From Peru I moved to Ecuador in 1974 and immediately fell in love with that country
as well. I lived and worked in Quito for five years, 1974-1979 and, upon returning to the US after eleven years in Peru
and Ecuador, passed through about five years of culture shock. Twenty-five years later I was privileged to be able to
return to work in Quito again, 2004-2006, then retired in our quinta just below Quito in the Tumbaco Valley where I expect
to spend the rest of my life.
Ten minutes of photos of the flowers and plants at Christmas time in Quinta Quivilla home for 12 years of Jim & Lea Wesberry
at 7700 feet altitude on the Equator in the Andes.
Video about Ecuador, a fantastic place on Earth. Right on the Equator line, latitud
0deg 0' 0". Visit Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Galapagos Islands. Get to know the warmth of its people in a great journey
you'll never forget. Quito, first cultural patrimony of humankind by UNESCO. Cuenca is also cultural patrimony of humankind. Galapagos
is natural patrimony of humankind. Quitenos call themselves "chullas" which means "resident spirit" or "inhabitant of this
land" in the ancient quitu (tsafiqui) language. The Valdivia culture is the oldest civilization in America. We are proud
descendents of that culture. Only in Ecuador one says "me voy a volver" because one always comes back. The most accesible
part of the Amazon rain forest is in Ecuador! Panama hats are originally from Ecuador. They are handcrafted in Ecuador.
They were brought to Panama in one of the journeys of Eloy Alfaro to that country where they fell in love with them. Native
Ecuadorians speak Kichwa or Runa Shimi, which means the language of the human beings. Quito is considered "luz de America"
because it was its people who first spoke up and died for independece in 1809. August 10, 1809, Ecuadorian Independence
Day. The day it all began for this Republic.
With hospitable locals, affordable living and beautiful scenery, the main difficulty is just in deciding
where to stay -- in the cities, the mountains or at the beaches.
From snow-capped volcanoes to dense Amazon jungle, sunny Pacific beaches to the famous Galapagos Islands,
Ecuador offers something for everyone, and at prices unheard of in North America and Europe.
There are many places around the world where you can find cheap land, Ecuador included. But in many of
those places, you'd lead an uncomfortable life, far from friends and family and disconnected from the rest of the world. Not
so in Ecuador.
In this country, you can golf on breathtaking courses where you never have to reserve a tee time. You can
have a driver, a cook, and a maid for a fraction of the cost you'd pay in the United States. You can eat a gourmet meal in
world-class restaurants offering every cuisine for far less than you'd pay in Los Angeles, New York, or London. You can cook
for yourself using market-fresh fruits and vegetables only seen in specialty shops up north.
Ecuadorians live in jungle river towns, coastal fishing villages, isolated cattle
ranches, the grounds of ancient haciendas and large colonial cities. The country's compact size makes it possible to experience
many of these different lifestyles in a single day.
This is a place of astounding natural beauty. Despite covering a mere 0.02% of the world's land mass, Ecuador
is home to 10% of the world's plant and animal species. The country also has substantial oil reserves, which account for 40%
of the Ecuador's export earnings. Fluctuations in global oil prices can have a substantial impact on the domestic economy,
but the central government is making slow progress on reforms intended to reduce Ecuador's vulnerability to oil price swings.
Ecuador's real treasure, however, is its people. It's one of the few places where a foreign resident or
visitor can blend easily into the community, being welcomed into a new circle of friends and a new way of life with relative
ease. As a foreigner here you'll be treated with respect, and the people you meet are friendly and helpful.In recent years,
Ecuador has gone through a number of tumultuous political changes -- including three elected presidents ousted from office
since 1997. But today's Ecuador has emerged as a country that remains viable for those wanting to retire or invest here. In
most areas, significant property bargains can be found, and a comfortable lifestyle can be very affordable.
Ecuador is one place in the world where the U.S. dollar is not losing value right now. After the late-1990s
debt default, Ecuador tied its currency to the greenback. The dollar is the official currency, so there's no currency risk.
Inflation is under control and most economic indicators are positive. Labor costs are still a tremendous bargain and are not
rising appreciably. Property prices, which had been dropping since 2001, seem to have bottomed out.
