In November 2018, Iza and I traveled one month in Ecuador. We went there for two main reasons. The first one: we had to guide a group of Polish people during ten days. The second one: we wanted to travel for ourselves and to know more about this interesting country. Iza had already been there once, but for me, it was the first time!

Well, Ecuador is obviously known for the Galapagos islands and their amazing fauna. And for many other people, it is known for its volcanoes. Actually, most of the travelers we met during our trip were climbers, hikers or alpinist… So after Peru, Bolivia, Colombia,..etc and all the other South American countries that we’ve had the chance to visit, I was not so excited about going to Ecuador. I thought it was going to be very similar to what I’ve already seen around. And if I like traveling for discovering new and incredible landscapes, I also like traveling for meeting traditional people who still live in a traditional way. Unfortunately, I had never heard about Ecuador as being an interesting country for its culture, its people and all the indigenous who are still living there. Unfortunately… Because that is actually what surprised us the most when we arrived! How nice people can be and how traditional they are!

So we quickly decided to get out of Quito, the capital, to try to meet such people! The first place that came to our mind was the Otavalo market, that is only two hours away from Quito by local bus. If I’m not mistaken, this market takes place only on Saturdays and is relatively famous for all the indigenous people who come shopping once a week.

We went there…and we were not disappointed at all! here are some of the local people we met in the streets of this market :

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

Even if it was raining, people were still shopping and that did not seem no be a problem for them…

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

The place itself was actually ideal for some street photography as there were a lot of street art on the walls!

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market, Travel blog, Travel photography, Photography blog

We particularly loved to see the typical wrinkled faces marked by the time and the hardness of their labor work… We also liked their typical clothes, and the golden necklace that every woman wear there. Some of them were very nice and rewarded us with beautiful smiles and small talks…

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market   Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

After spending some time in this wonderful market, we wanted to stay somewhere around for the night. But the idea of staying in a random hotel in the city was not appealing at all. We wanted something different. Something more interesting… So we talked to some local guys who told us that the countryside was really beautiful. And we were told that near Cotacachi, there were people offering home stays in a small village called “Lomawasi”.

Going there was not difficult. We took a local bus in Otavalo to Cotacachi and then a taxi to this small village in the countryside. However, it was quite dark already when we arrived, and we could not see very well which local houses could host travelers. There was no electricity at all… But we quickly found one house where we asked if it was possible to stay for one night. A charming young lady welcomed us and so we found our little love nest that we were looking for 🙂

What we loved about this experience, is that we arrived somewhere in the complete darkness. So we had no idea about what the surroundings look like and which people live here, except for the young lady who hosted us. As it was late, we went to sleep very quickly… So we enjoyed more discovering after waking up where we were and who was living in this house…

 

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador marketThe lady on the right is the first person we saw that morning. We wondered who she is and we hoped that we could get to know her later.

We were first called for breakfast and this lady suddenly came into the kitchen to have breakfast with us. So a conversation started and she looked very open to talk.

Her name is Mercedes. Her Spanish was not perfect but really good enough to have a conversation. Her mother tongue is actually the “Quichua”, which is a language mainly spoken in Ecuador and very close to Quechua. What surprised us then, it’s that she was really willing to tell us her story. She was speaking a lot, sharing her experience, her past, how time changed…Etc She was so interesting!

Then she proposed to show us the countryside. So we went together for a long morning walk in the mountains around, in the fields of beans and potatoes that they have… and we had an amazing talk. She also didn’t mind to be photographed at all so guess how happy I was!

