Yes, a Piranha. And, for the rest of my life she will remind me. And not just any Piranha, the most aggressive of all Piranhas (according to our guide). While she was jumping for joy and swinging the pole all around with the fish still attached, the rest of us were standing in the small boat ducking for cover.
Ecuador started off good and continued to get better. Quito, the second highest capital, is 9,350 feet above sea level and contains 1.7 million people. Fortunately, we were coming from Bogota, the third highest capital, at 8,675 feet high so we had already acclimated. We will be in La Paz, the highest, in a month. If you haven’t seen Decker & Colin’s video on “Tooting at Ten Thousand Feet“, it’s a good primer on how elevation effects your body. Critics say the video stinks but I think it will blow you away.
Sixteen hours after we landed, Colin and I went back to the airport to pick up my parents who joined us for a few weeks. They gave me the travel gene and while in their late 70’s — my dad refers to it as “upper middle-age” — continue to travel all over the world.
I won’t say Quito is a beautiful city such as Paris or Sydney or Boston or San Francisco but it does have the Equator. That’s right, the middle of the world. Just a 45-minute bus ride away and you can stand in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The government built a beautiful monument, an extravagant museum, and a small gift shops, restaurants, and ice cream stores on the grounds which straddle both sides of the globe. And then GPS came a long and they realized it was in the wrong place.
So, some entrepreneur built a less elaborate and hokier ‘middle of the world’ park a kilometer away in what is billed as the ‘real equator.’ Of course, the Ecuadorian government does mention the equator is 5km wide so, technically, they are in the margin of error. And, they are also very clear that it was a French scientist who identified the original location.
While in Quito, we also toured the Old City, rode around on the Hop-on, Hop-Off bus, took a chocolate-making class and watched the Changing of the Guards. Latin American countries are often viewed as being more relaxed and less stringent than other parts of the world. This held true as the guards lacked the sophistication and accuracy of either Britain or Russia. Like the equator being just a little off, so were the Ecuadorian guard’s steps.
Our next stop took us deep into the Amazon Jungle to Sacha Jungle Lodge. Ecuadorian Amazon makes up 2% of the overall Amazon rain forest which spans 9 countries and is approximately 60% of the United States. To get there from Quito we took a 45-minute flight east, a two-hour boat ride down the Napo River (largest tributary of the Amazon River) and a 30-minute hike.
It was gorgeous and while the 5:00 a.m. wake-up calls to view the wildlife were less than desirable, we were rewarded with the sounds and sights of the jungle including monkeys, toucans, parrots, caimans, sloths, and colorful butterflies. Check out our video, “Hanging in the Amazon” for a glimpse. A must visit if coming to the region.
We often read about the “last mile” which is the most expensive part of delivering a package. Companies like UPS, FedEx, and Amazon (coincidentally) spend countless hours trying to figure out how to optimize the delivery. At the jungle lodge, that ‘last mile’ is also a challenge. Everything from toilet paper, food, building supplies, luggage, people, etc… comes in on boats as there are no roads. And that last mile is via a canoe and a paddle.
While none of us wanted to leave our jungle life, we were looking forward to a relaxing week in Mindo — a small town located two hours northwest of Quito in the cloud forest. When I asked our guide the difference between a rain forest and a cloud forest, his response was, “a cloud forest has clouds.” So now you know. We have taken it easy here in order to get ready for next week in the Galapagos where we will have early mornings, busy days, and late evenings seeing what Darwin saw 182 years ago.
- Canopy walks, jungle animals, and BBQ night (Sacha Lodge)
- Standing in both the northern and southern hemispheres (Quito)
- Ziplining above the cloud forest (Mindo)
- Horseback riding (Mindo)
- Traveling with Grandma and Grandpa
- A dog snapping at Audrey and ripping her jacket – fortunately missing her leg
- Another dog stealing Audrey’s umbrella while eating dinner
- Days on Road – 62
- Countries – 4
- Flight (Miles) – 7,445
- Flight (Hours) – 21′ 34″
- Bus (Hours) – 44′ 15″
- Items Lost – 4