Cuenca, Ecuador

I decided to blog before we actually move to our new abode. Living here in Sofie’s and Hendry’s big house seems like a unit of time. We have been renting one of six or seven bedrooms in their big house. They also have a two bedroom apartment in  back. Hendri’s brother lives in one of them. They rent out the rest as they can on airbnb. We rented for the month.

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They have twin 2 year old boys and a dog. It would seem like the boys abuse the dog, but the dog seems to love it.

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I haven’t got the usual pictures of monumental buildings. Historical Cuenca isn’t as photogenic as a lot of places, but it’s there to look at. Mainly, the historical center is a busting center of activity. There are definitely a lot of gringos in there, but not enough to ruin it.

The first Saturday we were here, there was a parade. I never asked what they were up to.

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Three rivers become two in Cuenca. It’s nice to walk along them. This one is a couple of blocks north of where we are staying.

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This one is half a block from our new place, which is roughly on the left below the white bell tower.
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A lot of the way along the rivers look like this.

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Ecuador grows eucalyptus trees intentionally in areas long since deforested, Even though the wood is hard to use for construction and heat, they use it anyway. No one would disagree that trees add to the aesthetic value of any place.

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Banos is a suburb of Cuenca. (Again, imagine a tilda over the “n”) It’s far enough away that you almost lose the big city feeling. If it wasn’t only 15 minutes from Cuenca and served by the local 25 cent buses, it would really feel like a town. It has the usual photogenic church.

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Banos is most popular for the natural hot spring spas there. By American standards, they are very affordable. You can get in, use the baths and mud baths for $5-10 and/or buy packages for $20-90. 90 bucks would be everything from pedicure to sauna to multiple massages. Here’s a look down at the nicest of the three we found there.

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That place catered to the new age crowd. Up where we were walking around and took the above picture is a nice path tricked out to be for walking meditation. The road was on the other side of a stone outcropping. you could go onto the street through the puerta cosmica”, cosmic door. Note the sign, just so you know it’s cosmic, man.

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Kidding aside, $5 for the water and mud baths is a great way to spend a day.

That’s going to do it for this post. I think there will be another one soon, after Carnival and when we’ve moved into our new place. Until then, be well, all of you. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Vilcabamba, Ecuador

This post is basically a placeholder. Myung and I are living in Cuenca but I’m not ready to post on that yet. Besides, that wasn’t a sure thing till last week. In fact, it still isn’t a sure thing for the long term. Besides my needing one foot out the door to be comfortable about anything, Myung still has her throat thing and who knows how that’s going to work out.

As we suspected, the chronic frog in her throat didn’t get better in Vilcabamba, which is lower and warmer than Cuenca, Quito or even Cotacachi. She was also having headaches. Those went away in Vilcabamba and, thankfully, haven’t returned since she returned to Cuenca.

So, we’re in Cuenca. For two weeks or so, she was in Vilcabamba and I visited her there for a few days. It’s a nice enough town of about 5000 people, an hour southeast of Loja which is 4 hours south of Cuenca, not far from the Peruvian border. Pretty, like almost everywhere in Ecuador. Here’s where we stayed and the view of Vilcabamba from the dining area. This Izhcayluma Hostel/Resort is one of the nicest paces we’ve stayed.

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It looks like a long way down there, but it’s only a pleasant 2 km walk. A taxi back up the hill is $1.25. During the time I was there and the subsequent days Myung was there, we looked around for potential places to rent long-term. The problem with that idea turned out to be the places were either high-end and expensive, or too rural to have internet. This is a developing country, so unless you are in a town, sometimes it has to be a city, the only way to get internet is with Direct TV, which is costly. Myung rented a place in town where supposedly she could get internet. Turns out, even in town, that part of town couldn’t be connected to the net. That, among other things, drove her back into my arms here. She got a refund on her rent and here she is.

Vilcabamba is famous for being one of those places in the world where people supposedly live to extreme old age. That myth has been debunked, though in the old days the perfect climate, air, water and growing conditions did apparently lead to somewhat longer life spans. The Quechua locals attributed it to the huilco trees common to the area. They consider them sacred. Huilco pamba in Quechua language would be Huilco plain or place, hence the town’s name Vilcabamba.