The nature around was really beautiful and moreover, there was a nice morning mist that gave a special atmosphere to the sceneries. Mercedes, in this environment, was looking like coming from a different time…

 

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market, Travel blog, Travel photography, Photography blog

There was something surprising about her. She was never smiling. It’s quite hard to explain how nice she was but how neutral her face expressions were. We happened to know that her parents refused to send her to school and that she worked in the fields from a very young age. “Life was hard before”, so she said. During all the time we walked, she was carrying a tree on her shoulder to repair something in the house. Of course, we said that we could carry it as it seemed to be very heavy. But that was not an option for her! She has proudly showed us the beauty of where she’s lived, while carrying this tree during more than an hour…

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

Her strength was impressive… Then she kept showing us the surroundings and telling her history. Her father was not nice. He beat his wife and sent his two sons to school, not his daughter… So at the age of 23, she decided to go to school on her own. She took night courses, to learn how to count, read and speak Spanish. This helped her so much she said. Especially now that they welcome few travelers to make some extra money… She also said that she had to go once to Quito to work, but she hated it. She didn’t stay long and preferred the life she had in the beautiful countryside, even if the job was tougher.

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

Her history touched us. We were very thankful that she shared all that with us. But it was already time to go since we had to come back to Quito at night.

But before going back, we wanted to see a bit more of this countryside and Mercedes had told us about a beautiful lagoon named “Cuichocha”. Again, it was easy to go there and very close to where she lives. We took a taxi from her village and it took us 20 minutes to reach this lagoon. However, it was a bit hard to find a taxi at the beginning so we had enough time to see the life in this village…

Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

Going to the lagoon was completely worth it and we had a better idea of the area where Mercedes has lived all her life…

Cuicocha, Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

 

 

Our next destination was the very famous Quilotoa crater. Again, when a place is “famous”, I don’t feel so excited about going there. But still, I was hoping that something interesting may happen. And surprisingly, a stop on the way has become very interesting…

We stopped in a very small village on the road to go to the toilet and many traditional people were here to have a guinea pig for lunch! As you may know, the guinea pig is eaten in many Andean countries and is often served for special occasion. But here, this lady was cooking on the road near a school and selling to many people. We loved even more to talk to the kids who had a break at school.

They were dressed in a very traditional way. And quite shy. But after being some time around them, they got used to our presence. There was also fog in these mountains and once again, this gave a very special atmosphere…

But we had to go and continue our way to the volcano. Once we arrived, the plan was to hike about 5 hours around the crater, at an average altitude of 3900 meters high. That’s what we did. The scenery was awesome!

Trekking to Quilotoa lagoon, Ecuador

Hiking around was not so hard and the views were constantly changing. Especially because of the weather, as clouds were moving a lot and rapidly. Besides, we were almost alone. But we met someone on the way…

Trekking to Quilotoa lagoon, Ecuador

From far away, I thought she was a tourist, because of The North Face coat she was wearing. But then I noticed the hat and when I got closer, I was surprised to see that she was a local shepherd with dozens of sheeps. I wasn’t expecting to see local people on the ridge of this crater. So I asked where she comes from and if she often comes here. She said “Of Course! It’s a perfect location to look after the herd”. I was also curious to know what she thinks about the scenery that for us was amazing! She answered “Well… it’s just a lake.” It’s always interesting to see how people get used to their surroundings huh?

Quilotoa, Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

Anyway, after 5 hours trekking around this crater, we finally arrived to the small town where we started. The weather was really foggy at that time! And it was almost dark. But I loved this atmosphere and there was still life going on in the streets. The scenes I was seeing were like coming from a movie. It looked almost unreal. The locals were just living their routine and that was interesting to look at…

Quilotoa, Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

Quilotoa, Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market, Travel blog, Travel photography, Photography blog

Finally, at the end of the day, when I was already in the bus, I saw a little kid through the window. He seemed to be very shy. He was hiding himself behind his sister I guess but he starred at me many times. He was also traditionally dressed, like all the kids we had met so far…

Quilotoa, Otavalo, Otavalo market, Indigenous market, Ecuador market

We’ve had a really nice time at this crater and we were happy about all this trip so far. This country has definitely a lot of treasures and we were eager to discover more now!

