Tiny little Ecuador is massive in terms of variety of terrain, diversity of ecosystems and abundance of adventures on which to embark. There’s deep Amazonian jungle, snowcapped Andean Peaks, picturesque Spanish Colonial towns and cities and a gorgeous coast where whales swim right off shore. Driving the remarkably well maintained roads took us from high cloud forest, to mountain deserts to jungle, back to green mountains and down to the expansive coast. Since the last time we were here the road infrastructure has undergone such significant change that it seems they’re now a decade or two ahead of the game. In the Otovalo area there is a divided highway with 5 lanes in each direction. Gas is $1.48 per gallon everywhere in the country, a bonus when you’re driving a V-8.
Being right on the equator you’d expect the country to be hot everywhere but it’s not so. Some mountain regions were quite cool but also some coastal regions were cool. Conversely some of the mountain areas were like deserts and hot. When I asked about the cool temperatures in a certain area I was told “It’s winter now.” OK we were south of the equator and here it is technically winter but is it hotter just a short distance away, north of the equator where it’s still summer? It’s a little confusing. I learned though that there are four distinct micro climates in Ecuador coastal lowlands, Andean Mountains, Amazon region and the Galapagos Islands. There are two major ocean currents in play, the cold Humboldt and the warm equatorial. In addition to this there are two chains of parallel Andes Mountains with eight summits ranging from 16,480 ft. to a whopping 20,703 ft. The low lying Amazon region takes up almost half of Ecuador’s land mass and much of the area remains virtually unexplored. It’s not hard to understand that there are great variations in this tiny country’s climate. By and large for us however the temperatures were quite pleasant most everywhere.
It was the season for whale migration and from Puerto Lopez we got on a whale watching tour boat and headed not far off the coast in search of the Humpback whales. In a short time we saw the tell-tale spouts as the leviathans surfaced for air. Soon we were cruising right next to a family of five who were lumbering along seeming not to care about our close proximity. They rose over and over blasting air and water from blowholes, their curved backs rolling forward followed by enormous tales before disappearing again. The scene quieted the boatload of Ecuadorians and us; even the baby who was crying during the whole boat ride was staring silently, open mouthed watching these giant animals course smoothly through the water and allowing us in their presence.