Cabin Pressure Fluctuation Effects Crossing the Equator

Tuesday, Day 1

We had no idea of the effects that crossing the equator would have on us.  But as you can see for yourself, pictures say more than words could possibly convey.  As weird as they seem, the effects were very enjoyable.  We’ll keep you posted as we decompress and are able to think clearly once again.

Ecuador EcoVillage

The Quest To Find Land to Develop an Integrated Living Environment that Pays for Itself

You will be glad to hear that our decompression did take place and we have had a few days of rest after the trip and packing to get ready.  Today, Jeff is looking into visiting a door builder in Cotacachi and also checking into a dentist a few miles from Cotacachi where our driver from Quito told us he had a root canal and crown done for $180 and is recommended by many westerners here.

We are finding the people here very friendly and sweet. 

Panoramic view outside our room in Cotacachi, Ecuador

Wednesday, Day 2

Jeff connected with an amazing wood company that makes custom doors and furniture here in Cotacachi.  He is looking at adding custom made doors and entry ways imported from Ecuador to his door refinishing business next year.  Found a Gringo here in Cotacachi that has been exporting for 30-years.  Says he’ll tell me the ins and outs of exporting for a bottle of his favorite rum.  Looking to set up a time to meet with him.  So far we are beginning to feel much easier here.  It is taking us a couple of days to feel relaxed and to learn to get around by taxi and bus.

Niyama is having many sweet connections with the beautiful, warm and joyful indigenous women. We’ll hopefully post more photos of them as we go. Some of them seem a little shy at first but usually start laughing with us. They’re always as helpul as can be with our Spanish language challenges and sometimes ask us how to say some Spanish words in English.

At Ecuador’s biggest Public indigineous market in Otavala- about 10 minutes from Cotacachi

Thursday, Day 3

Cotacachi’s public food market

Niyama is showing off a large bunch of chard we bought for 25 cents.

Jeff is reaching for the best mango in the group.  Large mangos are 50 cents each and wow are they ripe and sweet!

A Walk Around Vilcabamba

At the Dentist in Cotacachi

Friday, Day 4

As with a growing percentage of people in the US, I have no dental insurance.  I’ve been reluctant to spend $800- $1,200  for each of 4 crowns that I’ve been needing.  My research in Mexico didn’t lead me to finding anything cheaper than $500 each and in Ibarra, Ecuador I found a dentist that speaks English but still charges $400 per crown.  I asked the owner of the hostal we are staying at, a local who speaks English, which dentist he uses.  And lo and behold, right here in Cotacachi we discovered the dentista pictured above.  She doesn’t speak English so Jairo, the hostal owner translated for me. The dentist here in Cotacachi only charges $160 each for a full porcelain crown. The way I figure it, almost the entire trip this winter will be paid by the money I have saved in dental work.  Instead of spending $3,200 I’m only spending around $700!  I’ll put her contact info on this website after the work has been done to my satisfaction.

She has modern equipment and is really friendly and was very sweet to help us with our Spanish during the visits there. I was able to have appointments for today and tomorrow morning, which will be Saturday.  We will need to come back in about 8 days to have  100% porcelain crowns installed.

Reducing medical costs is a very important ingredient of reducing living costs.  In Ecuador, I’ve experienced personally that dental costs are about 1/4 of that in the US.  We understand that medical costs here are covered for about $25/month insurance payment if you are under 65 years of age and $75 if you are over 65, but we still have this to check out to be certain.

We connected with a local RE agent today who is from the US.  We met 2 people yesterday in his office that are both from Colorado and that are even staying at our hotel! One of them already purchased a lot here and had another friend here that built a home for $20,000 - so my projections so far seem to be right on target about home building prices.  We have an appointment with him tomorrow at 11am after my 9am dentist appointment, so we’ll know much more about RE prices by the end of tomorrow.

For the last 30-years I’ve been working towards developing a new-type of living environment that pays for itself.  Looking around and seeing so many people of all ages, but especially in their 50’s and older, still struggling to stay afloat with the 20-30 years remaining on their mortgages, I felt compelled to use my experience and entrepreneur spirit to offer another alterative.  After co-founding 3 co-housing communities in the US, I know how much easier it is to live when homes are downsized and many shared facilities are included in the community.  However, with the cohousing model, most people don’t want to go through years of processing that is required and the cohousing model doesn’t go far enough addressing the village concept or even scratch the surface at the wholistic concept of paying for itself.  Land, construction costs, zoning and red tape in the US and other western countries present a situation where housing costs are out of range for a growing percentage of the population- especially when combined with declining incomes and job opportunities that are sure to get worse with the miniturization of automation.

A few years ago I decided to start looking internationally for land.  International Living magazine rates Ecuador as the number one place in the entire world to retire.  So, this winter, I, along with my friend Niyama, began our journey to travel throughout Ecuador and possibly other South American countries to look for land to fulfill this 30-year quest. Our goal is to find land we can purchase and then to develop an international, state-of-the-art, pedestrian-oriented eco-village where for approximately $50,000 - $60,000 a family could own a small home free and clear that would include integrated, shared amenities such as advanced workshops with the latest 3-d printing capabilities and miniturized, integrated CNC equipment, a focus on “Open-Source” globally networked projects, organic gardens, optional shared dining, health facilities, state-of-the-art ecological systems, a commercial village center and other shared facilities determined at a later time by the residents.  We will use indiginous building materials and make it as affordable as possible for everyone, including the local population.

We have scheduled about 3-months this winter from November 23 - February 17 for this journey.  We are starting our journey in Cotacachi, a small town about 2-hours north of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador.  Before making any decision on land we expect to tour the entire country of Ecuador and maybe other countries in Central and South America.  We fully understand we may not find the right piece of land during this trip.

This website will chronicle our journey to locate land and develop a world-class, state-of-the-art eco-village.  Update: On January 3, 2011 Jeff left Ecuador to explore Belize and other Central American countries by himself.  If you would like to follow this journey, click here.  Niyama is staying in Vilcabamba, Ecuador getting some extended rest.  Vilcabamba is a very safe place. 

Niyama purchasing a quart of fresh berries for $1

Another view of the market with other Gringos purchasing produce.

Serendipidy- a cafe and local meeting place for English speaking visitors and locals

Saturday, Day 5

Inside the restaurant. Nancy, the owner, moved here from Florida. She is standing in the doorway looking at the camera.

Nancy’s help in the kitchen are indigineous natives.  They wear beautiful dresses and lovely necklaces all the time and are amazingly sweet.

Serendipity is a great place for westerners to network. 

Outside Serindipity.

We had a great day shopping again at the public market.  Jeff got the last two temporary crowns made and scheduled an appointment to have the permanent crowns installed next Saturday.  We visited a Realtor here and have set up a time to view both a 40 acre parcel with two houses on it for around $80,000 and a 75 acre parcel of land with breathtaking views of lake Cuicocha, both about 15 minutes from Cotacachi on Monday. 

We’ve had many wonderful meals at Serendipity and great tips from the owner Nancy about local living. This restaurant serves great food and it’s a welcomed relief at times to be in a place where you can speak English.

