Being hospitalized in Ecuador

I try to look upon everything that happens to me as an adventure.  Not worrying, but only trusting that “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose”.  I believe these words and cling to this promise so with most everything that happens, I learn to flow with it and realize that although the road isn’t easy….it’s covered.  There is so much comfort in that!

When I found an abnormal spot on the side of my tongue over a year ago back in the states, I was told to watch it, however it was most likely due to hormone changes in the female body.  I accepted it as “great…nothing going on here” and pretty much dismissed it.  As to “watching it”.  How does one do that when you move to a 3rd world country, and are trying to learn to live day-to-day and learn the language and get through life?  I guess a spot on my tongue wasn’t top priority for me.  That is, until it start to bother me.  Around June or July I believe (after seeing a local doctor to treat for obvious infections etc) I was referred to Dr Leon who is an oncologist in Porto Viejo which is a city about 25 miles from Crucita.  He took one look at the tumor and said it was cancer. Dr Leon has over 40 years experience in medicine with over 25 years experience with treating cancer.  So he’s seen a lot.  He explained the first step was a formal biopsy, but then we would do surgery to remove the painful tumor.  Much to our surprise, the biopsy revealed no cancer!  However Dr Leon still had doubts and said that during surgery another biopsy would be taken to ensure.  He explained that they would be cutting out a tiny portion of my tongue and I would regain all feeling and have no problems with talking, eating, tasting etc.

Surgery was scheduled for September 7, but Doctor Leon had indicated he was going to move it up to get it taken care of sooner.  That never happened, but in retrospect, I now know why.  🙂  The surgery was to be between 1/2 hour to an hour-long and my total stay in the hospital was two nights total.  They want you there the night before surgery as well.

Surgery time was upon us and everything is so confusing.  Dr Leon speaks very little English and staff speaks no English.   We were blessed to have at times Matt from Fundacion La Vida and our friend Omar with us for some appointments but not all. IMG_9159So he remainder of everything that is done and said is left to my imagination.  Which isn’t always good, because sometimes I have quite the imagination.  I wondered if when they put me under if they would have me count backwards.  Would it be in English or Spanish?  These are the types of thoughts that plagued my brain.  They laid me on the very skinny table and fitted me with a properly sized oxygen mask and I saw a man insert a medicine in my IV and within seconds I realized, this is it.  No counting.  I was out.

I believe I went in to the operating room maybe around 8:30.  By the time I came out it was 12:30-1.  Slightly more than the hour they predicted, however they also dealt with “slightly more” than they thought they were.  The doctor said that he saw cancer cells under the scope and they decided to cut further to ensure that it was removed.  Another biopsy was taken and results will be back shortly.  In addition they went into my throat and I woke up to a 5 inch slice on my jaw line where lymph nodes had been removed as well as a drainage tube inserted in my neck.  I remember waking up to a horrible headache.  My tongue completely numb and my neck completely numb.  Pain was very minimal throughout the whole process other than the head ache when I woke up.   My surgery quadrupled in time and so did my stay in the hospital.  I was there 4 nights.

My experience at Solca was great.  The hospital is well-known throughout Ecuador with 5 locations throughout the country.  The hospital I was in was the regional hospital for the province of Manabí.  The staff is professional and friendly and I can’t say enough about Dr Leon who made some important decisions during my surgery to go more in-depth and take it to the next level in order to ensure my health will be completely renewed.

The hospital is very clean and rooms are constantly being swept and mopped several times a day.

We also saw some rooms without patients being completely disassembled with all beds in hallways to ensure a proper sanitation of the room.  My bedding was changed daily.   All equipment is modern and clean and from a lay person’s standpoint, all proper precautions are used to ensure that disease is contained and not passed to other patients.  The liquid diet I was on was fantastic.  I wish I knew what they served me (when I asked, of course it didn’t ring a bell) but one morning for breakfast I was served a delicious warm liquid custard type food with what tasted like a slight cinnamon seasoning.IMG_9184  It was almost like a light version of pumpkin pie before it was cooked.  Yum.  Their soups were wonderful.  I would have to say in spite of the fact that this was hospital food, it was some of the best darn hospital food I’ve ever had!  I’m extremely grateful for the care I received at this hospital and would have no hesitations of recommending this facility to anyone.

