On our last weekend in Ecuador, a “taxista”  drove us to the far side of Otavalo, to Lago San Pablo, a lake at the foot of the volcano Imbabura.

The original plan had been to take a bus. Gary and I and our friend were waiting with a dozen other people at the bus stop when a taxi driver pulled up.  He shouted out that he’d take anyone to Otavalo for 50 cents each.  We jumped in, and so did a teenage girl from the bus stop.  He explained that he lives in Otavalo and had to go home anyway, so he offered discount rides to us.

Continue reading “Lago San Pablo at the foot of Imbabura Volcano”

My dental work is DONE!!  So is Gary’s.  Our Spanish lessons are DONE!!  Finito!  The dental work seems to be totally successful.  Our teeth are now in relatively great shape, and our responsibilities are completed.  We are free to spend our last few days doing whatever we like.   This is our Ecuador journey so far. 

We exercised our new dental work on some freshly baked cinnamon rolls and chocolate bread.  Eating bread from the local bakers (panaderías) doesn’t seem to bother my digestion, here. Something is apparently different in the way the wheat is processed, or grown, or something along those lines.

Continue reading “Ruminations On Our Ecuador Journey So Far”

In the US, one of my favorite pastimes is to hike with my dogs.  Whenever and wherever possible, that’s what we like to do as a family.  Here in Cotacachi, that hasn’t happened yet. Outside the town, the landscape isn’t filled with parks and trails as we have in the US.  I understand other Ecuadorian towns have a better park and trail system.

Continue reading “Hiking In An Ecuadorian Canyon | Wandering Willow”

Bonnie at San Francisco Park

Oh no… Only 7 days left in Ecuador. How could this month have flown past so quickly?! We don’t feel ready to leave yet.

Gary and I are eager to return to our comfy bed, our dog and cat, garden, neighborhood, and friends. We are eager to return to a city where burglary is less of an issue… although my hometown has experienced more burglaries in recent years and our house was robbed, our neighbor’s car was burglarized and friends in other towns have been robbed. hmmm… maybe it’s no more dangerous here.

On the other hand, we are sorrowful to leave this relaxed, interesting lifestyle among friendly people in this tranquil landscape.  I shudder to contemplate the amount of work that’s backlogged in my business during our month here.  Remembering how strongly we felt the absence of uncomfortable ‘buzzing” vibration in the atmosphere when we first arrived, I’m reluctant to return to that nebulous buzzing sensation again. My whole body relaxed tangibly, over this month without it.

Continue reading “Weighing The Pros and Cons”

The rainy season began in Ecuador.  Our plans shifted fluidly. Instead of visiting Cuenca, we opted for more extensive dental work here in our beloved Cotacachi. 

Visiting Cuenca was on our list because it’s a whole different atmosphere.  We wanted to visit a few different areas in Ecuador, if possible, to get a better feel for the variety of experiences possible.  Cuenca is a popular destination for expats from various countries because it’s a more international city with two symphony orchestras, plenty of art, museums and cafes, and residents from all countries. It has a greater quantity of desirable features, such as hiking trails, parks, hot springs nearby.  On the negative side, it has urban features such as traffic jams, smog, and noise.  Our pal from the Ft. Lauderdale airport, “Papa” Ron Cropper, wrote to say: “I absolutely love Cuenca. It is the cleanest city that I have ever been in. There is lots to do here. It’s a shoppers paradise and plenty of parks. The people are fantastic. The weather is also fantastic.”  I hear it’s nearly as peaceful as Cotacachi. Gary and I were personally interested to go see it, in case we decide to retire in Ecuador.  Alas, that trip will have to wait for another time.

Continue reading “Allowing For Relaxation In Ecuador”

cotacachi casa


We only have one week left to be in Ecuador! How could this month have flown past already?!

Gary and I are eager to return to our comfy bed and our dog and cat, garden, neighborhood and dear friends. Eager to return to a city where burglary is less of an issue… although my town in NC has had increasing numbers of burglaries in recent years. BUT we are sorrowful to leave this relaxed lifestyle among friendly people in this tranquil landscape.  And I shudder when I think about the amount of work that’s piled up in my business over the month of my absence.  Remembering how clearly we felt the absence of ‘buzzing” vibrations in the air during our first week here, I hesitate to return to that nebulous uncomfortable buzzing sensation we experience in the US.

