Part 1 --> Quito and Tena
It was our first time out of the country since 2019 and I was SO ready to explore Ecuador and the Galapagos!
We took off from Dulles at 1:40 AM and had a layover in Panamá before arriving in Quito by noon. I got to know the friendly guy who drove us to our hotel and got his recommendations on what to do in Quito. Once we got ourselves settled, we found an all vegetarian restaurant to eat lunch at called "Farmosa". I was surprised that, of all places, Ecuador has numerous all vegetarian restaurants. Farmosa had meal packages so I ordered the package with tea, vegetable soup, and the large plate consisting of a vegetable roll, noodles, sautéed greens, and beans. It was SO well worth the price of only $4!.
After lunch, we explored the streets of Quito and found an ice cream shop along the way. Anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely LOVE ice cream and could eat it all day everyday. So, ofcourse, I had to try Ecuadorian ice cream and persuaded myself to try a flavor unique to Ecuador, rather than my typical oreo or birthday cake. Me and my mom had Maracuya and my dad had Moya, both traditional fruits to the region. Although I’m glad I tried something new, I now definitely know that I don’t like most fruity ice cream flavors.
After ice cream, we explored some more of the city before returning to the hotel.
The next day, I woke up bright and early and went down for breakfast. We then met the other 10 members of our group and got to know them a little bit. Steve, one of our group members, was hilarious and had tons of stories to tell of all of his fancy first dates. We even got the card to his luxury jazz club. Fran was the sweetest old Iranian lady who also had the most interesting stories to tell about her childhood and the lives of her children and how much she misses Iran before the revolution. Surprisingly, there were also 3 other teenagers who were part of the tour. I thought it would be mostly middle aged/elderly people, and it was, but it was nice to have a few kids my age to talk to as well. All 13 of us went into a conference room to listen to one of our guides explain our itinerary and the different activity options we would have over the next few days. Then, we climbed onto the bus for what we thought would be a 5 hour journey. It became an 8 hour journey :( We boarded the bus around 10 AM and made 2 pit stops, the first at a market where we tried some Ecuadorian fruit and the second at the historical center. The trip was going pretty smoothly until we were about an hour away. It was only 4 PM when we encountered a mud slide. I’d never been stuck in a mudslide before and we were all told we could be stuck anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Not a great prospect as you can see.
The whole ordeal ended up taking about 90 minutes and we once again began moving by 5:30 pm. Soon after we were on the “road” again, we heard a loud burst. Turns out we got a flat tire. Great. There we were waiting again, but thankfully this was quickly resolved and we were on our way 20 minutes later. Eventually, we made it to our lodge in Tena by 9 pm and WOW it was breathtaking.
The extremely bumpy and uncomfortable bus ride was clearly worth it! We were greeted with a traditional drink and had dinner before heading off to bed.
I woke up to our beautiful view and then walked down for breakfast. We had a delicious assortment of fresh fruit and the best homemade bread I’ve ever had, as well as a sunny side up egg and a yuca roll.
We then met up with our group to go on a morning nature walk, where we saw everything from termites to ladybugs to huge trees.
It was really cool seeing all these animals that I didn’t even know existed. After the hike, we went to an indigenous family’s house and ate lunch outside. Then, one of the indigenous ladies showed us how you make one of their traditional drinks called quitcha, which is made out of yuca, something similar to potato. I wasn’t a big fan of the regular drink, which had been fermented for only 2 days and tasted kind of like milk (something I absolutely dislike), but the alcoholic version, which had been fermented for 5 days, tasted much better. It was cool that they had a drink that both children and adults could enjoy based on the number of days it had been fermented.
After that, we learned about an indigenous type of musket/bow and arrow. We were all able to try blowing the arrow in order to try to hit the target. I was especially unsuccessful lol and the only one who couldn't get the arrow to hit the target. It was cool to be able to try, though! To end our visit, we watched one of the indigenous women make pottery and were even able to buy some of her handiwork. While my parents were deciding what to get, me and Steve went to go see the school next door. He didn’t know any Spanish, but I knew enough to be able to communicate with them. They were so sweet and even let us take a photo with them :)
We then headed back to our lodge and had dinner. I also had my first legal* drink and honestly, virgin piña colada’s taste so much better.