 

 

The next stop was the Cotopaxi National Park. We didn’t want to climb the volcano, but we wanted to see what it looks like and to hike around to enjoy the great nature of this country. Once we got there, the first thing we wanted to do was to reach the refuge, at 4850 meters high. The hike was pretty easy and the atmosphere again was special. We can definitely say that clouds, fog, and mist have been omnipresent in our trip and I personally loved that! It really gives a cinematic look to the scenes…

Trek in Cotopaxi National ParkTrek in Cotopaxi National Park

At the end of the day, the weather was a bit better so we could see for the first time the Rumiñahui volcano that we were thinking to climb the next day. This volcano has three peaks and the middle one, at an altitude of 4650 meters, is the easiest peak to climb. The plan was to leave in the morning and to reach the summit after 4 or 5 hours hiking.

Rumiñahui, Cotopaxi, refuge, trekking, Ecuador

So as planned, we started the ascent of the middle peak in the morning.

And as usual, it was very cloudy and foggy. This time, I was expecting this weather to be very interesting for photography at the top. My excitation was high and I wanted to reach quickly the summit. Once again, the ascent was not so hard, just a little bit steep at the end.

Unfortunately, we were completely in the fog, with no view at all at the top. Iza wanted to go down after waiting a long time already for an amelioration, but I had the intuition that the clouds would not stay here for too long. And I was right. We’ve been rewarded with an incredible view on the ridge and the first peak of the Rumiñahui!

Rumiñahui, Cotopaxi, refuge, trekking, EcuadorR

The clouds were like smoke coming out of the crater… It was really impressive! However, there is normally an awesome view on the Cotopaxi from this ridge, and that was obviously not the case this day. We were really hoping to see it well, at least once… We actually just had to wait the next morning to wake up with a beautiful sunrise on the Cotopaxi!

Cotopaxi, refuge, trekking, Ecuador

What a morning show! This was spectacular! And we made a good decision Iza and I to wake up early this morning… It was also a good occasion to fly the drone and to see that from much higher…

Cotopaxi National Park, trekking, Ecuador

This was magical! It was already our third day in the Cotopaxi National Park and the last one. So we went for a little hike around, not too long, and we’ve been very pleased to see some wildlife!

Cotopaxi, refuge, trekking, Ecuador

Cotopaxi, refuge, trekking, Ecuador

 

 

Time to move on. Not far away from the Cotopaxi National Park, there is the city of Baños which is really low in altitude. The change of environment was really brutal, as we were coming from 4000 meters with relatively cold weather. Baños is famous for lots of waterfalls, some extreme sports like rafting, canyoning or big swings that take you high in the air! The other characteristic of this city, it’s that it’s near a big volcano that was strongly active not so long ago, the Tungurahua! It’s a beautiful conic stratovolcano, and I dream next time to climb it!

Tungurahua, Baños, Ecuador

Baños, Ecuador, Indigenous people, culture

The main attraction of Baños is the Pailon del Diablo which is a big waterfall.

It’s in a protected area and many stairs are built to enjoy the nature around. I liked it but I was not so impressed, and there were too many tourists.

I preferred to look around for more interesting things to shoot. And once again, there were many beautiful traditional people on the way and I loved photographing them.

My favorite one is this lady who was handcrafting bracelets and covers for tourists.

We were now really eager to reach to Pacific coast but we first had to stop in a very beautiful colonial city, Cuenca. It’s probably the most beautiful city of Ecuador and this is for sure where we would have chosen to live if we’d had to work in Ecuador. The weather and temperatures are really nice and it’s not so high in altitude. It’s actually like Arequipa in Peru, where we’ve lived several years.

Thirty kilometers away from the city is the National Park of Cajas. We wanted to have a look at it. It’s much higher than the city and the highest peak is at 4450 meters. It’s actually a very humid place with more than 270 lakes and lagoons! It is huge. We were able to discover just a little portion of it but it was worth it.

Cajas, Cajas national park, Cuenca, Ecuador

Our last stop on the way before reaching the coast was a very nice little town called Alausi where trains still exist. It was a perfect place for some street photography and again, some people were looking very traditional there!

