Posted by: jimndianne | December 27, 2009

Cotacachi again!

19 – 20 December 2009 Ecuador

So this time our role was a little different as we became the guides showing Peter and Annie around some of the houses and sights we had previously seen. Revisiting them was interesting as we seemed to have a more in-depth view of the whole surroundings. Just love that town and the people! Our friends were most impressed with how clean it was, how well laid out and the lack of traffic .

By Saturday afternoon the rain had almost 017 ceased so we went to the market at Otavalo (20mins from Cotacachi) and let Annie and Peter loose amongst the stalls. They had a great time buying ponchos, jewellery made of Tagua, (which is vegetable ivory and is as hard as elephants’ ivory), shawls and other fabrics. Being back there didn’t stop us topping up on a few extra things as well. In the afternoon, we visited a neighbouring town, Ibarra, which has much larger commercial and industrial activities. We located a lake and also a car racing track which came as a surprise. Had a meal on the way home at a local restaurant – three courses for $3 per person and none of us could finish our plates! Locals seem to think we need fattening up as their meals are always huge. By now very tired, we returned to our hostel and were in bed early. The photo to the left is of Imbabura mountain which overlooks Ibarra. Again it is an inactive volcano.

Sunday saw us two off to have an early breakfast at ‘Serendipity’, a nice little cafe run by a lovely lady, Nancy, from the U.S. Then we proceeded to La Mirage spa, set in beautiful gardens with peacocks wandering around, where we had each booked for a different treatment. Jim had decided to have the 90 min. Volcanic Clay Body treatment while I was looking forward to the 90 min. Purification Treatment. The latter was to be performed by a local female Shaman, who had inherited years of experience from her father, also a recognised Shaman in this region. The Shamans have a great vision for the countryside and use many plants for healing purposes, as well as using the elements of fire, water and earth in order to call the spirits for assistance. The healing power of the Shaman is obtained through the use of magical substances like crystals, candles, smoke and eggs. A Shaman will always carry these objects around.  Shamanism, the belief that man can interact with spirits and the supernatural, is practised around the world, and of course in places like Ecuador, every village has its Shaman, or Curandero.

I had some idea of what to expect but was still stunned by the whole performance. I was first asked to undress and wearing just a dressing gown was then led to the Purification grotto. This was a semi-darkened room with a huge fire burning in the single fireplace, while upon the mantle-piece around twelve large candles flickered. A big basket of bright flowers completed the picture. The Shaman, named Estella, a woman in her forties, whose long, dark, curly hair was worn in a wild frame around her face and shoulders, bade me remove my gown and stand straight in front of her. She began chanting quietly, then took a large mouthful from a bottle of clear alcohol and spat it right into the fireplace, which roared into life! Estella then stood in front of me and proceeded to spray the alcohol from her mouth onto my body, first in front and then across my back. While continuing to chant quietly (Santa Maria, Santa Maria, bless this senora, give her energy) Estella told me it was the beginning of the cleansing process. She first selected two candles which she began rolling across my arms, legs and body, all the while chanting quietly. Then, after taking a large drag from a candle (representing Fire), she blew the smoke over my hair and face, repeating the process at the back of my head. She next selected two eggs, possibly three, representing the Earth, from a basket beside the fire, and proceeded to roll the eggs, one at a time over my body, dusting me off each time with large handfuls of scented herbs. She then donned a feathered headdress and matching necklace and repeated the alcohol spitting, but this time through the candle flame, which shot large fiery tentacles at me, giving me a bit of a fright! All was well though. This was designed, she said, to assist in releasing negative energy. After 20 minutes, this part of the purification process was over and I was led across to a beautiful sunken cerise coloured bath, full of floating rose petals, red and white! I was invited to step into the bath, which was quite hot, and to relax there with my head on a comfortable padded pillow, amongst the rose petals and scented water! Delicious!! It was very easy to lie back and just immerse myself in complete relaxation for around 20 minutes more. (That is not me in the bath but was an identical situation)

