The Last Straw!


IMG_2980Who knew? Panama hats, woven from the straw of the toquilla plant, are from Ecuador! In Ecuador they don’t call them Panamas. They call them sombreros de paja toquilla. The origin of this misnomer comes from the hat’s widespread use by the workers who built the Panama Canal  from 1904-1914.

Watch the whole hat making process.Read on.

House Sitter Haven


IMG_3589We were very fortunate to find Max and Alize to housesit for us when we traveled for a month through Ecuador. Max is from Canada and Alize is from Belgium. They were housesitting in Leon, Nicaragua and posted on a Facebook page for expats in Nicaragua that they were looking for a housesitting gig for a month. They’ve been on the road four years, working online to provide income for their travels.

Keep reading.More tips on choosing housesitters.

The Grand Opening of our La Paloma Airport


“All journeys eventually end in the same place, home.” ― Chris Geiger

I’ve taken pictures of our La Paloma airport strip on Ometepe Island for over ten years (See the links below). It came as no surprise when we were traveling through Ecuador, that I received a notice that our new airport opened. It was finished in 2012. We waited so long, we actually forgot about it, even though it is located two properties away from our house. That’s Nicaragua!

Can someone please post pictures of the grand opening for me? I posted on Facebook. Sadly, no one except for important dignitaries from Managua and Ometepe Island were invited. Our house sitters heard the party, but they thought it was a religious parade. That’s Nicaragua!

Not to be left behind, I’m flying out of our new airport to Managua next Sunday. From Managua, I’m flying to the states for my mother’s birthday. When I return, I’ll fly from Managua back to Ometepe Island and walk home with my backpack. Convenience at its best.

photo by La Prensa

photo by La Prensa

Keep reading. Want to fly with me?

Travel Theme: Unexpected


The Weekly Travel Theme from Where’s My Backpack? is Unexpected. Let’s face it! Seasoned travelers have learned… sometimes the hard way… to expect the unexpected.  Our month-long trip through Ecuador was no exception.

We had just arrived in Quito,Ecuador via Costa Rica, when I received an email from a friend: You need to check the law for returning to Costa Rica from Ecuador. They won’t let you board the plane without proof of a yellow fever vaccination and it has to be dated at least ten days before you board the plane.

Oh, no! We weren’t expecting to be in a high risk area, but what if this was true? I really didn’t want to get the yellow fever vaccination because I was afraid of getting sick, having a bad reaction, or ruining our trip. Our last day in Quito, we decided to go to the hospital and suck-it-up! After waiting in the vaccination line, the nurse asked, “How old are you?” This was one case…probably the only one… where we were rewarded for our age. “You are too old for the shots, and the risk is too great,” the lovely nurse said. Instead, she filled out the information and handed us the certificates all for free!!!

our vaccination certificate copy

Don’t stop, yet! More unexpected surprises are on the next page.

Weekly Photo Challenge: There’s Always Room for More!


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Room. In Ecuador, there is always room for one more.

Don’t be a pig! There’s room for one more in the food court market in Octavalo, Ecuador.
IMG_2545 Don’t leave yet! There’s room for more!

Let’s Get Physical in Ecuador


“A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Many things impressed us about Ecuador, but the exercise initiative was probably the most inspiring. Ecuador encourages fitness for fun…exercise without exhaustion…plenty of play…and cardiovascular conditioning.

 Let’s get physical in Ecuador!

Ron’s professional career revolved around physical fitness and swimming.  Our travels throughout the world, always took us to a swimming pool, where Ron could inspect their facilities and talk with a swim coach.  It’s one of his favorite hobbies.  Quito, Ecuador was no exception. We visited the public pool and, of course, Ron had to find the director of the facility to discuss their swimming programs.
IMG_2424 More Let’s get physical in Ecuador! Keep reading.

In Perpetual Motion


When you’re on the road a lot, you’re in perpetual search of a good night’s sleep. ~Artie Lange

Traveling is exhausting! Lugging heavy backpacks… running for buses gearing up to leave the station…checking and rechecking passports (Are you sure you put our passports in your waist pocket?)…haggling for a cheaper taxi…always searching for a bathroom, then when you find the bathroom, you realize that you forgot to put toilet paper and hand sanitizer in your pocket…it’s like being in perpetual motion physically and mentally.

A never-ending succession of planes, buses, boats, taxis, and trains…always searching for a hostel that has wi-fi so you can check schedules or use google translate to say “My backpack fell off the bus. How do I find it?” (Yes! That really happened!)

In Quito, Ecuador there was a freak hailstorm. Hail the size of marbles blanketed the steep streets with a slippery layer of ice. We were waiting for a taxi with only umbrellas for protection.
IMG_2720 Always on the move.Read more.

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Cities


Where’s My Backpack Travel Theme this week is Cities. We just returned from traveling through Ecuador for a month and the cities are spectacular. Here are a few of my favorite shots.

We huffed and puffed our way up a ladder to the rooftop upon arriving in Quito. With an altitude of 2,800 meters, we dizzily watched the twinkling lights of the city below and the beacon of light from the Basilica de Voto Nacional.
IMG_2402

More city photos. Don’t leave yet!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Split-Second Juggling


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Split-Second Story. “Attempt to capture a candid moment in time,” says Shane.

We just returned from a month in Ecuador. I feel as if I am adroitly juggling…coping with an attack of millions of aquatic gnats called chayules…organizing and unpacking my little treasures of seashells, colorful textiles, Panama hats ( really they are made in Ecuador…more about that later) and thousands of photos…balancing my need for sleep with my frustrations of a painfully slow internet. But, it is comforting to be home to sleep in my own bed…to cuddle with my cats…to catch up on the latest news…to be surrounded by faces and stories that are familiar.

While in Ecuador, traveling along the spine of the Andes, there were jugglers at every red light. Some were disguised with elaborate costumes of angels, devils, and clowns. In a split second, they shuffled sharp machetes, bowling pins, glowing balls, and in one case, swords of fire. Their skilled acrobatics amazed me! The timing was perfectly matched to the length of the lights, then they would hustle through the clouds of exhaust to collect coins for their performances. It sure beat the red light vendors in Nicaragua. They hawk windshield wipers in the rainy season, and clean the car windshields in the dry season.

IMG_2406Hang in there with me, my friends. I have many new stories to tell…some split-second stories, some more lengthy. First, I have to clean millions of chayules from my house. They smell like fish, but at least they don’t bite! :-)

 

The Volcanoes of Nicaragua


While I am traveling through Ecuador for the month of May, enjoy these photos of Nicaragua’s majestic volcanoes.

Please know that I haven’t fallen into a volcano, only off the blogging radar for a month. See you all at the end if the month. I can’t wait to share my travels, photos, comparisons, and thoughts of Ecuador.
Volcano Consiguina
Vulvan Cosiguina More beautiful volcano photos. Keep reading.