Vilcabamba would be a better place for us gringos than most pueblos because, though it’s basically just small town Ecuador, i.e. very pokey, there are many new age and hippie gringos there. This means there is at least one very nice bakery, a few restaurants with gringo food, and the shops (Forget about a supermarket) have a few items we miss when we’re in other podunks. The idyllic weather and beauty can’t be denied. I would be bored out of my gourd quickly, though. I think Myung would be, too, but she disputes that. If there was internet, she might be okay. The capital of Loja Province, Loja, is only about an hour and a quarter away. Loja is no Cuenca, but it’s enough for a big city fix and you can buy most of what you can buy in Cuenca.

Myung’s place was okay except for no internet, she says. It was noisy on weekends and there was a bothersome light outside her window. I never saw it myself, but here was the inside.

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The place would have been good enough for us, and certainly cheap. Outside was nice.

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Out of town is nice, as you would expect. She didn’t take many pictures while she was there, so you’ll have to take our word for it.

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Anyway, for me there isn’t enough to do around there, especially compared to Cuenca. I came back to where we were staying and rented it for a month. Myung joined me and we’re going to make ago of it here. So far, no headaches. Her throat problem (diagnosed as meheke by a Korean doc she saw in Guatemala City) is still there. We’re going to deal with that using western medicine again when our government health insurance kicks in. Our three month waiting period, except for emergencies, is over in early April. If that doesn’t work, we can try again with private docs and pay for it off the shelf.

Cuenca is the San Francisco of Ecuador. Quito and Guayaquil may be Los Angeles and New York, but Cuenca is a jewel of manageable size, about 400,000. Ecuadorians and gringos love being here because of the eternal spring weather, sophisticated culture, hassle-free fun and low crime rate. Almost everything you could want from one of the bigger cities is here, too. Some say the gringos have driven up the price of real estate, but that’s not entirely true. Though there are about 5000 foreigners here, but most of the money is Ecuadorian. Many Ecuadorian expats return after succeeding abroad, and there must be more doctors per square meter in Cuenca than anywhere in the world. They want to be here, too, if they can.

I point this out because finding a nice, affordable furnished apartment took about three weeks of searching. Finally, I found a place we are both happy with. It’s $360/mo, big enough, in an excellent location, and the landlady is very nice. I think it will be fine. We move in on Sunday. My next post will be about Cuenca. I’ll put a couple of pictures of our apartment in there. I need to take some more pictures around town, too. Carnival is coming up next week. If I can keep the camera dry during that, there should be some good pictures besides the usual monumental architecture and parks.

So, that’s it for now. Be well, all of you.

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Banos, Ecuador

We stopped in Banos for a week on the way to Cuenca. Banos should have a tilda over the “n” but I haven’t downloaded a Spanish keyboard. It’s basically a tourist town in a wide gorge. The surrounding mountains and countryside are suitable for an array of outdoors activities and there are hot baths around. We don’t do much in the way of extreme outdoors activities anymore, though we did go for some walks and visited one of the baths. Sometimes the local volcano glows (It last erupted, forcing evacuation, in 2011). That’s a popular trek. Bicycling 60 km down the gorge a thousand meters to the lowland tropical city of Puyo would be nice, and doable, but we passed on it. I thought about rafting, but passed n that, too. Fact is, our minds are focused on plunking down.

All we did in and around Banos was go the the less than impressive cement hot pools once, walk around the friendly confines of the town which has most of the comforting old favorite tourist stuff, mosey around the river and up to a popular lookout, go to a neatly trimmed park, and to a waterfall.

This is one of my shorter posts. Her come the pics, which are nothing spectacular.

The town itself is not worth immortalizing in this blog. The church is pretty nice for a town this size.

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The lookout looks out onto less spectacular views than the bus ride into town, but since it’s one of the few things to go do that’s not adventurous it passes an an activity. The draw is a couple of swings and a tree house. You can get a micro-thrill swinging out over the edge and looking out.

 

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IMG_8922There are a couple of pedestrian bridges in town you can use to cross over the river.