Time to be assisted from the bath, where Estella wrapped me in a towel and gently patted me dry! “You my baby,” she smiled. The final part of the session was forty minutes of firm but pleasant massage with scented oils on my body, including a very relaxing head massage! At the end of it all, Estella presented me with a vegetable ivory bracelet of coloured seed pods which I continue to wear as I type this. She then led me to a separate room where Jim was waiting and we both sat back in our dressing gowns in comfort, feet up on footstools, sipping herbal tea and discussing our various treatments. Personally, I loved the entire experience and felt totally at peace for hours afterwards and a real sense of tranquility for days. Jim will now tell you about his own experience…

For my Volcanic Clay Body treatment, like Di I undressed, but put some paper panties on and the towelling robe and was led off to a room where the action was to take place. The parlour had a roaring fire going and in the middle, sat a marble table which looked very much like a mortuary table, i.e. a shallow bath 200mm deep x 2m long and half as wide. Lying in the bath was an airbed and after taking off the robe, my lady, of around 60, instructed me to get on the bed – no hanky panky here!!! Well I did have a shower than morning but obviously that wasn’t good enough as I was soaped and scrubbed all over several times -cleanest I have ever been! Ok, out you get, she indicated and proceeded to place a large plastic quilt, which was twice the width of the bath, over the airbed. This was followed by an aluminium foil blanket then a plastic sheet. Ok, get back in the bath she said! So with me sitting on the plastic sheet she grabbed a bucket of black gritty mud and smothered me with it using an 8” wall papering brush. And I thought I was clean! Lying down I was then wrapped in the plastic followed by the foil and finally the other half of the quilt. So there I am all snugly wrapped up like a fish for the BBQ and  she plugged in the quilt to an electric socket!!! So whilst I was ‘cooking’ for 20 mins, the face got the gritty mud treatment. It went up my nose, in my ears and well the hair changed colour, believe me. It didn’t taste too good either. Ok, off with all the blankets and another massive wash all over. (I’m sure I keep finding bits of grit still in odd places and it has been nearly a week since the ‘event’).

So now all washed up, I was led off to another roaring fire in a den all dark and with soothing music to have a fairly gentle 30 min massage. In all, a great experience but next time I will opt for a Swedish massage only with a scantily clad masseuse running up and down my back!!

After all of this attention, it was time to head back to the Hostel de Arbolito and ready our bags for the return trip to Quito, where Jim and I would spend a further two days before flying out to La Paz, Bolivia. The trip down the mountains was uneventful, fortunately, as there were very few cars on that windy, steep road and we arrived at the Sheraton Hotel in time to check in and take up residence in one of the two timeshare rooms booked by Annie & Peter below.



Posted by: jimndianne | December 20, 2009

Beaches in the area south of Manta.

15 – 18 December 2009 Ecuador

Had quite a bit of catching up to do after having little or no access to Wifi on the northern coast so here goes. Hope my notes and my memory serve me well…

Our friends, Annie & Peter from L.A. California, decided to hire a rental car so we went shares in it with them. The Howard Johnson Hotel was very nice and we had separate rooms so it all worked out well. Sitting right on the edge of the cliff-top just outside of Manta, a large port city, we had stunning views each and every time we



looked out our window or ate our meals with them on the terrace outside the dining room. Large sea birds could be seen constantly flying by on cruise control, a group of eight or more in formation, first flapping their wings, then gliding for a time right along the tops of the waves on the lookout for a tasty morsel.



We tried many times to capture these groups on film but more often than not by the time we had the camera at the ready they had flapped on by. There were pelicans too, but brown ones, unlike the white ones we were accustomed to on the Gold Coast. There were many small fishing craft as well, always accompanied by a flotilla of pelicans bobbing about alongside the boats and hoping for a handout.

With Peter behind the wheel, we set off down the coast to see what we could find in the way of nice places to live. The road was very new and with scarcely another car on it, wound its way through a number of small fishing villages before moving slightly inland for a time. The terrain changed dramatically from being extremely dry and brown on the coast to magically becoming bright green and lush jungle as we followed the winding road southwards. A one point we stopped at a real estate ‘Vendre’ sign (For Sale) on the fence in front of a most unusual house tucked just up a little within some trees.