Tomorrow is Census day in Ecuador and everyone has to stay inside from 8am to 5pm so that a proper count can be had.  We’ve got a barbaque lined up with the other Westerners staying here along with the owner of our hotel.  Probably watch a movie also have popcorn. It should also be a great opportunity to interview some of the locals staying at the hotel, as well as the generous owner himself.

Census Day:  A day confined to our Hostel- but making the best of it!

Sunday, Day 6

A barbeque at the Hostel and potluck:  From left to right- Jairo (the owner)  Karina (his sister) Magnus (from Norway), Niyama, Kim (from Boulder) Todd (from Lakewood, CO)

Niyama setting the table for our lovely potluck which included potatoes, corn on the cob, chicken, green salad, fruit salad, plantain, chicken, ham, wine and beer.

Our private bathroom- notice how spotlessly clean it is!

The closet and drawers all made out of fine hardwood harvested locally and sustainably and so beatifully presented by Niyama.

Niyama on one of the double beds in our room

Today it was the Census Day in Ecuador and everyone in the country had to stay at home between 8 - 5 so that an accurate census could be taken.  The owner of the Hostel/Hotel took this opportunity to organize a potluck barbeque.  The video above and photo’s above are from this.  I also took the opportunity to show you the Hostal/Hotel we’ve been staying at.

We are planning to visit a couple parcels of land tomorrow morning around Cotacachi and then take the bus down to Loja and Vilcabamba which is an 15-hour bus ride to the South.  We may wait until Tuesday if our land viewing takes longer than planned.

A video of LaCuadra that I produced today.  For some unknown reason it’s blurry for the first 20-seconds or so but then it clears up.

Video Room.  Not a very good photo but we were all watching “Salt” tonight with popcorn and drinks.

Looking for land in Cotacachi then, on our way to Vilcabamba via Quito....

Monday, Day 7

Dale- one of the Real Estate Agents that’s helping us look for land around Cotacachi

A 30 acre parcel with 2 houses on it subdividable into 50 lots or more for $80,000. We couldn’t get in on such short notice so I climbed on the gate to get the following pictures.

Looking down from on top the fence onto the property toward the two homes.

Looking into the property

Looking into the property

The beautiful home across the street

This morning we took a drive to look at a few properties that could be divided into 50 -100 clustered homesites for the ecovillage.  The one we like the best so far is pictured above.  We then were running late so instead of taking a bus into Quito for $2/each we had to take a cab for $55 with tip.  We ended up missing the luxury bus connection to Loja by 10-minutes, which is a 15 hour ride from 5:15 pm to 8:15 am and costs $15, so we are spending the night in a hotel in Quito.  Quito is quite a busy change from the laid-back, quiet lifestyle of Cotacachi.  A nice hotel here cost us $74/night including a 22% tax.  Food prices here in this area are comparable to US prices.  If we flew down to Loja and back round trip it would cost around $140/person.

We’re looking forward to looking at land around Loja and especially Vilcabamba, which is about 45 minutes south of Loja.  So tomorrow we will be staying in Quito for the day and getting on the bus at 5:15 pm for an all-nighter. Since the hotel is right across the street from the bus station, we’re sure not to miss it this time!

A Day in Quito

Tuesday, Day 8

We slept in today and then took care of some business that we had been wanting to do.  A priority was to make sure we had some kind of phone communication with the people in the US for Jeff’s business, as well as in Ecuador.  When we left the US, we both had our local cell phone service temporarily suspended.  However, after a few days of being here, we learned that if we simply turned the phones to Airport Mode we would not be charged the $5/minute for T-Mobil or $3/minute for AT&T for incoming messages left on our voice mail. We then check our voice mails by using Skype for free or going to the little PORTA cabinas to use their phones there. At $.12 a minute to call the US it’s pretty cheap.  Also we both have iPhones and discovered that as long as we keep the phone on Airport Mode, we can use all the other functions such as internet (while in a Wi-Fi area), iTunes without being charged the high roaming per/minute rate as well as well as the ability to use some of the applications, such as Niyama’s Spanish Translation.

So Jeff turned his local cell phone service in Colorado turned back on and will check his voicemails via Skype.  We also bought a local cell phone for $45 and everyone here buys minutes with phone cards.  Cell phone calls here are charged $.25/minute, so we don’t stay on a call for very long and just use it for calls within Ecuador. 

After the 15-hour all-night bus ride, finally in Vilcabamba!

Wednesday, Day 9

After our 15-hour bus ride, we’re finally in Vilcabamba- “The Valley of Longevity”.  I can’t remember the exact statistic, but it’s something like here in Vilcabamba, 1 in 5,000 people live to be over the age of 100, with the US number for centarians at 1 in 330,000.  This area has been researched for its longevity since, I believe, the mid 1970‘s and much of the credit for long life is given to its naturally pure mineralized water and crystal-clean air.  Plus this, when you are here, you can feel the slow, easy pace of life especially in the native people that are here.  There are people living here and passing through from all over the world.  For such a small town of only about 4,000 it’s truely an ethnically diverse area.

We had an amazing organic breakfast at a local restaurant and found a great hostal only 2-blocks from the town center for $22/night double, with private bath and including breakfast.  It’s a small hostal with about 14-rooms run by a French family who has been here 7-years.  They built this place from scratch and it’s really beautifully done.  Internet is $4 extra per day. We can get an internet connection in town for only $1/hour.  Here in Ecuador hostal rooms are charged by the person, so if you were traveling alone, you could get the room here with a private bath for around $13/night.  Hostals are also pretty much the same as a hotel or motel in the US, it’s just that you get the option of a shared bath with a few other rooms for a few less dollars per night.

Real Estate prices in and close to the town of Vilcabamba are really expensive- in the neighborhood of $25,000/acre.  In Cotacachi land was priced at around $2,200 per acre.  We found out today, however, from a Frenchman that has created a small EcoVillage in a town close to Vilcabamba and has been here 17-years, that Vilcabamba is an area of 3 towns including Vilcabamba, so in the next few days we will be exploring these other towns to look at more reasonalbly priced land.  The weather has been really comfortable here, with the high today around 75 degrees and the evenings around 55.  Jeans and a t-shirt and/or sweater works just great.  Elevation here is about 4,500 feet.

I love the simplicity of construction here.  Talking to the owner, he spent about $36/square foot for a local contractor to build these delightful condo-type structures with shared walls about 2-years ago.

Niyama sleeping after a long bus journey in a hamock that is provided in front of each unit.

Another look at the front of our unit.

Inside of our unit.

The courtyard

The breakfast area

The daily rates

Niyama enjoying our favorite restaurant in Vilcabamba, so far.  She’s eating an organic vegetable crepe and drinking fresh mango juice.

Vilcabamba Town Square

Niyama one early evening, outside our room, studying Spanish, while having a beer.  She’s really doing well and it’s such a big help to converse with the locals in their native tongue.  Jeff has been more focused on the land investigation, while his is Spanish skills are lagging. However, improvement is happening slowly with much help and patience from Niyama.

