Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sues last few days visiting Cuenca, Ecuador

City tour, trip to Piedra De Agua hotsprings  and shopping for jewelry in Chordeleg

  Sue and I were both happy to arrive back to Cuenca for a couple of days of rest and some good home cooking.
  I took Sue on the double decker city bus tour and a tour of the Central Bank Museum.

All aboard for my third city tour! Which is always enjoyable.

Of course Sue made friends with our English speaking guide who answered all our questions about Cuenca during our two hour tour.

View of El Centro from Turi

Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción

The Old Cathedral of Cuenca or Iglesia del Sagrario (Church of the Shrine) built in 1557 is now a museum.

The Central Bank museum

And on to Piedra De Agua natural hot springs

  Piedra De Agua natural hot and spa is in the small hillside Village of Baño just a short drive from Cuenca. This spa has a large hot spring water pool, two hot mud baths, a steam room and underground hot and cold water pools.
  The regular entrance fee is $30 for the whole day except on Mondays it is half price. Or if you go any day before 9 am it is just $15. They also offer messages and facials. And to top off your visit they have a great restaurant.

Our visit started with our guide Juan who showed us to the steam room first. Juan returned when he felt we had enough steam to take us to the next treatment.

The first step of our treatment, the natural hot steam room.

Then hot mud treatments, first brown mud then on to the green mud tub. We rubbed the mud in and let it dry before rinsing off.

Down the stairs to the cave for the hot and freezing cold water treatments. After this treatment Juan served us mineral water with lemon before going on to the steam boxes.

This was really the hot boxes.

The large hot pool

It was a cool rainy day so we finished it off all relaxed and refreshed with hot chicken soup.

Piedra De Agua is really a beautiful relaxing spa and I will be back!

On to Chordeleg with Ana and Roxy for jewlry shopping

   While we still had the rent-a-car Ana and Roxy drove us to Chordeleg know for great deals on silver jewelry. It was nice to sit in the back seat and watch the scenery after driving so many miles.

Ana, Sue and Roxy looking through the Jewelry stores. I sat in the town square while they looked through several shops. Ana's bargaining skills saves Sue around 25% on her purchases.

Sue brought two large suitcases with her, one of them was full of gifts for me like clothes, bed sheets, towels aspirin, and fiber pills! Plus stuff I mail order and sent to her house like vitamins, new tennis shoes and computer equipment. Things that are expensive in Ecuador. Thanks again Sue! She also filled up both those suitcases with gifts for her girls and friends in Iowa.

After lunch we headed back to Cuenca to turn in the car at the airport.

Sue was happy we got the car back in one piece after our long drive around Ecuador and tearing off the back bumper at the airport in Guayaquil before we even got on the highway. Thanks to plastic bumpers we got it put back together and I made sure it was all tucked together when we dropped it off.

Ana, Sue, Jimmy and Bryan on Sues last night in Cuenca.

And off Sue goes back to Iowa! Everyone who met her here in Cuenca loved her and we are all looking forward to seeing her again.

  I mentioned in other blogs that Sue found me on face book after 33 years! We always had fun in those days too. She is very fortunate to have two great daughters and many friend in Marshalltown, Iowa as well as all over the world.
  Sue is planning on doing lots of traveling in the future starting with a cruise of Dubai in March.
  Thanks again Sue for your visit and we all will be looking forward to seeing you again in the near future.

For those of you that might be interested in information about moving to Ecuador and what it requires, my book "Why Ecuador For Me" is out on kindle. You don't need a kindle to read it, just upload the kindle app to your computer.

Hope everyone has a great day!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Retired in Cuenca, Ecuador - My book is available on kindle now!

Why Ecuador for me!
By Gary A Sisk

  During my preparation to move to Ecuador I spent many hours on-line reading expat blogs and hunting for information about places to live, resident requirements, and what you could bring into the country. So I started writing this book a few months ago about my personal reasons for moving to Ecuador and how I prepared for the move. I also added as much material as I could find that might be helpful to anyone else considering the move.
  Most of the material in my book has not been included in my blog. Although there are a few photos and events that are.

  Many of my blog readers may not have a kindle as I do not, so all you have to do is install the kindle app on your computer to read my book.

  I want to thank my Ecuadorian friend Bryan who spent over 20 hours reading in Spanish and English the requirements to up-load my book to kindle. Plus re-formatting the book to kindle requirements. I also  spend many hours reading and re-reading the kindle requirements with much frustration because of my minimal computer experience. They need to make it easier!

  I had a few friends tell me just to e-mail the book to them! But with 229 pages and many photos it is impossible to do that.

  I decided to use kindle because they distribute worldwide and take care of advertising and taxes, etc.; plus I do have readers in over 30 countries now.

  I do hope anyone who reads it will enjoy it and for those thinking about moving to Ecuador I hope the information will be helpful. Also keep in mind that the legal requirements for residency here keep changing so always check with an Ecuadorian attorney or immigration  before making the move.

  This is my first book and I have read stories by much better writers, but it is what it is! Hopefully my writing will improve in the future, especially on a good spelling day.

  To order my book just click on the cover on the top left side of this blog.