I also want to touch on the differences.  I call them differences because that’s simply what they are.  Our American culture is different from Ecuador.  What we find “unacceptable” is perfectly normal here.  So I want to talk about them as I find it interesting, but in no way is this meant disparaging toward this culture and country.

  • One thing I had noticed even prior to the hospitalization, during my doctor visits is that the woman’s bathroom does not have toilet paper nor soap.  You must bring your own, or learn to drip dry.   Also bring your own hand sanitizer.   While the bathroom in my hospital room did have a soap dispenser with soap in it, there was no toilet paper.  We needed to go purchase some at a local tienda across the street.  There was a sheet and very nice blanket (all in plastic…had been sanitized) however I did not have a pillow.  Thankfully I brought my own.  Towels are available upon request however there are no wash cloths.  Bar soap and shampoo must be brought from home.
  • Everything here is paid for in advance.  There is no billing per se.  You settle your debt immediately.  Prior to surgery, the doctor said I needed blood work, a chest X ray and I needed to see a cardiologist.  This is all done on your own.  You find the facility to go to get this done.  Sometimes it can be done directly at the hospital, but other times it cannot.  He may give you recommendations on where to go to get this done, however it’s up to you to go find a place to do it and bring the results back to the doctor.  All medicine that the staff uses on you during your stay in the hospital is purchased up front.

    The doctor will write an order and you go to the pharmacy (take a number like at the deli dept back home) and they will call your number and fill your order.  All medicine including syringes etc are in a plastic bag that you bring back to the medical staff so they can administer the medication.  Prior to surgery we were told I needed a diaper and a pair of support stockings. IMG_9167 How fun is that!!  Well the pharmacy didn’t just sell one diaper…go figure.  My roommate bought a pack and let me use one of hers.

  • Another huge difference (but then again maybe they DO do this in the states??) was that several times in the middle of the night, the staff comes in abruptly using their “outside voices” and flipping on the bright fluorescent lighting to do simple tasks.  There is no hushed whispers or gentle lighting.  At 11PM, they do their staff rotation and I swear it reminded me of a Wal-Mart oo rah-rah staff meeting as they all come in talking loudly, flipping on the light, giggling and telling jokes.  And almost as quickly as they come in, they leave.  I thought of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz when she said:  ” My, people sure do come and go quickly around here.”
  • Dave was asked on more than one occasion to help transport a patient from the stretcher to the bed, something you would not see in the states due to liability issues.  lol  Also…privacy issues are non-existent.  They don’t have HIPAA laws here and people will crowd around when you are making appointments or paying and able to hear all the details of your stay, the cost etc.  This is also true in the hospital rooms….no privacy as to what is ailing you or what needs to take place.  Your room-mate will most likely get a full earful of the exciting details.
  • We also found that the staff and even patients are good with having their pictures taken.  Dr Leon even motioned for Dave to come by and take a picture of the inside of my mouth.  They love this!  And often will pose!  You never know….maybe they are the next Ecuadorian talent that has gone unnoticed!
  • It seems that all patients have a relative or friend with them at all times also.  They encourage people to stay with you as they are the “runners”.  Any medications that are needed, they are responsible to go get them.  Helping with bathroom and showers falls on your  loved one as well.  Of course settling the bill needs to be done at the hospital and this will need to be handled by them too.  Although there were no cots or extra beds the first 3 nights, Dave was able to sleep in my hospital bed right with me.  Close quarters, but they allowed it none the less.  The 3rd night in the room, an Ecuadorian woman came in accompanied by her two adult daughters.  I’m struck with emotion as she was loved on and cared for by her girls.  Kissing her and stroking her hair.  Helping her to the bathroom and overall making her comfortable.  Not calling in nurses to assist, but doing their best with their mom on their own. IMG_9191  I’ve noticed that this is quite the norm here in Ecuador where children are extremely loving to their parents/grandparents.  It warms my heart to see the level of intimacy displayed.  This says a lot about the people of this country.