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A caretaker and her family indicated from their own small home nearby that we could enter and look around the house. As the photos show, it is quite round, of three storeys and with also a kind of games room underneath open to the air. There was also an outdoor oven (a type of chiminea, or pizza oven). The house was in good condition and consisted of a kitchen and living room on the ground floor plus a





bathroom, the first floor had a bedroom with four bunks and another room with a double bed with a bathroom between the two rooms. Upstairs was probably the master bedroom but there was also room for several more separate beds on the same level. It appeared to have been used either as a B & B or as a rental property. After contacting the agent we discovered its price was $89,000 and this included the main house, the caretaker’s house, 5 garages and 8,000 sq. mtrs of land!!! We will be following up on this one.

From there the road finally wound out of the jungle and down into the beach area once again, passing through Puerto Cayo, which we liked, Puerto Lopez and Ayampe,



where we drove to the top of a hill and admired the wonderful view all around. Here and there were some attractive dwellings, well made, some Hostels and all built for the views.



Although we had hoped to reach Salinas we realised we would end up driving home in the dark to decided to stop for lunch in Montanita. This proved to be a really delightful



little surfie village (the best on the coast for surf so we hear), with its many cafes, clothing shops, dirt roads, thatch roofed three storey hostels and hippy folk with their home made jewellery for sale on every street! Stray dogs wandered past and sat nearby hopeful for a handout of food or at least a scratch under the chin as we sat and ate our huge deluxe burgers at a corner cafe



outdoors. That is Peter in the chair with me and Annie on the road. Of course I could not resist the friendly animals and sneakily fed them bits of my leftovers. It was a real eye-opener there, young men with their surfboards heading back to their rooms and rastafarian types with long dreadlocks and beards and a number of young American girls, too, in mini dresses dodging the dog poos as they walked along the narrow streets. It all reminded us so much of our many visits to dear old Bali, Indonesia.



The surf was not magnificent but there were plenty of boarders out there.

The return trip to Manta was fraught with problems as we somehow missed a road sign and ended up on a road we did not recognise at all, far from the coastal one we’d come down on! It was by now very dark but eventually, after stopping and asking the way many times we found the correct road and arrived back in time to grab some dinner at the hotel before heading to a very welcome bed!

We all flew back to Quito the next day on Icaro Airlines once again, took a taxi to the Sheraton where Annie & Peter thought they had a booking but somehow it had not been registered. A decision was made that we’d all go up to Cotacachi (they had not yet seen it) so we hastily made a booking by email at a great little place there, the Hostal El Arbolito, where for $35 a night per couple we’d have a great room each, with bathroom. Booked a rental car again and drove the two hours back up to Cotacachi again arriving in the dark and missing a turnoff once but no matter, here we are back up in the clouds once again and it’s raining hard! Tomorrow will be fine though!

Posted by: jimndianne | December 19, 2009

Quito – Manta, on the coast and north to San Clemente.

11 – 14 December 2009 Ecuador

As usual, this blog is being done off-line and we’ll be publishing it as and when we have Internet. The 40-minute flight from Quito to Manta on the Ecuador airline, Icaro, was seamless – the crew managed to achieve the administering of packets of potato crisps (with dip packet included) and a polystyrene cup of water, as well as the delivery of drinks, hot and cold to all passengers. And this, all with their renowned genuine warmth and friendliness we’ve come to know and love.

A waiting bus collected all those of us booked on the Coastal Real Estate Tour and along with Bonnie, our Guide, and Alberto, our Ecuadorian Travel Co-ordinator we  drove northwards to San Clemente. The road on both sides for a considerable distance from the airport was littered with trash of all kinds thrown from cars and from uncovered rubbish trucks on their way to the dump. When we spotted the dump it was with some horror that we noticed a large number of black vultures poking through rubbish or lazily sitting on fence posts nearby. Otherwise, the scenery was



of a very dry landscape with just the occasional bright green Ceibo tree. This tree in general currently has just a large beige-coloured twisted trunk with many extremely weird ‘arm-like’ branches extending out from it at all angles, reminding us of those tree characters in “Lord of the Rings”. Now that the rainy season is in its early stages, these same trees are slowly drinking in the moisture from the air and beginning to turn into an amazing shade of fluorescent green! We were totally fascinated with them and took many photos.

With Ecuador being 95% catholic, there were a few nice touches along the way where



the locals have taken to the Christmas spirit in a big way. Many of the tiny village houses had an adorned tree out on the balcony and flashing lights around their windows!

