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Trip Report Ecuador Trip Report: Quito and surrounding valleys

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Who are we? My husband and I are 43 years old and we have a 2 year old daughter. Our main priority when we travel is 1) safety, 2) cleanliness, and 3) location. We don’t need a concierge, bell boy, or turn down service. We traveled to Ecuador with our daughter and our two nephews as well (age 14 and 17).

Day 1: We flew from Miami to Quito on American Airlines. We filled out the immigration and customs forms required by Ecuador upon entry- one form per family. The new airport is a little over an hour away from Quito and from the valley, which is where we were going (Los Chillos). The airport is very nice and clean. There is a Green Light/Red Light device that randomly assigns whether you walk through customs or if you get your bag checked. The road from the airport to the Valley was not finished. Very confusing to figure out. There were detours and merged lanes and no signs. There is still a lot of construction being done on the roads leaving the airport.

Day 2: Rest day because the altitude affected us. Drink lots of water!

Day 3: We hired a driver (PATRICIO VASQUEZ, Tel: 099 836 3611) to take us around because we were traveling with our 2 year old and our two nephews. We wanted to make sure everyone had a seatbelt (you aren’t always guaranteed a seatbelt in a taxi or a bus!). The driver had a 14 seat tour van. The back 4 seats were pulled down to accommodate our luggage and “stuff” so now we had 10 seats left. We were 6 people plus the driver and we were very comfortable in the van! If you have passengers that are little over weight, the seats are not that wide so expect to use almost two seats. The driver was amazing! Didn’t drive fast, the van was clean and well taken care of, and the dude was ALWAYS on time! More info on him at the end of my report.

On Day 3 we went to Banios. We hiked to the Pailon del Diablo. Our 2 year old went with us in a kid carrier (a Deuter). It would have been too much for her to do on her own. If you have knee problems, probably not a good hike even though there were hand rails at times. One thing to know is that it costs $1.50 to get in but you don’t find out about it until you are about 15 minutes into the hike, so bring cash with you (the guy collecting the money said there was a sign up by the entryway but we didn’t see it)! After the Pailon, we wanted to eat at Luna Runtun for lunch but their lunch ended at 3pm so instead we went into town and ate at Papparedelle Italian. Wow. It was good! Either we were really hungry or we just ate the best pizza and fettuccini alfredo ever! After Our day in Banios we spent the night in Riobamba. In Riobamba, we stayed at the Hotel Metropolitano. It was super basic, clean and for $25 a night, it worked (and they had private parking for our van). The hotel is close to the train station in Riobamba. We ate dinner at Jamonera Andaluz, about 2 blocks up from the hotel. Super good and great for kids (and it was clean!). For breakfast we hit the Café Vienesse, a bakery, also about 2 blocks up from the hotel. Their sweet bread with butter, toasted, was nice! We passed a hotel called Shalom Hotel. It looked very nice and clean- but we never checked it out.

Day 4: After our first night in Riobamba, we woke up and made they early morning ride to Alausi to get the Devil’s Nose Train. We bought the $35 VIP tickets. It wasn’t a necessary splurge in hindsight but it was nice to sit in a sofa style setting as opposed to the chairs. And with our 2 year old, she enjoyed the sofa as well. If you do the VIP seats, make sure you get the Plus 2 cabin on the way down. Why? On the way down the mountain, the train goes slow and the Plus 1 cabin has the engine attached, not the Plus2. This way, you can enjoy a longer ride with the scenery. If you are sitting in the Plus 1, you go down slow with the engine blocking your view, but you come up fast without the engine blocking your view (they transfer the engine to the Plus 2 cabin for the ride up). Anyway, the Devils Nose was awesome. Great view, great ride. The food in Alausi was lacking…and I mean LACKING. There was very limited variety- just preset menus for lunch. With 3 kids, Alausi was challenging in the food department. Also, we went on a Tuesday so maybe more options are available on the weekends. After the train ride we went back to base camp in Riobamba and spent the night there.

Day 5: We had lunch at La Hacienda Cienega, a 400 year old hacienda! The food was good and the venue was amazing. Just beautiful . It was nice to break up the ride back to Los Chillos (a suburb of Quito). This is a white table cloth kind of place, but with our 2 year old, we made sure they sat us in a corner so that we don’t disrupt anyone. It worked out just fine.