Continue reading “Pros and Cons of Moving to Ecuador”

otavalo market
Otavalo Mercado

Otavalo, Ecuador is a city 2 hours north of Quito.  A 15-minute bus ride south from Cotacachi makes for easy access to the city.  Here is a link for more information about this area:  https://wikitravel.org/en/Otavalo

For 35 cents, five of us took the decorated, painted and curtained bus from Cotacachi to Otavalo one cloudy day.  We wanted to see the famous Otavalo market on a slow day, to avoid the weekend crowds. Here is the official tourism video for the city of Otavalo:  Otavalo Tourism Video

Continue reading “Journey to Otavalo Market”

dentista in EcuadorBefore we came, we heard that Dr. Bolaños, in Ibarra, was good. He is one of the few in this part of the country who takes credit cards.  We emailed him and made an appointment. 

After a few days in Cotacachi, we began asking for referrals to dentists here.  We chose to switch to Dra. Martha Guerra, before seeing Dr. Bolaños, and are satisfied with her expertise. She studied and practiced for 17 years in Europe (Spain and London) so she has all the latest techniques AND she speaks English fairly well. The one drawback is that she doesn’t take credit cards. Hers is a one-person office, where she does it all.  A person preferring a more familiar style of professionalism might want to try a different office in a bigger city. Gary is having two crowns replaced. He was pleased with his first appointment, wherein she removed old crowns and installed temporaries. I have had two appointments to take out old metal fillings and replace them. I was happy that she used a dental dam when taking out the old mercury-filled fillings. Dr. Guerra was gentle, compassionate and soothing with me. We have had great conversations in half-English-half-Spanish, with plenty of laughter. Together, we spent an hour translating her intake form into English, for the benefit of future patients. 


Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, has plenty of holistic dentists and doctors, as does the next largest city, Cuenca.  A person wanting to visit a lower-cost dentist in Ecuador can do a search for “Dental Tourism”.  We figured that the cost of our entire month in Ecuador – staying with a friend rather than in hotels – will cost us far less than seeing a U.S. dentist to have this work done.


In a city near us, Ibarra, there is an integrative medicine clinic called The Jade Center. They have a holistic “biological” woman dentist there who gets rave reviews.  There seem to be more women dentists than men, from what we’ve observed. The Jade Center is the place to go for chiropractic-type adjustments, as well as yoga classes and courses in herbalism, and more.


Happily, natural health care products are available here in Ecuador. Even in a town as small as Cotacachi, I found two natural products stores. One is called Prana Vital and sells primarily organic food and herbs and soaps and such.  The other is called Natural Heath Store or Naturalezay Vida.  It is like a natural supplements store in the US, but tiny. 

Every Thursday, there are two outdoor organic markets that happen in little nooks off the sidewalk downtown.  One is next to a gringa-owned bakery, where expats sell their organic produce, organic yogurt, organic bread, blueberries, crocheted items, organic meats, etc. The other is in an arcade-type space between buildings and sells similar items.  It’s nice to see that over the years, the gringos who have been here a long while have been opening up businesses to serve the town and the expat community both.  Some of the local Ecuadorians have also opened cafes that cater to expats/tourists.  That type of place tends to become a hangout for  English-speaking residents. The most popular here in town are called “Serendipity” and “Rock Solid Cafe”.  A family from Texas – Mom and Dad, their adult sons and their wives, and a few babies – moved to Cotacachi recently and opened a sports bar. People can get familiar US food there, smoke cigarettes and watch sports on TV.  It’s looking like “Travelers & Sportsmen’s Bar” will be successful.  Although we are looking for places with health-oriented food & products, some people will be glad for a place to get hamburgers and smoke cigarettes with cheerful Texans.

For health buffs, Cotacachi even has a wonderful “Parque Activo”: a city park with an expansive view of the volcano, filled with exercise machines for adults.  These machines are brightly colored, and are really like large-sized playground equipment!  We had fun exercising on them.

