Though the travel to Ecuador was an adventure in itself, it was a pretty boring adventure compared to arriving in this South American country. The best part of Travel Day was meeting “Papa” Ron Cropper in the airport. He is a high-energy dynamo of laughter and joy, talking with everyone around him. We have a lot in common with him, as he just turned 65 and is also spending a month in Ecuador to see if he might like to retire here one day. We will meet up with him again later in our journey.
We landed in the southern hemisphere in Quito, the capital city. It was 2 am, so we saw nothing of the countryside from the plane or the ground.
Our friend sent her favorite driver to pick us up and drive us to her town of Cotacachi. Non-Ecuadorians don’t often drive their own cars, as the driving methods of Ecuadorians are pretty wild and unrestrained. That left us able to watch the landscape outside the car windows as Patricio drives us for an hour and a half. He is a friendly man who gave us a good tour guide performance on the way. He pointed out when we crossed back over the equator into the northern hemisphere, and pointed out various volcanoes and rose farms and mountains and valleys and rivers. The landscape reminds me of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and southern California all rolled together. Much is unique to Ecuador though.
The last leg of the long drive took us past the gigantic volcanic peak called Imbabura. He is considered the father volcano, married to Cotacachi, which is a nearby even-more-gigantic volcanic peak considered to be the mother volcano. Interesting the cultures who live on the slopes of massive volcano consider them to be alive. As we drove for 20 minutes around the bottom of Imbabura, I was powerfully affected by his presence. Inexplicably, I found myself with tears running down my face every time I looked at it. Something beyond the surface was emanating from that volcano. That evening, as we rested in our friend’s yard, I stared at Cotacachi, the mother. Again, I was deeply affected emotionally just by looking at her. All night I felt the presence of Cotacachi in my sleep, and whenever I rose to the surface of wakefulness. I could feel myself being “fed” somehow, by the mountain. I have no context for really understanding what this phenomenon is, but the effect of this kind of volcano is profound.
There are two primary cultures co-existing here: the indigenous Quechua Indians, and the descendants of the Spanish conquistadors. Then there is the fast-growing expat community of people from various countries who want to live in this temperate, low-cost region. The expats tend to live in communities separate from the locals so that they can have the luxuries they are used to, but some do like to mix in with the rest of the (much poorer) community.
My impression of the people so far is that most are friendly, welcoming, full of laughter, and close-knit with their families and neighbors.
The town of Cotacachi is smaller than the cities. Its a nice mid-sized town with interesting architecture and few building codes. An interesting note is that people don’t have to pay tax on a building they are constructing until its finished. Therefore a lot of people leave some portion of their building visibly unfinished, so they can live there without paying property tax. See photo of one example.
Yesterday I sat in a broad avocado tree, staring up at the forming avocados and listening to the birds. Then I sat in a swing and watched clouds swirl around the peak of the volcano. The whole atmosphere here is so peaceful I feel my muscles gradually rippling into relaxation. From the moment we woke up the first morning, Gary and I both felt the distinct lack of buzzing energy that we feel in the U.S. We compare it to how Christmas morning always feels in our neighborhoods… quiet, still, restful. You can tell nobody is out doing much on Christmas morning. It’s the same way here. Some kind of buzzing frenetic energy is missing.
Our first day and a half has been spent drinking local coca tea to prevent altitude sickness (we are at 8,500’ in altitude) and relaxing. More active adventures are coming soon.