Category Archives: Ecuador

Stampful box from Ecuador

Stamps of Ecuador

Guess what came from the mail!

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Street art of Guapulo

Guapulo village, quito, ecuador

Scubadiving in Galapagos

Scubadiving in the Galapagos trip is truly amazing, it is worth spending a few days in the island of Santa Cruz where most of the scubadiving companies are.

Since the diving centers don’t go to the same place on a daily basis, you definately need at least 3 – 4 days to plan your diving schedule.  Shop around and compare the prices, some diving centers resell the tour to a real center. It’s best to ask if they own the boat and who is the dive master, and if there is another other dive leader along with the dive. A lot of the dive spots have strong currents and incredible underwater surges, for a not so experience diver like me, it is best to team up with an experience dive leader.

In Santa Cruz, prices range from us$155 for 2 dives to us$175, standard lunch and some photos of you diving. The great thing about diving in Santa Cruz is that there are many more places to dive than the rest of the island, the most famous is Gordon Rock, Seymour, the Plazas.

In Isabela, price for the one and only dive spot in Isle de Tortuga is us$120 but since there isn’t many visitors, often you need to wait around as a min. of 4 divers is needed. In San Cristobal, only one dive spot as well in Leon Dormido, cost us$120 and you get on the same boat jammed packed with about 25 other snorkellers.

In summary, I swam with penguins, sea lions, blue foot boobies, marina turtles, marina iguanas, mantra rays, stingrays, hammerheads, 1 galapagos shark (apparently, according to the dive leader), white tip and black tip sharks, saw crazy boobies diving down to fish,  so close to me that it is almost an arm’s length. Unfortunately I don’t have a waterproof camera and have to rely on the kind diving folks for these photos. Maybe next time!

Meanwhile here’s me getting pounded by the currents while scubadiving.

The streets of Guapulo

Guapulo is a hilly bohemian village just a few minutes out of Quito, Ecuador. In a little one way street lies a series of great street art, a few hip and funky cafes and some really expensive housing.

 

Guinea Pigs for Sale in Ecuador

In every Andean country, Guinea Pigs are a popular festival feast. Despite it being a peasant meal, it is not exactly a cheap meal. The locals pay quite a bit of cash for each guinea pig.

Here in Ecuador, at Latacunga district of Sasiquilli market. This guinea pig , ‘Cuy’ cost us$30. Preparation of Cuy is not simple and takes a bit of effort.

The more popular version of cooking Cuy is by grilling it on a broaster to a crispy texture. Not exactly quite tasty, Guinea Pigs taste a little like pork, but a fatty and bony version of it.

Indigenous Andes Market of Zumbahua, Ecuador

Zumbahua, in the Andes Ecuador is quite colorful and rather authentic. You hardly see many tourists, only a few dropoffs who are on their way to Quilotoa crater lake.

The local indigenous people all dressed in their best, very friendly people who chatted with me and asked me where I was from and why I was there on my own.  The weather was horrid and it was raining constantly, the ground was soaking wet with mud.

The Zumbahua animal market was one of my highlights, I spent more time people watching than photographing them. Watching the sellers of sheeps, pigs and cows waiting for buyers to come along to haggle. It was pretty interesting just to be there.

You got to be in Zumbahua market really early. They start at 4am and witter outs by 8am. Don’t let the locals convince you that it all ends at 10am. The peak of the action is at 7am – 8am where everyone would be packing up what they bought and loading their trucks or buses with live animals and product.

I stayed in the village of Quilotoa which is a much more scenic and pretty place than the town of Zumbahua. Took the communal transport that cost $1 for the 30mins ride to the town.

Roasted Pork – an obsession with Ecuadorians

The Andean highlands of Ecuador has one of the best pork dishes in South America. They do everything with pork, roasted pork,  fried salted pork, pork skin that looks more like bubble wrap, pork flakes. When there is pork, there is a way of cooking it.

Fritada with cholco, corn, steamed yuca, fried banana and pieces of fried pork lard. us$4.

Fried pork flakes in the market.

There is chugchucaras, dry pork, a speciality of the Latacunga region. Quite expensive dish which averages around us$5 for a plate for only a few pieces of pork, fried banana, tiny baby cheese empanadas (fried dough fritters), steamed corn, and fried pork rind.