Earlier on I mentioned that Dr Leon was going to move up my surgery instead of waiting until the 7th of September.  Well that never happened and I was good with that, but now I know why it stayed the date it was.   As we were checking in, I saw a gringa trying to communicate with the office staff and was having some difficulty.  Our friend Omar who is fluent in English and Spanish was with us and of course offered his assistance.  He was able to give her some instructions including the fact that she needed to buy a diaper (we still laugh about that).  After completing our paperwork, we were told that the room was still not ready for check in and that we were free to go get something to eat across the road.  Upon eating lunch, we see Sandie there next door at the pharmacy trying to buy a diaper but having some difficulty communicating.  She just wanted 1 diaper but apparently you can’t buy just one diaper.  Omar helped.  She came by and said she obviously didn’t need six so she gave me one from her pack.  Oh joy!  I told Sandie….”just how a girl wants to spend a beautiful afternoon….diaper shopping….and sharing with friends who may be in need.”.  We laughed.

After lunch, we headed back up to Solca and the room was ready.  They directly me all the way down the hall to the last door on the left and who do I see waiting for me in there?  Sandie!  She was my room-mate for the next two nights.  What a delight!  Her and her husband Tom live in Bahia (about an hour up the coast from us) and have been here for several years now.  It was wonderful having someone to joke with and laugh with.  Some of these things you just have to laugh about.  Like the diaper thing….still kills me.  Sandie has a great sense of humor which I love, but the most precious of all is that she is a believer in Jesus Christ!  Woo hoo!!!  Instant bond!  She mentioned that her pastor and a couple of others were stopping by to pray with her and I felt the Holy Spirit feeding my soul and comforting me and saying “it’s all good!  I’ve got this covered!”   What a time of fellowship….I couldn’t stop smiling.  The most touching part to me was I felt God hugging me.  The odds of having a gringa in my room with me were not good.  But have a strong Christian sold our for Christ room mate was only icing on the cake!  So I took this entire September 7th date as a divine date of the Lord who knew all along.  In the mean time, I’ve met some more beautiful Christian believers from Porto Viejo and feel blessed beyond measure.  God gave me the perfect room mate who I will know for all eternity as a sister now!  God is in control….Our ways are not His ways.  Wait on Him.  These are truths that I cling to these days.

Bottom line…no one wants to be sick.  But, would I trade my Solca experience for a different one?  NO WAY!  Life is wonderful when God is in it and I don’t have to worry about the details.

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August 17, 2017

So last week we had the incredible opportunity to experience whale watching.  In true Ecuadorian fashion, we were able to experience this very raw and inexpensive which I love!

About 12 of us boarded a small fishing boat with bench seats and we were kind of crammed in like sardines although we all had life preservers!

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We set sail from La Boca which is a short distance north of Crucita up the coast.  Our captain and first mate were non English speaking Ecuadorians so the tour was a silent one but charming none the less.  We went out maybe 5 miles until we started seeing water spouts.  The boat quickly moves in the direction of the water spouts and you begin to see activity from all directions.  Most of what we saw was distance away but even with the distance we saw the majestic size and grace  with each time they surfaced.  According to our friend Chris, we saw two different varieties:  gray and humpback.  We also saw them in pods of what we could count maybe 6 or 8 of them together.  Truly spectacular!  The price was $15 per person and to me the boat ride in and of itself was well worth that.

We also saw a sea turtle and some pelicans when we neared shore.  They were waiting for a morsel from the local fisherman.

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June to September is the time frame that you will see whales in Ecuador.  I highly recommend this as an excursion if you visiting the country during that time frame.

August 8, 2017

Weekends are fast becoming my favorite time here!  Saturdays we have been visiting (with Cristian and Lissette) various families in the neighborhood.  Just popping in to say hi, reminding them of the children’s church the next morning and handing out cereal bars to the kids.  We visit a variety of neighborhoods, many of them quite poor.  Most families are very gracious and pull up plastic chairs for us to sit on to visit.  Others are more leery of this church thing but seem thankful for the invite for their children.

One thing that is obvious is that Cristian and Lissette truly care about the neighborhood children.  They are so dedicated each week by opening up their home (their garage area) for this little children’s church.  We are also hoping that more parents will start to come.  Currently we have about 6-8 regular moms.  Still working on the guys….but in time.  🙂

Once a month we have a Birthday Sunday for all children’s whose birthdays fall in that month.  They are honored in front of the rest and have an opportunity to earn “money” by answering questions related to the lessons that month.  Then they can spend it at the “store” for  trinkets, toys, crayons, markets etc later on. Children's church “Money” is also earned other Sundays as well so everyone has a chance to earn dollars.  We sang a Spanish style Feliz Cumplianos and we also enjoyed birthday cake!  This is nice especially for those whose birthdays may not be celebrated as much at home or perhaps the families don’t have the money for a present or party.

