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.

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

Friday, December 25, 2015

Feliz Navidad 2015

Joining hands with family and friends our Christmas sky tonight will be filled with a full moon and twinkling stars. Fill your glasses with a rich merlot wine and toast to our beautiful world !



Christmas is an important religious festival in this predominantly Catholic country, with a strong focus on the manger. A western Santa Claus is not very well known, and it is the " christ-child " that brings their gifts. 


Our second Christmas in Cuenca in the Sierra mountains. Orchestral concerts playing Christmas carols float through the tropical evening air, twinkling Christmas lights line and cross the  Tomebamba river, palm trees and central squares are magically lit. 


Soon rivaling our experience of Alumbrados in Medellin, Colombia in 2013.  Yesterday's Christmas Eve celebration Pase del Niño, a must-see 500 year old tradition, famous as Latin America's largest,  was again a delightful, colourful mix of traditional sacred and indigenous customs. 








The parade´s main attraction is an 1823 statute, blessed by the Pope, known as Niño Viajero. The Niño Viajero dressed in a National Police uniform, flew over Cuenca in a helicopter early in the morning. This Christmas tradition begins at 10.00 a.m. every Christmas Eve. 


The procession featured bands, dancers, horses, floats, performers, supporting the children in elaborate homemade costumes, and the passage of baby Jesus to his manger in the Old Cathedral for the Midnight Mass. Participants from Ibarra in the north and Loja and Peru in the south. 

Our Saraguros in the southern province of Loja combine Christmas celebrations with the observance of Kapak Raymi ( the andean solstice ) They resist Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, and the exchange of gifts from entering their culture. The wikis and ajas  (ancestral demons) keep the crowds entertained. Chicha was also offered to Pachamama as thanks for a good harvest.


Along the parade route and in nearby parks and plazas, hundreds of vendors sell traditional foods, cotton candy, ice cream and candy. 7,000 litres of chicha, a traditional holiday beverage made from sugar cane, panela, naranjilla, lemon verbena, cinnamon and star anise is  prepared and provided free by the local Pulla Álvarez family. The whole family has carried on this tradition for over 40 years. Canastas ( a food basket )  sweets and biscuits, and Pan de Pascua or Panotone ( a christmas fruit bread )  are given in huge quantities, and seem to take up most of the space in supermarkets during the holiday season.



Although the Christmas Eve parade may be the main event, the Pase del Niño celebration is a three-month-long activity, beginning the first Sunday after Advent and continuing to Carnival in early March. The tradition also includes Novenas, nine consecutive nights of song, food and prayer, celebrated in homes and churches. On Christmas Eve, the "Misa del Gallo," or Rooster Mass, is celebrated in the Cathedral and local churches. Besides Pase del Niño celebrations, Christmas in Cuenca also features nightly firework shows, ( there were fireworks exploding all through the night last night ) concerts and craft sales.


This year we heard and recognized a traditional Mantubian chigualo being sung - a traditional Christmas song from our coastal province of Manabi.


As in North America there is always too much to eat, so that the processions that wind their way along the river into the mountains at the end of the day, are as heavily laden with leftovers as they were arriving with their morning offerings.


Tomorrow a vacation exodus begins as the folks from the Sierra head to coastal beaches for the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Rompope - here is a recipe for a traditional Ecuadorian Christmas drink, much like eggnog.

We would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a festive & a safe holiday season. May your holiday be filled with the fellowship and warmth of family and friends, good health, good food, and fine wine and music. May all of us, regardless of religion, race or creed, remember the true meaning of Christmas  


                              "Peace on earth and goodwill to all."

Season's Greetings from Déborah y Ernesto Millard

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Exotic world of Orchids

Biological diversity is exuberantly displayed through the world of orchids. They are so beautiful,  varied colours, shapes, and sizes that they are renowned and treasured around the world. 


Ecuador boasts the highest orchid diversity of any country in the world with more than 4,200 species documented, ( 20% of all species in the world )  and new species are still being discovered. 


While orchids grow in each of the four ecosystems in Ecuador, the majority are found in the rain & cloud forests.  Wild orchids  may be seen almost year round of course the species varying with the elevation and wet or dry season. 


Another reason for orchids' diversity is their intricate relationships with their pollinators - birds, butterflies, bees, and insects.  The extravagant and exotic blooms attract their specific pollinator to 


enable them to reproduce.  

Southern Ecuador, from Cuenca to south of Loja, is considered the country's top orchid growing region due to soil, moisture and elevation conditions. On the equator, the optimum elevation for orchids is 600 to 2,800 meters, although they have adapted to grow in almost every habitat on the planet.



Long time fans of  nature's beauty, as displayed through orchids,  we have gone from struggling to keep several species alive in our Canadian home, to enjoying a bountiful display both within our equitorial home,  and within the country. 


If you love orchids, Ecuador is the best country to see and admire them. A picture is worth 1,000 words so on to our orchid photos which have been collected from a wide range of  some of the best spots to discover them:

i.)   Ecuagenera, one of the world's largest growing operations with over 6,000 varieties, and a major exporter is located between Cuenca and Gualaceo.

ii.)  November 2014 - 4th annual Cuenca International Orchid Show at the Mall del Rio convention center  featured orchid exhibits  from Ecuador,  Taiwan, Japan, Italy and the U.S.


iii.) The University of Cuenca has an  Orchidarium, with over 360 different varieties of orchids. The greenhouse displays are organized  by the varying climate zones. Open Monday thru Friday 8am to Noon and 2pm to 6pm the best time to visit is  May through December. 


iv.)  In Quito's Parque La Carolina is the Botanical Garden of Quito  which features an 800 sq mt orchid conservatory. Separate greenhouses distinguish the coastal, sierra, and amazonas varieties.  Open daily from  8am to 5pm  there is a nominal admission fee.


v.)   Several hours north of Quito in the cloud forest in Mindo is   Jardin de Orquideas.

vi.)   The city of Loja has a small but worthwhile orchid nursery in La Banda Park – adjacent to Jipiro, and behind the city zoo.

vii.)  National Orchid Exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute.


You may never get to see many of the wild species as they grow high up in the canopy of tall tropical trees. But one of "must see" species is the rare and unusual Monkey Orchid. It can only be found in the high elevations of Ecuador and Peru.



Another rare specimen is the Devil or Dracula Vampire. 


 This orchid is known as chocolate for its delicate chocolate fragrance.


And several other notable sites still on our list to visit :

Just a few kilometers south of Puyo an Orchid & Botanical Garden Centre for the Amazon.

The Orquideario Palphinia located  south of Zamora

Several orchid based travel tours : ( for more information visit their websites )

Ecuador Boutique Travel offers  a suite of orchid tours nationwide with specialized guides. Their orchid tours are oriented toward both research and recreation throughout the country.

Metropolitan Touring  offers multiple tours aimed at visitors who want to admire Ecuador orchids. They specialize in the areas of Mindo and Tulipe (cloud forest), Papallacta (high montane forest) and Antisana (Andean moorlands or paramo), with programs originating in Quito of one to two days.

San Jorge Eco-Lodges & Botanical Reserves offers two- and 6-day orchid tours which take you to Quito's Botanical Gardens, El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, San Jorge de Tandayapa Hummingbird Sanctuary and the Mindo Loma Orchid Garden, as well as many other hotspots.

Orquideas de Los Andes specializes in customized orchid tours. With over 20 years experience, tour operator Eduardo Sanchez offers personalized trips where you can view of hundreds of species of Ecuadorian orchids. 

A friend's beautiful photo album of Orchids




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Bahia de Caraquez, Manabi, Ecuador