Affordable for Americans
It's not just properties that are affordable in Ecuador -- nearly everything
is. Some examples:
ride (25 minutes) from airport to Quito $4
in 4-star hotel $75
household help to cook and clean $30 a week
meal for two, with wine and dessert $25
In major cities like Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, you won't have to forgo first-world conveniences, either.
New cars abound and, in fact, Ecuadorian plants make Chevrolets, Mazdas, Kias and Ladas. Nearly everyone has cell phones,
and Internet connections are just as common. And you'll be hard-pressed to pay more than $50 for a dinner for two, drinks
It's not difficult to live on less than $17,000 per year here; you don't have to live a restrictive lifestyle
to do it. Many foreign residents have a main home in the city but also have a country home, a beach property, or even property
in another country.
In Ecuador, you'll have access to excellent medical care. You'll find hospitals with state-of-the-art equipment
in the bigger cities, as well as specialists in all fields and physicians with private clinics. The average visit to the doctor's
office runs just $15, with a specialist costing about $17 to $20.
Daily flights connect Ecuador to major hubs throughout the hemisphere, and the flight to Miami is shorter
than four hours.
Do you thrive on the hustle and bustle of the city? Or, are you drawn to high mountain valleys where cowbells
are more common than car horns? Do you crave sun, sand, and crashing surf? Have you always wanted to have your own horse—and
ride it into town for lunch? Any of these is possible. Your problem in Ecuador is just deciding where to live.
While there are good buys all over the country, the best buy right now in the property market
is unquestionably the purchase of old Spanish colonials in Quito's historic center. Quito has been described as the most beautiful
city in South America and at 9,300 feet above sea level; it's the second-highest capital city in the world. The Spanish had
great influence here, and the colonial architecture is stately. Although the city has about 1.3 million residents, traffic
is reasonable, except at rush hour and during major road resurfacing projects. The public transportation system (which includes
taxis, buses, and trams) is excellent.
The area is ringed by staggering Andean peaks, providing beautiful views from many properties. The city
is in the process of restoring the old colonial center, something that caused property values to rise rapidly in Cuenca and
Guayaquil upon completion. Yet the full value of these antique homes -- many in the $30,000 to $50,000 range -- has not yet
been recognized by Ecuadorian investors.
The other hot area at this writing is the village of Vilcabamba in Ecuador's southern
Sierra. It enjoys dramatic mountain scenery and near-perfect 70-degree weather year-round. Tucked away
deep in southern Ecuador in the heart of the country's southern province of Loja, bordering Peru, the Incas referred to it
as the Sacred Valley; today it's known as the Valley of Longevity.
Vilcabamba was "discovered" in the 1970s by young counter-culture types who arrived as backpackers and
never left. The mellow lifestyle, organic food and natural beauty was exactly what they were looking for. Today they work
hard to ensure that Vilcabamba remains the gentle, pristine place they fell in love with.
In Vilcabamba, a two-story, traditional Ecuadorian house with five bedrooms on 2.5 acres, with lots of
fruit trees and a fresh water source, sold recently for just over $60,000.
Lying 650 miles off the coast of Ecuador on the equator, you'll find Ecuador's
most visited tourist destination, the Galapagos Islands. Comprised of 13 large islands and several hundred smaller ones, they
enjoy are home to many animal species that have evolved nowhere else on earth. Ringed with endless miles of white-sand beaches
and clear azure waters, they are the jewel of Ecuador.
Recent changes in the law have made 3% of the land in Galapagos available for private ownership, with only
1.5% available for development. The rest remains national park. You can buy a vacant lot, about 8,000 square feet, on Santa
Cruz Island for about $16,000.
Ecuador has become one of the best opportunities we've come across in the last decade for solid, dependable
investing in this part of the world. True, the economy still has many hurdles to overcome and the politics are a moving target,
but we see great opportunity here for real-estate investment, for business endeavors and for retirement living. If you have
dollars, you have tremendous buying power, and we think your investments here will pay off.
An armchair naturalist explores the area around Mindo and discovers an exotic world full of orchid and bird
species, all framed by spectacular Andean scenery.
