taste of the trout fried in garlic right on the shore of Lake Titicaca – yum! I found the perfect spot to burn my letter to the Universe looking over the town and the lake from the top of Calvario de Copacabana – truly magical. Eventually, I said goodbye to La Paz and headed south to the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni for a three day tour by Jeep, where I made new friends from Brazil, Paraguay and China. We had a blast and took hundreds of photos of the gorgeous natural landscape that still doesn’t do it justice – salt flats mirrored with water, volcanoes covered with snow, geysers and alpine lakes of various colors with flamingos, llamas, vicunas and even a fox!

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Bolivia Photo Galleries
>> Food highlights: silpancho, trucha al ajillo, chicharron, tucumanas, saltenas, sopa de mani, chairo, quinoa soup, wines from Tarija and of course the 7-course tasting menu at Gustu! (Mahalo Nate!)

Chile

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugI was coming off of the high from the salt flats and also months spent in the (literally) higher altitude of the Andes, so arriving in the dusty desert of northern Chile at San Pedro de Atacama was a bit jarring to my system and I quickly moved on further south to Santiago. I spent a week there enjoying the more European feel of the city – lots of green parks, quick wifi, and of course enjoying the Chilean wine! I had a lovely cooking class and mercado tour and on my last day I decided to take a day trip to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso which included a stop at Indomita winery. I loved the colorful streets of Valparaiso and although we didn’t get to stop at the Pablo Neruda museum, I could see why he chose to keep one of his three homes there – the views of the ocean were spectacular.

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Chile Photo Galleries
>> Food highlights: ceviche, emapanadas de pino, chorillanas, and having a real espresso after months of Nescafe. Reading Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s ode to Caldillo de Congrio while enjoying a bowl of it was especially memorable.

Argentina

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugI stopped in Mendoza only for a few days, which was enough time for my first taste of amazing Argentinian steak and excellent wine for less than the cost of water! I was fortunate to get to experience much more of the asado tradition when I headed to Buenos Aires – in a parrilla tour of San Telmo, a 5-course closed door dinner in Palermo Soho and four times at the steakhouse around the corner from our hostel! I was reunited with Kim after her Antarctica cruise and we spent a week staying in Recoleta to change things up a bit before being lured back to San Telmo. I loved the feel of the neighborhood and the tango, although I never did get to dance it. We used the bus to get around to other areas – for hip brunches in Palermo, to stroll the Caminito in La Boca, along the waterfront in Puerto Madero and downtown, but also caught the train up North to Tigre for a day. We toured the Presidential Palace and saw the balcony where Evita greeted the people. I also enjoyed just taking hours just walking around and taking it in, stopping into a coffee shop or restaurant to enjoy a meal or a glass of wine.

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Argentina Photo Galleries
>> Food highlights: asado/parrilla fare like steaks (lomo, ojo de bife, bife de chorizo), mollejas, chimichurri, salsa criolla and of course provoleta. Choripan, medialunas, empanadas, dulce de leche (in so many forms), excellent coffee. Lots of Malbec.

The journey continues…

And now another adventure begins. South Africa will be my 6th continent and 35th country – just before my 35th birthday! But really, it’s going to be a whole new world. I’ve got two months between my flight into Cape Town on Saturday and out of Johannesburg at the beginning of May. In between, I’m hoping to do a bit less moving around than I did in South America – perhaps even to find an apartment that I can rent and buckle down to do less exciting things like work and my taxes (ugh!). This new nomadic life is awesome but sometimes it’s good to slow the pace a bit to recharge…

Thanks so much for reading and coming along for the ride!

100 Days

IMG_2609.JPG

New Year’s Day 2015 at Machu Picchu

Today makes 100 days since the day I landed in South America.

A whole new continent, a whole new language and a whole new world of adventure. I’ve learned so much about the people, places and of course food culture of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and now Bolivia. I’ve made friends from all over the world and I have left pieces of my heart in so many places.

I’ve watched the clouds swirl around the ancient ruins at Machu Picchu, climbed 700 steps to the top of La Piedra in Guatape, spent Thanksgiving with new friends in Ecuador. I’ve filled my belly with ajiaco, choclo mote, ceviche and empanadas. And surprisingly, I’ve done it all in my limited – but improving – Spanish and I’ve learned to get by on a daily basis out in a world where things often feel quite foreign.
Continue reading

Change of Plans

Image (2)

Going with the flow here in Ecuador

When I began this journey, I had a very rough itinerary in mind. In fact, my preferred way to travel is to leave things a bit open ended, to slow down and to allow myself to test the waters in a place before I commit to more than a few days there. There is so much world to see that I try not to waste time by hanging around in a place if I’m not enjoying it.

An example of this from my last trip in 2008 was Vang Vieng in Laos. Although I was traveling with Jess at that time, I had set off to explore Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam solo before meeting up with her again. Everyone says Vang Vieng is beautiful and it was, with beautiful karst peaks jutting out of the still river water. I was genuinely excited for the beauty of the place as well as some time to relax.

When I got to town, it was a different story. I found a place to stay for the night and set off in search of something to eat. At restaurant after restaurant, the menu included “happy” pizzas (made with “special” mushrooms) or shakes, and backpackers lounged about, tripping out, watching loud reruns of Friends on the ubiquitous televisions overhead. I had planned on staying a few days, but checked out as early as I could the next morning. Not my scene.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Centro Historico in Quito is beautiful at every turn

So far here in Ecuador, the opposite has been true. While Kim and I kept our itinerary a bit flexible in Colombia, now that I’m truly on my own I’ve had the luxury of being able to embrace serendipity and to linger here in Quito, which I’ve come to love. I had planned to stay for a few weeks, studying Spanish, but that changed when I decided to try learning on my own instead. I’m by no means fluent (or even conversational, really) but it’s worked out just fine.

The people that I’ve met here have also been a big part of why I stayed. My very first weekend, I was able to tag along with a new friend of a friend of a friend – Andres and his friend Carter to the jungle in Tena and on food adventures to Misuahualli to try chontocuro and nearby Sangolqui for hornado. They even invited me to spend Thanksgiving with the family, which was lovely.
Continue reading

Lost in Translation

Learning the word "delicious" and how to ask "what do you recommend?" are two of the easiest ways to break the ice doing something you do every day - eat!

Learning the word “delicious” and how to ask “what do you recommend?” are two of the easiest ways to break the ice doing something you do every day – eat!

One of the things I love best about traveling in a foreign country is the feeling of being out of my comfort zone. When I’m in a place where I don’t speak the language, every day tasks such as finding a good place for lunch, catching the right bus or trying to buy shampoo become learning experiences. Although it can be challenging at times (and I often feel like an idiot) it forces me to be humble, to ask for help and to use more of my brain every day.

In 2008 when I was in Laos, I wrote a post about the language barrier and how it was frustrating when it prevented me from doing simple things like getting where I wanted to go. In Asia, being half-Japanese worked to my advantage because I didn’t stand out as obviously as being foreign. It’s the same here in Ecuador until I open my mouth and I’m forced to show how bad my Spanish is!
Continue reading