Welcome to our website ! Our vision is to inspire & promote international understanding through education and cultural exchange between South America - Ecuador and the rest of the world. To help people rediscover life with purpose, integrity and compassion, benefit from our experiences, and acquire knowledge for living in harmony in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world. To share our "life changing adventure experiences" with family and friends worldwide. We have consolidated a wealth of the best resources on Ecuador, along with travel journals and photos. Our hope is that you will find this a valuable, user friendly resource network, which enriches your life, enables you to learn, challenges your thinking, and empowers you to discover and undertake your own new experiences and adventures.

in all our web pages highlighted underligned colored text represents an active link, and you can enlarge all of our photos by simply clicking your mouse on them.

We welcome your feedback, questions and suggestions and hope that you return often.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Noches de Verano 2010 en Bahia de Caraquez

Noches de Verano 2010 en Bahia de Caraquez

Once again the visitor numbers from the Sierra to the coastal community of Bahia de Caraquez have swelled significantly. The school year in the sierra is similar to the traditional North American school year with two months of vacation in July & August. Families from the Sierra love to spend their summer vacations on the coast. The streets have young people of all sizes riding motorcycles, scooters, and atv's. The school year here on the coast breaks for "summer vacation" in January & February. It is nice to see local business ( restaurants, stores ) bustling with customers, beaches crowded, and the water activity again on the estuary.

Now anticipated as one of the best forms of community entertainment is the 2010 Noches de Verano ( Nights of Summer ). Held on six consecutive Saturday evenings in July and August in various downtown main street locations in Bahia de Caraquez. It is very well attended by thousands of residents and visitors. This is a family event with community clubs, schools, and churches selling cakes, food, and drinks. Each evening starts with a short parade down the Avenue of Simon Bolivar ( main street ) featuring community royalty, this night's festival selected queen, a local school marching band and dance troup, Disney characters, clowns and varied entertainment.

A central stage features a formal program provided by the Municipality Tourism with a variety of entertaining artists , musicians, choreographed dance ensembles, cultural groups, folklore and comedians. Local youngsters compete as mini Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, karaoke singers, and latin dancers.

On the inaugural evening members of the Symphonic Band of the Municipal Government offered a complete repertoire of ballads, classic music, and boleros to the public's delight. Late in the evening ( shortly before midnight ) with the street vendor smells of BBQ meats, fresh popcorn, hot fruit alcohol punch, and spilt beer, a band and DJ take over to provide music for dancing in the streets. A fireworks display lights the tropical summer evening moonlit sky. The nights of summer program provides the business owners ( who all remain open ) with boosted economic benefits. Local merchants have contests and provide promotional gifts and prizes.

Currently we have a Brazilian Circus in town. Well the other evening we had a circus side show in our own yard.

On an otherwise tranquil, starlight evening in Bahia, Sasja our boxer pup, started barking forcefully. Now she is a rather quiet dog normally and except for disliking fireworks and gunshots she doesn't bark. Deborah ventured out to see what the commotion was about and yelled for me. I thought it to be much safer to first peer out the window. She was now wielding a large stick, and the dog was barking madly. I could see atop the fence pole two beady eyes and a long nose. At this time I was not able to discern whether this was a large snake or what.... I thought it best to hide under the bed. Before I had the opportunity to act there was a loud crack. There was shrieking, sissing, dogs, cats, unknown critter, and wife madly scurrying about. She had whacked the fence post with the large stick and this critter came flying into the yard to be chased and give chase. Needless to say I now knew the size of the animal and felt obligated and safe enough to venture out and provide some guidance or assistance...

Now that everyone has survived we have been asking others, and searching the internet in an attempt to identify this creature. After numerous suggestions and reviewing photos it appears our visitor was a white eared, or a similar variety of opossum.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tosagua Sunday Market

While you will not find the Tosagua Sunday Market described in any of the Ecuador travel guides this market is much larger in both size, and money transactions than the famous Otavalo market. The market's focus is on the real daily domestic needs of the areas people who travel extensively from throughout the region to collect, sell, barter, and exchange their produce, wares, or

livestock for the upcoming week. Similarly the famous artisan market in Otavalo was originally a large trading market for the indigenous people of the surrounding areas however it is has primarily become an extensive variety of wooden and woven arts and crafts for tourists with limited focus on the populations daily domestic needs.