For those who consider moving to South America but wonder if natural alternative health practitioners and products are available, the news is good in this region. It’s even more prevalent in the larger cities like Ibarra & Cuenca, and in focused areas such as the valley of Vilcabamba (where the hippies all gather and drive the locals nuts). For people like me, it’s great to be able to support my health with herbal products while doing my dental tourism!

Gary and I fall asleep nightly to a chorus of street dogs barking the news of the day. Some kind of frog makes a croaking that sounds like sticks clicking together.  We are awakened at dawn by church bells and roosters. The poor old church bells are non-melodious. They ring at the most random of times – 6:03 and 6:34 am and a few minutes before 7.  Same in the evening… they ring at random moments that are somehow predetermined. Even the locals don’t seem to know why they ring at those certain times.  After the last dull clang fades, we hear chickens clucking and squawking in waves across the valley. First, one barnyard goes off, then another, then another, echoing off both volcanoes.


Like Mardi Gras, it’s Carnivale time: the weekend before Lent. Parades of musicians and dancers go down the streets at random times. Boys with squirt guns, water balloons, and shaving cream lurk in doorways, ready to douse the unsuspecting. Nobody is safe! Sidewalks are crowded with people from outlying areas. Both town squares host fireworks. I got squirted with water and shaving cream, and Gary got splashed a few times. When I got bold, I squirted a boy who ran past us with a squirt gun.  He was surprised that a gray-haired gringa squirted him. He and his mom laughed with delight.


One afternoon we take a shuttle bus with expats from various countries to a serene, landscaped estate with stunning views, outside of town. A wonderful charity called “Ami” is housed there. They help indigenous Quechua children in need. Weekly movies help raise funds. The bus costs $1, the movie $5.

At the movie, or in some of the expat-run cafes, it’s nice to meet other “gringos” and discuss why they’re here. The primary reasons are the ability to live off Social Security, inexpensive medical care, temperate weather, and a relaxed lifestyle. Many find the US too dangerous. Those who are most successful at making a good life here are those who learn Spanish and integrate into the local community. It seems that the people who only speak English eventually feel isolated and frustrated by the small pool of acquaintances. There are some younger expat families here, but retirees predominate. Among the expats, a variety of lifestyles, personalities, and priorities exist in a kind of disharmonious harmony.  Plenty of disharmonies, but everyone has to share a town anyway, so a type of harmony is created.

The Mercado

fruit bowlGary and I walk to the market (Mercado) on Sunday, when they have organic produce. Our backpack brims with tropical fruits. I buy 2 dozen splendid roses for $3. As always, we run into other gringos from our condo community where we’re staying and chat.  Everyone shares news about what events are happening and who is hiring a driver to visit which other town or lake or park.

At the Mercado and on the sidewalks, we encounter the Viejas. These are extremely old, tiny Quechua women who have no family. Most are well under 4’ tall, hunched, barefoot. They silently beg for food or coins, alongside the hungry street dogs. At night they sleep in a building called “Home for the Ancients”. The tiniest 3’ tall Vieja with cataracts gets coins and bananas from us when we pass.  There are a few Viejos too… little ancient men with blurry eyes, begging.

We feel utterly safe strolling here. The sidewalks are filled with relaxed families and laughing children, plus gringos and vacationers. In the bigger cities, pickpocketing is a problem; it’s best not to carry a purse or have your cell phone in your pocket. In Cotacachi, that is not an issue from what I see. This is a sleepy, safe town where people know one another and not much happens. Everyone greets everyone on the sidewalks. The locals consider the U.S. expats to be, in general, cold and unfriendly because most don’t greet their neighbors as they pass. I get in the habit of greeting everyone and watch their faces light up to greet a friendly gringo.

After the market, we stop at our favorite spot, the Serendipity cafe, to give a few roses to the gorgeous young Quechua owner, Maria. She reaches way up to hug me (she’s 4-1/2’ tall) and draws me into a cheery conversation in Spanish, laughing warmly about my grammar and complimenting my progress. Gary orders guanabana juice and we stroll home, feeling surprisingly at home here in the quiet rhythm of Cotacachi.