Upon arrival at San Clemente, we were allocated our various rooms in the lovely Hotel Palmazul, right on the edge of the beach. Somehow we happened to be given a



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room on the top floor, the 3rd level, which instead of being just one room was in fact a two room apartment owned by friends of one of the International Living people. It had two great balconies opening out onto a wonderful vista of the San Clemente beach, headland and the hotel bar and swimming pool! We felt very honoured as it cost us the same as others in the group were paying. Bonnie, our Guide, had a similar one next door to us.  As we’d missed out on lunch by then, we were all offered a ‘snack’ of a fish ceviche, a type of cool fish soup but with so much lime juice in that we were unable to have more than a few mouthfuls.

The next two days were spent in visiting several other places along the northern coast, including Bahia, an interesting seaside town located on a wide peninsular at a river mouth and also with an ocean beach area. We were shown a rather nice penthouse apartment for $198,000 with stunning views of the entire area and river but with only one bedroom and a very small study. This was owned by a fairly young Danish couple who were about to begin building a new home totally by themselves on a large tract of land on a mountain overlooking the river. There was only one other



home that was worth looking at and this was right on the water’s edge and with its own jetty. It had 5 huge bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and very high ceilings, which kept it





nice and cool, as the coast is much more humid than the mountains, understandably. This was $220,000, beautifully landscaped on its large front lawn and you could climb up onto its flat roof. The several other homes we saw in the town itself were mainly apartments (condos), which don’t really appeal to us.

Crucita was another beach area where we saw a mediterranean style home (see the following four photos, three of which are in low light – the house is white!) high  on a



hill overlooking the beach, in an area with around eight similar styles. Most had domes on their flat roofs giving a distinct Grecian look. The one we liked had not been



lived in for seven years and was unfurnished but had distinct possibilities for minor renovation until we heard that the owners would not budge from their price of $170,000. A great pity as the house was on four blocks, i.e. around 3,000 sq mtrs., and would have come up looking great with some decent landscaping etc. We also



looked at a nice beach house just above the beach with 3 brms and 3 bathrms, a terrace on the ground floor and on the 1st floor and with a rooftop terrace as well. At



$110,000 it was a really good buy although on reflection the small town of Crucita offered very little in the way of either entertainment or basic food shopping and the beach was very pebbly. Ho hum!!

Another day we went by bus to Manta, where we were shown plenty of condos, some of which were quite nice but again not what we want so we simply looked.






The food at the hotel in San Clemente was excellent with a buffet breakfast and also a buffet dinner included in our room rate. There is almost always some type of seafood served, as well as a potato pancake dish, rice, lots of local vegetables and salads as well as a meat or chicken dish. Equadorian food is not at all spicy but is tasty just the same. In general, we eat very well indeed.

At the conclusion of the real estate tour, we were shown some 2 brm condos across the road from our Hotel Palmazul but these were of poor construction and despite being showered with wine and nibbles during the presentation of the complex we remained unimpressed. The price of $75,000 was a special one for anyone purchasing while they were staying there and this would rise later to $89,000.

Our friends from Oregon, Carol & Jim, left on the Sunday evening as they had to



return to work on the Tuesday, so we sadly bid them farewell, pledging to keep in touch! We had a load of fun with them and will miss them lots.

The next day we packed up and had our 108group photograph, on to the bus to the airport

Back in Manta the following day, the majority of the group were dropped off at the airport to catch the flight back to Quito and from there to their home towns in the U.S.  However, another couple, Annie and Peter, had a booking at the Howard Johnson Hotel and invited us to take advantage of the two bedroom timeshare apartment for the four nights they had booked in the hotel. We were very happy indeed to oblige as this made our overnight costs in Manta very cheap indeed.

Posted by: jimndianne | December 11, 2009

Panorama of Cotacachi

11 December 09 Ecuador

This is Leather Street, which is a paradise for shopping for leather goods ranging from jackets, handbags, hats, luggage and saddles!

Every now and again around the town you come across some great statues including the one in the foreground.


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All around town on the power lines are these strange, airborne ‘weeds’ which are removed on a regular basis. Loved the locals in their national dress, with babes wrapped up in ‘slings’. They always have a big smile for you.



The fruit and vegetable market was immaculate and had an amazing array of very fresh produce. Again, all happy faces.