Lately we (as a team) have been meeting after the kids and parents leave and have our own small meeting and prayer time.  Even though the language is still a slight barrier, the friendships are becoming strong with these precious people.

This past Sunday was extra special as we had a chance to partake in the Lord’s supper together (reflecting upon the Lord’s death) but we also decided that we would enjoy a real meal together afterwards.  A new friend, Michael, is from Peru and he volunteered to make a Peruvian meal for us!  Peruvian food is much spicier than Ecuadorian food.  He made a salad with boiled potatoes on top and then a delicious sauce drizzled over which consisted of cheese, chilis and milk.  We also had sliced tomatoes with a lime dressing as well as pan fried chicken with a curry type coating.meal

Just fantastic!  I brought dessert and decided to bring chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cookies.  This was a first for most of them and it was a hit!  Cookies aren’t big here in Ecuador, so having cookies other than the standard ones in the store (shortbread and wafer type cookies) was very intriguing to them.  I told them next time we would have peanut butter.  Peanut butter in cookies???  They couldn’t hardly believe that.  Here….peanut butter is mainly for cooking.  For example, viche is a popular soup dish with a peanut butter type dumpling.

After the meal Dave volunteered to clean up all the dishes (they were paper plates).  Cristian looked a bit confused and said “but they’re paper”.  I grinned and then Cristian and the rest burst into laughter.  They are getting used to Dave’s humor more and more.

Soon after that Cristian’s Venezuelan friends showed up to play futbol that afternoon.  So we had people from 4 countries (Venezuela, US, Ecuador and Peru) all in one place.  Of course we had to take a photo!4 countries

We also took a walk in the neighborhood where our friend Javiar said casually, “Hey Dave, I like that shirt you are wearing.”  Dave said, “Do you want it?”  “Sure” said Javiar.  So…Dave walked back through Los Aranales shirtless getting a few stares.  I joked with Javiar that the folks in the neighborhood was going to think that Javiar was a real bully walking back down the road with Dave’s shirt on and Dave with no shirt on.

Father’s Day in Crucita

Today was a special day in Crucita at the little church.  Typically the church consists mainly of children as well as 8-10 moms that regularly attend.  As of yet there are no fathers and we thought that being that it was Father’s day, it would be a great excuse to invite fathers to come along with their families to church today.  Yesterday Dave and two other men walked the neighborhood inviting dads to come to church.  We had previously discussed that  if 5-6 came, that would be great.  I was praying for eight thinking that was a big request.  But to our surprise and delight, we had 12 dads show up with their families!  It was a beautiful thing to see them break away from their normal routines and spend family time.

Today Dave had a chance to speak to them through a fine young interpreter, Sarah.  He gave them a message of hope and explained how their responsibility in their family is so great in setting an example to their wives and children.  Of course he also presented the amazing message of salvation which is available to all people of every tribe, people and nation.

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The day included music and even some of the guys joining in with clapping!   There were also a few fun games one of which needed 4 or 5 volunteer dads along with one of their children.  Dads and kids were separated and the kids were asked questions like what are their favorite foods or what is your birthday.  The dads were challenged to see if they would answer correctly!  This isn’t exactly the easiest thing when you are in front of an audience and are put on the spot!  Some did good and some not so good but it sure brought a lot of laughs especially to some of the mom’s faces.  There were also wheel barrel races which involved dads and their kids (the wheel barrels) picking up an object with their mouth and bringing it back.  It definitely involved arm strength, but some of those little fellows are pretty strong!

Everyone was also given a special snack of meat balls, pastries, and juice.  We had a such a great turn out, we ran out of food.

But Lissette and Kenya calmly whipped up some more pastries by hand and fried them up.  No worries….and the people patiently waited to be served.  In the mean time, Christian ran out to buy more food and ended up getting “corviche”.   It was my first experience with corviche and I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous when I was told it had fish in it.  But…..it was delicious!  This is a food common in this region in Ecuador and has fish, plantains and peanuts.  Put a little sauce on top and voila!!  Muy Rica!

