We spent our last week and a half in Ecuador staying in the small Andean village of Pucara, about 20 minutes outside of Otavalo.
When making the reservation for a little casitia on www.airbnb.com I was hesitant about booking nine nights. What would we do there for that long? Most tourists simply visit Otavalo’s Saturday Craft Market and move on. Would the kids be bord? The other option of splitting the nine nights between two destination just seemed to be asking for "travel burnout”. So I clicked the "book it” button and hoped we would simply get into the flow of the area once we were there.
Simply put, the look on the young sea lion’s face in the photo above captures exactly how I felt during our 8 days cruising the Galapagos Archipelago. The unique combination of the sun, beautiful, other-worldly landscapes, and the uncanny friendliness of the animals, above and below the water, created an undeniable feeling of being in the Garden of Eden.
We snorkeled everyday, sometimes twice.
I had forgotten how much actual travel is involved in being a “traveler”. If I had thought it through step by step, I would never have planned this many hours of travel over a 3 day period, positive the kids could not manage it. But as it turns out, I didn’t really think it through, and we had reservations, so we went for it and the kids handled better then most adults would have done. Getting from the Amazon region in the eastern part of Ecuador up to a remote village in the Andes went something like this;
Depart Amazon Lodge-3hrs by boat-2hrs by truck
sleep in hotel
wake up at 5am -8 hrs by public bus-change busses-1 more hour by bus
sleep in hostel
leave hostel at 10am-4 hr bus-Arrive remote Andes village area
There were three keys to our success for this long haul, embracing the feeling of adventure, finding opportunities for little breaks/free play, and allowing some iPad time.
Ecuador is exotic for us, creating a near-constant feeling of adventure. The kids still haven’t tired of the fact that taxis don’t have seat belts and the drivers are slightly reckless. We are continually finding unique foods sold on the buses and in little hole-in-the-wall tiendas. The views are often breathtaking and if not, at least totally different from home. Zuki counted 11 different types of animals on the side of the road on our last 4hr bus ride. With the Ecuadorian music blaring and the aisles filled with standing locals with all sorts of “carry-ons”, the crowed buses are still a novelty.
There is something magical about the Amazon. I am not referring to the common tendency to paint the “unknown” as mystical in our minds; I really felt the magic, like that commonly perceived only during childhood.
On the first night of our 4 night Amazon Expedition at Shiripuno Lodge, we had the opportunity to go on a night walk with our guide to view some nocturnal creatures. In the rainforest, because of the dense ceiling created by the canopy, only a dim light reaches the forest floor during the day. At night it is truly pitch black, which makes for an interesting introduction to the life in the jungle.
Equipped with headlamps, we saw very unusual spiders, cool tree frogs, strange insects, and Ferdinand, a very poisonous snake, curled in the middle of our path.
In retrospect our first travel day probably should have been less ambitious; as arranged it entailed 5 airports, 4 planes, in 24 hours. This schedule combined with our major parental oversight of not loading any new movies on the kids iPads, made for a tough 24 hours. I have read a number of blogs written by proficient traveling families which state in a variety of ways “Our kids have never said they want to go home”...Well one of ours did on the first day; actually turned around on the gangway of the plane and started walking back. We had to use our mean-parents voice, usually reserved for at-home-use only, to get the mutineer to turn around and get on the final plane. But that actually makes it sounds worse then it was..most of the time it was just a bunch of sitting around and eating bad airport food, but it was a long day.
We finally arrived at Quito, Ecuador’s main airport, at 12:30 AM, at which time we had to convince the immigration officer that Yoda was in fact our child even though he no longer had longish blond hair like his passport photo. Spotting the simple cardboard sign reading “Perozo” was truly heart warming. The kids were thrilled that there were no working seat belts in the back seat, as we zoomed the 45 minutes from the new airport to our reserved apartment in the historical district . At roughly 10,000 ft altitude, it was cold, and we were extremely happy to crawl into our beds, topped with big fluffy duvets. We slept till 10am; That simply never happens in our family. Pulling open the shades, we were treated to our first glimpse of Quito.
The excitement of the kids was palpable and I couldn’t get the smile off my face. After cooking up some breakfast from the supplies provided by our accommodations, (A separate post coming soon about our wonderful apartment) we set off to explore Quito’s old town, the world’s first UNESCO Heritage site.
Kelly Perozo, Mom of this traveling tribe, telling our story of a 12 month, around-the-world journey; the good, the bad, and the crazy.