The local bicycle shop where there were bikes for rent or also for sale. A very small shop with a large number of bikes! The owner is mending a puncture.


034 This lovely town is dominated by a beautiful church, although there are also a number of smaller ones.  The bellringer begins duty at around 6.05 am and the bell is rung rapidly around 130 times, then finished off with 1 – 3 solitary rings. Once one church has finished another starts. The whole scenario is repeated about 10 mins later and then again 15 mins more. There is no such thing as sleeping-in especially when your hotel is right next to the church…

Dogs abound here and they come in different shapes and sizes. We are led to believe that they all have owners and go back to their homes each evening, however, they seem to spend most of the day out on the streets sleeping and looking for food. Some of the resident expats feed them on a regular basis. They all look healthy and I can’t remember seeing a mangy one.



Even saw a very clever one driving a car!    This is a local construction site.



The day has come to leave Cotacachi and head for the coast on the bus. This is our superb hotel staff bidding us farewell. On the way to Quito (the capital) to join the plane to Manta, we pass through some very rugged country.



Nearing Quito the scene changes to low cost housing packed into wherever it can be squeezed. Other areas are more affluent but not in the approaches to the city.


Posted by: jimndianne | December 10, 2009

More Housing Around Cotacachi

10 December 09 Ecuador

Ok, so the drought for internet has broken for the moment. We have been in an area for the last few days where there was a blackout of not only the internet but electricity as well. They have a drought here at present and the hydro power stations are not producing at their full capacity. So excuse us for the break in transmission but we are now back on line! (also not responsible – hee hee)

And so we continue …

One of the main reasons for coming to Cotacachi was to look at the available housing. Generally it has been of a very high standard and at bargain prices when you consider the same house and land package in N.Z. or Australia.

The house at Lake San Pablo (280 m2), mentioned in the last post, was priced at US$130,000 and included a boat-shed complete with three boats at the rear of the house!  A great BBQ and entertainment area allowed for a direct view of the lake as did the 12,205 m2 lot. For another US$120,000, the land next door of a similar area was also available and had a lush plantation of ten year old eucalyptus trees.

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On the way back from Lake San Pablo we stopped off to view a couple of condos. The first picture is the two bedroom, two bathroom version at US65,000 and the second picture is the three bedroom Penthouse at US$95,000. Yes, the whole three floors!

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We returned to look at a rather nice complex we had seen earlier.  An American couple, new arrivals just three months before, had invited us and it was a good opportunity to get their impressions and experience of living there. The first photo below is of a house very similar to theirs. The next one shows the lounge followed by the study and bathroom.







This wardrobe is made locally and at US$750 must be a steal.  It was huge and very well made. These are the stairs leading up to the master bedroom which with its en-suite took over the upper level.

















We were in a Pharmacy to see what was available and happened to converse with a very nice lady, an architect/developer who had just finished a six house project. Did we want to see it? Yes. So off we  trotted with her. First picture is of a two bed house with a three bed two storey one in the background. The two bed was US$94,000 and the three US$119,000. The latter took our interest so the photos below are of this house.















There was a BBQ area out the back. In the background of the development are








stunning views of Mt Cotacachi, an extinct volcano at 16,200 feet and on the opposite side of the town is Mt Imbabura, another extinct volcano at 15,118 feet.


Posted by: jimndianne | December 9, 2009

Otavalo Market, Roses, Around Cotacachi.

7 – 9 December 2009 Ecuador

We have achieved so much in the past three days that we’ve decided to combine three posts into one, or we’ll never get to catch up with the blogs!

Firstly, a bit of info about prices of things up here in Cotacachi and the surrounding areas. Roses are one of the most important052 exports of Ecuador and in particular, of the Cotacachi rural areas. They are among the  most stunning flowers I’ve ever seen and are quite abundant, growing in hothouse-like environments in massive tented areas up here in the hills. As an example, it is possible to purchase 25 full blown roses for just $1.50, although a friend told me she’d managed to buy that amount for only $1! At that price, you can keep your home looking beautiful all the time!

