All you need is Ecuador

The biggest mega diversity of the planet has its home in Ecuador, the middle of the world. With a privileged climate and the most amazing landscapes, the essence of Latin America fuses itself to create an unforgettable and unique destination. Islands, jungles, mountains and seas. Four worlds are waiting for you.

Wow. Impressive stuff, eh.  When our first driver in Ecuador, Diego, 24, excitedly asked us, “Have you heard? All you need is Ecuador!” we were confused, but it turns out that this is the recent promotional claim of the Ecuadorian tourist board, with its own YouTube video to match. Well, we won’t have a chance to see all four worlds, but the one we’re in – the sierra, or mountain path – is lovely.

It’s quite like “Lord of the Rings” country in parts.

It was on Monday that we started heading towards the Ecuadorian border, with two possible routes available to us: desert or mountains. This was all in the hands of whichever drivers would cross our path, and in the end it was Luis who pulled over and told us he was heading inland. Mountains won the day, and what a day it was.

The landscape marked a big contrast from our recent coastal-desert route.

The landscape marked a big contrast from our recent coastal-desert route.

Lush paddy fields lined the road.

Lush paddy fields lined the road.

That night we landed in San Ignacio, a small town a mere 47-kilometre hop from the border. This we arrived at by lunchtime on Tuesday with a combination of walking and back-of-truck rides, having to wait a short while for the only Peruvian immigration officer to come back from his lunch break. Ciao, then, Peru.

Turn right for Equador.

Turn right for Ecuador, just over that bridge.

Traffic in these parts was not at a steady flow, so when we heard a truck pulling past the Ecuadorian immigration office, Steve leapt out of the door to intercept it (the officer didn’t seem to mind). Diego welcomed us in, and within three minutes of arriving in the country we had scored our first ride. Let’s take that as a good sign!

Diego's truck.

Diego’s truck. His two employees gave up their seats for us and looked after the bags.

So, Ecuador then. Our first night was spent in another small town called Zumba (no exercise classes of the same name to be found) and as such traffic on Wednesday was again at a slow ebb. We gradually made our way, though, and our final ride of the day was certainly a unique one: in the back of a van carrying toiletries. It was a bumpy ride – brooms don’t make for much cushioning!

One of us isn't really sure about this.

One of us isn’t really sure about this. The other is all smiles, as usual.

Franklin and Nelson, who took us on a little tour of the area.

Franklin and Nelson (great names), who took us on a little tour of the area.

We had been recommended a little village called Vilcabamba, also known as the “Sacred Valley of the Centenarians” because of the long life its locals enjoy. (One of our drivers told us his grandfather lived to 130!) Franklin took us to one of the hostels he delivers toilet paper to; it seemed as good a choice as any, and in fact it was wonderful. For the first time since somewhere back in Brazil, we had a quiet night’s sleep (sound-proofing not really being a priority in Peru) and in the absence of a masseuse from England appearing at our side in the week, we found one here instead.

This. Is. Wonderful.

This. Is. Wonderful.

We finally dragged ourselves away from the peace and harmony on Saturday, having made the most of “Settlers of Catan” players and fellow walkers staying at the same hotel. Back on the road north again, we joined Angel and Luis who were travelling all the way to Quito, 14 hours away and most of the distance towards Columbia! Deciding that this would take us through Ecuador too quickly, without a chance to get to know it properly, we jumped out at Cuenca, a city to the south. Ecuador is so small, this may turn out to be our only weekend here… vamos a ver

The beautiful cathedral in Cuenca.

The beautiful cathedral in Cuenca.

Megan and Dolan, new friends from our stay in Vilcabamba who we bumped into in the street in Cuenca.

Megan and Dolan, new friends from Vilcabamba, whom we bumped into again in Cuenca.

Total number of lifts: 181
Week Twenty-One distance travelled: 817 km
Total distance travelled: 24,308 km

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