Tosagua is a central small town on the coastal plains with a population of about 18,000.

We notice that it is not even marked on the official Ecuador Tourist Map - it is situated between Bahia de Caraquez and Chone. It is the agricultural heart of our province - Manabi, and was named after its annual flooding during each rainy season. This has resulted in the typical bamboo ( without doors or glass windows ) houses with tin or corrugated steel roof to be raised on stilts.
Consistency and uniformity are not present as innovative materials and methods are deployed when resources are scarce. The concept is very practical providing better ventilation, security, and better protection from insects and animals. The open space beneath such homes provides a shaded area for washing and drying clothes, keeping chickens, lounging in hammocks. At times when this area is dry it will be utilized for storage.

There is daily bus service to Tosagua from Bahia every 30 minutes with an open air bus with wooden seats going several times daily. We have this "open bus" on our future adventure list, but this time we will drive.

Driving to Tosagua, in addition to passing many buses and pick-ups full of people, we passed shrimp farms, and farmland with cattle, goats, pigs, donkeys, horses, chickens, corn, sugar cane, tomatoes. Nearing Tosagua in the river valley basin are banana and papaya farms. The Tosagua River is enjoyed for a refreshing dip or for the utilitarian washing of clothes. As I didn't have my camera with me on this expedition these photographs have been taken courtesy of our Danish friend Henrik Jensen. Thank you !

Resulting from its central location and large trading area, it boasts a very large bustling Sunday Market with rural populations traveling with family and friends in the back of open trucks for miles to sell their produce or handiworks, or barter, swap, or purchase supplies for the upcoming week. Most of the town's roads are unpaved and dusty but filled with activity. Through the eyes of a tourist, or someone not familiar with Ecuador, it could easily seem a bustling town from the last century. But for those of us no longer immersed in " cultural shock " the market vibrancy was full of exciting sights, sounds, and smells.

An expansive meat market with a variety of freshly slaughtered animals

Of course a full range of farm fresh country vegetables, and fruit

Several city blocks of vendor stalls with clothing, fabric, shoes

jewelry, artisan handicrafts

hardware, electric goods

During community festivals the "Gusanito" (little Worm) which is often in Bahia for community events winds it way through the dirt and potholed roads of Tosagua.

We had anticipated to find very little information when doing an internet search on Tosagua. To our surprise a group of nursing students from the University of South Carolina were just there for two weeks undertaking medical screening and distributing hygiene packs. More information and photos may be found:


Previously Tosagua was one of three places in Ecuador Habitat of Humanity helped build 40 homes.

And the Eden's Rose Foundation helps the locals in need, and organizes group activities for those seeking to volunteer in Ecuador.

Eden's Rose Foundation

As we return to Bahia that afternoon some of the clothing & shoe vendors will follow traveling and resetting up in Bahia for a much smaller "Monday Market." And some of the vendors traveled the day before to a "Saturday Market" held in Chone.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tungurahua Volcano

Ecuador is a country that forms part of the rim on the Pacific Ocean known as the Pacific Rim of Fire with many volcanoes and much earthquake activity. Just last week ( August 12th ) we experienced a 7.1 earthquake that shook the entire country but fortunately caused little damage. In late May the Tungurahua volcano erupted.

The Tungurahua ( Quichua for "Throat of Fire" ) Volcano is one of Ecuador's and South America's most active and highest volcanoes. Part of the Sangay National Park it is located in the Andean Range, 140 km south of Quito the capital of Ecuador, known as the Avenida de los volcanes. On the opposite side of the "Avenida de los volcanes", towers the huge Chimborazo. With luck, you can even see the green carpet of the Amazon basin between the clouds, or the fire spying Sangay volcano. A new lava dome has been growing in the summit crater since 2000. Tungurahua is a stratovolcano that is steep sided and with an almost perfect cone. The steep slopes of the volcano are used for agriculture.