Another inexpensive item here in Cotacachi is food. The hotel we are staying in offers a 4-course lunch or dinner for just $6 and we have also paid just $4 for the same 001 number of courses in numerous restaurants and cafes nearby. Separately, we have had grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for 60c (yes, these are regularly sold here), potato and avocado soup for just $1.20 or a fat hamburger with meat patty, bacon, salad and tomato and chips, for $2. Accompanying most of these dishes for free is often a dish of popcorn and some plantain crisps with a spicy dip. We even found a pizza restaurant. The menu doesn’t look so cheap but the pizzas were huge. We ordered two mediums for the four of us and there was no way we could finish them.

Otavalo Market is the one we missed out on during our Christmas Shopping Trek, due to heavy rain, so we tootled off there with Carol and Jim on the Cotacachi – Otavalo bus, along with many local and indigenous people, all of whom

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were very friendly towards us. The bus was very comfortable with velvety-type seat covers, occasional seat belts, foot rests and lay back seats! For the ridiculous cost of 25c we were taken approximately 7 km for the 20 minute trip. Had we taken a taxi it

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would  have cost the huge amount of $4!! This is the largest indigenous market in the whole of South America, we are told, and covers a city block, having a huge number of stalls offering an amazing variety of goods for sale, mostly hand made. There are large rugs made of Alpaca wool, shawls and scarves, beautiful sweaters (Jim bought a lovely one made from Alpaca wool and cotton for $14), gorgeous hand embroidered linens, belts, hats of all kinds, leather goods, pottery and too many more to name. We four spent several hours there and still had to drag ourselves away to have some lunch. Everyone is readily prepared to bargain and as it is second nature to us we managed to achieve some great bargains, while keeping the stall-holder happy! The jumper that Jim bought is not the one he is wearing here.


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The next day, having seen a nice home on the web that appealed to us, we arranged for a Real Estate agent to show it to us. She was very obliging, collecting us from our hotel and taking us the half-hour drive to Lake San Pablo, about ten minutes from Otavalo. Her English was not too bad but she insisted on picking up a fellow agent with

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very good English language skills in order for us to understand all that was needed to know about the house. The owners have lived in the U.S. for a long time now and only occasionally visit their old family home for a holiday, so have decided to sell it. Located on the shores of Lake San Pablo, it is in a prime location, with uninterrupted views across to the opposite shore of the lake. Although not a new home, it was obvious it would need a good tidy-up, new kitchen, paint, modernised bathrooms and such. The local indigenous folk happily use a separate part of the property to access the lake to allow their pigs and cows to wash and scrounge around and have


been doing this for years! A caretaker and his family live in this cottage at the rear of the house and take care of the home while the owners are away. There is a Yacht Club just about 100 metres away from the house too. We were very taken with the house and are giving it due consideration as it is well priced. The agent also took us to see a new condominium development, which offered a brand new condo of two bedrooms and two bathrooms for $65,000 or a Penthouse for $95,000… Unbelievable!

Back in Cotacachi, our last day before leaving for the coastal areas, we paid a visit to nearby Leather Street, as it’s known, where the best of leather-goods is found. All locally made, they are very reasonably priced and of excellent quality and although sorely tempted we did not succumb to the fashionable leather jackets, hats, handbags, belts and other goods on offer, our suitcases not being able to bear the strain! More’s the pity…

With time running out we walked a reasonable distance to look at one last new housing development just outside the main town area. One home was almost completed with another 98 in the pipeline, over four separate quadrants, each with its own gated and walled estate. Although quite attractive, the thought of living in a complex with 100 other couples or families does not appeal so we gave that the thumbs down!

Had a fun evening out with Carol and Jim, plus lots of laughs, at a restaurant close by the hotel. We have an early start in the morning travelling by bus down to Quito (2 hours) before catching our flight to Manta, out on the coast, for our real estate tour of that area. Should be fun. Will miss Cotacachi but can’t wait to get back into some summer clothes and have a swim in the sea!!

Posted by: jimndianne | December 8, 2009

Not much internet around…

Hang in there and we will be back soon, we’re just having trouble getting Internet.

Back in a few days!