A trip to Loja

Thursday, Day 10

Having trouble with the local ATMs, so we are taking a trip down to Loja to a bank.  We had trouble with ATMs in other towns but now that Jeff needs to pay for his crowns it’s critical that we are able to withdraw some money.  Traveling is easy when there’s enough money but when you suddenly find that you can’t get at your funds, residing in a foreign country becomes a huge challenge has more intensity.  Since we are staying at the hostal mentioned above we can leave our luggage there and only need to take a daypack with us.  We met Reed, a man from Vancouver, who is staying next door to us, who is also looking for land here as well as having dental work done in Loja.  We’re going with him to get oriented with the busses here and also a shared taxi service out of Lojas back to Vilcamabma that reduces the taxi cost from $15 for two to only $1.50 per person.


Enjoying the area around Vilcabamba

Friday, Day 11

Panoramic video of Vilcabamba from the top of the roof at the Hostel Rendevous

Today we had a sweet, simple day hanging around Vilcabamba. We started with our lovely breakfast that is provided with our room. Then on to our intended short hike. On the way we discovered another Hostel so we stopped in to check it out. We met a couple of other Americans, one of whom lives at the Hostel all year round and the other who is staying for 6 months, at least. After a nice chat we moved on for the remainder of our hike.

It was a brief 30-40 minute walk in nature and afterward we met some shopkeepers including the local attorney, a woman who runs a book exchange and Italian Restaurant and then some other Westerners. Finally, we ended the evening with dinner and a great meeting and talk with a couple of brothers, 18 and 19 1/2 years old, who’ve been living in Ecuador (one of them previously Italy) for some time. As it turned out, the small world that it is, Niyama is friends with a good friend of theirs, who currently lives in Boulder and had also lived in India when Niyama lived there!

We are planning a trip out to look at some large parcels of land tomorrow around Vilcabamba that will unbelievably be even less per acre than the large parcel of land that we saw in Cotacachi.   

A collage of photo’s in and around Vilcabamba

Exploring a 180-acre parcel, 30-minutes from Vilcabamba, priced at $80,000

Saturday, Day 12

Today was a good day of horse riding and learning more about land around here.  We learned that even if you look at 180 acres, only 5 or so acres may be flat enough to build on.  We were told that the road would only cost $5,000, but I’m betting it would be more like another $100,000 even though labor and materials is less in Ecuador.  So from now on, one of our first questions is “how much land is flat” in Spanish that would be: “Cuanto hectares de la tierra es plana?” 

We are beginning to realize that the land in and around Vilcabamba may also be too dry.  We are still looking at more land here, but are beginning to feel that our next stop is going to be Banos after spending a little time back in Cotacachi getting Jeff’s four crowns installed and looking at some more wood door manufacturers in San Antonio- a short distance from Cotacachi.  In Banos we have been told there are many waterfalls, natural hot springs and the land is more lush.  We expect to be here in Vilcabamba until Tuesday. 

We are also seeing the need to translate some basic phrases so that we can communicate better what our needs are.  Sometimes due to fatigue in just trying to communicate, you just don’t ask all the questions that need to be asked.  We are starting to use the Google Translator more now which translates whole sentences from English to Spanish- including a spoken voice of the sentence, so you can get the right pronunciation.  We are writing them down before a meeting so we can communicate more effectively.

The 180 acres at the end of the trail - too bad, not enough flat land to build a village on!

Jeff at the end of the 5-hour hike. Did we say

endless energy?

A natural horse woman!

Surprise! A 3-hour horse ride to the property and a 3500 foot vertical climb!

Diana - our Realtor for this land. She didn’t realize this was Real Estate ‘on a horse day’. 

Views to one of the vistas

It’s up there, somewhere?

I think we’ve had enough horse riding for awhile, but how much longer?

No, really - thanks but no thanks!

(The gentleman is Carlos, the owner of the land.)

No, we’ll just keep walking here - how much longer did you say?

A view of the long and winding trail from above

Jeff, the ‘endless energy’ guy after 3-hours and 3,500 foot climb

Close-up shots of Carlos, the owner of the land. 

Exploring More Land around Vilcabamba

Sunday, Day 13

Breakfast with Reed from Vancouver  who is also looking for land.

A typical breakfast: 2-eggs, 2-pieces of amazingly healthy and tasty toast, juice and tea all included in our $22/day price.

Sergio from France in his reception area.  He is the owner and builder of the hostel we are staying at.

Our lunch provided by Michel, an EcoVillage developer we are spending much time with lately.

A rare piece of flat land on a 40-acre parcel we looked at today.

Jeff with Michel- an EcoVillage developer who has been in Ecuador for 17-years.  We are looking at the possibility of partnering with him with our 25-acre EcoVillage within his 148-acre EcoVillage

We met Michel, a wonderful kindred spirit a few days ago and spent some time with him out on his 180-acre property today looking at what he’s done creating a healing center and planting over 2500 fruit and nut trees in the 12-years he has lived there.  He is also into Real Estate and has some listing that other realtors in the area do not have. 

We began looking at a 40-acre parcel that still only has one-large section of about 5-acres that is flat, pictured above.  We then went to his EcoVillage that he has developed and found a couple of large parcels still available that would be large enough to build a 100-unit EcoVillage on.  We will be looking at this property more on Tuesday and then we will be on our way North back to Cotacachi.

Exploring More Land Around Vilcabamba

Tuesday, Day 14

Our first real uneventful day.  Jeff was finally able to get some money out of the ATM with his debit card after a week of banking hassles with the card company and US bank.  Two trips back and forth to Loja- about an hour each way; one with the bus and one with the taxi.  First time Jeff ventured into Loja with minimal Spanish speaking skills & without his interpretor Niyama.  We added a new webpage today located at the top of this page entitled, About/Contacting Us”.

One Day of ‘Living’ in Vilcabamba

Monday, Day 13

180 degree panoramic shot from12.5 acres looking down on Malacotas- about 6 kilometers (3.6 miles) from Vilcabamba

More shots of and from the same land

Traveling by bus between Vilcabamba and Loja

Today we looked at some land a few miles from Vilcabamba, but still in the same valley- still the “Valley of Longevity”.  If we bought all 12.5 acreas which consists of about 8 lots, I believe we could get it for around $10,000 per acre, but I believe it’s too steep for the size of the EcoVillage we are considering.  We then took a trip into Loja, which is about an hour away.  Bus fare is $1 and runs about every 15 minutes.  A local couple was gracious and allowed us to take a photo of them.  You can’t but help love the people here!

Taking the Bus to Cuenca

Wednesday, Day 15

A few photos between Vilcabamba and Cuenca

We left Vilcabamba today and are on our way back to Cotacachi.  But along the way we are going to spend tonight and probably Thursday in the beautiful city of Cuenca- which is very European and then on to Banos, which has hot natural baths, waterfalls and currently an erupting volcano!  Cuenca is about a 5-hour bus ride from Loja to Cuenca and costs $7.50.  Everyday we fall more and more in love with the people of this sweet and open country.  There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of here, the people are gracious when you stumble with your Spanish.  Sign language and guestures have been an important part of our vocabulary- especially Jeff.

Continuing our Bus Journey from Vilcabamba to Cotacachi

Today We Went from Cuenca to Banos

Thursday, Day 16

Today we took a very long and slow bus from Cuenca to Banos.  It was definitely the milk run and it seemed like the bus must have stopped at least 200 times.  But the last time we took this trip it was at night so we really didn’t get a chance to see this country in the day time.