The view toward the Tandayapa watershed is swathed in clouds. The area around Mindo, Ecuador, is a haven for
birders, with the valley a perennial high scorer in the Audubon Society's global bird count. Up to 400 species have been counted.
I've often fantasized about retracing the steps of such naturalists as Charles Darwin, Alexander von Humboldt and William
Bartram, who saw exotic places and recorded, in detail, the plants and animals they described so vividly on their expeditions.
the armchair naturalist in me didn't want to work too hard or subject myself to the tribulations they suffered as they circumnavigated
the globe, climbed the South American Andes or slogged through the swamps of the Southeastern United States, all places where
one might encounter sharks, bugs, snakes, piranhas, jaguars and crocodiles. So, I kept deferring on the grounds of time, cost
My visit to Mindo, in a cloud-forested valley of the same name, helped me realize that I didn't have
to set sail or strap on the crampons to see spectacular and exotic life forms. Mindo is an easy-access epicenter of biodiversity
in northwestern Ecuador teeming with hundreds of orchid and bird species, all framed by spectacular Andean scenery in a cool,
During my two days traipsing around Mindo — a 90-minute-drive from Quito, the capital—
I spied scores of plant and bird species that I thought I'd have to travel much farther to see. There were netherworldly orchids
(about 4,000 species grow in Ecuador) and vibrantly colored bromeliads and dozens of rare birds, including toucans, cocks-of-the-rock,
quetzals and swarms of hummingbirds and parrots.
Ecuador's biodiversity so engaged me that I thought of it as the ultimate
persuasion for preservation, here and elsewhere. Bigger picture: Surely the ranks of protectors would swell, I reasoned, if
they were to come away with the same understanding I did.
The smaller picture was just as satisfying. Although I'm
no "orch-idiot," as the locals call rabid orchid fans willing to surmount any obstacle to catch a glimpse of one, I am fascinated
by these plants, masterpieces of nature's handiwork. I saw scores of orchids along the several trails I hiked and in many
of the 50 private reserves that locals have created to appeal to amateur, leisurely naturalists like me.
stable and temperate climate in the highlands makes it a veritable flora factory. With nearly $600 million in shipments, Ecuador
is the second leading exporter of cut flowers (Colombia is first) to the U.S.
Orchids may be the showstoppers, but
the supporting cast is just as impressive: I saw two-story-high tree ferns, ancient cedars, giant hibiscus and philodendrons
with leaves as big as elephant ears. I was agog at the enormous shiny silver leaves of the umbrella-shaped cecropia trees
that some experts say can grow as much as 6 feet a year.
For this, credit the surrounding cloud forest, a specific
variety of tropical or subtropical ecosystem that occurs at just the right mix of altitude — Mindo's valley varies from
4,500 to 8,000 feet — cloud cover, sunlight, mild temperatures and moisture. Rainfall here averages 5 feet or more per
year. The cloud forests often are in an altitude "band" between 3,000 and 6,000 feet and cover the many valleys that cut away
from the altiplano where Quito (altitude: 9,400 feet) sits and open up to the Pacific Coast plain to the west below.
rains almost every day, but much of Mindo's wetness comes from condensed moisture, or evapo-transpiration, from clouds that
hover at canopy level, particularly after noon. Moss covers many of the trees. In this botanical caldron, orchids, bees, hummingbirds
and the other pollinators they depend on thrive.
Mindo is well-known in birder circles, I'm told. The valley is a perennial
high scorer in the Audubon Society's annual global bird count. Every December, localities around the world compete for the
most bird species spotted, and Mindo, where as many as 400 have been counted some years, consistently places in the top 10.
for birds, I found strikingly beautiful specimens seemingly everywhere. Actually, I didn't find them; they found me me. Toucans
frolicked in the trees during my visit to the Cabañas Armonía hostel's orchid garden. Ten minutes out on one of our expeditions
up an abandoned road, a brilliantly red cock-of-the-rock eyed us imperiously from a tree branch 50 feet away. The birds with
their puffed heads and brilliant red color are prize sightings, and I "bagged" mine from the seat of my guide's van. Hummingbirds
by the dozens fluttered just outside my room and around the 500-acre nature reserve of my hotel, El Séptimo Paraíso (Seventh
Heaven). Best of all, unlike the journeys undertaken by my naturalist heroes, my trip involved no sacrifice of creature comforts.