A video tour of the city of Cuenca

A blog worth reading: Ecuador George
  I have read through many blogs written by Ecuadorian expats. Some are reports of whats for dinner, some are about their dogs or cats and some are informative and do give good advise on many important things for those considering moving to Ecuador.
  A blog that is on my favorite list is:
  It is about George, who is a resident of California and is considering a move to Ecuador after a couple of visits here. He provides some great photos of Ecuador, great advice on moving here. Plus he asks many questions and asks for replies from his readers.
  George is living in a great mountain community in California and he is happy with his work and his home there, but it seems he is looking for adventure and perhaps Ecuador would be a good home base for him while he does some future traveling.
  I really enjoy reading his blog and I recommend to all my readers that you give him a read. You might find him as entertaining as I do.
  George, when you do decide to move here or drop in for another vacation I will be looking forward to meeting you in person.
  Keep up your fun and entertaining blogs!

Also I want to thank your George for the great article you wrote about my blog! I am getting several more hits from it.

Check it out at:

Gracias again!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Drive from Otavalo, Ecuador to Baños De Ambato

After a great visit to Cotacachi and Otavalo we headed south to Baños de Ambato for the natural hot springs

  Once again we were caught in the bumper to bumper traffic in Quito for 3 hours heading south to Baños de Ambato  to spend the night. I was taking antibiotics for bronchitis and had the air conditioning on but I could still smell the gasoline and diesel fumes from the cars all around us. Sue was busy sewing and taking movies of the buildings and the people walking down the sidewalks. We both had our eyes pealed for the Pan American highways signs.
  It was such a relief to finally get out of the city traffic and on the open highway again. It was time for a bathroom break and to stock up on road munchies again.

Slow moving Quito traffic, next time I visit Quito I won't be driving

Back on the highway heading for Baños

Miles and miles of hillside farms

Baños centro

  We arrived in Baños about sunset and Sue found an interesting Hostel in her Ecuador tour guide book with a view of the waterfall called Hostel La Posada del Arte. As soon as we arrived  in the city we drove towards the waterfall and arrived at the Hostel. It was the last night the Hostel was open before they closed for a month. We got a great room which was actually two rooms with 3 beds.

Sue at the front desk after checking in. Our room was $54 for the night.

The walls were full of original oil paintings and the dishes were from the Artesa Ceramic factory in Cuenca.

Our room was upstairs across from the waterfall, I had a great nights sleep being tired from driving and from the sound of the waterfall.

The waterfall across from our room. The thermo pool  is just below the waterfall and is also open at night.

The room was great, this is a place I would stay at again.

Map of Baños

  After we got settled in our room we headed to El Centro for dinner. We ate at a great restaurant on the Plaza owned by an Italian guy. I noticed many Hostel's all around the Plaza. I guess there are many tourists here in the season, which starts in December and stays busy until June. 
  Sue had Shrimp ceviche, of course! And I had Tia vegetables and rice, the food was delicious and not expensive.
  We decided to get an early nights sleep and go to the hot springs the next morning.

After a great breakfast which was included with our room we drove over to the hot pool, but with about 50 people waiting in line to get in we decided we would visit the thermo baths in Baños, Cuenca before Sue left.

 Back on the highway heading for Cuenca, which was about a five hour drive.

  We drove about 850 miles from Guayaquil to Cuenca over some beautiful mountains and pasted through many small Villages full of colorful smiling people. We saw abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale along the highways and many places to eat.
  We were happy to be back in Cuenca and Sue still had a few days to explore Cuenca.

Next blog will be on our visit to the hot springs in Cuenca, the city tour and Sue shops for jewlry! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ecuador's Andes mountain drive with Sue

Sue and I continue our Ecuador drive from Manta up the windy high passes in the Andes mountains to Quito and Otavalo

We left Manta after a great buffet breakfast at the Howard Jonhson Hotel which was just a couple of blocks from our hostel and we headed north on the coastal highway past Crucita and then up the mountain pass towards Santa Domingo.


Crucita is a small town with many condos and houses on the beach. It is a place I will visit again.

We drove past the turn off for Bahia de Caraquez, a town I really wanted to visit, but considering the long drive ahead of us to Quito we headed toward Chone and then Santa Domingo.

  We drove past many corn and sugar cane fields as we headed up the windy mountain roads.

One good thing is that all the roads we drove on were in great condition and many of them were new, unlike my drive through Ecuador in 1975 when most of the roads were gravel and mud.

 We did get a bit excited during our many car passing adventures on blind curves! But if we did not pass the cars and trucks we might have arrived in Quito the next day.

Richard, the real estate guy from the hostel in Manta told us by the time we got lost several times we might arrive in Quito in 13 hours! Well he was right and we did arrive in Quito at night and it was pouring rain and bumper to bumper traffic.
I thought I could avoid this by taking a side road to Mindo but of course I did not find that turn off.
We drove through many small villages with houses made of bamboo on stilts and always roadside stands selling everything from honey, oranges, to food and drinks. All the small villages were inhabited by Indians wearing their typical costumes. It seemed they were farmers and had small herds of cows and sheep. It amazed me how they farmed the sides of the mountains at what seems 70 degree angles. Unfortunately Sue took many hours of movie film on our drive and very few pictures. We could not get the movies to play at my house but hopefully she will fix this problem in Iowa.