It’s amazing how entrepreneural the Ecuadorians are.  At every bus stop there are vendors waiting to serve you and many times they will get on the bus and walk up and down the aisle with their food and sometimes jewelry.  The most touching one for us was a blind man that played two beautiful songs on his guitar and then walked down the aisle collecting a few coins for his entertainment.  I just think it’s beautiful how the bus drivers allow the free flow of services to come on an off the busses and I’m sure they don’t get anything from it.

We arrived in Banos tonight about 5:30 and found that we misplaced our guidebook that lists all the great hostals, restaurants and sights.  So we departed the bus terminal and found a couple of westerners around town that happened to be from Belgium.  We asked them where they were staying and they pointed us to a fantastic hostal for only $8.50 per night per person and it’s only 3-blocks from the hot springs and waterfall.  So tomorrow morning we’re going to enjoy these wonderful outdoor hot springs in the shadow of a currently active volcano.

The courtyard at our hostal in Cuenca

More street vendors.....

Street vendors at a bus stop

The Ecuadorian Countryside Between Cuenca and Banos

Two school kids that got on the bus and sat across from us quizzing us in Spanish about why we were in Ecuador.  They knew a few English words and left by saying “Happy Travels” in perfect English.  The were very patient with our struggles with Spanish. But we all had fun and giggles!

A blind musician that got on the bus to play at a bus termanial

You guessed it

Yes, and another street vendor...  The bus driver has his back to us on the left

A close-up of the previous photo including a hanging pig.

An indiginous couple waiting for a bus

Banos street music and scenes at night

A Day in Banos

Friday, Day 17

AUDIBLE AFTER 30 SECONDS.......The wind covers up most of the audio for about the first 30-seconds, it then subsides through most of the remaining video. A 6-minute video with Jeff and Niyama talking from a shrine at about 1,000 feet above Banos.

The trail just down from the shrine.

A hostal only available by a foot path.

A local resident walking down the path from his home past the entrance to the hostal.

Entrance to the hostal.

A shot of a group of houses that are only accessible by foot path.  The horse in the foreground is used to carry heavy supplies up the path.

A better shot of the group of houses only available by footpath.

It is not possible to have homes accessible only by footpath in the US and probably most of Europe because a fire truck could not get to the home in case of a fire.  In Ecuador, the homes are constructed out of concrete, floors are tile and roofs are clay brick, so fire becomes virtually impossible.  I’m wondering if we build homes like this in the US, whether fire insurance requirements could also be mitigated?  This would allow our homes to be surrounded by a much more healthy and natural living environment than roads and driveways.

Another shot looking down at Banos from the shrine.

Looking down at Banos and the surrounding mountains from the shrine.

Looking up at the shrine.

Tapestries handmade in Ecuador.  The dyes are from natural sources and the wool is handspun.

Today was a wonderful day of hiking, walking, rest and relaxation around Banos.  Nice place to visit, but as you can see by the photos above, the land around Banos is too steep for the ecovillage.  Every morning we were here (and it’s quite usual, according to other travelers), you wake up with blaring loudspeakers for various reasons that goes on for hours.  The noise reverberates all througout this small box canyon.  We are looking forward to getting some peace and quiet elsewhere.  We will be leaving around 10am tomorrow morning for Quito by bus- approximately 6-hours.  We expect to spend the night in a hostal in old-town Quito, which is the capital of Ecuador.

A Beautiful Indigenous Couple Traveling

on the Bus with Us.

Niyama in the kitchen at night making dinner.  Guests can use the kitchen all day except during breakfast.

Group dining at the hostal on the top floor.

On the Road to Quito

Saturday, Day 18

We left Banos today at around 9am and on to Quito, taking the above photos on our way out of town.  We arrived in our hostel in between old and new Quito after a choking 40-minute taxi ride from the bus terminal.  It’s just amazing how polluted the air is in these big cities with so many diesel busses and trucks.  After living in a small clean town, it’s hard to imagine that people live in this pollution day after day.  We are going to try and replace our travel book here at a major bookstore downtown Quito tomorrow and then on to Cotacachi. 

We’re looking very forward to getting out of this pollution and back to some small towns up north for a week or less.  Then we are going to explore the coast.  It’s still hard to believe it will have been 3-weeks in the tropics until we explore the coast and do some snorkeling.  We’re beginning to think more and more about building on the coast.  There has to be a high ridge somewhere with a 180 degree view of the ocean, maybe 3-4 thousand feet high, so that in the heat of the summer, it’s 10-15 degrees cooler than the coast at sea level.

Jeff lived in a place like that in Kula, on Maui for about 4-years and it was just like that.  85 degrees on the coast with high humidity and 70 degrees with much less humidity at an elevation of around 3,000 feet.  Could the Maui property could be duplicated for 1/5 of the cost or less in Ecuador?  Maybe we’ll find out in a week or two.

The active volcano plumb behind the hills of Banos.

The waterfall view from our balcony in Banos.

A local shop owner making taffy in Banos.

Our Final Leg, Back to Cotacachi

Sunday, Day 19

We were really glad to get out of Quito.  Neither of us are big-city people.  The pollution, the crowds, the noise, none of it seems to work for us.  The silence of the countryside, the bright stars at night and the clean air.  Simple things we take for granted until the intrusions of a large city is experienced.  Nature is so balanced, so pure and what we have done to our large cities is so unnatural, so unhealthy, and so unsustainable.   Only one night in this large city, but I couldn’t last much longer.


Back in Cotacachi and LaCuadra Hostal.  We’ve been gone almost 2-weeks now since we stayed at our first Hostal here in Cotacachi.  It feels good to be back, sort of like coming home.  The town seems so tranquil after Quito.  The weather is very comfortable, probably 70 degrees today and low humidity.  We bought some great fresh vegtables at the market since there is a large kitchen here.  For one of the few time in the last few weeks, we’re going to have a home cooked meal tonight! 

Tomorrow I will get my new crowns installed and maybe check out the land we could not get into during our first week here.


Two indigenous helpers at LaCuadra Hostal.  Of all the places we have stayed so far, this place is by far the friendliest.

Getting Crowns Installed and Visiting San Antonio and Ibarra

Monday, Day 20

I got my crowns installed today which I told the dentist were to be 100% porcelin and they came back with metal linings.  She told me if I didn’t want metal it was a different material than porcelin and would cost $300 per cap and not $160.  Seeing how it would take 2-weeks to get the new crowns made and double the cost, I decided to have her install the ones at hand.  Big lesson here-  When communicating in another language, the details are what takes the time.  Some time you get so tired trying to communicate that you assume the other person not speaking your language understands.

Apparently she saw metal under my other caps and thought that is what I meant by 100% porcelin.  In the US a dentist would get that 100% porcelin means just that- no metal, but life is different here in Ecuador.  That’s still the best price for caps I’ve found here so far, 100% porcelin or not.

I took a trip up to San Antonio the woodworking capital of Ecuador but only found shops carving alot of crusifixes and other church-related stuff, which accounted for about 50% of what I saw.  I didn’t find any door shops which is what I was mainly looking for.  I’m going to hire our hostal host here in Cotacachi to translate for me and find some companies that can make custom doors and entry ways that I can import.