Tungurahua is at an elevation of 5,016 m and just tops the snow line of about 4,900 m. Tungurahua featured a small summit glacier that melted after the increase of volcanic activity in late 1999. The small, but extremely popular tourist thermal springs town of Banos is located at the foot of the volcano 5 kms to the north and 15 km east of Ambato ( Ecuador's fourth largest city and also the capital of Tungurahua province ).

The catastrophic eruption was in 1777, when several villages at the flank of the volcano were destroyed. Tungurahua's activity restarted in October 1999 with major eruptions in August 2006, February 2008 and the last in May 2010.
On the morning of May 28, 2010 the volcanic activity suddenly increased and there was a large explosion that caused a column of ash to plumb about 10 km above the crater. The eruption showed signs of declining early in the afternoon but vibrations or seismic tremors continued. The volcanic activity forced the evacuation of approximately 2,500 people from five communities surrounding area near the volcano and also closed some airports.
This eruption of Tungurahua caused the fall of ashes in many towns on the coast as far away as Guayaquil, and in the Andean highlands. The Director of Civil Aviation made a decision to close the airport in Guayaquil and surrounding villages. Flights were also suspended between Quito and Lima, Peru. Flights were also suspended between Quito and Cuenca and Loja which is in the south of the country.

The eruption in October 1999 caused the government to evacuate people living in the area of the volcano. More than 20,000 people, including all the city of Banos were moved to shelters in nearby larger cities and in particular to Ambato. All the roads leading to the area of Tungurahua were closed and were patrolled by the military. This interrupted the major access to the Amazon - the Ambato/ Puyo highway. Banos became a ghost town that had no apparent life although a few people stayed behind and were hidden away in the church and also their homes. Other people also bypassed the military controls so they could tend to their farms and many more began to request to be able to return to their homes and businesses. Just prior to Christmas 1999, the tensions came to a violent conclusion as protesters confronted the military, claiming one person's life in the clash. After the events the authorities let people return at their homes and businesses at their own risk although nothing really had changed yet to the danger of another eruption.

The activity continued on a medium level until May 2006, when the level of danger was raised from a yellow to an orange alert. The eruption in August 2006 was the most violent since it restarted activity in 1999 and this eruption produced a 10 km high ash cloud which spread over an area of 740 km by 180 km and the pyroclastic flows caused 7 deaths and destroyed several roads on the north-western and western slopes of the volcano.

Ecuador is a great outdoor destination offering many climbing, trekking and hiking opportunities. Most are close to Quito which avoids long expedition style approaches of high altitude climbs in other parts of the world. The snowcapped volcanoes of Cotopaxi, Antisana, Chimborazo, Iliniza South Peak, Cayambe, Carihuayrazo, Altar and Sangay are waiting in superb mountain scenery for the skilled climber. Using a ASEGUIM certified mountain guide many of these summits are within the reach of novices.

Tungurahua was first climbed by two German volcanologists Alphones Stubel and Wilhelm Reiss in 1873. Climbing of Tungurahua is no longer advised due to the high level of activity but if one insists on climbing this volcano the best time to climb would be December – January or July – August. The mountain is considered "abnormal" between the climbers. On one hand it is "very easy" and on the other hand "one of the hardest". Both opinions are correct. As you don't have to pass crevasses or scarped ice-walls, the ascension from BaƱos (1800m) to the summit at 5000m does not present any technical difficulties. The crampons just have to be put on the last part, below the border of the crater. An ice pick is necessary when the wind is strong. But physically, the Tungurahua is a hard challenge. Most of the time you walk steeply uphill- directly into the sky! Beginners should in no case renounce an experienced guide. Unforeseeable weather changes or heavy snowstorms have demanded several victims on this mountain.

About Us

My photo
Bahia de Caraquez, Manabi, Ecuador