Alausi, Ecuador, Travel blog, Travel photography, Photography blog

 

We finally arrived in Guayaquil with warm temperatures and the Pacific Ocean. What a change after so much time spent in the Ecuadorian Andes! It was also almost the end of our trip so we wanted to find a place along the coast to have some rest for the last week. But we first walked around the city and went to the “Las Peñas” district. Actually we had no idea if it was safe or not to go but it seemed to be so nice from far. We could see many colorful colonial houses built on a hill….As you’ll see, that was completely worth to go!

Guayaquil Las Peñas

For me, this view was 100% true to the image I’ve always had about South America in my dreams before traveling to this continent. When we arrived at this this view point, I felt really breathless because of the beauty of the colors, how vibrant they are and the harmony of the architecture…

Then we went to a very famous park in the city to see for the first time in Ecuador, the famous Iguanas! Everybody knows that on the Galapagos islands, there are hundreds or even thousands of them on the beaches. But in Guayaquil, you can find a park where they are free and that is pretty cool actually. You just have to be a little bit careful because they climb on trees and they pee and poo a lot! So if you walk just below them, you know what’s going to happen…

Iguanas, Parque de las iguanas, Guayaquil

Well, the reason why we wanted to come to the Pacific coast, was to find a quiet place to relax for the last days of our trip. We also wanted to see a bit of the ocean culture to compare with the Andean one, and to go to an island that was not as expensive as the Galapagos. We heard about the “Isla de la Plata” which is also known for being “The Galapagos of the poor”. Because it is easily accessible by boat and cheap to go. Unfortunately, you can’t see all the fauna of the Galapagos, but at least a few birds that seemed to be really funny to see. So we took a bus for the small town of Puerto Lopez and started our research there to find a nice and cosy place to stay…

We finally found an incredible love nest for us. It was also very cheap as it was the low season. We had an entire apartment for us, with a big wooden terrace and the view on the sea. Just perfect! And from the terrace, every morning, we could see a huge colony of birds on the beach turning around a boat. So we had to go and see what was going on there…

Puerto Lopez, Ecuador, Pacific coast, Isla de la plata, fishermen

Every morning, fishermen were working on the beach to transfer all the fishes from their boat to a truck parked a bit further. This attracts hundreds of frigate birds and pelicans! And every time a guy walked with a basket full of fishes, some birds managed to grab some! It was amazing to be there, so close to these birds and watching the Ecuadorians struggling with them. they really tried to be as quick as possible not to lose to much of their fishing.

Puerto Lopez, Ecuador, Pacific coast, Isla de la plata, fishermen

While some of them were carrying the baskets, the other ones were doing all their best to maintain the boat in its position. It was moving a lot with the waves and came back easily to the sea. It was a real physical job.

Puerto Lopez, Ecuador, Pacific coast, Isla de la plata, fishermen

What I loved the most about this scene, was the photographic potential of it. I knew that composition was really important to get the best shot. So I tried a lot of things, many different angles and different shutter speeds… Waiting for the perfect moment to shoot! And I think I got the photo that I was hoping to have…

Puerto Lopez, Ecuador, Pacific coast, Isla de la plata, fishermen

Even the dogs seemed to be waiting for a fish to drop off the basket.

That was a real show and we came several mornings just to see that again. That was very different from everything we had seen in Ecuador so far. There was just one more thing that we were dreaming to see, that was blue-footed boobies.

So we took a full day trip to the Isla de la Plata and it took us only an hour and a half to reach the island! These birds were really so beautiful and so funny to watch! Iza and I were in love with them and it was a perfect way to finish our trip in Ecuador…

Blue-footed boobie, Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

Sometimes they can look very cute. But also angry!

Blue-footed boobie, Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

And sometimes, they can look afraid or just funny ^^

Blue-footed boobie, Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

But the cutest ones are for sure the babies…

Blue-footed boobie, Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

 

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