It all started at one of our houses when we all were having dinner and planning a trip to Macchu Picchu because our spouses wanted to go see the ruins. I detest heights so I was trying to manipulate the conversation towards a trip to Ecuador. I succeeded! My husband and I were Peace Corps volunteers in Ecuador in the 70’s and we have talked about Ecuador to all our friends for years. We came back to Ecuador for the first time after our Peace Corps stint in 2001 and vowed that we wouldn’t wait again for 20 years to come back. The conversation segued to planning a trip for the 4 of us to Ecuador in fall 2010 – and where we would go, what we would do, see, visit.
We are still in our 50’s and still employed and with a mortgage payment but our friends (being a bit older) had already retired from working for pay. They were hoping and planning on selling the house and yard and moving somewhere, with the #1 destination in their minds being Cuenca. So, we said: Yes! Let’s go! Gotta see it to love it!
We arrived in Quito last September late at night, then planned our 2 weeks the next morning. Just kidding! Actually, we had spent months planning almost every day…but we are always up for something spontaneous, and Ecuador being Ecuador, we knew that we had to be flexible and willing to change our plans.
First, the boys wanted to go on a “once in a lifetime” trip to see the Jungle. We gals wanted to shop, eat, and acclimate to the altitude.
The trip to the jungle was such an experience, the boys decided that it would NOT be a “once in a lifetime” visit. They both plan to return to Coca and La Reserva to see more sights…night trips by boat to see the animals in the river, day trips on foot to see gorgeous birds and flowers, tiny frogs and tree stumps the size of a house. Curiously, the jungle preserve was not the place of mosquitoes and cockroaches that they had expected. Just a friendly lizard who took up residence in their room. He probably ate the moscos. And while it wasn’t the Ritz Carlton, the beer was plentiful and the scenery was incomparable.
While we gals shopped, we arranged for us all to fly to Cuenca as soon as the boys returned. The Holiday Inn Express hotel hooked us up with a travel agent who arranged for all our tickets to and from Cuenca. We spent a few days chilling, eating (the crepe restaurant at the mall was a fave) drinking and just watching the people. Quito and Quitenos have changed tremendously since the 70’s. It appears that you can now buy anything here that you might want. It also appears that modern medicine and good nutrition has helped the population to explode beyond the capabilities of the existing roads.
In Cuenca we had arranged to stay in a lovely 2 story condo owned by a norteno who also happened to live in Texas. The place and the location were perfect, close to the big “stairs” that lead up to the old city and overlooking the Tomebamba river. We spent a lot of time sitting on the patio watching the people walk along the river. We also spent a lot of time finding the best hot chocolate in oldtown Cuenca (Wunderbar 2/3 of the way up the stairs aka Las Escalinatas). Yum.
We toured the city and looked for the best areas for expats to live, eat, drink and shop. We went up to Turi and enjoyed the gorgeous view of Cuenca from up high, had a massage and discussed organized bicycle rides in Azuay province with the bartender. We discovered the 3 story market downtown, with roasted pork and mote and potatoes and Pilsner beer lunch. We bargained for and bought colorful fresh fruits and vegies to take back and fix for dinner, some we were familiar with, others we experimented with for the first time. We bought pan dulce and pan de chocolat for breakfast.
Cuenca is a walking city, but if you get tired, a yellow taxi will pass by in minutes to whisk you away to whereever you want to go, for just a couple of dollars. We slept wonderfully after walking until tired and eating new and fresh fruits and juices and soups (locro with avocado is now our favorite soup).
The visit to Ecuador last fall was wonderful and we all left Cuenca knowing that we would return soon.
A pact was made. This is where we want to live and enjoy life without “retiring” and also without spending all our retirement funds. The “how” each of us will accomplish that task will be the focus of this blog.
Bienvenudos a Ecuador!