So, as some of you know I work for Camps on the independent travel team, part of my role consists of helping people find their perfect trip and ensuring they are ready before jetting off. I look after the South America region and liaise quite heavily with our teams in Peru and Ecuador.
This February I was lucky enough to journey overseas to Ecuador to meet our teams, our camps, projects and the regions we work in.
I have done a fair bit of travel across Central and South America but Ecuador was new to the list. I was absolutely delighted to get my backpack on again and begin a new adventure!
I am going to share with you some of my experiences.
I was greeted at Quito airport with big smiles from Jimena and Richard. It was strange, as we have shared many a conversation over skype but I had never actually met in person. They felt like old friends instantly. We went for some traditional Ecuadorian food and a beer, a great introduction to Ecuadorian cuisine.
The next day I visited one of the most beautiful lagoons, its situated 3800m above sea level and is sat in the crater of a volcano. Beautiful
On route we visited some indigenous families who still live in very traditional houses on the side of the Andes mountains, they go through severe weather conditions and harvest the local land. I also learned that a family stays in just 1 room which is split into a bed/sleeping area, a cooking area and also a relaxing area, the size of their house is no bigger than your average bedroom and there are usually about 4 people living in it. The most surreal thing is they have about 150 guinea pigs also living with them just running around on the floor. I thought they ate them on a regular basis but they cant afford to do this and they breed them and sell them at the local markets. These little fellas also play a big part is keeping the house warm.
Quito is one of the highest capital cities in the world and situated at 2800m above sea level, it sits high in the Andean foothills and has beautiful mountain backdrops surrounding it. Exploring the city was great fun and we happened to be there whilst it was carnival, this included foam spray, water bombs, face paints, music and lots of dancing. They’re not shy about getting you involved and find it even funnier to get you involved if you’re not a local. Me and Jhoana got a face full.
I was going to be spending my time with Jimena for the first week or so, she was looking after me and showing me the sights, just driving around the city you can see Cotapaxi, the volcano that erupted last summer and is still very much active. On a clear day you can see this beauty just driving around Quito. I learned there are about 84 volcanoes in Ecuador and about 24 of them are still active.
Fun at the Equator.
Its Party Time!
I was invited along to one of Jimena’s family celebrations, and what a joy it was. Her family were so welcoming and hospitable. They fed me lots of lovely food, we danced A LOT (the gorilla dance was most definitely my favorite) They are amazing and it was so special to be a part of such a close knit, traditional family celebration.
Down to the coast we go.. we arrive at Camp Costa and are staying with one of the ladies from the community, Mariesol. She also works for us doing the cleaning and cooking in the camp and is lovely.
Its amazing to meet the locals who are helped by the work of camps and to see how their lives are also being changed.
Camp Costa is amazing, its just a 2 minute walk from Marisol’s house and located in the heart of the community. The projects here include reconstruction of the community church, planting in the medicinal garden and work in the local primary school. The beach is just a 5-10 minute walk away from the camp and is brought to life if your able to catch the sunset.
Nearby in the local town of Peruto Lopez you can take a boat to Isla de Plata located about an hour away lie undisturbed and protected islands, they are part of Parque Nacional Machalilla and home to some amazing wildlife; blue footed boobies, frigate birds, turtles, there have even some dolphins and whales spotted in the waters nearby.
The food has been an absolute delight since I have been here, I had some excellent seafood on the coast. I also tried the ceviche and have heard about the ongoing dispute as to who’s ceviche is better Peruvians or Ecuadorians. I know our teams have have many a debate. I will let them tell you.
My journey began nice and early from my hostel in Quito where I was met by the lovely Paola who leads our volunteers through their expeditions. There is only one word for this woman… LEGEND! A few hours later we were in a small town and from there we met our driver who took us on a boat and another short drive through the thick of it we arrived at Camp Amazonia. It really is in the depths on the rainforest.
Who knew bananas are pink when they are little?
I was lucky enough to spend some time with our volunteers here and work on some of the projects in the communities of Rio Blanco and San Alberto. We worked on a bus shelter, the community building and also digging out the local fish pond to maintain the breeding and growth of the local fish.. Tilapia!
Probably one of my favourite meals of my trip, the lovely kitchen ladies cooked some some Tilapia using the local method of cooking them in banana leaves over the fire. Delicious!
We went jungle trekking, ate lemon ants, took part in a traditional ritual, worked on some amazing projects, learned about the traditional way of life about those who live in and around the local area and exchanged songs and dances with the local community, its safe to say my visit to the Amazon well and truly exceeded expectations!
Out of the Amazon and onto our next stop in Banos for a couple of days, its the adventure capital and place to go in Ecuador. It’s full of awesome activities to get your blood pumping! There is a bridge bungee, canyon swing, white water rafting, biking and much more. It’s very backpacker friendly and full of cool hang outs. Cafe Hood is the place to be!
My time is Ecuador was coming to an end and I was starting to get that sad feeling where I just didn’t want to go home and continue my time exploring this beautiful country. But there was one last surprise in store!
On my last night in Quito I had a lovely meal with Jimena and all our volunteers and I was flying out the evening of the next day, so Jimena turned around and said, so I was thinking we could make the most of your last day and visit Kuri Kucho and then pop into Otavalo on the way back, then meet the team in the office before catching my flight home.
and well what a marvelous idea that was!
Camp Kuri Kucho!
Even though I only got to spend a few hours here this turned out to be my favourite camp. It’s absolutely amazing!
It’s situated 2300m above seas level up in the Andes mountains near Cayembe volcano, which you can see from the camp when the clouds are playing ball.
It’s located near a small community and there has a been a lot of project work in and around the local school there, our volunteers have been working hard on classroom and kitchen refurbishment and also the introduction of a small greenhouse and crop production programme. One thing I learned is that the Ecuadorian diet is very starchy and high in carbs so we have introduced the importance of veggies and greens by showing the locals how to grow a selection of vegetables in the school gardens.
What trip would be complete without a trip to the largest artisan market in South America! Get your best bartering skills out guys!
Back to the office we go, it was so great to meet some of the ladies who work in the office. They laid on a lovely little spread and I showed them English G&T’s! Salut (cheers in Spanish)
I feel so privileged to be working for such an amazing company which well and truly changes the lives of so many around the globe. Its great to see first hand the communities and projects and the impact Camps and our amazing volunteers are doing. Keep up the good work work guys!
I would like to say a huge thank you to the team here in Ecuador, you have been amazing and made me feel so welcome and made my trip unforgettable. Your country is beautiful and I will most definitely be back! Hasta Luego! (see you soon)