Day 6: We left the baby at home with grandparents and went to Termas de Papallacta. Spent the day in the hot springs and had an awesome lunch there. We went around 10am and although the water was warm, the staff told us that it got hotter later on in the day. You can chose to go to the old Termas or the Spa- we opted for the Spa. It was $19 to get in and it was very clean and very very nice. The food at the restaurant was much better than the café. We wanted to get massages but didn’t realize that we had to reserve them in advance.

Day 7 and 8: Travel to Pululagua. We spent 2 days/1 night in Quilloturo, in the Pullulagua crater. It was amazing. We rented two isolated cabins that were very clean and slept about 6 people each. There is no wifi and no electricity on site. Food is stored in ice chests. The owners also set up a meal plan for us, which was additional but very convenient because we didn’t have to worry about our three main meals. We had the option of not getting meals done , which would have been cheaper. The location is amazing. You can horseback ride, play soccer, do nothing. There is a "pool" with (COLD) mountain water and a little lake. If you have small kids, you need to be vigilant because it is not fenced off! The cabins and location were amazing and it was so nice to spend two days totally UNPLUGGED.

Day 9: Rest Day.

Day 10: Climb to Cotopaxi. We hiked to the first refuge- well, my husband and nephews did. Baby girl and I didn’t make it. Stayed with the driver and ate potato chips instead! On the way back to the city, we ate at Café de la Vaca. Very good- clean and yummy.

Day 11, 12, and 13: Spent 3 days in Quito City Center. We were going to stay at NuHouse but found that the entire street- including the Magic Bean was under serious construction. It was a great location but the noise from the jackhammers was not going to work out for us! While in Quito, we ate at Racho Juancho (Columbian food), which is a small, clean, and delicious spot (get the ½ bocadito bandeja and the lomo a la piedra)! We also ate at the sanduches Espanioles (yummy- great sammiches), Hotel Gangotena in Old City has a fabulous (expensive) restaurant. Our 2 year old was welcomed but she made a mess of the table so I don’t think they would ask us to return (but the food was yummy).

Day 14: Went to Otavalo for the Saturday fair. It was awesome! On the way back we stopped in Cayambe to buy the Cayambe biscuits! The best location is this one spot in front of the Cementary. It has a door opening to a small courtyard and then you go in and see the biscuits being made in the old ovens. There is a pink store in the corner by the cementary that sells biscuits but that is NOT IT. Keep going and in the middle of the block on the right side, you can see the place. It's famous and its very popular. On the way back from Otavalo we also stopped at a lake front restaurant that was cool- forgot the name! its just outside of Otavalo. Maybe called Puerto Lago? or Pueblo Lago? The food was ok but the view and the grounds were great.

Day 14- return to the US. The airport has very little food options once you pass security. We were leaving via American Airlines and in our terminal there were a handful of spots to eat, of which one was Johnny Rockets! And we paid $70 for breakfast for 2 adults and 3 kids. Also, when we last went to Ecuador (5 years ago), we had to pay a departure tax. We didnt have to do that this time around. And, if you want to rent those luggage carts at the airport, they require $2 per cart- have coins if possible. They work the best with those kiosks.

• When we went to Banios, we checked out Luna Runtun and Hotel Samari. We didn’t stay in either but just went to look. I would recommend Luna Runtun over Samari because of one detail. Samari is located off a main road- noisy and fumes. Luna Runtun is perched on top of a mountain with fantastic views. I can’t speak to the quality of the accomodations or the service, but in terms of locations, Luna Runtun was the best option hands down.
• The decision to get a driver or rent a car was debated. The pro of getting a car was that we had it 24/7 to do what we wanted, when we wanted. The driver, however, would be hired to take us on specific days when we wanted to travel outside of our basecamp in Los Chillos. In hindsight, I would hire the driver again. It was a tad bit more expensive than renting the car (inc gas, tolls, taxes, and insurance) but it was priceless because the driver actually knew where he was going! This was important because we realized that signage in Ecuador was not at its best. The driver took turns in spots that had no signs- he just knew to turn there! If I was driving, how would I have known? So we spent a little more money and ensured that we got from point A to point B as efficiently and safely as possible. The driver’s name is Patricio and my dad found him locally for us. One thing you should know is that the driver is a driver- he is NOT a tour guide. So you will not get detailed information on fauna from the dude. He gets you where you want to go and your wish is his command. Also, the driver doesnt speak much English so someone from your group has got to speak Spanish.

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