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A New Life! – The Final Chapter

A New Life! – The Final Chapter

We have arrived!

Six years of research and planning. Three exploratory trips. Countless comparison journeys. A hundred conversations and a few short plane rides later, we are finally here.

Bienvenido a Ecuador!

The flight from Cancun, Mexico to Ecuador was broken by what was to be a lengthier-than-expected layover at Colón, Panama and so we landed at Quito International Airport at 2:30 AM.  Because of this late arrival, our pre-arranged transportation from the airport to the Airbnb was no longer available, leaving us to grab a taxi outside the terminal.

Thus, began yet another “adventure” we usually like to reserve for when traveling with friends, however this time we were on our own.

We don’t speak Spanish (yet).  Our driver doesn’t speak English.  We have no real idea where we’re going.  It’s 2:30 in the morning. We’re trying to relay the directions we have from our Airbnb Host to our driver (poorly) and finally, we just hand him the phone.  He agrees to at least get the car moving in what he “believes” “might” be the right direction as he is unfamiliar with whatever the Airbnb Host has written.

We finally reached the correct gated community (we weren’t aware it was a gated community) albeit from the wrong direction and got instructions from the Security Guard on duty.  Little did we know we were going to be faced with yet another gate and would have to wait until the gatekeeper could be roused from his 3:00 AM siesta.  Upon clearing the gate, we were then faced with trying to find the right building in the dark.  After many back-and-forths, turn-arounds, and try-agains, our driver left the vehicle to enter a building he thought might be the right one.  He came back assuring us that this was our destination in such a way that I was convinced he was merely tired of dealing with two gringos at 3 AM and was happy to dump us anywhere so he could return to more conventional fares.

Turns out our driver did right by us, and he was tipped handsomely for his hard work.

It took only a few minutes to drop our bags inside the door, strip down, and pass out cold on the bed.

Welcome to Ecuador.

Morning came with mixed emotions.  We awoke to a view that was beyond our imagination.  The condo was clearly perched on the side of a mountain and the entire wall of the sleeping area was a window overlooking central Quito and the surrounding mountains.  It was truly breathtaking.  Obviously, Tina had chosen correctly when booking our accommodations for the three days in Quito.  Oh yes, Tina….

Tina had developed both a pounding headache and a terrible cough.

This was concerning because of her ongoing health issues, and her breathing difficulties.  Unfortunately, we also had things to do while in Quito like foraging for a few groceries, visiting an ATM, and purchasing local SIM cards for our phones.  Brave trooper that she is, Tina rallied later in the day and out we went.

We were easily 2 hours getting our Claro SIM cards set up and installed but it was worth it.  Service with 400 local minutes and more than enough data for 2 phones comes to $28 USD per month.  Substantially less than the $100 plus dollars we pay in Canada…EACH!

We got a recommendation from the Claro rep for a great local place to eat within walking distance and finally found it.  We were not disappointed.  Ceviche is a dish that you either love or hate.  Most of the people who hate it do so because it contains a lot of cilantro.  I’ve learned that the aversion to cilantro that some people have is born in them.  It’s coded in their DNA and it’s genetic.  Those individuals who express the certain gene not only find the smell and taste of cilantro to be soapy or even rotten but are completely unable to detect any of cilantro’s pleasant herbal compounds.

Luckily, we have no such gene in either of our makeups, so we set to a couple of bowls of amazing ceviche.  $8 well spent.

After lunch, we caught a cab to a grocery store and picked up a few things to tide us over for our brief stay in Quito.  Returning home, I put Tina to bed so she could rest and get ready for our booked tour the following day.

I’ll say this about my wife.  On the day of her funeral, she will no doubt sit up in her casket, give a little cough, and say “Ok, I’m fine now. Let’s go!”

She wasn’t fine, but she insisted on pressing on with the all-day tour of Quito.  I’m kind of glad she did because the Quito stop was my request since straddling the equator had been on my bucket list for years.  Our guide, Lucia, was amazing.  Her English is very good, and she is a wealth of information.  She has studied the history and geography of Ecuador for years and it showed.  She was also very flexible with our itinerary allowing us to choose where to go and how much time to spend at each stop.

The 0° latitude marker was our first stop.  We learned a lot about how Ecuador was chosen for the marker and the people involved in its history.  Of course, it was a predestined photo op, and Tina and I both had a try at balancing an egg on the head of a nail.  I made sure there were pictures galore of this bucket list destination, and when our song began playing on the outdoor speakers, we of course were obligated to dance between hemispheres.


We were offered a few different options by Lucia for our next stop, however we wasted no time in choosing the gondola ride up the side of the volcano Pichincha.

Now Quito sits on average at about 9,350 feet above sea level and is one of the highest capital cities in the world. Pichincha, at its peak, is about 15,700 feet above sea level.  The gondola TeleferiQo brings you to 12,943 feet, and then you hike to 15,413 feet where you can enjoy the breathtaking view of Quito below you and the mountains that surround it.  If you have the gear and are a skilled climber, you can carry on to the summit.  No thanks.

This little excursion was amazing, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone, however, if you have breathing issues, have a bad cough and a headache already, ascending Pichincha is not the smartest thing to do.