Jim & Di

Posted by: jimndianne | December 6, 2009

Housing in Cotacachi

06 December 2009 Ecuador

Today we decided that we would have a look at what is available in the Cotacachi area for housing. Some time ago we had read about a gated development called San Miguel and thought it would be a good place to start our investigation. We joined up with our new friends, Carol and Jim, and set off walking in the area where we thought the complex was situated. We had been there a couple of nights before but as it was in the dark we didn’t see too much. Well our journey become rather longer than intended including walking across fields, Carol falling into a creek and wandering around many indigenous houses accompanied all the while by a gaggle of children and numerous dogs. We eventually fronted up to this huge timber gate, rang the bell and were given access to the complex.

(All prices mentioned below are in US$) Don’t forget you can click on the photos to get an enlarged view!

The houses are called adobe style, principally because the structure was made of air dried mud bricks then rendered with a mud slurry and painted white. They were not



the true adobe house which is made out of rammed earth where the external walls end up on a slope. The complex had about 18 houses already, built with some of these





occupied, some rented and others sold. There were 3 – 4 vacant lots still available for about $25,000 each. They are sold on a house and land package basis with about five different designs available costing $50 a square foot to build. The average size is 2000 sq feet, with three bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms,  which brought the total cost including kitchen appliances to $125,000.  The standard of workmanship was generally very good and all the exposed timber went well with the white walls.

From this estate on the way back to the hotel we stumbled across another called Colonia El Batan which was of a similar concept but not as many houses and all double storey. These were more impressive than the previous estate as the workmanship was higher even though the total cost was much the same with two or three bedroom styles all with 2 1/2 bathrooms. Cotocachi nestles between two extinct volcanoes, one of which can be seen in the distance of the first picture. Not all the houses were white. Here we have a pink one and also a terracotta coloured one.



The finish inside was really impressive and all local workmanship. These  timber cabinets and wardrobes etc are all hand made in Cotocachi or on-site and are very inexpensive. The hand carved cupboard, below right, cost about $500.





We had a good look at one under construction to check out the workmanship and also the weather-proofing on the decks. In the distance can be seen the other extinct volcano called Cotocachi. This next house had an enormous deck space on the roof!



From here we went further up the hill to look at some condominiums. These are built in blocks of four condos, two down and two up. All priced much the same at around $118,000. All were two bedroom with two bathrooms. At present there were only three blocks built with another eight or so to follow. The photographs are of unfinished condos. The kitchen came complete with a granite bench top.





The bathrooms had spa baths and in common with all the houses we saw, there was a fireplace in every one of the lounges and many of the bedrooms. Evenings can be quite cool here during December – March because of the high altitude.

We did visit another site for new homes which had just begun construction. Only one was being built at present which gave us an insight into how they were constructed. A different roof style this time. Again the layout was similar to the others we had seen earlier but the structure was made with clay bricks and these were cement rendered. The houses came in 2 or 3 bedrooms and in the same price bracket as the others. Here is the front entrance to the estate and the one under construction.

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Altogether, we were most impressed with all that we saw and the cost is truly amazing considering what is included in the package.

That completed the day and so off back to the hotel for some tucker and a rest.

Posted by: jimndianne | December 5, 2009

Quito and a Christmas Shopping Trek

05 December 2009 Ecuador

The real estate organisers at our hotel threw in what they called a “free Christmas shopping trek” which would take us by modern bus all the way back to the capital city of Quito, where we would have access to a number of specialist shops. We would also be collecting some new arrivals from the Radisson Hotel. Later, on our return to Cotacachi, we would stop off at Otavalo for a good look and some shopping at the largest indigenous market in South America, where prices were very cheap, we were told.

We left our hotel early in the morning in the bus heading off to Quito, the capital. Now the scenery was all new to us as we had travelled this same road two days before but then it was in the dark! On the way there we noticed all types of markets being held, including an animal market. There were many locals walking back to their homes trailing a sheep, goat, cow or pig on a rope. 014 Others were more fortunate in that they had transport, but we were not too sure that the occupants appreciated the ride. Notice some rather large sheep in there plus the odd goat or two!

When we realised how sheer and steep were the drops over the sides of the road we were so glad we’d been unable to see the route we were taking on our way up! With just one lane each way and many slow trucks and buses on the steep road, it was quite hair-raising when a car or truck driver lost patience and decided to pass another when there were ‘no-passing’ double 017 lines on the road. There were many small villages along the way, with homes perched on the sides of the mountains and wild dogs narrowly averting death while crossing the road.

