It is often the smallest countries, which reveal the greatest variety within their boundaries. Ecuador is, at any rate by South American standards, a small country, both in area and in population. Its capital, Quito, is a colonial city of around a million inhabitants, perched nine thousand feet up in the Andes. From here, in three quarters of an hour, one can be in the depths of the Amazon jungle, or in less time than that on a deserted Pacific beach. The backbone of the country is the Andean Cordillera: a continuous chain of glaciated peaks and snow-capped volcanoes that stretches four thousand miles from Colombia in the north to Chile in the south.
It is generally believed that the first inhabitants of Ecuador were fishermen from Polynesia or even Japan. By the tenth century the city of Quito – the place of the hummingbirds – had become the capital of the Caras empire, whose rulers were undisturbed for some five centuries until the Inca Emperor Tupac Yupanqui appeared from Cuzco to conquer the country and make Quito his own capital. In 1535 Francisco Pizarro came with his Spanish Conquistadors, and having captured the Emperor Atahualpa by means of one of history’s most celebrated dirty tricks, proceeded to deceive him again into parting with the most unbelievable quantity of treasures before putting him to death. Quito then became Pizarro’s base, from which he laid the foundations of the new Ecuadorian nation. One of the most remarkable adventures in the history of South American exploration took place shortly afterwards, when an expedition, first led by Francisco Pizarro’s brother Gonzalo, then finished by Francisco de Orellana, made its way from the Rio Napo through thousands of miles of totally unexplored jungle to the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Amazon River. Ecuador, and the other territories of the Spanish Empire, flourished for nearly three centuries under Spanish rule, until the appearance of the legendary Colombian patriot, Simon Bolivar, who freed Colombia from Spain in 1819. Shortly afterwards in 1822, one of Bolivar’s generals, Antonio Jose de Sucre, accomplished the same task in Ecuador. Bolivar’s intention was to incorporate the whole of the former Spanish empire into his Grand Colombia, but regional rivalries remained, and Ecuador became genuinely independent in 1830.
The official language of Ecuador is Spanish with local Indian dialects (mainly Quechua). English is not widely spoken except in the cities and the major tourist centres. It is advisable to carry a Spanish phrase book with you, if you are going to venture away from the usual tourist spots. Try to learn a bit before coming as you can practice with the crew on your boat.
Ecuador is 5 hours behind GMT throughout the year. Daylight savings time is not observed. Galapagos is one hour behind Ecuador’s continental time (GMT-6). Being on or near the equator, you can expect approximately 12 hours of daylight each day. It is dark by 6.30 p.m
Ecuador does not experience the four seasons known in temperate latitudes. Instead, there are wet and dry seasons. These vary depending on altitude and region.
Temperatures in Quito range between 58-68°F. Rain in Quito is unpredictable often lasting just a few moments and then followed by sun. The only dry spell in Quito is from June to September. The sun, although not necessarily hot, can burn at this altitude on the equator. Adequate sun protection should be taken in the highlands.
In the mountains, (e.g. Cotopaxi), the weather is unpredictable and you can experience all temperate seasons in one day. Cotopaxi is higher than Quito and with you possibly reaching 4500m/14,750ft, the weather does tend to be more extreme with a brighter and more intense sun and if there’s bad weather: strong, cold winds and horizontal rain. Be prepared.
A few of the local specialities are: ceviche, of which there are several kinds, including ceviche de mariscos (seafood), de pescado (fish), de camarones (shrimp), de pulpo (octopus), de langostino (prawns). In a ceviche the fish is cut into small pieces and marinated in limejuice; it is eaten in a kind of raw onion salad. Churrasco is a thick piece of grilled meat, eaten with palm hearts, manioc or corn. Cuy is grilled or stewed guinea pig. Empañadas are dough patties filled with meat or cheese. Humitas are corn cakes wrapped in corn or banana leaves. Locro is the national soup, made with potatoes, cheese and avocados. Llapingachos are delicious potato cakes with onion, chilli or cheese inside, served with a peanut sauce.
Eating out is generally very good value in Ecuador: you can get a good meal for a few dollars, while around fifteen dollars will buy you a gastronomic experience at one of Quito’s great restaurants, of which there are many. Two that are worth trying are La Choza, a simple, traditional restaurant, and La Ronda, more sophisticated and international, though probably rather less good value as a result. Others include La Cocina del Monasterio and La Terraza del Tartaro.
International cuisine is excellent and cheap in Quito. Paleo is a good Swiss food restaurant. Their rostis are particularly recommended. Adam’s Rib is an American grill/diner. Tandoori Chabati is a good Indian café run by a Pakistani from Aldershot.
Wine is more expensive than spirits in Ecuador (Chilean is best) approx. £6-15 per bottle in a restaurant. Some mixers like tonic or soda are hard to get hold of in the remote areas like the islands. A popular drink is rum and juice or ‘Cuba Libre’ (rum and coke with a twist of lime).
This error message is only visible to WordPress admins
Error: No feed found.
Please go to the Instagram Feed settings page to create a feed.