Ibarra is about 30-minutes North and about 10 degrees warmer.  It’s been cold and rainy here and we’re looking for some warmer weather.  Going to look at some doors tomorrow and land. 

Looking at land around Cotacachi

Tuesday - Thursday , Day 21 - 23

Solid wood entry way

Wood ceiling

Bannister and brick steps

Kitchen w/solid hardwood cabinets



Front room with fireplace

Solid wood hardwood cabinets

High-end construction at $50/sq. ft

Raw Land Around Cotacachi- can put as many houses as we want on these parcels!

10 acres with fruit trees and small house for 330K in Cotacachi

33 acres with 2 houses for 80K- about 20-minutes outside of Cotacachi

Land butting up to lake at 3K/acre- total of  38 acres, 8 minutes outside of Cotacachi

Another view of same land

12.5 acres with large unfinished house in Cotacahi for $300K

5 acre development with one house already built and subdivided into 20 lots for 300K in Cotacachi

We found these parcels through our hostal owner who had a friend that knows what’s available locally.  There are no MLS listing services in the small towns in Ecuador so you have to know a local to get in touch with what’s available.  You then pay for the taxi (about $6/hour) plus about $15/hour for the “realtors” time.  They still get the same commission as in the US when the property sells, but you need to pay them upfront to see properties.

We saw these above properties during the last few days and liked some of them, especially the one that abutted the lake, but it’s been raining alot here and rather cool.  Wanted to see what was available, but at this point, we are thinking to get to the coast where the weather is more warm and hopefully less rainy.  Looking for land that sits on a ridge overlooking the ocean. 

On our way to the Ocean at last!

Friday, Day 24

The Otivallo Bus Station

The South Quito Bus Station looking Down a Terminal from Where Our Bus Departed

One of the Locals?

Scenes on the way to the coast

Finally, a good seafood dinner!

(About $4,50 each)

More scenes on the way to the coast

After being in the highlands now over 3-weeks, we left Cotacachi today about 7am and then caught a bus out of Quito at 11am for the coast.  We arrived at the coast at 6pm.  Total bus fare was $8.50 each.  If you are going to travel around Ecuador, you will get to know the busses here.  They are really efficient and function amazingly well, but they certainly are different than the busses in the US.  During our trip we probably stopped about 15 times to let on street vendors that walk up and down the aisle of the bus selling food, watches, tooth brushes, pirated videos for $1/each and more food.  It’s just amazing how entrepreneural these people are.   I know we’ve written about this before but it never ceases to amaze me how you can have the aisles packed with standing people, while sometimes I counted as many as 7 vendors are pushing their ways through these standing passengers along with the bus faire collector who remembers who the new passengers are that got on and maneuvers his way to them to collect his money.  All this shouting from the vendors, piped in loud music and twice during our trip a movie is blarring as well!  At times is seems like controlled total chaos, but it works very well. 

Quito has two bus terminals, one in the North and One in the South.  The southern terminal we departed from this morning is like an airport in the US.  Very modern and efficient.  Busses come into the various finger-like terminals like airplanes come into their finger terminals.  The busses are comfortable and we have always felt very safe on them.

We traveled from 9,300 feet above sea level from Quito to sea level at Pendernalas, a northern town on the ocean that will be the start of our journey down the coast in search of land.  It feels good to be back on the coast again and in some warm weather.  It was raining when we arrived tonight.  We are staying at a hostal tonight we fund in “Lonely Planet”. it’s only a few blocks from the ocean and has a view of it.  Cost is $20/night for two, but has no internet and also we found out has no hot water.  But it’s clean and comfortable- except for the road noise.  Fortunately Niyama brought some ear plugs that I have started using lately.

We’re looking forward to some tropical water tomorrow and landing possibly a few weeks through the holidays in a small town about 3-hours south of here called Canoa. It’s a surfing town and among other things, we are expecting to take some intense Spanish lessons there.  We just realized that the Christmas season is approaching and we are going to need to reserve a room for a few weeks now to get us through the holiday rush.  We are hoping we’re not too late!

Waking up in Pedernales and on our Way to Canoa

Saturday, Day 25

View of the Ocean from our hostal window

Packing up in our room

Niyama’s bag that was cut

One of the numerous micro-businesses in Ecuador

We arrived  last night in Paternales about 6pm.  We didn’t realize until this morning that someone had apparently cut Niyama’s back pack while we were getting off the bus last night amongst alot of activity.  Doesn’t look like we lost anything important.  First mishap we’ve had so far.

Not real crazy about this place.  We’ve included a few shots from our window.  Going down to the beach for breakfast and then on to Canoe, which we are looking forward to.

Waking up in Canoa

Sunday, Day 25

Our hostal is about 1.5 miles from town and we were just going to go to the beach yesterday but decided to walk to town and forgot our camera.  So before we leave today for San Vicente and Bahai.  We’ll try and get some shots of this wild surfing town before we leave.  I got up this morning and took some shots of where we are staying.   It was so nice to hear the ocean all night.  Also, not a mosquito in sight.  I always thought Ecuador would have bugs, snakes and spiders everywhere, but so far it’s is no different that the states.  In fact, there are many more misquitoes in Colorado that here so far. 

The weather is warm but not too hot.  Our room costs us $6 each/night.  An optional breakfast is provided for $2 and dinner for $4 each.  The owners here also teach Spanish for about $4/hour.  Internet is good and we can use the kitchen to prepare our own meals.  We are going to head further south today and try and find something else to weather out the holdiay rush for the next two weeks or so.  This isn’t quite the right area we are looking for so we’ve decided to keep moving on.

Private homes next to our hostal

Looking down the beach

Looking up the beach

Our hostal from the beach

Looking from our balcony

A closer view of our balcony

A family from the states staying at the same hostal

Niyama’s on the internet corresponding with one of her friends in England this morning

The ferry from San Vicente to Bahai

Locals playing cards in San Vicente- no ipods here!

Volley ball in Canoa

The beach scene in Canoa

Since we had such cheap and out of the way accomodations in Canoa, we decided to just take a trip into San Vicente and Bahai without our baggage.  Good decision, because it wasn’t something we were interested in.  Looking for some cooler climate a few thousand feet above the ocean with a view.  Any ideas?  We’d appreciate any ideas you may have in Central or South America.  Tomorrow we are going to head South and our next best option is Puerto Lopez, about 2 hours South of Manta- about 5-6 hours South in all.

Life in Mantanita

Monday and Tuesday, Day 26-27

On Monday morning we took off heading South not sure where exactly we were going to stop, or even which bus would get us through Manta to the coast to the South.  We passed alot of very dreary towns and decided to go all the way to a town called Mantanita, about 2-hours South of Manta the largest Ecuadorian town on the coast.  What a great surprise when the bus let us off.  The other towns had muddy roads and no pavement for their streets, but what a surprise here.  We were greeted with paved roads, and an amazing international town that has as many gringo’s as locals.  The town has used bamboo and thatched roofs throughout for the construction of the town center buildings. 

