In this latest series, I will be going through all the countries I’ve travelled to on my mission to visit every single country in the world. In this article, we will be covering country #33: Ecuador. If you haven’t gotten a chance already, read this story first to find out why I’m trying to visit all 193 UN-recognized countries.
During my one year trip around the world, I was working as a paid travel blogger for LivingtheDreamRTW. My boss, Jeremy, sent me on an assignment to Ecuador where I would be writing five articles for an adventure tour company called Ecuador Purelife (sadly, they’re out of business since COVID-19 started). In exchange for writing five articles, the company would give my girlfriend and I a one-week free tour of Ecuador. This tour normally costs $2000 USD each saving Karen and I $4000 USD together.
VIDEO – Country #33: Ecuador
Blog post on Ecuador
- Complete LA, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador Spending Breakdown
- How to Cross from Ecuador to Colombia in 7 Steps (From Quito to Ipiales)
- 10 Adventure Activities You MUST Do When You Visit Ecuador
- My Experience Staying Overnight in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador
Karen and I flew from Cusco, Peru with a connecting flight in Lima before landing in the Quito International Airport. I was a bit paranoid landing in Ecuador since I heard it’s a rather dangerous country.
We took a taxi to the hotel we were staying in and rendevous with the tour company. The drive into the city was very scenic as we saw green mountains in every direction.
Upon arriving in the hotel, the company briefed us on what sort of article they want us to write about. After getting a general idea of the kind of blog coverage they wanted, Karen and I relaxed into our room until the next day when the tour would begin.
After breakfast, the tour company told us that a big chunk of our tour companions’ flight have been delayed but we would nonetheless continue the trip as scheduled.
Our first destination is going to be Cotopaxi which is an active volcano. We would be hiking as far as 16,000 feet up starting from the parking lot.
The hike started pretty rough right from the beginning. It was hailing as we slowly hiked our way up the volcano. I’ve never hiked at this high of an altitude before and later on, I would be suffering as a result.
On the way down the volcano, I started getting the worst headache imaginable. By the time I reached the car, my head was pounding and I was in so much pain.
The tour guide told me that it should go away on its own when we drive back down to lower elevation. Thankfully, he was right in his assessment and I felt better after getting off Cotopaxi.
Our next destination will be Baños where we would be spending the night while waiting for the rest of our tour group to arrive.
Best ice cream ever
Before reaching Baños, we ate some Ecuadorian ice cream which is some of the best I’ve ever eaten during my one year trip around the world.
That evening, the rest of our tour mates arrived. We were then briefed on how we’ll be spending the next two days of the tour in Baños which will consist of several adventure activities.
The next morning, we started our trip with my fellow tour-mates doing some sort of modified bungee jumping type of activity. This was followed by going on some hikes in the Baños area before heading to a ravine where we would go ziplining.
Ziplining in Ecuador is awesome and is also one of the cheapest places in the world you can go ziplining. I believe we only paid around $20 go to zip lining here.
In the late afternoon, we ended our tour to do the Swing At the End of the World. You basically swing over a cliff and take some cool pictures while you’re at it.
It’s actually not as dangerous as it looks because you’re well secured.
Mountain biking at Llanganates National Park
On our last day in Baños, our tour took us to Llanganates National Park in Ecuador to do some mountain biking.
The mountain biking ride was intense. It starts out with an uphill bike on cobbled stones which burns your lungs. Afterward, you will be biking at high speed down the mountain. The adrenaline rush was insane and it was scary at many points.
Stray dogs would chase us as we biked down. Some of my fellow tourmates fell off their bikes and got scraped badly as a result.
After an intense afternoon biking down the mountain, we were off to our next destination.
I was afraid of our next destination. When I think of the Amazon rainforest, I think of giant tarantulas. One of my childhood memories was watching the movie Arachnophobia and before that movie, I wasn’t scared of spiders at all. But, after watching it, I was deathly afraid of them until I turned 18 when my friend put a tarantula on my hand which helped me get over that fear.
Regardless, I still hate spiders even if I’m not that scared of them anymore, and knowing we’re going in their domain does not put me at ease at all.
Upon arriving at the rainforest homestay, we got ready to go on a hike deep in the jungle.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed hiking in the Amazon rainforest. I liked the smell of the dense oxygen produced by the vegetation that surrounded us everywhere.
The hike itself was fun and is the very definition of adventure. We went under small waterfalls, hiked on creeks, and climbed through narrow crevices. I felt like a true explorer during this hike and I enjoyed it immensely.
Making chocolate from scratch
After the hike, we got ourselves cleaned up. Taking a shower in our barebone accommodation was a bit creepy. There’s definitely tons of spiders and other insects that live in this place. I tried not to think about it. My girlfriend is scared of frogs and those guys are also jumping around the shelter we’re in.
We had a simple dinner that night before continuing on our activities.
