Author: Angie Drake

Las Cavernas y Cascadas Yanayacu

I knew I had made a mistake with my first step into water. My hiking boots immediately cried “We’re not waterproof!” I knew that wet socks would be my hiking companions for the rest of the day and that I would be lucky to avoid blisters. Why didn’t I wear my rubber boots? Or at least a pair of sandals that could handle the water-crossing? If you decide to hike out to Cascadas Yanayacu, you will have some footwear decisions to make as well. Little did I understand before embarking on this expedition that we would spend as much...

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Hiking to the Refugio at Cotopaxi National Park

The Refugio at Cotopaxi National Park is a small hostel tucked into the side of the huge mountain just below glacier level. The Refugio used to be an overnight destination for mountaineering teams acclimatizing before making an ascent on the peak. But since the Volcano Cotopaxi is once again active, trekking beyond the Refugio is no longer allowed and no one is hiking to the top. Today, the Refugio is a final destination. On clear days, it makes for a perfect spot to admire the other volcanos in the distance. On overcast days, the hike alone just might be...

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Drink Yerba Mate Like An Argentine

Maybe you’ve heard of yerba mate, if only in its ubiquitous form: the maté latte in some American coffee shops. Our year in Argentina taught us that mate is so much more than a pale green, milky drink. In fact, what we drink in the US is really mate cocido but I’m getting ahead of myself. First, mate is pronounced like this: mah-tay. In English, the word looks a lot like another word that we pronounce with a silent e. Therefore, we sometimes see the word written in English with an accent to help us remember to pronounce that...

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Laguna Paikawe: Wildlife Near Tena

The Laguna Paikawe is a tiny paradise. A simple canoe, a 1000-meter loop around a unpopulated island, and tons of wildlife. And my experience took place in the middle of a hot afternoon. I can only imagine how many birds could be seen in the early morning or the late afternoon. Unfortunately, it is still very common for native Ecuadorians to hunt wild animals, whether for food or for sport. Some are even captured as pets. Many people visit the area around Tena and only see animals in zoo-like conditions. Foundations that run these locations attempt to rehabilitate injured animals...

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Pure Cane Sugar in Pacto

Ecuadorians believe that eating pure cane sugar is healthy. Especially if that cane sugar comes fresh from the field and is only lightly processed. They call it panela and will go out of their way to buy their favorite brands. Pacto is a small farming community just a couple of hours west of Quito. They grow sugar cane… fields and fields of it. If you arrive on a Friday afternoon, you will notice steaming vapor coming from many of the buildings on the cane covered hillsides. These are trapiches or mills. The vapor is liquid cooking off the wide-open vats...

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