Photo Tour: Trip to Ecuador, December 2007

In December, 2007, I realized that I'd have a few weeks free... and I needed a vacation. (I also hadn't been out of the US for three years, which is an eternity for a guy who used to travel as much as I did.) With four days' notice, I found flights from Tucson, Arizona, to Quito, Ecuador.

Though the first half of these photos aren't of Ecuador, I hope you'll enjoy the trip! (These photos aren't too spectacular; they're more for story-telling. There are better photos in the following pages.)

To get a larger version of any picture, click on it. (To come back to this tour, click the "return to tour" link or use your brower's "Back" button.)

Although Tucson is in the southern Arizona desert, the mountains around town get dustings (or up to a foot or more -- 30 cm!) of snow sometimes. As I flew out, I sat on the left side of the plane to catch views of the last night's snowstorm. We usually just get rain in the valley, and you couldn't miss the cutoff level on the Santa Catalina mountains north of town. The snow-capped views continued as we flew east toward Houston:
Snow-capped Santa Catalina mountains from the air -- near sunrise -- Tucson, Arizona
Snow-capped mountain east of Tucson, Arizona

After sunrise over Tucson and a long layover in Houston (which I chose to be sure I didn't miss my international flight), I was treated to one of those amazing airline sunsets -- with sun hitting some clouds, a band of smog (this one from Houston and the south Texas coast) adding color over the ocean, and high cirrus clouds in white. I like to sit by the window on long flights, and the cloud-watching was also fine this evening:
Sunset from flight between Houston, Texas and Quito, Ecuador
Clouds over the Gulf of Mexico, south of Houston, Texas

We didn't make it to Quito that night: the airport was fogged in, so we flew to the coast, to Guayaquil. There, on the runway, one of the flight attendants announced that "Customs is closed" -- so we couldn't leave the airport, and we'd have to spend the night in the terminal.

After we got into the terminal and found our spots on the hard benches, we heard announcements for the other international flights coming and going. Customs obviously wasn't closed, and we heard later that other airlines with diverted flights sent their passengers to hotels. There were lots of other problems; the Continental Airlines staff seemed unprepared for a situation that can't be that infrequent. (Grumble, grumble.)

Here we are on the benches, with the blankets and pillows we brought. And here's a creative use of blankets: making a tent for some children who spent their night on the floor:
Continental passengers spending the night in Guayaquil airport
Tent made from airline blankets for children spending the night on the floor of Guayaquil Airport

Once we got to Quito -- the middle of the next day -- my hotel was welcoming, a shower felt great, and I went out for a short walk before I went to bed (at 6 PM! -- after two days with almost no sleep, I was ready). Here are two views from the Plaza San Francisco in the beautifully-restored old part of the city:
Tower from Plaza San Francisco, Quito, Ecuador
Iglesia Compania de Jesus, Quito, Ecuador

Although I missed my trip to the annual festival in Baños, I got more time to get re-acquainted with Quito. (My last trip was to a Spanish language school, 14 years before.) I'd wondered whether my Spanish would come back to me, but that was no problem. Though the streets were full of turistas like me, there were friendly Ecuadoreans to talk with, some great museums, and a new light-rail system to take me around.

I browsed through my guidebook and decided to do something different: head for the coast, to an eco-resort at Playa Escondida. Though you may think that all Latin American buses are full of live chickens and produce on the way to market, a lot of buses are first-class -- and the prices are very reasonable. (My overnight trip to the coast cost something like $7. Ecuador uses U.S. currency, by the way.)

Half of the fun of a bus ride for a (basic) Spanish-speaker like me is being in the bus station, watching people go by, listening to drivers and hawkers call out the destinations. (In Ecuador, everyone takes the buses. They're fast, frequent, and mostly on-schedule.) Once I got to the town of Tonchigüe on the coast, I didn't take a taxi to the resort. Instead, the driver dropped me off at a crossroads near sunrise, and I joined the group of people waiting for something to come by and give me a ride the last 10 kilometers or so. I ended up on a chiva, one of the flatbed trucks with seats bolted on back that provide scheduled transportation in this rural area.

Here are a couple of frames from my little video camera: a family in the Quito bus station, and the group of guys waiting for a ride at the crossroads the next morning:
Family in Quito bus station
Waiting at the crossroads for a ride - south of Tonchigüe, Ecuador

The next page has photos of the beach at Playa Escondida. It was worth the trip!

[Next page: Playa Escondida, Ecuador]
[Tour start: Ecuador, December 2007]
[More photo tours]

(These photographs are Copyright © 2008 by Jerry Peek. Much higher-resolution versions of most images, and many other images too, are available at Jerry Peek Photography. Photos are available at reduced prices, or free, for non-commercial use.)

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