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We are so thankful for all the neighborhood folks who came today and put a smile on their families faces and we pray that some of the fathers will return.  Most are fishermen and their schedule is completely dependent on the ocean and what’s available for fishing at any given time.

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Happy Father’s day to all the special men in my life as well.  My husband, my father in law, my daddy in heaven and other family/friends who are fathers.  We love you!

 

Children’s Day

Recently we were introduced to some new Ecuadorian friends here in Crucita who moved here about a year ago from Porto Viejo to follow God’s call to start a Christian ministry for the children in Crucita.  They offer a safe place for kids to go on Saturday afternoons from 3-6 as well as Sunday mornings from 10:30-12.  Recently some of the mothers have also decided to join the fun!

Today was an extra special day to celebrate kids called Dia de Ninos with over 120 neighborhood friends coming to the event!  It started off with each child receiving a breakfast of batido (similar to a milkshake or smoothie) as well as a pastry roll.  There was music, prayer and a special speaker who told them several stories relating to faith.  He asked for actors and actresses to help out as he explained the story of Jesus healing a little girl as well as two blind men.  (The blind men took their jobs very seriously…keeping their eyes tightly closed.)

In children’s church each Sunday, the kids and parents alike are awarded “money” to spend in the church store.  By participating and answering questions related to the teachings that day, they are able to earn store dollars which can be cashed in on certain days.  Well today, they had a chance to cash in!  What an excitement there was.  Some of the merchandise included things like socks, toothpaste, coloring books, books, fun jewelry and other trinkets.

 

Mother’s day

Today is Mother’s day of 2017 and we have been in Ecuador for just over 7 months.  I’m not going to lie…I was already slightly feeling a bit sorry for myself at the beginning of the week thinking about how I will be without my children and my mother this year.  But shortly after that I received a message from a friend of mine Rosie, who works with people with disabilities here in my area of Ecuador.  She asked if I would like to help her put together some baskets of goodies for the mothers of the families she works with.  I’m so glad she contacted me!!  Instead of sitting home and feeling sorry for myself (which I would have done) I had the tremendous privilege of getting a peak into the lives of these people here whose need is unbelievably great.

We were able to deliver groceries to about 15 families today and let them know someone cares for them!  Soon after we started on our way, it started to pour out, so many of our visits were done in the pouring rain, trudging through mud and thankfully not getting the vehicle stuck in the mud.  My next door neighbor Sandy graciously agreed to drive us around all the way from La Boca to Los Arenales.
All of the mothers are either disabled themselves or are caring for disabled family members.  Some disabilities are mental, some are physical and some are both.  Today I saw poverty unlike I have never seen before.  Many of the homes we delivered groceries to are off the beaten path, are made of bamboo, have concrete floors (some dirt), and windows open to the outside (no glass or screens).  Most furniture consists of a few plastic chairs which the families eagerly brought out from other rooms to offer us a seat.

One woman is elderly and is caring (by herself) for 4 adult children who are all blind.  One family of four (mom, dad and two small babies) live in a tiny one room house the size of a walk in closet.  One adult mentally disabled son is helping care for his elderly mother who is not able to walk or sit up.  One woman is caring for both her mentally handicapped teens by herself as her husband has passed.   One woman is completely bedridden and is cared for by her daughter in law who also cares for 4 small children.  These are only a few examples of the homes we visited today.

I am struck by the kindness of the Ecuadorian people all eager to pull up a chair and invite us to sit down with them in their home. Some even reciprocating by offering us coconut milk fresh from the coconut. All very thankful for the food and the short visits.

I was also struck by the kindness of my friend Rosie for giving of herself so tirelessly and allowing me to tag along side her.  Rosie is also Ecuadorian, has two jobs and 3 children of her own she cares for along with her husband. I’m amazed at her giving attitude and her desire to help others out even though today would have been a perfect day for her to take it easy herself.  God bless you Rosie!

The mothers I had a chance to meet today were amazing strong woman who keep going even though some days I’m sure they don’t feel like it.  It was truly a beautiful Mother’s day!