There are many hostals in and around town which gives alot of choices where to stay.  We still are having a problem though, securing a place between December 27 and Jan 2.  Not sure what we are going to do as every place on the coast is booked for the holidays.  We decided to stay here a total of 7-days to rest (the maximum time we can find available rooms here), look at some surrounding land and take some Spanish lessons.

We found a guy here from California that has been buying his own real estate here and helping others for the past 5-years.  Also, we met a couple here that spends half the year in Boston and the other half in Quito.  She is Ecuadorian and her son recently helped them buy a lot on the beach for $20,000 in San Jose.  We gave him our name and he is going to see if he can help us to in the San Jose area as well.

Life in Mantanita

Wednesday, Day 28

New restaurant being constructed at the hostal we left today

Our hostal and new construction

A family we met at our hostal last night.  The woman on the right is is part of the association in Ecuador for wood exports- she’s  going to help me export doors.  Her Nephew on the right is into Real Estate and is going to help us with property in San Jose- about 10-minutes North of Mantanita.  The husband on the left is an attorney and works in Boston 6-months and then in Ecuador the rest of the year.  Great people!  Their neice is in the middle.

Amazing bamboo disco in Mantanita

We checked out of one hostal a little North of town and checked into another one right in town and also right on the beach.  We are finally feeling like we are on a vacation after many weeks of cold and rainy weather in the highlands.  Here on the coast the weather as been perfect.  80’s during the days and high 60’s at night. 

We finally got in the Ocean and did some body surfing today.  We played in the pool at our new hostal, and the jacuzzi.  Got a little burnt, but not too bad.  We are going to look at some land around here tomorrow.  Somehow, I skipped a few days in our blog here, but as of today we’ve been here 1-month now.

Life in Mantanita

Thursday, Day 31

Street scene in Mantanita

A point at the end of the beach we thought we’d walk around to get back to Mantanita

Some beach cabins a few miles North of  Mantanita

Another typical beach scene in Mantanita

A typical beach scene in Mantanita

Niyama at the “point of no return”

Jeff at “the point of no return”

The point a little closer

A motorcycle taxi that picked us up along the way to take us up North about 10-miles from Mantanita

We had a fun day today exploring the beach immediately to the North of Mantanita.  We had a motorcycle taxi drop us off about 10-miles up the next beach and we walked back.  We though we could walk around the point that separated the two beaches but I guess not.  We got soaked at one point, when we were almost home- but a couple of breaks in the rocks with an incoming tide was just too much considering we were carrying  a camera and cell phone.  We had to turn around and caught a bus back. 

We got to see some really quaint villages along the way and some lots on the beach for sale. Even though it’s not what we’re looking for we’re still going to call just to see what they’re going for.

Life in Mantanita

Friday-Sat, Day 32-33

Merry Christmas Everyone!

You can’t tell much difference here today, being Christmas and all.  Niyama and myself are both wishing that you are all having a wonderful Christmas, where ever you are!

Everything is open and even construction crews are going full tilt here.  For the guys, I thought you might enjoy seeing how concrete is poured on a second floor here without the use of a pumping truck.  One of the reasons for all this construction here may be that Mantanita is hosting an international surfing competition around Jan 26 - Feb 2.  There is construction everywhere- certainly no downturn in the economy here in Mantanita! 

I can’t help compare Ecuador with Hawaii, which was my only longterm experience of the tropics to date.  The beaches here are as good as the beaches in the Hawaiian chain.  The only difference is that instead of a fancy hotel on the shoreline, you see delapidated homes and buildings here.  When you walk on the beach here, if you head out of town just a few steps, you can walk for hours and pass maybe a half-dozen other people.  Just miles and miles of sandy beaches without hardly another soul in sight. 

Besides the crowds, the other big difference is the music.  In Hawaii, you have beautiful, peaceful Hawaiian music that is really soothing to the soul.  Here, you have loud music with a strong beat that is almost non-stop and far from peaceful.  This has been difficult for us to escape, much of the time since we’ve mainly spent time in small towns and have yet to find a really out of the way hostal.  This would be easy to remedy with your own place outside of a town.

The culture and language are also quite different.  In Hawaii, everyone speaks English and a large part of the economy revolves around tourism, except for maybe the area around Honolulu which carries on business very much like any other large city.  Here in Ecuador, tourism is only a small part of the economy.  Everywhere you look, you see a decentralized and small-scale businesses. Especially in the countryside, everyone seems to be trading or making something.  You need to speak some Spanish.  I would have thought that more people here would speak maybe a little English, but this is not the case.  You need to have a crasp of some basic words to make it here especially if you are traveling on the bus system and interacting with the locals.

There are several Western enclaves here which make speaking Spanish a little less mandatory.  Some of these areas we’ve been to would include areas in Quito, Cotacachi, Vilcabamba, Banos and Mantanita.  We also understand that there are enclaves in just about every large city here, but we haven’t experienced them for ourselves.

The other big difference and the motivating reason we are here is the cost of property and living in general.  I understand that prices have really come down in Hawaii during the last few years, but you certainly can’t buy a lot on the beach anywhere there for $30,000 or so or large parcels for anywhere near comparable to here.  Other costs, such as Medical, food and gas can really drive down the cost of living.  Diesel here is about $1/gallon, unleaded sells for about $1.50/gallon,  propane is 17 cents/gallon.  Electricity is cheap too, but I’m not sure what the price is.  The fruits and vegtables are about 1/2 to 1/4 the cost.  Imports however can cost more.  Anything with a brand name can cost up to double what it would be in the US.  Automobiles cost about the same, and from what I understand so far, used cars here are much more expensive.  We learned from a Westerner whose family is spending a year in Ecuador while their 12-year old son attends school, that for $50 per person, everything else is covered for medical including prescription drugs.

Clothing prices have seemed quite high to me, especially because I usually buy my clothes in second-hand shops.  Maybe they have those places in Ecuador too, but I haven’t really looked. 

The slow Internet is one of biggest obstacles here in carrying on a business outside of a developed country.  This is a very crucial element when considering to do a business overseas, we’ve been finding out.  In Hawaii it was just as fast as the mainland. 

The other big difference for building is super-relaxed zoning laws.  In Hawaii, it’s just like the states, lots of red tape to develop any land.  Here we understand it’s alot different.  We still need to see if for ourselves, but in most places, we understand that you can do almost anything you want with minimal municipal requirements. 

We’re leaving Mantanita tomorrow morning and on our way South to Vilcabamba.  We’re going to stop by a 50-acre parcel of land that another Westerner purchased with some partners a year ago and he is now looking to maybe sell off 25-acres or so for a related project.  He wants to establish a hostal and healing center on the part of the land he is keeping.  This land is about 8-miles South of Mantanita.

The hostal we’re staying at in Mantanita- the most expensive place we’ve stayed at so far.  Cost is $35/night.

A typical town shot just outside of  Mantanita

Another street shot of  Mantanita- far from the typical town here.

The low-tech solution to a $200,000 concrete pumping truck- On Christmas day

Traveling back to Vilcabamba

Sunday and Monday, Day 34-35

We took off from Mantanita Sunday and met Marv and Bonnie, a couple that own 50-acres about 8-miles South of Mantanita.  We spent about 5-hours with them as they graciously showed us around the surrounding area and their property.  Marv is 78 and they have only been there one year, but they have done an amazing amout of work so far, for just one year.  They are a real inspiration!  We had a good discussion about the problems with putting in a large development, like the ecovillage in regards to raising the surrounding neighbor’s taxes.  Seems Ecuador and other third world countries are following the US and other Western countries lead by adjusting property values up in just the same way.

