I was beside myself with excitement when I was invited to go on an educational with Sunvil a Tour Operator that has tailor made many fabulous holidays for my clients in this region.
We flew with Avianca via Bogota in Columbia I was very impressed by them and would not initially thought of flying to this region with them. Comfortable seats, friendly staff good in flight service with a smile and Bogota Airport has some great shops and eateries too.
Our first two nights were in Quito, smaller than I expected but interesting and the colonial centre is very pretty. Take the cable car to the top of Pichincha Volcano for views of the city, weather permitting (ours didn’t!) We did however visit the El Alabado Archeology Museum an interesting couple of hours where I managed to head butt a glass case as it was so clean I did not realise it was there !!! I had not even had a drink!
The next day was the bit I was looking forward to most our trip to Sacha Lodge in the Amazon basin. I was so excited but it was quite a journey from Quito. A flight, then 2 hours down the Napo River in a small motorised boat that zig zagged all the way avoiding the sandbanks , initially it was pouring rain but thankfully it cleared. We than had a 50 minute hike along a raised boardwalk in a flooded palm forest before the last part of our journey which was 20mins in a dugout canoe before we reached our destination. We paddled across a lake and there was Sacha Lodge with mist on the water it looked quite mystical. Our next 3 days were spent with our two guides, who were both Indigenous people from this area. We went out several times a day, a mixture of walking through the very dense rainforest to paddling down little tributaries where we saw some amazing birds. We stopped by a palm plant where Fausto put his hand inside and bought out a huge tarantula! We also went out at night and found all sorts of creepy crawlies by torch light. There were these funny Monkeys called Milk Drinkers because they were black with white around their mouths. We went to the salt licks one morning early and saw hundreds of very brightly coloured parrots which came most mornings for the salt. We saw big howler monkeys sitting in the trees and the day we left we waited as a whole troupe of small monkeys jumped from trees above us across the river. They also have in the middle of the forest three big observation towers attached by long rope bridges, great for wild life spotting. The accommodation was good the food was very good. I would recommend paying a bit extra and have your personal guide. I found sometimes being in a group a hindrance and I think the experience would be better as they would tailor the experience to what you wanted to do. We even went fishing for Piranhas in the lake, one of the girls caught one , mine just nibbled my pork and swam away (I was quite pleased really)
We retraced our journey and flew back to Quito for the next part of our adventure, we were off to Ibarra. We visited the Equatorial monument and actually stood on the Equator. We had lunch at Cayambe which is the centre for Rose production in Ecuador. This was actually quite interesting as the Roses ? all grown completely straight because you are so close to the Equator, they also explained how different countries like their Roses, long stems for Russia etc etc.
We drove through the countryside through little villages. It feels like you are going back in time and the people work very hard on the land. I didn’t see much in the way of agricultural vehicles so I think a lot of work is done on the side of steep hillsides with hand tools. The scenery was very spectacular as you are surrounded by the Andes. We drove for some time and came to a delightful hotel call Hacienda Piman, beautiful gardens, a pool and great rooms where you are surrounded by the forest. We had an amazing meal and were definitely ready for bed after our long day.
Next day up early and off again to visit the province of Imbabura, stopping at Cuicoha Crater Lake for a walk where I saw the bluest of blue birds ever. Our next stop was the town of Cotacachi famous for its leather goods. Every shop sells leather coats or bags basically all things leather. I made a little purchase of a fabulous small leather case on wheels, it was an absolute bargain and so well made, well it would rude not tool. We stopped here for lunch and one of our intrepid travellers Will had Guinea Pig for lunch, a local delicacy!! We then visited San Antonio famous for its wood carvings. Weary travellers we returned to Hacienda Piman for another delicious dinner.
Next morning we set off early to go to Otavalo Market, just fascinating, it is one of the most colourful and largest Indian textiles markets in Ecuador. We all made lots of purchases, I bought two alpaca blankets amongst other things. Not a bit of thought on how I was going to get all this stuff home!!!! This also has a large market where locals sell the produce they have grown themselves, very buzzy and full of the sounds of talking, shouting and people selling their wares.
Our trip was coming to an end, on our last day we caught the train from Ibarra for a scenic ride to Salinas a small village known for its Afro-Ecuadorean community before heading to the airport to fly home.