Fall 2023 Ecuador Trip Recap

What an experience! Our fall 2023 Ecuador trip was a tremendous 8-day trip that saw us cover the heights of the Andes (over 13,500 feet) to the lowlands of the Ecuadorian Amazon Jungle. I was privileged to have my 18-year-old daughter accompany me on the trip. As a young professional photographer, it was a great way for her to capture what we learned, saw, and experienced.

The Ecuador Trip Overview

We started in Quito, Ecuador, the capital, which is at over 9,300 feet and yet sits in a “valley” surrounded by the majestic Andes mountains on both sides. For comparison, Denver, CO is at just over 5200 feet. Every aspect of our travels was coordinated by our local guide, Daniela Palacios, of AwesomEcuador Tours. Within Quito, we were able to get acclimated, see Casco Viejo (the old city) and see the city from high above after riding the Gondola to over 13,000 feet!

In Quito, we visited the two orphanages we support, San Vincente de Paul and Santa Lucia, both with local leadership by teams of nuns under the Catholic diocese. The visits were wonderful opportunities to hear from the nuns about their daily lives, their needs, and the new things that have been happening. It was also a wonderful and meaningful opportunity to meet some of the children and spend time with them. They need love and care as many have been through so much so early and without cause. It was great to hear about their social work services involvement, see the love the nuns have for the children, and see the smiles on their faces as we interacted and played with them. This is no small investment as these are at-risk children who have great potential and need a helping hand.

The Ecuadorian Amazon Jungle Projects

After this initial start in Quito we headed east and a bit south to near the town of Tena in the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle. Along the way we stopped at the Hot Springs of Papallacta at over 10,000 feet and fueled by volcanic activity! While in Tena we of course took a guided hike in the jungle to look for animals, learn about native plants and trees, and watch for birds as well as learn about the ecosystem and challenges facing the Amazon jungle today.

Our main focus was on connecting with two women’s small business projects in the area. The first was the Comunidad Shiripuno women’s project. It was a great, immersive experience learning about the Quechua village community and the women’s project to find a way to generate income so that they are contributing to their family’s needs. We visited the chakra garden/farming area and had a tour of native plants growing as well as what they were used for, harvested cacao, wrapped our fish in leaves for cooking lunch, made chocolate, saw the local dance and tried the blowgun! Soledad was a great hostess.

Our second key visit was to the Amupakin association of women in the Napo Archidona area. It is a project for women by women midwives to learn about their work with traditional medicine methods when a woman is going to give birth at home.  They provide a tour of their chakra, their clinic, natural pharmacy items, and explain the various ways they use plants in their medicine and care.

Mujeres projecto en Tena Ecuador with iGive Global

North to the Andes and Otavalo

From Tena, we drove back north through Quito and onto the Otavalo/Ibarra area. We visited textile shops in the village of Peguche where traditional clothing was made using traditional and more modern weaving techniques with Alpaca and sheep wool. We also visited the leather stores in “the leather capital of Ecuador” Cotacachi and the market in Otavalo. A visit to this region is not complete without a stop to see the crater lake in an old volcano called Cuicocha Lake.

The highlight of this region was the visit to Kawsaymi on the outer edge of Otavalo in a village where Claudia and her family gave us a traditional Andean Quechua experience showing us around their property, the 2 room dirt floor home where she grew up, the eco-friendly housing they are building for guest experiences and then we had a wonderful, traditional meal and conversation. Claudia was a joy to meet and see her entrepreneurial and “can-do” spirit helping her family remain rooted in their traditions while generating an income for their family and giving many others a glimpse into their life and culture.

Paccari Chocolate and Quito

We finished the trip in Quito with some sightseeing of the Basilica, local market, and dinner in a modern Ecuadorian home. One of the many highlights was the visit to Paccari Chocolate where we did a “chocolate tasting” and learned about this extraordinary chocolate maker. Paccari has won many awards globally for their fine chocolates made in Ecuador but what sets them apart is their focus on the 3P’s. They are a B-Corp and are doing amazing things with living wages for the cacao village farmers and sustainable farming as well as a carbon-neutral operation. It was great to learn firsthand about an Ecuadorian company that leads with a 3P business model and does it very successfully.

The trip was a wonderful mix of adventure, exploration, listening, learning, sharing, and receiving from the people and places of Ecuardor. We were able to see how small investments of capital can make a big difference in the lives of women, children, and people groups, and to see their innovation and entrepreneurial spirit as they honor traditions and invest in 3P business practices.

As we returned we’ve had others inquiring about going with us the next time which has helped us put together plans for a Spring 2024 Vision Trip back to Ecuador with a business group. Will you join us?