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It was a little windy. Hold onto your hat.

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Actually, there are dozens of these bridges up and down the gorge. You’ve seen many like this around the world if you’ve followed my blog. Here’s another, down by the most majestic waterfall in the area, Pailon del Diablo.

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Here’s the waterfall itself. It looks a lot better in person, as they usually do. The approach is on the right. We have pictures, but they don’t do it justice. Below is the best of a bad lot. you can see one of the, like, balconies you can view it from.IMG_8952

If you’re into borderline spelunking, you can crouch low or crawl through the rocks to the top. Myung did it. She slipped and hurt her tailbone, which is still bothering her.

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That’s going to do it for Banos. You say, what did you do for a week? We did the other stuff I mentioned, but the pictures aren’t worth posting. And we chilled.

We are in Cuenca now. We rented a room in a huge house for a month. It should be fine. there’s a couple and their twin two year-olds living here. They aren’t even around much, so it’s almost like having this eight bedroom place to ourselves. There will be a complete report on everything pretty soon.

Until then, be well all of you.

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Quito, Ecuador

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We’ve been in Quito for just over two weeks and did what we set out to do. We picked up our permanent residence visas/Ecuadoran ID cards a couple of days ago, looked around town a fair amount, and decided Quito is not likely to be our home. Well, we didn’t set out to write off Quito. We set out to see if we might want to stay here. Most of it isn’t bad. It’s just we have both lived the big city experience, and having everything available isn’t that appealing. Slower is appealing.  We can always come back or go to Guayaquil for a symphony or something.

IMG_8657These days we are definitely more looking at towns and cities with an eye toward living there. All we want is everything. Quiet yet having at least most big city amenities. little as possible traffic (preferably a sizable pedestrian only center of town), the good bread and other stuff you find in expat places, good health care nearby, no mosquitoes, someplace where Myung’s throat problem doesn’t bother her, not hot. Quito had most of the requirements, but is just too busy. It’s also a little expensive, at least by Ecuadoran standards. All that said, I recommend it as a place too visit.

The colonial old town is at least as appealing as most of the better colonial old towns in Latin America. It’s also nearly the oldest, as Pizarro’s contingent landed north of here and proceeded south, founding a colony and church here even before defeating the Incas. In fact, one of the feuding Inca brothers Pizarro played off against the other married into a ruling family from near here. Normally, the churches don’t much appeal to me anymore, but the ones in Quito are quite nice and have been completely demolished as many times by earthquakes as the ones in Antigua.

The most impressive church from the outside is La Basilica del Voto. It was actually built over several decades in the 20th century.

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It’s hard to get far enough away from this to get pictures from any other angle.

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So here are three distant shots and one very distant shot at the front. It is definitely the most dominant architectural feature of Quito.

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There are other churches which are nicer on the inside. Of all the places in Latin America I’ve been, I think Quito has the best churches. I don’t usually go off too much on church visiting, but this city is special in that regard.

These pictures are mostly vertical and don’t fit well on computer screens, so I made them small. Remember, to see larger versions, just click on the picture.

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I’m still learning how to arrange pictures and insert text. I have time today, as it’s rainy and cold, and we don’t feel like going out in it. As I write, I’m figuring it out.

 

I’m sure I don’t have options on how to make the pictures a size between these and the large ones. So, maybe from now on I can fill these kinds of white spaces.To the right and below is the best church, La Campana de Jesus.

I don’t try anymore to remember all the sites, all the churches, all the dates, and so forth. After, what, maybe 13-14 years on the road, it is way to much. I just try to enjoy the present, to look around and drift.

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I got into taking pictures of the stained glass windows. Most of the old glass in Central America, where we have been except for a couple of weeks in Colombia and a few years ago when we were in South America last time, has been broken by earthquakes. These windows are from the 18th century. That’s old in earthquake countries. They aren’t as impressive as many European windows, but very nice still.

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We were lucky most of the time to be in the churches with nice windows when the sun was out and colors bright in the dark interiors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The old town is really large and takes hours to walk around. We have many pictures. Here are just a few.