We talked about possibly creating an educational foundation and leasing the land with a 100-year renewable lease.  It was alot of information to process and so we’re both going to just chew on it for awhile.  We got a later start toward Cuenca than we had expected with the 5-hour meeting so we only made it to Guayaquil, the largest town in Ecuador for the evening.  Fortunately we got a great reference for a hostal very close to the bus terminal from Marv and Bonnie, so we had an easy connection with a wonderful hostess.

On Monday, we got to the bus terminal and on the bus at 9:50 and to Cuenca about 4-hours later.  With only a 20-minute window we caught the next bus to Loja and with another 20-minute window the next one to Vilcabamba.  We arrived here tonight about 8pm and were able to get a room at the hostal we stayed at in Valcabamba the last time we were here.  It feels nice to come back to a place you have already been to.  Familiarity is really nice when you’ve been traveling around for over a month.

What a different energy from Mantanita!  It’s so quiet here.  All the restaurants close by nine.  In Mantinita, many of the dinner stands don’t even get set up before 9pm and the parties and dancing doesn’t really start until 11pm or so and last until 4am.  Much too late for our liking.  But it’s almost like another country going from the party autmosphere of Mantanita to the laid back feeling here. 

So tomorrow, we’re going to look at some large parcels here and try and find a place to rent for a couple of weeks and rest up as well as explore the area.  We are having camera problems so we were not able to upload any photo’s tonight.  Sorry.

Settling into Vilcabamba

Tuesday, Day 36

For the first time in Ecuador, we moved out of a day to day rental in hostals into a longterm rental in a large home in Valcabamba.  We are renting a room with a private bath and a shared kitchen.  The internet works sometimes, but we are right downtown Vilcabamba.  We are paying $10/day for the room and if we stay for the month the price is $265- that’s only $132.50 each for the whole month!.  We love the owners here, Janice and Bruce as they are from the US and speak perfect English!.  They’ve been here now about a year and a half.

Jeff looked at a 75 acre piece of land just 7-minutes from here but it was too hilly again.  Still looking for that right piece of land, but it looks like we’ll be here in Vilcabamba for a few weeks at least.  It feels good to have a base where we can call home for a while.

A Day of Sickness

Wednesday, Day 37

First time now, after 5-weeks, I must have eaten something wrong.  Was in bed all day but feeling fine now in the evening.  This gave me an opportunity to rough out a new webpage, “The Prosumer Concept” as a core part of the ecovillage.  Fortunately, Niyama is fine as she didn’t get sick also.  Looking to go to Loja tomorrow and hopefully get another battery charger for my camera so I can upload some photos again.  We’re enjoying our place here with people from mainly the US staying here.  Bud is here from Washington, Libby from Alaska, Harmony from England, and Heinrich from Sweden.  The Owners- Bruce and Jenice are from Oregon and have been here now about 1.5 years.

Networking with other travelers has really helped us to get perspectives and leads that would take us on our own, years to accumulate.  It’s also alot of fun cooking and sharing together.  Hopefully, I’ll have some photos tomorrow.

A Trip to Loja

Thursday, Day 38

We took the shared taxi to Loha today to get a new battery charger for my camera and a few other items like protien powder.  The shared taxi here takes about 45-minutes and costs $1.50 each.  It doesn’t leave until there are four people to fill it which usually takes less than 10-minutes.  We returned on the bus which is $1 each.

Loja is a sweet town of about 140,000 I think, and has most of the things you would normally need.   It’s lacking specialty items we can get in the states and probably other Western countries.  For instance, you need to be happy just finding protien powder, forget about spirilena, barley greens and all the other nutritional supplements we have such easy access to in more developed countries.  I was really lucky to find a small shop that carried another charger for my camera since there seems to be no standardized rechargeable batteries for cameras. 

We are really loving this place here where we are staying in Vilcabamba.  We shared a group meal for lunch and then the owners of this place had some other westerners over for a movie on their projection screen system and we made popcorn.  After traveling around and many times being the only Westerner within sight, it’s nice to be in a community where there is a good number of people here that speak english.  I hear about 300 people from the US live here in Vilcabamba in a total population of about 4,000.

Some Observations About the Police, Simplicity and Stores:

It just dawned on me that the entire time we have been in Eucador, we have never seen one cop pulling someone over for anything!  There are no speed limits here so there is no need for traffic cops and that is really refreshing.  You don’t have to worry about some cop hiding somewhere to pull you over for going 5 miles over an arbitrary speed limit that can change frequently on the same road.  You need to get used to the faster speed at which people drive, but they use their horns alot and it all seems to work just fine.  We have only seen one accident so far. 

The other thing is the friendliness of cops in the streets and armed guards at banks and some stores and restaurants.  The cops here carry on conversations with people as they pass by.  They are here to help and the people are not intimidated by them like the people are in the US.  It seems to be like one big family as everyone helps each other.

The simplicity of life here, creates a situation where people need a lot less variety to get through a day.  For instance in the bread shops, they are all pretty much the same and people make due with maybe a dozen different types of buns and pastry.  It always amazes me how many of these small shops carry almost exactly the same thing, especially food items.  You need eggs- you have bulk brown eggs period.  You need cheese, you get the same soft cheese everywhere.  Butter, yoghurt, popcorn, milk, rice, etc., almost every corner has them usually one and the same brand and many times no brand, just bulk.  There are a few items where you have a little choice, like crackers and candies.

There  is a chain store called “Super Maxi” and it’s essentially the same as a large grocery store anywhere in a Western country.  They are only in the large cities, the closest one here is in Loja.  It’s definitely nice to shop in a large store with alot of variety.  At a “Super Maxi” you have the choice of many brands and even some with the USDA “Organic” label.  But as nice as this is for us Westerners, large supermarkets could really undermine the economy here since most people survive selling these items at their own small shops.

OK, sorry- still no photos.  Tomorrow is a special day in Vilcabamba, so I promise to capture a really unique celebration!

New Year’s Eve

Friday, Day 39

For a new blog as Jeff explores Belize and other Central American Countries, click here.

Residents that live up this road can say “I live in a gated community”!

Jeff too

Niyama with Janice’s effigie-

(our hostal owner)

A video of effigies from around town

Today we went for a nice walk up into the hills around Vilcabamba and then around town for a few shots of the effigies that people have made here.  They set them outside their homes so everyone can see them.  Then here’s the deal.  They put all their bad memories and thoughts from the past year in them and then burn them in one big celebration at midnight.  On some of the photos you can see quite detailed writing around the effigies on pieces of paper.  These writings go up in flames too.  I wish I could have read more of the words.  There was alot of thought put into them. 

It was quite a town celebration last night.  They built a stage in the main square and had several entertainers performing on it.  A good portion of the town seemed to be dancing down in front of the stage.   At midnight, the fireworks went off and the effigies started to be burnt.  I didn’t capture it on the video, but after the fires burnt down, I’m not sure if it’s tradition, but many people would jump over the fire.  Maybe this signifies victory over all the bad thoughts that went up in flames or maybe it’s just having fun?  Maybe both!  I captured some of it on the above video, but you know how it goes..... you had to be there!