By the time we arrived in Quito I was worn out from all the driving and with our limited road map and very few road signs I stayed in the right lanes upon entering Quito. Guess it would not matter what road you take through Quito it seems to always be bumper to bumper driving. It started pouring rain, we ended up in El Centro driving past a few expensive looking Hotels so we stopped at a gas station to ask about places to stay and had a jalapeno hamburger and fries, which did not set well with me for the rest of the night.
We followed the airport signs thinking that there would be lodging around the airport. 
We finally saw a motel sign, which was our excitement for the night in Quito.

We drove into the entrance of the motel and noticed a guy with a flash light directing us into a garage. So we followed him and as soon as we entered to garage the door closed on us with no explanation as to what we should do to check-in. 

 We saw a staircase so of course we went upstairs to what was a room with a king size bed, mirrored wall and a glass shower stall visible from the room. The front door was locked but had a small door that opened to a box. 

So I called the operator to find out what we should do about checking into this motel. But all I got was I don't speak English and a click on the phone!

The mirrored wall and guess what was playing on the TV?

I must have been really tired because I could not figure out what this stool was for!

I finally decided to call Bryan and I explained to him our situation, how we were locked in a motel room with no way out. While I had him on the phone I knocked on the box on the door and this guy opened a door on the other side, so I handed him my phone so he could explain to Bryan what was going on.
When I got back on the phone with Bryan he was having a good laugh while he explained to me that we were in a 'love motel' and we could pay $8 per hour or if we stayed until 7:30 am it would cost $18 for the night. 
Of course being so tired and $18 for the night being a good price we decided to stay for the night.
The next morning Sue took the first shower warning me not to look through the glass! But the glass did steam up right away blocking any view of Sue in the shower. Promptly at 7:30 am a women entered our room to count the condoms, booze and other items on the snack tray to charge us for plus she collected the $18 and opened the garage door.

As we drove away it looked like the guy next door tried leaving without paying!

Back on the road again we headed north to Otavalo and Cotacachi. The sun was shining as we drove along steep mountain passes. It was a pleasant drive without much traffic.
We decided to go to Cotacachi first which was just a few miles north of Otavalo. I had read so many articles from the Gary Scott blog about all the expats settling in Cotacahi and about all the sub-divisions being built I was curious to see it.
When we arrived the town was very quiet, very few people walking around, but very clean.
We stopped by a coffee cafe I had read about to check it out.

The cafe was owned by an Ecuadorian guy who spoke English and we did meet a couple of American residents and had a conversation with them. One nice thing about traveling with Sue she can start conversations with anyone and end up friends with a new e-mail address.

We asked the ladies about expat subdivisions but they did not seem to know about them other than saying there are places outside of town, and they lived in condos in town. In fact they were about to take a trip to Cuenca and were considering relocating there. 

After some espresso coffee we stopped by a couple of leather shops so Sue could buy more gifts for her daughters and friends in Iowa.
In the basement of one of the shops were a few men busy making leather goods.

Sue was happy with her purchases, seems the quality and prices were a bargain.

Downtown Cotacachi

We drove back to Otavalo and at the suggestion of the coffee shop owner we stayed at the Hotel India.

Hotel India was very clean with great rooms and just $53 per night.

Social area with WiFi and glass roof inside the hotel

A mural inside the hotel, Otavalo is just 90 years old and the sidewalks are beautiful colored tiles. It is very clean city, warm weather and is located on a large trout lake.

The Otavaleños (or runa, as the refer to themselves) are a people and culture indigenous to the Otavalo valley in the Imbabura province of Northern Ecuador. The Otavalo Indians are the descendants of the Cara Indians who inhabited this region of South America about 500 years ago. In 1495 the Caras were conquered by the Incas of the south, and the Incan Empire was in turn conquered by the Spanish Conquistadores in the 1530s. The Otavaleño people today are skilled textile weavers, and are perhaps the most prosperous indigenous group in all of South America. Today, there are upwards of 50,000 Otavaleños; the majority of them still live in the valley surrounding the town of Otavalo, but they are a common site in virtually any Ecuadorian city. Within the past two decades or so, increasing numbers of Otavaleños have also been travelling overseas to sell their handicrafts in Europe, North America and other countries in South America.

Our room was quiet, lots of hot water and TV! After a good nights sleep we had breakfast that was included and headed for the marketplace to shop for more gifts.

Sue bought 20 cotton scarfs for friends in Iowa which will come in handy during those cold snowy winters.

The marketplace had lots of woven goods to chose from including blankets, sweaters, wall hangings and many oil paintings.

Otavalo was a beautiful city full of happy friendly people. A place I will visit again.

Unfortunately we had a lot of territory to cover and just a few days to do it. So after Sue's shopping spree we headed back to Quito and to Bano hot springs for the night.

And once again we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for 3 hours driving through Quito. But it was a relief to get through the city and back on the Pan American Highway.

Next blog will cover the trip to Bano and back to Cuenca! Until then keep enjoying life.