Chicharron with mote is a fried pork with steamed corn that is available everywhere in the streets. I found a great chicharron stand near my place that is always so crowded even thought it is just a street side stand. It is a very tasty and addictive snack for only us$1.50 for quite a big portion.

Hornado de chancho is roasted pork, choclo, steamed corn, fried mashed potato and drizzled with a lot of sour chilli sauce. A typical dish in Otavalo region. The pork is roasted so well that the meat is usually so soft and melts in your mouth tender with crispy pork skin. It usually cost around us$2 per plate in Andean countryside.

 

Drunkard in the streets

I loved this photo of a effigy, ano viejo (old year)!

In Quito, during the New year, the Quitenos make effigies of people, often poking fun of a particular person or character.  This is to symbolise burning away the old year for allow the new to come, which they will burn at midnight.

This is particularly funny for me, because, while living in Quito, I often see many drunkard men around my neighbourhood, so drunk that they simply collasped on the the streets until the morning. Believe me, its quite a common sight around my barrio!

If only I have cerviche once a week

I have an obsession with food, always.  This is part of the essential part of my travels and it is a deal breaker for anyone who wants to travel with me. I eat a lot, sometimes a lot of weird stuff, and often the restaurant or food stall is hidden on some back alley street. I hate going to typical tourist restaurants and seek out the cheap and characterful places. It also helps to have an iron stomach, especially if you are game for raw stuff.

Part of the popular dishes in South America is cerviche. Raw seafood cooked in lime juice and other sauces. I had it in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Easter Island, Peru.

The best cerviche I ever had was in the most unlikely place that is a little far away from the coast.  That was in Nazca, Peru, famous for the Nazca lines. It was cheap and so good for only us$5 for a complete meal that included a soup, the cerviche, main fish dish, a drink.

Every country prepares their cerviche a little differently.

Bolivia serve mostly fish cerviche with fried toasted corn and lotsa lime and chilli. Ecuador loves their cerviche with conche and prawns served with panacones (fried banana chips) and pop corn. Chile has their sea urchin cerviche which is delicious but expensive, serve plain with lime and onion. Easter island has mainly tuna cerviche, serve plainly like the Chileano version with lotsa lime juice. Peru has one of the best cerviches, mainly fish with some spices and mint.

 

New Year rituals and traditions of Ecuador

Spending the New Year Celebrations in Ecuador is highly recommended and it had been quite a fun experience.

In Quito, Ecuador, the Quitenos celebrate their New Year’s Eve slightly different than the rest of the Andean countries. Around the late afternoon, the Quitenos would dress up in halloween costumes, the more frightful the better.

Families in costumes parade around the Avenue de Amazonas, often in costumes that are more suited to halloween.There were many celebrations going on with music stages all set up in the main street with huge dolls.

Events end early in Quito, the crowd would thin out quickly by 10pm, families would return to their barrio for their own family celebrations.

I got to visit a Quiteno family and participated in their celebrations, we did the rituals for the New year, danced, cried, read out our hopes and desires, burnt effigies, set off fireworks, then finally got to eat our new year dinner after 1am and continued until dawn broke.

In the neighbourhood, the young men or sometimes older men would dress up as ‘Viudo de Negro,’ Black widows. Blocking off their streets to hapless drivers begging and harassing for money. It can be quite a campy sight, where the males would dress and act in quite raunchy, exaggerated depictions of women.

Rituals and Traditions of the New Year

One of the traditions or rituals is to burn an effigy of a person in form of a masked dummy, the effigy is usually a person that you despise or someone you wish to get rid off in the new year.

At midnight, the effigy is burned, to symbolise the burning of the old year, aka Ano Viejo, and to usher the New year. Each person in the family would jump across the burning effigy to burn away their bad luck. It is also a custom to write your wishes and hopes out and speak it out as you burn the effigy.

Things to do at stroke of midnight – Everything is done 12 times

It gets quite busy at midnight,

You are suppose to eat 12 grapes to symbolise your desires and protect you for each 12 months of the year.

Wear new underwear :  yellow for money, or red for love.

Sweep the dirt away in the front of your house twelve times.

For those wishing to get married  in the new year, you have to sit and stand 12 times in a row at the stroke of midnight

Carry 13 golden coins for prosperity all night during dinner.

Read out your will, or desires and hopes for the coming New Year.

Then Finally eat your New Year’s dinner after everything is done!

Feliz Ano!

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