Travels

Dave and I recently had an opportunity to visit other parts of Ecuador via bus.  Our friends Yvonne and Chris, who are on the final legs of their stay in Ecuador, agreed to dog sit while we were gone.  As a result, we were able to truly enjoy traveling without having to worry about our girls!

Because Dave had to go to Guayaquil anyway to complete more steps in what has become a lengthy Visa application process, we started our travels in Guayaquil.  Guayaquil is a very hot city with similar temperature to Crucita on the coast but without as much breeze.  We stayed within walking distance to the historic downtown which is also right near the newly constructed river walk covering a distance of over 2 miles of walking.

The river walk is a fantastic place for all ages and includes children’s playgrounds and rides as well as a ferris wheel which from the top allows you to see great views of the city.  There are also beautiful gardens and coffee shops as well as other places to eat both fast food such as McDonalds as well as more fine dining.  The area is also very secure with plenty of city workers as well as security officers patrolling.

Because of our location, we were within walking to museums, shopping and restaurants.  We were able to view both the historical museum and art museum as well as take the double decker city bus tour which lasted a couple of hours.  We have found city bus tours to be a convenient way to see the city but also a easy way to get some beautiful photos both of the architecture as well as fun people watching shots!

We visited the famous Penas lighthouse which was over 444 steps up the side of the hill leading to even more steps up the lighthouse which allows panoramic views of the area.  The winding stairs leading up the hill takes you through quaint village streets with children playing, men lounging in hammocks, those who are sweeping sidewalks and watering plants.  Normal life really.  However they see tourists climbing the stairs to the lighthouse on an ongoing basis, smartly taking advantage of the long trek by selling cool drinks and snacks.

Also while we were visiting the city, we saw several demonstrations due to obvious disagreement with the recent presidential elections.  Our hostel happened to be right in the middle of the street which was closed and lined with armoured trucks as well as riot police waiting to be summoned should they be needed.  One interesting thing I saw which I thought was also very humorous was a vendor making a killing selling snacks to the riot police.  They were all lined up conveniently and were a captive audience and no doubt hungry!  There was also a vendor that was able to sell a shoe shine for one of the police lined up.  What a way to sell your goods!IMG_6960

The next stop was Cuenca located in the Andes mountains.  The bus ride included beautiful mountain scenery but also included hair pin turns and  a few heart thumping moments as the bus barrelled around corners zig zagging through the mountains.

Cuenca is a completely different climate and was a comfortable 70’s during the day with the sun out, it was lovely!  Not too hot and not too cold.  In the mornings and evenings however, the temperatures drop dramatically to the point where you need a coat or thick sweater and of course shoes and socks which we had not worn in over 6 months.  The feel in Cuenca is very cosmopolitan.  Such a wide variety of people from traditional Andes dress with the woman wearing knee length skirts, knee high socks, and black hats; to college students with gages and dreadlocks; to businessmen; to woman with jeans and below the knee leather boots and sweaters and much more.  The feel is familiar to a visiting a larger city in the US.

There is amazing ethnic foods such as Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican as well as real red wine served in a real wine glass as well as amazing coffee shops with pastries.  We took a city tour to Turi which is a mountain with breathtaking veiws overlooking the city.  My favorite thing about Cuenca was the “normalcy” with the amazing dining experiences.

We stayed in a simple but clean hostel  for $22 per night and in addition there was a breakfast offered for an additional $2 each which included eggs, toast, and coffee.  The pricing on other dining was more expensive than what we are used to on the coast but would be similar to what you would pay at Applebees for example but much much better quality both food and expereince.  So a good steak dinner would cost about $13.  I loved our visit in Cuenca, however the weather was not something I am ready for again having just left a cold climate in WI.

Our next stop was a one night visit to Riobamba where we were catching a bus to Banos the next morning.  We arrived in Riobamba mid afternoon and stayed in a hotel called the Tren Station which was right across from the train station (imagine that).  There are tours available in between Quito and Guayaquil  and the scenery is supposed to be spectacular however due to timing we opted to not do the train this time.  Riobamba had a more reserved feel to it as compared to Cuenca.  I didn’t see many tourists there at all and the feel was a bit off for me but we were able to walk to the main park and people watch as there was a festival going on.