Poor Tina was in quite a worrisome state for the rest of the day and throughout the night.  Our only blessing was that we were headed for the coast in the morning, and it was our hope that the rapid descent to sea level would help the symptoms subside.

Next morning, we boarded a domestic flight from Quito to Manta on the coast.  A short 45-minute ride had us at our final destination of San Jacinto, Ecuador.  Here we rented a 3-bedroom house with a pool right on the beach.  This was home for at least 6 months.

Our hosts (also Canadians who had purchased the property a couple of years ago) were kind enough to give us a complete tour of the property and provide us with a wealth of information as well as a list of local contacts to assist us in acclimatizing to the small coastal fishing community that we had joined.

With a population of around 4,000 citizens, it was going to be a definite culture change, especially for the Mississauga girl I married, but we were both excited to immerse ourselves in the local culture and community.

As it turned out, we settled into our new home on the beach on a national holiday long weekend.  “Día de los Difuntos” or Day of the Dead is a major holiday here and very few people are at work as they head to the cemeteries to visit friends and relatives, and then to the beaches to relax and celebrate with food, drinks, and fireworks.

Unfortunately, it was on the Friday that we decided Tina was going to require some sort of medical attention.  One of the local Facebook pages that we follow had recently posted about the village Wellness Clinic, advertising the many services available.  I sent an email explaining our situation and expected that I “might” hear back from someone the following week.  Much to my surprise, I received a response a few minutes later offering to have a doctor sent to our house right away who would make the diagnosis, provide the care and treatment required, and follow up with us until the issue was resolved for $25.

Upon the doctor’s arrival, a good hour was spent solely on family medical history followed by prescriptions for meds and equipment.  Not having transportation here, the doctor also arranged to have the meds delivered to us that same day for a fee of $4.  She then recommended we see a Specialist, so a quick phone call later and we had an appointment for the following Monday complete with transportation and a translator.  Total cost for an hour with the Specialist —- $50.

It’s been a couple of weeks since that visit with the Specialist who ordered X-rays (taken that same day) and a bronchoscopy (done in Canada weeks previously and still waiting for results), however, Tina’s health has continued to improve day by day. She’s now able to walk all the way into the village and back with me every morning with no issues.  So far, we’re loving healthcare in Ecuador!

With Tina on the mend, we began to really take in our surroundings.  Our home is at the end of the dirt road coming from the village of San Jacinto and terminates at “The Boca” or the mouth of the Portoviejo River where it meets the sea.  Across the boca is another small community at the extreme end of Crucita.  Here you’ll find Playa “La Boca” de Crucita, a popular gathering place for locals and expats alike on the weekends.  When the tide is out, you can actually wade across the river from our place to Playa La Boca de Crucita.  Tina is determined to try this.

You’ll be able to see from some of our photos that the near side of the beach is littered with driftwood and other detritus.  Most of this flows down the river next to us and out into the Pacific, only to be pushed back into the entire beach with the high tides and wave action.  This situation doesn’t seem to bother the locals in the least, however, the expats that live on this same road are frustrated that no one wants to keep the beach clean.  Apparently, a group of ex-pats paid a local company to clean the beach a couple of years ago hoping that it would spur an ongoing municipal effort to maintain the beach, however, that has not proven to be the case.  Personally, I’m ambivalent.  It’s still beautiful to me.

Currently, our routine has us walking our street?, road?, dirt trail?, sandy path? into the village proper and back for our morning exercise.  Tina generally settles into the day’s workload of travel clients, and I split those hours between, online Spanish courses, working on The Beery Traveler, and slowly adding more to a physical workout routine.  I attend a Spanish class for expats in the neighboring village of San Clemente once a week, and we both have been doing yoga in San Clemente on Saturdays.

We generally go out via taxi to the next largest town, Charapoto, for weekly produce and fish on Sunday.  We’ve made a couple of trips into the city of Manta a couple of times to continue to outfit the house with things to make our lives a little easier; a water cooler, at least one good quality chef’s knife and whetstone, and a Dolce Gusto machine for me.

Splashing in the surf on sunny days and walking to all the outdoor beachside restaurants is always weekly and once or twice a week we’ll take a tuk-tuk into San Clemente to try new dining experiences at some of the local restaurants there.

Ecuador is a beautiful country full of beautiful people who are welcoming and friendly to all.  The food here, both natural and prepared, is a treat for the tastebuds.  We’ve had nothing but positive experiences with the local culture and we can see ourselves being very happy here for the long-term.


We have plans to be in Panama with our good friends for Christmas and to visit neighboring Peru with those same travel companions for our anniversary in February.  We also have several other friends coming to visit us here in San Clemente during our first six months.  We’re looking forward to helping them to see all the wonderful things that we see in Ecuador and hope that we can sway a few of them to retire here as well.

There will be ongoing Ecuador posts as we spend more time here, but I also have some catching up to do with previous trips that never got posted, and of course, there will be posts for Panama and Peru as we return from those visits as well.

I hope that you’re enjoying our adventures and that you choose to continue following and maybe even share the blog with friends and family.  Until then…. safe travels!!

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