Mindo, a town of about 15,000, and its environs are filled with a variety of hotels, from basic to luxury. Seventh Heaven,
where rooms go for about $150 a night, was on the expensive side of the spectrum. On the other end is the Cabañas Armonía,
perfectly adequate and going for $16 per person a night.
Part of Mindo's charm is that it is preternaturally quiet,
broken only by bird calls. It helps that a road built 20 years ago that connects Quito with the coast bypassed Mindo. The
old road, which runs through town, has become a rarely traveled byway that serves as a path for nature-loving bikers or sightseers
A good guide is essential to a successful trip because he or she will see and hear things, particularly in
dense, foggy forest, that inexperienced interlopers would miss. Thanks to a recommendation from a friend in Quito's tourism
industry, I got a great one: Kurt Beate, a multilingual German-Ecuadorean who has led tours throughout the country.
as a 34-year veteran, Beate is still passionate about his country and its embarrassment of natural riches and is generous
with his knowledge of Ecuadorean flora and fauna. During my two days with him, I was treated to a nonstop flow of fascinating
digressions, including how to identify certain birds by their calls, including hummingbirds (a strange clicking sound); quetzals
(a descending trill); umbrella birds (a moo-ing sound, which is why Ecuadoreans call them bull birds) and toucans (a call
in which they seem to be telling us, "Dios te de" or, in English, "God will provide.")
On the way to Mindo from
Quito, Kurt insisted that we make two stops, both of which proved unforgettable. The first was at Pululahua Crater, the innards
of an extinct volcano 17 miles northwest of Quito that is now a national park. From a parking lot, we walked a couple hundred
yards up to the crest of the crater to see the floor, its miles spread out before us, 1,000 feet below. Apart from a few houses
and the crater floor's green carpeted pastureland, it looked as though it might have erupted yesterday.
The other stop
was at the privately owned 100-acre Pahuma Orchid Reserve (admission $4), about midway on the drive. We took an hourlong hike
through the mists to Pahuma's summit, passing several trailside orchids along the way, before descending to feast our eyes
on more than 100 orchids and bromeliads growing in an outside nursery.
"Every plant is a surprise," Kurt said smiling,
after he photographed a blazingly pink epidendrum orchid. Its myriad tiny blooms reminded me of a pomegranate turned inside
It wasn't all beauty during my two days in Mindo. The hike at Pahuma was a beast, straight up into dense tropical
forest and thick cloud and dampness that tends to come on after 1 or 2 in the afternoon. We gained more than 800 feet of altitude
in less than an hour. I was glad I had a plastic poncho and good weatherproof hiking boots. The mist and darkness made spotting
orchids and other plants difficult. Fortunately, Kurt was adept at that.
But the rest of the time, I was back in my
laid-back explorer mode, including my drive with Kurt up the abandoned Mindo-Quito road, where thanks to his telescopic "view-scope,"
we saw several roadside orchids and the cock-of-the-rock. There was also my morning stroll through Seventh Heaven's 800-acre
reserve, with its flocks of clicking hummingbirds, and my pleasant walk around Cabañas Armonía's orchid garden, where I encountered
the colorful and mysterious geometry of a dracula orchid. It was just the right blend of education and enlightenment for the
Quito is uniquely
situated among one of the highest densities of active volcanoes in the world. It is also the site of many powerful earthquakes
through the years and suffers one of its worst when an earthquake kills 5,000 people and destroys some of the most famous
buildings in South America in 1859. Following this disaster, Quito was not hit again by
a major earthquake until August 1949, when a tremor in the south of the city killed 6,000 and left 100,000 people homeless.A magnitude of 6.0 earthquakes could kill an
estimated 15,000 of the city's population. Quito is the only city in the world where there is a threat of two major
natural calamities like earthquake and volcanoes.
Whenever you find you
are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect
--- Mark Twain
We have never observed
a great civilization with a population as old as the United States will have in the twenty-first century; we have never observed
a great civilization that is as secular as we are apparently going to become; and we have had only half a century of experience
with advanced welfare states...Charles Murray
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