Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during this crazy COVID-19 Pandemic. Joe and I are fine and enjoying our post quarantine in Florida with our grandchildren and Spencer, the family German Shepherd. It has been a good time to catch up on our blog; when I think about how behind I am, I get discouraged and wonder if I should even continue but then I browse through the older blogs and I am so glad to have them, remembering little things I had forgotten. It really brings me joy to be able to preserve these memories … I hope you like it too, if so feel free to leave a comment, it really means a lot to us.
This blog is about going home for 2 months during the 2017 Holidays and our return to Quito, Ecuador in January 2018, where we spent a few weeks exploring the area, extending our vehicle’s import permit, getting some dental work done and getting ready for our Galapagos Islands adventure.
Holidays in the US
November 14, 2017 to January 16, 2018
For the second time since we started our travels, back in May of 2105, we went “home” for a two month visit. Even though we don’t have a house anymore, we are extremely fortunate to have a comfy room with Joe’s son and his family in Florida. During that time we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with Joe’s kids and grandkids, drove to the Florida Keys in a red mustang convertible to visit friends, renewed Joe’s passport, got our routine medical check ups done, took a mini vacay to Miami Beach, got new travel cards and stickers printed and flew to Canada to ring in 2018 with my family!
Being away from family and friends is the hardest part of a Nomadic lifestyle, not being around for birthdays, graduations, funerals, dinner with friends, family reunions … takes a toll on us. Coming back every year as proven to be essential and a good balance for our happiness. It also gives us a break from the road, a chance to catch up with everyone and recharge our battery.
I booked the most economical rental car, but when we picked it up, I guess the guy liked us, because this is the car we got!
Perfect for a drive to the Florida Keys to visit our friends Linda & Jean in Key Largo. Can you see Spencer in the back seat?
Irma, a category 4 Hurricane caused massive damage in the Northeastern Caribbean and the Florida Keys in September 2017. Just a few months later it was nice to see that things were slowly getting back to normal, at least in the upper keys.
After the Keys, time for a mini vacation in Miami Beach, thanks to my friend Nathalie for hooking us up with beautiful accommodations in South Beach for a few days of beach life, fancy restaurants and our yearly dose of Stone Crabs !
Canada for the new year, 2018
I love my country and visiting my family, because they are just the best family in the whole world, but I hate cold winters! I got so sick that I could hardly get out of bed and I missed the big Annual New Year’s Eve party at my brother’s but it was still worth it and I managed to eat a Poutine!
Travel Cards and stickers
What do you think of our new travel cards and stickers? Thanks to fellow Overlander Tyler Fleming Design Studio in Dallas, TX for the beautiful design and Sunny Eaton from the Vagabroads for taking the picture and providing the amazing setting in Dominical, Costa Rica.
Back to Quito, Ecuador
After two months we were happy to be back in South America to continue our journey
January 17 – February 2, 2018
We came back to the Colibri Hostel where we left Silver for 2 months for only $1 per day!
It’s an excellent and safe place to stay near the Quito Airport and they offer transfer to the airport for a small fee at any time of the day or night.
This is what we found in our truck upon our return!
Christmas tinsel that our Canadian friends Doug & Fran and Mark & Christime, put inside as a joke.
Can you believe that we forgot to luck the truck when we left!!!
Middle of the World
On our way to Mindo we had to make a stop at the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) for the obligatory pictures straddling the imaginary line dividing the earth’s Northern and Southern hemispheres.
Since 1739 travelers have been visiting the Middle of the World to marvel at the location of the equator. Even though the actual mark is off by a couple hundred meters, it hasn’t stopped tourists from flocking to this area in droves. We couldn’t resist a few goofy pictures.
Mindo is a cute little village in the western slopes of the Andes Mountains. With three rivers running through the Mindo Valley, it offers a variety of activities in it’s unique and rich landscape of cloud forest.
Butterfly Garden (Mariposario)
Walking back to the village was just as entertaining as the butterflies!
A chocolate tour at Yumbos Chocolate, was another nice activity we did while in Mindo.
The world production of cacao is concentrated in tropical regions around the Equator.
70% of the cacao comes from West Africa, 11% Indonesia, 6% Brazil and 5% Ecuador.
What is even more interesting is that 90% of the world production of cacao is grown on small family farms of 2 to 5 hectares while just 5% comes from large plantations of 40 hectares or more.
Las Tangaras Reserve
In the City of Quito there is a few options for camping, we opted for the Circulo Militar (Military Club) which is like a recreation and event center, right in the center of the City, with soccer fields, tennis courts and a pool for members. For only $8 per night they allowed Overlanders to spend the night in their parking lot but unfortunately they no longer offer that option. We ended up spending a lot of time here, we had to visit the immigration office and the customs office to get our vehicle’s TIP (Temporary Import Permit) extended, get some dental work done and of course exploring the City’s attractions.
At more then 9,000 feet above sea level, we really enjoyed the cool climate and we had wonderful weather the whole time we were there in January 2018. The altitude didn’t bother us but it definitely slowed us down a bit.
While parked it was fun to watch all the kid’s soccer practices and on the weekend it was the old timers, some of the guys came by the camper to share a beer after their game and we even got invited by one of them. He picked us up a few nights later and we had coffee and sandwiches with his family, such friendly and welcoming people.
Getting our Temporary Import Permit for Silver was a multiple step endeavor but we got it! First we had to visit the immigration office to obtain a certificate showing how long we had been in the country, but in order to get that document, we must first walk, a few blocs, to the bank and present a tiny piece of paper that immigration gave us and pay $5. Then return with our receipt to the immigration office to finally get the document (Certificate de Movimiento Migratorio). Once we obtained the certificate we had to drive 45 minutes to the airport to the Customs office (Aduana) but only a day or two before our actual permit expires, to get our extension … and so is the life of an Overlander!
We decided on a free walking tour of Old Town Quito. These tours are an excellent introduction to any City, we have done many and have always enjoyed them.
No wonder Quito has been named a Unesco World Heritage Site. Founded in 1534 by Spanish explorers and built on the foundations of an ancient Inca city, the capital city of Ecuador has an incredibly well preserved colonial center with impressive 16th and 17th century churches and buildings.
We liked our walking tour so much that we signed up for a foodie tour that same evening! We started the tour at a nice brewery and walked around different neighborhoods tasting different local favorites: Llapingachos, herb tea with aloes, pinchos, tamales, empanada de viento, huevitos chilenos, and ended the evening with a canelazo a traditional spiced hot drink from the highlands made of cinnamon, panela and sugar cane alcohol called punta.
One of the most popular activity in Quito is taking the TeleferiQo (cable car) for a comfortable 20 minute ride up along side a volcano. Once up, you can enjoy the spectacular views of the city and the Andes mountains, if your up for a hike you can continue on to summit Rucu Pichincha one of the peaks of the Pichincha Volcano at more than 15,000 feet.
After 8 nights in Quito is was time to head to the airport area to store Silver and get ready for the Galapagos Islands!!!
Few Facts about Ecuador:
- Population: 16.62 million (2017) World Bank
- Area: 109,484 sq miles (283,561 km²)
- Capital: Quito
- Currency: US Dollar
- Time spent: 2 weeks (Nov. 1-14, 2017) and 3 months (January 17-April 13, 2018)
- Miles driven: 1,448
- Diesel price per gallon: $1.03 (2017)