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A lot of old town has been fixed up….

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… and some renovation is still in progress.

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As I said, it’s a good place to walk around, especially if you like going up an down at 2800-2900 meters (9300 ft+) elevation.

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The rest of our experience in Quito wasn’t particularly photoworthy. We went to some museums, shopped (Myung especially liked the existence of Asian stores), and enjoyed a couple of nice apartments we rented for a week each. We looked at the Cumbaya and Tumbaco suburbs as places to maybe live but, nah, burbs are burbs.

I suppose it’s of interest we went Mitad del Mundo, Middle of the World. The equator is about 30 km north of the Quito center. Mitad del Mundo is a kitschy park not even exactly on the equator. There’s a monument which pretends to be on the equator and a line which is actually off by a couple hundred meters. The real equator is in some rough terrain to the south.

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Here’s the view from the top of the monument.

 

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That’s going to do it for now. We plan to leave Banos for Cuenca in about a week. Likely we’ll stay in Cuenca for at least a month. We have some things to do, like set  up a bank account so we can get health insurance. If we opt for the national plan, we’ll both be insured for 100% of all health care costs and most meds. We may buy private insurance and have health care as good as if not better than in the US. Anyway, we have that and some other stuff to take care of.

Be well, all of you.

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Peguche, Ecuador

I messed up. I have this draft I forgot to post. Meanwhile, we have been to and left Quito. I’m cranking out the Quito post now.

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Oh, we went one more place around Cotacachi before heading for Quito, Peguche. It’s photoworthy, so here are the pics. Peguche itself is a pleasant little town, but the attraction is a nearby wooded gorge. There’s a waterfall, and above that is Lake San Pedro. There are lots of trails high and low from below to above the falls where the lake is.

There are a couple of thermal baths, but they are barely not cold.

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The river above the falls goes like this for a few kilometers.

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Then you get to the lake. Lake San Pedro is nothing to write hime about, but it’ll pass for a destination for the walk up the river.

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I suppose, since it’a a couple of days before Christmas, a word or two about Christmas in Cotacachi would be appropriate. We aren’t Christmassy, but Ecuadorans are. Again, it’s nice to be in a place where Christmas isn’t so commercialized as in the States. Around here, more people are going to church than usual. That’s saying something because most Ecuadorans are very Catholic, with some evangelicals. There’s a big creche in the park. I hate to say this, but it looks like someone stole the baby Jesus. There are lots of nightly fireworks. And every night there is a procession or two. So far, most of them have featured children dressed up as angels and the traditional manger characters.

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As I wrote, this is now way late. Sorry. I hope you all had a good holiday season.

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Moving on from Cotacachi to Quito

Things are falling into place in a timely manner. We’ve been in Cotacachi for two months, and it feels like we are about done with it at least for now. It would be a good enough place to stay. As I’ve written before, it’s pleasant, quiet most of the time and never truly rowdy, has nearly everything you need and is near cities with everything you need, is fairly gringo-ized but not too bad, and is very pretty. Hey, who has this every day to look at out the window…

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…and walks like this at lakes in volcanoes 30 minutes away?

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But we are in search mode for the best place to settle down, or what passes for settled down for us. This means we really need to look around at what else Ecuador has to offer. We decided our next stop is Quito. It’s the next notable location going south, and it’s the capital and second largest city. (Guayaquil is the largest) We’ve been there a few times doing residence visa stuff. We have an idea what to expect there, but obviously there is much more to learn. We know there is plenty to do. It’s a matter of finding the right combination of peace and quiet and enough to keep us amused. There are areas around Quito that might be good places to live. We’ll have to check them out. Initially, we are only renting an apartment in a modern area of downtown for two weeks. As the weeks progress, we will decide what to do next.

As for things falling into place goes, our residence visa applications have been approved. The government has our passports and we should be able to pick up our cedulas, which is Ecuador’s green card, in less than two weeks. So we won’t have to make a trip back to Quito if we decide to leave after two weeks. The other thing is my new computer I just bought in the US failed after only three weeks. I sent it to the service center in the US (There isn’t a Lenovo service center in Ecuador), and it just got back to me. So I don’t have to come back to Cotacachi to get it. Bottom line, it feels like the right time to go, the timing things are good, and Quito is a must see destination.

