Because of our special needs situation, we decided we would be best off living near a modern city, close to a good international airport and modern, Western-type medical facilities. The Ecuadorian consulate and ambassador in DC both immediately recommended Cumbaya, a suburb of Quito, located about 25 minutes drive from the old main airport- a little further from the new airport.
We quickly discovered you need someone familiar with the country to help you through the "minefield" that can overwhelm someone who is an obvious "outsider" in the land. You really need someone you can trust who has only YOUR best interests at heart.
We were fortunate to find a native Ecuadorian, Martha Perez, who has lived in the US, speaks English fluently, and understands the American and European way of thinking. We stayed at her house, Casa Isabella, and the photo of Cotacachi Volcano, above, is taken from her front yard. We went around the country with her. She is an invaluable resource for all things things Ecuadorian, and you can trust her completely. Visit her web site www.ecuadorpersonalassistant.com
This satellite photo from Google Earth, taken perhaps 10 or 12 years ago, gives slight hint to how rural the area was just a short few years past.
The main thoroughfare, Interoceanica Highway, is the artery to the left side. The orange roofs on the right side of the highway, down by the large traffic circle, were the first commercial stores built. Our little gated community in Cumbaya, La Comarca, is on the right side of the photo, to the right of the commercial buildings- close by, but protected from noise and commotion. At the time of the Google picture, our condominium has not yet been built (same for all the green spaces you see). Presently, it is now on the green plot marked by an "X", adjacent to a municipal park (marked with a yellow pin, top, center of the picture).
What a difference a few years can make! Now, commercial buildings line both sides of the Interoceanica Highway, and all but two of the green spaces in La Comarca have residential, low rise condominiums on them. In the very bottom left corner of the satellite image, a huge shopping mall is being constructed, along with an underground parking garage large enough to hold 2000 cars; the traffic circle itself is being re contoured with an underpass to handle the increased flow of cars and people.
We bought our place when it was about 80% completed. We were able to make some major structural modifications to suit our needs (for some additional expense), and have been extremely pleased with the results. On the day we moved in, I took this photo:
Our home is accessible, and spacious (3BR, 2 1/2BA, approx. 1,500 square feet, with 2 underground parking spaces and an ample, separate storage room). Real estate taxes last year were less than $100.00.
...a little furniture...
and you end up with two very happy people!
There is a small municipal park right behind us that has trees that flower several times a year. The trees are now mature, and full of birds all year around.
Beside the obvious economic considerations, there is so much to love about Ecuador! The temperatures are never harsh, and vary depending on where you are in the country, so you can virtually pick the type of weather you want to suit your needs. Where we live, in Cumbaya, daytime temperatures average around 78-82 degrees daytime, 56-58 degrees at night. A little warmer in "Summer"; a little cooler in "Winter". Never really "too hot" or "too cold".
There is an almost endless variety of activity to go with the varied natural beauty. Let us show you:
In the heart of the city is the large Parque Carolina, with a botanical garden, game spaces, soccer fields and open areas for whatever suits your fancy. Pedal boats ply along a man-made canal. One afternoon, we happened upon this scene:
A large crowd had gathered to watch a performance by this fellow, his puppet (dangling from his right hand), and his helper. While the show was entirely in Spanish, you don't really need to know what was said- you can read the faces of the children and understand everyone was being entertained.
He worked the crowd for nearly an hour- and was well rewarded at the end when his floppy hat was passed around. Nancy and I clearly had a great time.
In Quito itself, there is an "Old City" full of culture. Notable is the Street of the Seven Crosses where the Spanish Conquistadors erected seven churches centuries ago. But our favorite site is the Panecillo, a huge statue which overlooks the business district of the city:
Driving an hour or so north of the city, through mountains of such ruggedness and majesty, you will arrive at The City at the Middle of the World.
There is a museum here, a little train that runs around the park, a bandstand where performances are held, and a good play area for children. Nancy, however, far and away prefers the little shops sprinkled around the site. Please note the fancy Native- made tote bag on the back of her wheelchair.
Outside the city, perhaps an hour and a half drive east from our home through the most breathtaking mountains this side of Switzerland, is Papallacta, home to several spas and famous for its pools of volcanically heated water.
Papallacta is clean, inexpensive, very popular, and utterly relaxing. I took this photo of Nancy (with dark sunglasses) and Maria, her care-giver playing in the water. A total stranger had wandered over to be sure Nancy was O.K.
We were in the sun for exactly an hour and ten minutes. But because we are nearly on the Equator, closer to the sun, because the air is thin, clean, and contains far fewer pollutants, and because we are fair skinned, the strong sun turned both Nan and me pink!
Further east of Quito, about 3 1/2 hours drive from Cumbaya, we ventured into the part of Ecuador where the Rain Forest for the Amazon River begins. Picked up at our home and transported in their van, we stayed at Huasquilla Lodge, located near the town of Cotumbo. The lodge is well designed, handicap accessible, and everyone there, starting with Cecelia, the genial hostess, works hard and sincerely to be sure there are no "snags".
Much thought has been given to maximizing the unique assets of the surrounding area, and they have carefully developed a program of activities tailored to the abilities of the guests. (We obviously could not explore the nearby caves- but you can). Everything they planned provided us with a delightful four days. One of our first adventures was to an injured animal sanctuary near the main lodge, where our guide took this photograph.