A good breakfast was included with the price of the hotel and while eating I witnessed an interesting site outside the hotel.  A man was selling some type of breakfast juice which isn’t unusual, however I noticed whenever he poured a glass of his homemade juice, he used a butter knife to cut through the liquid which appeared to resemble a thick egg white consistency.  I also noticed people taking a drink of some liquid ahead of time and then having the man fill their cup with this thick substance which was also hot.  I later found out that he was serving some type of drink with what appeared to the insides of an aloe plant (which gave it the slimy texture).  I also heard that the “shot” ahead of time was a different natural drink that is extremely medicinal and good for the body.  The local Ecuadorians loved it and were lined up to get this drink as many of them appreciate more natural remedies for ailments as well as natural foods to stay healthly.

I didn’t try it, but looking back I wished I had.  Overall the weather in Riobamba was cold such as 40-60s.

We left for Banos the next morning which was just another short one hour bus ride.  Banos is a big backpackers/tourist destination and reminded me of a mix between Door Country and the Wisconsin Dells back in my home state of WI.  Since Banos is a tourist town, there were many many shops with souveniurs, and home candy made from the local sugar cane.  They pull taffy while attached at one end from a hook.

Many of the tourists there were younger and physically fit looking for hiking, rafting and other adventures.

There are backpacker’s hostels on nearly every street corner and depending on what you are looking for, you can pay anywhere from $6-$40 a night for a hostel.  We opted Hostel Carolina which included a nice sized bed as well as a private bath and breakfast included in the morning for $34.  Excursions are available in rock climbing, rafting, ziplining, waterfalls tours and even tours to the natural hot springs.  The weather can be quite cold although we had a beautiful sunny day to explore the town and again took the double decker city bus which included a ride to several waterfalls and ziplines as well as an amazing waterfall called Pailon del Diablo.  It was a long walk to the falls but the view was beautiful!  We did a lot of walking even as “non-back packers” and my feet were sore by the end of the day.

The food is delightful but not as fine as Cuenca.  Banos is overall a beautiful place to visit.  Though wonderful, one day was enough for us.

That was going to be the extent of our trip this time, however in analyzing the route back we discovered that to go back by way of Guayaquil which is how we came verses going back by way of Quito (which we had not yet seen) was not that much of a difference in terms of travel time.  A new Ecuadorian friend from Crucita had casually commented on one of my facebook posts to “come visit them in Quito”.  So we decided to take her up on the offer!  What a pleasant part of our journey!

Her and her family were so incredibly gracious and offered us to stay in their beautiful home with them (we stayed two nights).  They took us to the highlands area which showed us yet another completely different landscape of Ecuador.  Quito itself is in a high altitude with weather being cooler overall and at this time of year raining most every afternoon.  It is a large area of many different suberbs and smaller neighborhoods everywhere you turn.  The weather in the Quito area is quite diverse in itself with the valley areas being 10-15 warmer than the city.  Some areas consistently get more rain than other areas within the greater area.  To get to the highlands we traveled even higher by car  and were prepared for very cold weather.  If I had to guess it was maybe in the high 30s, but still not as cold as we are used to back in the states.  The highlands reminded me of the mountainous areas in Montana or Wyoming with beautiful
fields, lush grassy landscape and fields stretching between the hills.

We drove through a national park area where there were wild bulls, a large variety of birds, deer, rabbits, llamas, alpacas and the very protected and revered national bird, the condor.  We did see a couple of them from the distance and they were spoke about by our tour guide friends very excitedly.  We would be driving along and all of a sudden Gustavo would point and say “condor, condor!!….never mind, it’s just an eagle”.  Of course in the US, we are just as excited about seeing eagles so it was very interesting so see the excitement when seeing their national bird!  We were also able to see some condor nests in the rocks.  The highlands are beautiful and serene.  We saw wild horses as well as domestic horses with some of the local more indiginous people riding on them with their beatiful traditional hats and ponchos draped over their shoulders.  We would have never known this area existed without the help of our friends Gustavo and Patricia!  Our visit with them was priceless and they were some of the best hosts we have ever had.

Ecuador is a beautiful and diverse country.  Our travel experience was amazing and overall we felt safe while traveling by bus and enjoying the local people.