We have been doing a lot of nothing here. We walk around, go to the nearby towns, hang around the markets, and read a lot. One thing about my computer being on the fritz, I’ve read more than usual, like, about 8 books. Notable activities included going to that volcanic lake. We went with a Swiss couple and her kid. It was rainy and cold, especially on the way back in the pick up truck which is public transportation to places like this

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We went to nearby Imantag…

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… to go to the bullfights with a woman, Lee, who is living in another apartment in our building.

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We stuck around for a couple of hours watching the town amateurs challenge the bulls, without hurting them. Some famous matador going to perform a real bullfight, but the amateurs took so long, it was hot, and people who sat on the fence blocked out view, so we left before that part.

This was done to live music.

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The guy in yellow got the prize for being the bravest. He paid for it, though. The bulls roughed him up, especially one time when he got pinned against the fence and the bull drove one horn into his left kidney area and pushed in hard while rubbing it up and down. That dude was hurtin’…

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… but he got the yellow robe, complete with flowers from a pretty girl who seemed to really appreciate his effort. I think he was peeing blood after this.

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Last week we went to the Intag Valley and around the town of Apuela. It’s west of here about two hours (55 km on that road). We’ve just been going anywhere to get out of town. It’s nice there. It’s the premier coffee growing area of northern Ecuador. We’ve done the coffee tour thing, but we went to a roaster for the heck of it, and bought some coffee there where it’s cheaper than in Cotacachi.

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Intag Valley is worth it just for the scenery. Ecuador is like that, beautiful everythere. The place we stayed, a few km out of Apuela, is at a hot spring. The pool area wasn’t particularly aesthetically pleasing, but it was comfortable.

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Out last outing was to Cayambe, about an hour toward Quito. Not much to say. It was friendly, sort of cute, and not a gringo to be seen.

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That’s it for now. Next stop, Quito. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Ecuador Green Cards in the works

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Well, it’s in the hands of the gods now. It took a couple of weeks for Myung’s police report to come from Korea, but all the paperwork for our residence visas is turned in. All in all, though a bit expensive, the process has been more or less painless. We saw all over the net how you have to go to your home country to get apostilled police report, birth certificate, marriage certificate, government pension verification and some other stuff which didn’t apply to us, fortunately. Turns out, though, with the help of an Ecuadoran facilitator with an office in the US, I could get everything through her and with the help of my friend, Mary, back in Oakland. (Boy, I don’t know what I’d do without her!) Ecuador changed the rule about birth certificates, so passports are adequate. Best of all, the Korean embassy in Quito can obtain Korean police reports and the Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry will apostille those coming from the embassy. That was the last thing to get done, as the facilitator who has offices in Cuenca, Ecuador and Danbury, Connecticut, did all the American stuff. Myung put in for her police report a couple of weeks ago, and the day before yesterday we went back to Quito, picked it up, and took it to the Foreign Ministry where they apostilled it on the spot. We sent it to Cuenca via Servientrega (Ecuador’s FedEx/UPS/DHL), the office got it, and now we just wait about six weeks.

This is the best thing for us. I could oversimplify and say we are tired of traveling. There’s more to it, though. I don’t know about tired. It’s more like the comforts of home are attractive to us, especially Myung. She’d like to collect kitchen stuff, supplies we don’t have to time so they run out when we are leaving town, look forward to having those things next month she enjoyed this month, and so on. She might even try to do business again, though she’ll have to get way better at Spanish. I’m looking forward to cheap socialized medicine (which is high quality here) and the many other benefits Ecuadorans enjoy. It gets even better for those over 65. Living here is inexpensive, so we don’t have to count pennies. It’s modern enough and you can buy mostly whatever you want. It’s beautiful, really beautiful. And the people we’ve encountered so far are among the nicest, happiest we’ve seen anywhere.

