© 2012; 1998 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Patricia Redman. Information
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
Therefore, all facts, figures, and author's opinions are subject to change as time goes on.

Up and Down in Ecuador – A Solo Travel Report

By Patricia Redman

In December, 1997 I did a mostly solo trip to Ecuador. I did not know before leaving home the extent of the flooding in this area caused by El Niño. Everyone else must have known as I met few tourists. But this was to my advantage:I had great attention lavished on me at small hotels (hostals) and restaurants. I had good luck finding recommendable hotels with the help of my travel agent and a Lonely Planet guidebook.

Spectacular Scenery

Flanked by mountains, the capital city of Quito is attractively located in a valley at an altitude of 2,850 meters. I took things easy for a couple of days while getting used to the altitude then started sightseeing at the Casa de la Cultura Equatoriana, which has several collections including art, archaeology, musical instruments, and a good little café.

Art lovers should visit the Museo Guayasamin. It contains the work of Ecuador's most beloved painter and his personal collection of pre-Colombian art. You can sit outside, have coffee and enjoy a great view.

I highly recommend a visit to Safari Jeep Expeditions at Calama 380. Jean Brown's trips appeal to hikers, birders and just plain tourists. She's a fount of information about the country and can tell you where, how and why to go, and where to stay when you get there.

My first trip was two hours north to Otavalo, famous for its Saturday market. If you can get in, the Shenendoah Pie Shop is a good place for lunch.

I met some Danish travelers in Banos (baths), a lovely place with a nice climate. The Danes had taken Spanish lessons here and were proud of their student cards, which gave them travel discounts. Not much else to do here but take hikes or enjoy the thermal waters.

A six-hour bus ride (about US$3) took me to Cuenca, a pleasant colonial city in a region known as the southern Sierra. But I made the mistake of arriving on a Friday at rush-hour. The downtown was jammed with traffic. Museums and art galleries close for the weekend. I even had trouble finding a restaurant open on Sunday. But at least I had a comfortable room (US$20) at the Hotel Las Americas (Mariano Cueva 13-59) and was within walking distance of a market and downtown. Restaurant was only okay.

One of the hotel staff drove me to Ingapirca, one of the major Incan ruins in Ecuador. Wilfrido spoke no English but we understood each other well enough. He was willing to stop at villages for photo-ops, and I could take my time at the ruins, where English speaking guides are included in admission.

Bahia de Caraquez

Back in Quito, I arranged to spend Christmas with friends at Bahia de Caraquez. Flights weren't available, so Jean Brown arranged for two taxis (they met halfway) at the price of air (3 sharing). Coastal roads disappeared at times into muck caused by floods, but somehow the driver plowed through.

Bahia is a pretty, quiet town, but the streets were muddy, and visiting surrounding areas was out because of washed out roads. We did manage one excursion to a small off-shore island to see the Frigate birds. Otherwise, we consoled ourselves by eating quantities of the large shrimp that are one of Ecuador's major export products.

Kindness of Strangers

Next destination was to be Guayaquil, but trouble loomed. It appeared the scheduled flight might not arrive, then good luck intervened. A local business man invited us to share his chartered aircraft. Then on landing, he dashed off, refusing our offer to share the cost. I would not normally dine at the Hilton Hotel, but in this case . . . A delicious vegetarian dinner was US$4.

Flooding continued to disrupt my plans and after rerouting from one place to another and various minor but memorable misadventures, I ended back in Quito for December 31st, which was quite an eventful place to be on the last day of the year.

The Avenida Amazonas is closed to vehicle traffic. The streets are packed with people setting up bandstands and wonderful papier-mâché effigies called muñecas. Just about everyone (and their dog too) wears a mask. Needless to say there was little chance of sleep .

Personally I don't go out alone after dark, but I certainly can recommend Ecuador for solo travelers (even gray-haired) with minimal Spanish.

If you Go to Ecuador

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