The locals here showed us how to make chocolate from scratch. They started off by cooking the beans before extracting the chocolate inside them.
Once the chocolate was extracted, they mixed it with milk and cooked it in a pan. The end result is milk chocolate made from scratch!
After making chocolates, my other tour mates spent the evening drinking some beer. I didn’t want to drink beer because the alcohol prevents me from sleeping. All I wanted was to pass out and get out of this jungle as fast as possible.
Escape from the Amazon rainforest
Our room accommodation was bare and tons of insects were crawling all over the place. I went inside my net and drifted off until the next day.
My girlfriend actually tried waking me up at night because she needed to go to the washroom and felt scared. I’m glad I didn’t wake up because there’s no way in hell I would fall back to sleep if that happened.
Strangely, I slept really well and felt good the next morning. While eating breakfast, we were attacked by a swarm of wasp which was a bit unsettling.
After getting away from the wasp, they taught us how to use a blow dart used by indigenous tribe members to hunt animals in the Amazon rainforest.
There would be no rest for us because after leaving the Amazon rainforest, we would be doing some white water rafting.
White water rafting
Our tour took us to the Jatunyacu river where we would begin our white water rafting experience. This rafting experience will actually intersect with the Amazon rainforest. I’ve never done this before so I had no idea what to expect.
After a safety briefing, off we went to start paddling down the river.
At one point, they asked us to jump off the raft so we can experience what it’s like to be dragged by the river. This turned out to be a bad idea as I swallowed tons of water when I was being swept by the river. I was paranoid that I swallowed some parasites since this river is rich with local wildlife after all. (Thankfully, nothing happened to me).
We took a brief break from white water rafting and played a game of who can catch the paddle the fastest. I won the game which surprised me because the other people in my group looked a lot more athletic than I do.
After clearing the Amazon river, we had a big lunch before heading off to the Hacienda.
The Hacienda is basically an old colonial home built in the late 17th century by the Spanish. This place was neat as it gave us an opportunity to do our laundry from the crazy adventures we had in the Amazon rainforest.
We also got a chance to watch a group of local musicians play their music.
Dinner was fantastic and we had a great time relaxing here after getting beaten up by our previous adventure experiences.
The next day, we went to the exact equator location in Ecuador and took tons of pictures there.
Afterward, they took us to eat guinea pigs which are a local Ecuadorian delicacy.
Our next destination would take us to the Otavalo market where we can go shopping for souvenirs. We also got a chance to eat local food there for a reasonable price. My girlfriend and I had fun bargaining in Spanish as she purchased some goods to bring back home to Canada.
After the Otavalo market, we checked out a hummingbird sanctuary and got a chance to take photographs of them.
Termas Hotel and Spa
Our day ended by going to the Termas Hotel and Spa to just relax and unwind after getting our ass kicked from all the adventure activities we’ve been doing these past few days.
Since I was doing a blog coverage of the tour company, they hooked me and Karen up with a free 60-minute massage.
This place was really nice, except, in an ironic turn of event, the towel in our room had a giant spider when I opened it.
I found it ironic that I didn’t get attacked by giant spiders when I was in the Amazon rainforest. Now that I’m in a spa, that’s where they were waiting to ambush me.
Cuicocha Crater lake
Our final adventure is to do a boat trip to the Cuicocha Crater lake. Then, we would proceed to hike all around it.
The boat ride was neat, it’s a once in a lifetime experience to ride on a boat inside a crater lake of an active volcano.
We then proceeded to hike around the crater afterward. It was fairly strenuous but at this point, we were now conditioned to do tough physical activities.
When the hike was done, we were all adventured out and ready to relax as we wrapped up our tour of Ecuador.
Girlfriend going home and I travel to Colombia
Sadly, my girlfriend would be flying back home to Canada that evening. This trip was during my one year trip around the world. I won’t be seeing my girlfriend again for another four months. Parting ways was really hard for her. Thankfully, this is in the past now and it’s just the reality of things when one partner decides to take a year off to travel.
Two days later, I decided to go to Colombia next. I took a bus from Quito all the way to the city of Tulcan.
From Tulcan, I took a taxi to the Ecuador-Colombia border. The immigration process in Ecuador was fairly straight forward and before you know it, I’m walking over to Colombia.
My trip to Ecuador was an adventure-filled one. I will return one day to visit the Galapagos Islands which is the main spot to visit in this country.
I learned during this trip that I hate cramming so many activities in a short period of time. Actually, I learned that I do not like doing a wide variety of activities, to begin with.
The tour company was happy with my coverage of their tour. My boss at LivingtheDreamRTW was also quite pleased with my work and said it’s the best work I’ve done so far for his blog.
But, I will probably never do another gig like this. When I’m writing an article for another company, it takes away the fun of the trip. While I don’t regret doing this gig, it’s probably a once in a lifetime experience for me.