Upon arrival in Quito we were simply amazed at the sheer size of the capital city by day, (not unlike Mexico City), with its widespread areas of housing reaching from a high altitude to right down and across the valley, only to reach right up the sides of other mountains all around. 024 After collecting the other guests, we 025

027 visited a Folk Art shop, which we all found very expensive, and then a wonderful textile store, where a smart wool jacket as well as a poncho were purchased. You can guess who did the buying…  All of this took time, with around fifteen people trying on jackets, hats, scarves and ponchos, etc. so that we were all ready for our next scheduled stop at a nice coffee/chocolate shop in the popular La Mariscal area of town. Sitting outside at a large wooden table and chairs with a passing parade of

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vendors selling everything from Folk Art, to $1 sunglasses to a $12 8GB Memory Stick, we were served hot coffees and warm chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream, topped with a few strawberries!

Seen on the way out of town, a sign reading: MOTEL FLAMINGO $13 NIGHT

Much to the disappointment of many of us on the bus, just as we neared the market town of Otavalo, we were told that it had been teeming with rain for a number of hours and therefore the visit to the market had to be called off for that day.

During our earlier coffee break in Quito, we had met a very nice couple from Oregon, USA, whose company we enjoyed, so once back in Cotacachi we all decided to have dinner together that evening at our hotel, Meson de las Flores. After a pleasant four- course meal ($US.7) with good conversation and some cheap Italian wine from a tiny corner store, we retired to bed.

Posted by: jimndianne | December 4, 2009


04 December 2009 Ecuador

Tired as we were from the previous night, it didn’t stop us bounding out of bed when the church bells rang at 7 a.m. We just had to find out what it was like outside! Arriving in a new place in the dark is always exciting the next day so after a hurried 011 087

breakfast we rushed across the courtyard of our hotel, Meson de Las Flores, and out the door to 076 080

see the magnificent square and church at our doorstep. What a sight and what a beautiful town Cotacachi looked with its neatly set out streets –  and the wonderful indigenous people!! Are we in for a treat here! This was such a contrast with Mexico which was full of cars, noise and exhaust fumes. Here the street system is mostly one way and the density of cars much less. The streets 077themselves are wide and clean and we found it very pleasant walking around the town.

Arriving here at festival time we came across numerous groups playing very traditional South American music which echoed around the streets.



The delightful indigenous Ecuadorians,  dressed in their traditional clothes, are very happy to give you a big beaming smile. Getting a photo is a little more difficult but usually with gentle persuasion one can be achieved. The older folk are of very short stature and even at our height we seem like giants.



We plan to look around this area by ourselves and later in the week take a real estate tour down on the pacific coast. 086 Staying at the hotel are a number of people who will be joining us on this tour and they are doing the same as we are now, exploring Cotacachi. It is a town of just 30,000 people, however it seems much less than that as there are few people on the streets.

One of the hotel guests is a nice Californian lady, Jan, who brought her little Papillon dog with her on the plane, sitting on her lap all the way! As she’s been in Ecuador a few weeks already she has been able to pass on a lot of local knowledge, which is always useful. She mentioned she has been invited this evening to a “Gringo” night at a local housing complex and felt we could also attend, which we did! For a modest $US7.50 each to cover our meal, and an accompanying bottle of red wine, we were able to meet up with local expats who live here, most on a permanent basis. Our host, an American film producer, was very amiable, welcoming us to his white walled, red roofed, spacious adobe house in the complex. Around thirty people attended and we were fed a very tasty meal of barbequed spicy chicken pieces, salad, eggplant parmigiana and garlic bread, followed by a nice wine-cake dessert. A young man stood up and explained how many of the expats were presently helping local children continue their schooling past the primary level by assisting their parents with the costs of books, uniforms and fees. This would allow them to go on to High School, normally beyond the realms of possibility for the majority. A $15 donation per month would allow this to happen. We could easily see ourselves becoming involved with this very worthwhile project, as we had donated towards a similar one during our years in Indonesia. We have also been invited to visit the homes of two of the local expats and will follow up on this in the next few days. Then down came the monsoonal rains just as we were standing outside on the terrace and we all retreated indoors. What a great evening it was! Back to the hotel by taxi due to the rain, only a short distance,  and we paid the $1 fee happily.

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