Last week we gave y’all the low down on how to eat like an Ecuadorian when you’re visiting the glorious, Amazon-straddling nation.
In short, it involves a whole lot of guinea pig, avocado, banana, fresh seafood (just-caught snapper steamed in a jungle leaf, anyone?) and cacao, and it’s seriously delicious.
But what do you do in Ecuador once you’ve eaten so much your pants won’t do up?
Activities, that’s what. And lots of ’em.
If you’re a lover of action-packed adventures in stunning natural locations, Ecuador ticks a heck tonne of boxes. The amount of activities we rammed into our 7-day trip through the cities of Quito, Banos, Tena and Guayaquil would make Dale and Brennan‘s heads spin.
We got wet and wild rafting down class 3 and 4 white water rapids. We trekked through the Amazon Jungle before cooling off in heaven-sent, spectacularly secret waterfalls. We even zip-lined across a gaping canyon at a mind-bending 120km per hour (I may have introduced the locals to some particularly ‘Strayan swear words during this experience… my enduring gift).
Cop a load of our escapades here:
Our jungle visit was hands down my favourite part of the trip.
The idea of traipsing through an area as iconic as the Amazon Rainforest gave me bum tingles before we arrived, and when we did, I wasn’t disappointed. It was as overwhelmingly lush as the version I’d dreamt up in my imagination.
Our Contiki group was guided through the dense bush by the community’s grandfather. He spoke in the native tongue but a relative from the village translated his vast knowledge of the surrounds.
From him, we learnt all about the plants that the indigenous peoples have been using for centuries, for both medicinal and practical purposes. There were plants that were crushed and inhaled to relieve congestion, plants to alleviate burns (most famously, aloe) and plants that were expertly twisted and twined to create roofs, hats and spears.
i am the captain now
One of the most popular plant-based potions comes from the Illex Guayusa plant. The leaves are picked and strung up on the gables of the community’s ceilings, and are left there to dry out before being brewed into a tea called Guayusa. The tea is mega caffeinated, and helps sharpen instincts and increase physical and mental capacity. It tastes delicious, too.
But as is always the case with travelling, the most memorable bit of the blessed Amazon visit was one I couldn’t capture on the GoPro.
Feeling knackered after a solid splash around in the waterfalls of the Amazon, our group treaded wearily back to our bus, quiet but content. I found myself walking beside the grandfather of the village. I couldn’t understand him, he couldn’t understand my English – but as we walked, he looked at me and smiled, taking my hand and passing me a seed the villagers use as beads on necklaces. It was a small, silent gesture but it felt really special.
To me, it spoke volumes of the generosity and kindness of this ancient culture. I may have been a sunburnt gringo, but it didn’t mean we couldn’t connect human-to-human.
If you visit Ecuador, one thing is for certain: you’ll come home bronzed, sore and with a bazillion stories.