Many of the effigies were just set out in the middle of the street across from their houses and were set fire there.  Others would bring them to a central fire in the town square.  At times you would look up and down the streets and see many fires all going at once.  I think I counted 3 cops discretely hidden, no fire department, just a town celebrating.  Seems to me like the town last night was one big family.  A joyful and noisy place.  No TV or internet that I could see, just people connecting to burn up the old and celebrate in the new.

New Years Eve celebration in Vilcabamba Square

New Year’s Day

Saturday, Day 40

Well, we are certainly starting off the new year with big changes!   Jeff is going to be heading to Belize, which is where he was going to go last winter (but got sidetracked to Montana).  There probably won’t be an entry for a few days until Jeff gets settled in Northern Belize later in the week since this website is on his computer. 

We hope everyone is having a great day off today and we both wish all of you the best in 2011.

Some Later Reflections on Ecuador:

(Jeff’s Reflections)

You know how you feel, when you come to a place that’s right.  It’s like you’ve lived there before and things just seem to click.  Ecuador has yet to do this for me.  I know that I’ve only been here now about 6-weeks, but it never had that “at home” feeling for me.  I miss that tourquoise-blue clear water to snorkel in.  I miss the hardware stuff I don’t have easy access to here.  And the slow internet is really a hassle when you rely on it!  Unfortunately, the internet speed probably won’t be any better in Belize.

The next place I am choosing to explore is Northern Belize.  Belize encompasses the second largest barrier reef in the world after Australia.  I hear the snorkeling is amazing!  Just on the other side of the border in Mexico is a town called Chetumal.  They’ve got such stores as Sam’s Club and Office Depot, so I can have easier access to supplies.  Also, something people may not know is that the main language in Belize is English.  Belize used to be British Hondouras, so the English Government taught everyone English.

I just can’t get over the feeling that in Ecuador it just doesn’t quite seem like the tropics to me.  I have to admit it, when I leave the snow in Colorado during the winter, I’m looking for clear, warm water to be in and also affordable land.  I’m hoping to find it in Belize, but if not- there’s always next year to explore somewhere else!

Reflections on the Type of Western’s Here in Ecuador:

(The following comments are written from Jeff’s experiences without Niyama’s impressions or input.)

The westerners that I have spoken with here are mainly from the US, which I believe is by far the largest expat community here.  Westerner’s have not only come to Ecuador because it costs less, they have come here to largely get out of the grip of the corporate-governmental collusion that is robbing Main Street’s all over the world of their freedom and independence.  It takes a strong individual to live in a third-world country speaking a foreign language.  So it will not be surprising to find out that Westerners here are not your typical suburbinite that watches TV several hours a day and believes what they see and read through the media.

The people you meet living here think are out-of-the box.  They see what’s going on in the world and dig deep into their own conclusions and freely explore areas that would be taboo to mainstream individuals to even discuss.  These taboos I have spoken with people about that have been initiated from their side include the official 9-11 story and its total impossibility and the suppression of individual liberties that have been inacted through legislation like the Patriot Act as a result, the endless war state that has been purpetrated and the intentionally created illegal wars based on fabricated terrorism and fear, the UFO cover-up, the attack by the FDA (and other organizations like it outside the US) and corporate food companies relentless attack on the organic food industry, the intentional shelving of suppressed technology that effects every area of life- including medical and energy sollutions that would put the large corporations out of business, the far-reaching, worldwide control of the illuminati, CIA intrusions into Main Street’s everyday lives, and so many other topics that the main stream westerner has been brainwashed into automatically negatively catagorizing as conspiracy theory.  One westerner I spoke with that had been in Vilcabamba for 6-months or so said that in all his time there, he had only met 5 westerners that would not be considered conspiracy theorists.

Westerners that have moved to Ecuador see not only a repressive police state coming more into fruition, in the States in particular, but a current financial system that is all ready falling apart.  They have come here to freely express themselves with others of like minds that have not given away their power of investigation, contemplation and their ability to arrive independently at their personal conclusions.  They have come here to be in a place where the intrusion of government and multi-national corporations is much less, and to set up a place where loved ones can come when things get really bad back in the states and other developed countries.  They have come here to innovate with technology, living arrangements, medical sollutions and every area mentioned above that are currently taboos in the US and other western countries.  I personally love the opportunity to connect with so many free-spirited thinkers and doers here.  This, for me, has been one of the most enjoyable and comforting experiences of being in Ecuador, especially Vilcabamba, and a big reason to come back and maybe set up a place here in the future. 

Exploring Some of the Human Resources in Vilcabamba

Sunday, Day 41

One of the really great things about Vilcabamba is the creativity that is expressed in the people that live here.  Like I said above, really strong people have moved here and they are shaking the tree as to what is possible.  I thought I’d share a couple of the resources I came across today, resources that were a direct result of talking with people at Bruce and Jenice’s place that had been living in Vilcabamba for 6-months and more.  Obviously, I came upon these topics because of my interest in them.  Also, one of the driving factors to consider moving to Ecuador is to make a positive difference in the hopeful evolution of our human existance here on Earth.  These are some examples of the quality of people that have moved here with the desire to help humanity and to share perspectives not written about in the mainstream media.

They did a workshop in Vilcabamba in September, 2010 and people came from all over the world.  If you haven’t heard of them, you should check out their website because they travel all over the world, videotaping people on the cutting edge that are involved in researching and direct experience of the topics I mentioned above in yesterday’s blog.

Brian Leary, former Apollo astronaut, lives and has built a Bed and Breakfast, Retreat and conference center in the hills around Vilcamamba.  He also holds workshops and is holding another one January 19-23, 2011.  His most recent book “The Energy Revolution Solution” is a must read for anyone interested in why we are so stuck with oil as our main fuel source and the suppression that has gone on around new energy technologies.  I haven’t read the whole book yet but his background not only as an astronaut but also a Professor at Princeton gives him a good handle on the science behind it all.  And for those people requiring credentials before anyone is believeable, he provides that as well.

Finally, the home we w
ere staying at in Vilcabamba can be found at  Since it’s a longterm rental and located about 4-blocks from the town center, it’s not only conveniently located, but people stay there that have lived in Vilcabamba for several months, so they have alot of great connections that they so freely share.  This is a photo of the owners, Jenice and Bruce.

This is the last entry into this blog on the Ecuador journey that Jeff and Niyama are sharing together.  If you would like to continue Jeff’s journey as he explores Belize and other Central American countries, you can click here.  Niyama is staying in Vilcabamba.  We hope you have enjoyed this blog and it is helpful in your decision to visit or maybe even move to Ecuador, or maybe even just to get a glimpse of how life is in a South American Country and how friendly we have found the people here to be.  It’s been a real pleasure sharing our experiences with all of you.


The Vicabamba River.  It’s said that if you stand in this river, you will live forever.  We spent as much time in it as we could!  The woman with the red shirt on in the left picture is washing her clothes in the river.  This is standard practice all over Ecuador where ever you find a river.