Submitted: 6 Sep 2009
We spent 10 days in Ecuador. We arrived on a Tuesday night and arrived at the villa at 12:15 Wednesday morning. Alberto, the caretaker met us at the airport. He spoke no English and I spoke rudimentary Spanish, barely enough to say a few words to get my ideas across. Alberto was very familiar with the roads and got us there without a problem. The language barrier did not become a problem.
The villa was well located. The distance from Quito was approximately 15 kilometers and took 30-35 minutes.
During our stay we went to one major location per day. First day was La Mitad del Mundo, where the equator crosses through Ecuador, This was located 15 miles north of Quito and took almost 1 hour. I was quite anxious the first day because Ecuadorean drivers are very aggressive. The roads, being in the Andes Mountains, are rather steep. People passed aggressively, pulled out for lane changes aggressively, and always exceeded the speed limit of 90 km./hr. After 2 days of driving I felt very comfortable and settled in nicely. We drove over 1500 miles during our stay. I would recommend renting a car and driving yourself only if you feel comfortable driving in large cities such as New York, Boston, or Washington, D.C. Another option is to rent a cab for $ 50 per day. They will take you anywhere.
One day trip included Teleferico, the gondola lift on the west side of the city, taking us up Mt. Pichinicha to 13-14,000 feet. Alberto accompanied us everywhere. It was his first lift ride ever. WE grew quite fond of Alberto. The restaurant at the top with the view is a must. We hiked about 1000 feet higher but one can hike for several hours to get to the top. Temperatures were in the 40s and the wind was very brisk at the top.
Another day we drove up Mt. Cotopaxi to 16,000 feet. That was the highlight of the trip. Highly recommended. On leaving Cotopaxi while on back roads, we came upon a beggar blocking the road with a large 9 ft. pole in his hand. Alberto told us that he wanted money. I gave him $0.50 and he acted like I gave him $ 500. His face lit up with gratitude. He placed his hands together as if in prayer to thank us.
The country consists of very poor and very well to do. There seemed to be few middle class.The poor live in houses that are similar to those I saw in Puerto Rico. The rich live in villas or haciendas with high walls and strong gates. At the top of the wall there are broken bottles cemented into the concrete to prevent climbing over the wall. In spite of this, my family and I felt very safe taking the 10 minute walk to the town square. At no time did I ever feel threatened or unsafe in La Merced. Chickens, dogs, and cows roamed freely on the streets. After a few days we became very accustomed to these things.
During mass on Saturday night a dog walked into the La Merced catholic church all the way to the front and sniffed the priest then found a cool place to settle onto the tile floor. Nobody batted an eyelash.
Quito itself had its rich areas but mostly was very poor. The historical areas were enchanting. Walking in daylight was safe except for pick pockets, something to be expected in any tourist area. At night the risk is too great. One is advised to take a cab in Quito even if it is only two blocks to your destination.
The villa was very nice. The kitchen was large, living room and dining room also very nice. Each bedroom was unique.
We did have two problems with the villa. There was a rooster on the grounds who crowed all night long. It bothered me the most because it seemed he was closest to my room. Because of this, sleeping pills are advised if you want good sleep. The other issue was that the dishwasher did not work but it was minor.
We grew very close to Alberto and his family. They were very friendly and helpful. One day I threw the ball with his children in the courtyard. They taught me to count to 100 in Spanish and I gave them the same lesson in English. My son played Michael Jackson songs for them on his Ipod. They were enthralled.
At night temperatures dro pped into the 50s. Each room had a fireplace to take the chill off. There is no heating or air conditioning because it is not needed. Daytime temperatures were in the low 70s.
Days and nights are 12 hours each. We watched DVDs from home to pass the nights until bed. TV was 100% in Spanish. No English. The DVDs are highly recommended.
I recommend this trip to anyone wishing for an adventurous trip to a third world country. Some days one can relax at the villa. Other days one can venture out to see the sights.
Our family will remember it for many years to come. I am interested in upgrading my Spanish perhaps for a trip at a later time.