It’s not like we’re about to get stationary. We do have to remain in Ecuador nine months out of twelve for the first two years, but as small as Ecuador is, it’s very diverse. there’s the mountainous central area where we live, There’s tropical beach, there’s the sophisticated capital, Quito, and the bigger port city of Guayaquil, and there’s the jungle headwaters of the Amazon. Oh, and let’s not forget the Galapagos Islands. That there is bit of a pricey excursion, but one of the benefits of being over 65 with a green card is you get half price everything including accommodations and travel. Maybe we’ll go there after awhile.

About the only potential problem is Myung is having a problem with her throat in the high dry climate. We could go down lower in elevation, but then it’d be hot here, right exactly on the equator, and I’m loving the absence of mosquitoes. It’s been nagging her ever since she got to Latin America, as we’ve been tending to stay in the cool mountains ever since Mexico, Antigua, and so on. She went to an American-trained ear, nose and throat doctor at the best medical center in Quito. The doc actually specializes in reconstructive surgery, but I think Myung’s in good hands. If that doesn’t work out though, we can always leave. As I’ve said before, we wouldn’t mind living in northern California-like central Chile. That would be more expensive, but not as unforgiving as the US.

Other than that, we’ve been having a real domestic life in Cotacachi. A big day is going to one of the two cities nearby. We only took care of visa business in Quito (Myung did find fish sauce. Woohoo!), so there’s nothing else to say about that yet. I guess it’s photo time.

Mostly we have people and food pics. Cotacachi isn’t as photogenic and Antigua was, by any stretch of the imagination. Here’s a picture of the front of the church, with the big Jesus on the steeple.

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Here are some people pics. They are mostly, if not all, from the Otavalo Saturday market

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That Saturday was All Souls Day. I didn’t go that time. I should have, as the cemetery was packed with people remembering their family and friends. I simply uploaded the whole batch of photos Myung took. Glance at them, or whatever.

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That’s going to do it for now. I hope all you Americans have a Happy Thanksgiving. And as always, be well, all of you.

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Cotacachi, Otavalo, Ecuador

Hello from Cotacachi, Ecuador.

We got over the border from Colombia, no sweat. I like countries with 5 minute immigration processes. The first place we went, about two hours south, was Cotacachi. We came here because it’s the first place interesting to us going south and because I wanted to meet the editors of International Living, who live here. That was interesting and informative. Now, we’re plannning to stay here a month.

Cotacachi is very comfortable for us. It’s rapidly becoming an expat destination, complete with the kinds of stores and other ammenities we like to have around us. If you can’t find something here, which is still often the case because it hasn’t gone full gringo yet, there’s a bigger city, Otavalo, about 20 minutes away and an even bigger one, Ibarra, about 30 minutes away. Cotacachi is cute, quiet, friendly, inexpensive, and at high altitude so it’s cool all the time and no mosquitoes

Most of the people we know who read this blog know we were considering obtaining residence visas in Ecuador if we liked it. As time goes on, we need less and less to keep moving. Also, we basically get it about Latin America, having just spent a year in Central America and having traveled in South America before. We decided we know all we need to know to go ahead and get Ecuadorean green cards. We started the process a few days ago and, cross our fingers, hope it gets done before our 90 day tourist visas expire. We hired a facilitator or shepherd the paperwork through. One false move and the government denies you. Almost everybody hires such a facilitator. She has almost all the documents she needs from  me, only needing our marriage certificate and half her fee to get stated. That’s in the mail. All she needs from Myung is her apostilled Korean police report. Her sister is on that. Hopefully it will get to Connecticut, where the facilitator’s US office is, late next week. Then it’s sit and wait.

Our immediate plan is to stay here in Cotacachi for a month. We stayed a few days in a really nice hostel, but it was $35/day. That adds up too quickly for us, so we moved to a furnished apartment. We didn’t look around long, taking the first place that appealed to us. It’s practically the town’s best penthouse, with 360 degree views. Here are pics in three directions. The last is of Cotacachi Volcano.

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You see the cloud cover at 2 o’clock this afternoon? Typical of high mountains, the weather changes every hour. An hour before, it was hailing.

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It’s almost a studio. The kitchen is separate. Here’s the living room, with Myung in her typical position of comfort for reading or using the computer…

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… and of me in my position of comfort…

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… and in the other direction…

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Oh wait! I just published this, but there’s a rainbow out. Gotta include this…

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Now, THERE’S real time blogging!

One of the first things you notice in Ecuador is there are many indigenous people around. I’m told they actually have power in Ecuador, instead of being second-class citizens like in most countries. In these pictures around the Otavalo Saturday market, you’ll see the indigenous look, but you really do see it all over. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are seen commonly in the modernized areas of Quito.

By the way, note the sun and dry conditions a half hour before the hail storm.

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Here are a couple of postcard-type pics of central Otavalo.

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I’m sure there will be a lot more to come about this area. There’s all kinds of natural beauty to explore. As we get to know the place, stuff to talk about will come up. For now, that’s going to do it.

Be well, all of you.

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Popayan and Sylvia, Colombia

We had gotten kind of used to getting quickly around and through the little Central American countries. Colombia is big, though, and we endured two days of bus travel to get to Popayan. After Popayan it was another day to Pasto and three hours to the Ecuador border. It was still worth it. Buses are cheap in Colombia, and we saved a bundle.

We stayed in Popayan and took a day trip to Sylvia. Popayan is mostly a historical city. It had many buildings from the 17th through 19th century, and of course newer ones, which got destroyed by an earthquake in the 1980’s. What you have now is an almost entirely reconstructed historical area. It’s nice, to be sure, but still looks a little fresh. When it gets dog-eared in about 100 years, it’ll look better.

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Popayan has no potential as a retirement destination. WAAAY too much traffic, though they are changing some of the streets over to pedestrian senderos.

About an hour away is lovely town called Sylvia. We went there for a weekly market where many traditionally dressed indigenous people buy and sell their produce and handicrafts.

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Here’s an overview and some of the bucolic surroundings.

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So, after that, we went to Ecuador. We’re in a northern town popular with expats and some tourists called Cotacachi. We’ve been here about 24 hours. So far so good. We’re in full getting-to-know-Ecuador mode. We’ve talked to a few expats already. Tomorrow, I’m having coffee with the couple who publish International Living magazine and website.  I’ll tell you how it’s going in the next entry.

Be well, all of you.

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Bogota, Colombia

We made short work of Colombia. By “short work” I don’t mean to short change the country. It just wasn’t our intention to stay long. If you’ve been reading along, you know it cost less than half to fly there from the US than to Ecuador. We only went to Bogota and the Popayan area before entering Ecuador.

We had heard Bogota was a pit. You could tell it had some bad areas and it’s not safe to go out late at night except on the main streets, but I think the average tourist isn’t going to experience any more problems there than in any other Latin American big city. The historical center is safe till about 10 PM, I think. That’s late enough for us, as we are usually in bed about then.

We spent four days there. One of them was basically getting over the 24 hour Oakland-LAX-Fort Lauderdale-Bogota plane ride. One day was a nice, free walking tour the tourism department takes you on, then walking around on our own. Another day was going to a couple of museums, And one day was going to an attraction called the Salt Cathedral.

Bogota isn’t particularly photogenic. Maybe if you hadn’t been to a number of Latin American cities or haven’t looked at colonial architecture in my many blog entries, it would be more interesting. It has your basic grand square with a church and some old government buildings.

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One of the best things about Bogota, is the museums are free or a dollar. One of the museums is called the Botero Museum after a famous artist of that name. Part of the good part of the museum is the museumm itself. Here’s the courtyard.

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That’s going to be it for this city of several million. Despite this short shrift, it is okay.

Out of town about an hour is the Salt Cathedral. Now, if you have ever been to Ellora or Ajanta in India, this is barely a roadside attraction. You can go to November, 2006 in this blog or type “Ellora” in the search box to see what I mean. Better still, google it and Ajanta. In any case, you can appreciate the effort that went into carving Christian prayer halls out of this salt mountain. Here’s a couple of pictures to give you the idea.

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In Ellora, that herald angel would have been carved in situ from the stone the whole hall was carved out of. This one was sculpted in Italy and placed here.

That’s going to be it for Bogota. it was good to know ya. On to Popayan…

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