My name is Reg Prewitt. I’m a retired airline pilot. My wife and I are putting the finishing touches on a week trip to the Galapagos Islands before Christmas with Latin Frontiers. This is not the first trip Marcelo Bolanos has put together for us. The first one was based on his Retire in Ecuador template. Often a group tour of the areas prospective expats commonly choose to explore Latin Frontiers also builds custom private tours that target specific areas of interest to clients interested in Ecuador. Marcelos’ upcoming group tour is the reason he asked me to tell our story of the 15 day trip we took in January-February 2017.
Almost exactly four years ago in November 2016 my wife gave me some information about Ecuador she had been found while thinking about where she thought we might live. We had lived in middle Tennessee since spring 1988. I had been retired exactly five years after 38 years flying over, around, and through five of the seven continents. I had been to Mexico but never South or Central America. Over the next couple weeks we had both gathered enough information to come to the conclusion that a new big adventure might be just we wanted. The next step was to go look for ourselves.
We found recommendations for Latin Frontiers in a couple of published expat resources. Looking through their website, a few email exchanges, and finally an early evening chat on the phone left us with a tentative plan based on the template used for the Andean region of Ecuador. Marcelo massaged the 12 trip into 15 days that covered the area from Quito north to Otavalo and Cotacachi then south to Cuenca, Loja, and Vilcabamba. Our initial area of interest was Cuenca so we added three extra free days in Cuenca at the end of the trip. We had relocation and immigration experts we want tot talk to plus we wanted to explore Cuenca to see if there was any possibility we could make a good life in any of these areas.
Anyone who has ever gone through this process will tell you that for every question that comes to mind a dozen more popup when looking for answers. It’s not long before we’re either overwhelmed or convinced of how much we have no clue about or both. The only way to find any answers is to go look for yourself. We figured that even if we didn’t come home with more questions than answers we would have gone somewhere new and have a good time. The truth is that we came home with an amazing number of new questions and had a great time. What’s doubly amazing is I had a great time despite having brought a nasty upper respiratory infection with me from the US, I had the best trip of my life. I felt horrible physically but loved every gasping, wheezing minute.
We were met at the airport in Quito by our guide Freddie Nasavilla, Nashville for short. (Ask Marcelo about the guide qualification and education process required by thegovernment of Ecuador. These people are extremely well educated and knowledgeable in every subject and they are very nice people.) He took us to our hotel in Old Town near the presidential palace. From there we saw a good bit of Old Town. The next day we traveled to Otavalo and Cotacachi to the north after a stop at the equator park. The drive is spectacular through the high Andes with vlocanos. We spent two nights at the very old Hacienda Pinsiqui. While there we visited the markets of Otavalo and Cotacachi before going up to Laguna de Cuicachi (lake) on the volcano Cotacachi. We returned after a couple full days to Quito for a quick overnight near the airport for our flight to Cuenca the next day.
Our guide Eddy met us at the airport in Cuenca. He took us up to the gorgeous little church at Turi on the side of a mountain overlooking Cuenca to the north. It is one of the best and most perfect vantage points for seeing the whole city stretching east and west along the basin of four rivers that forms the city. A stop at the Homero “Panama” Hat factory preceded the short ride to the Hotel Santa Lucia in el Centro. It is two blocks from Parque Calderon and the New Cathedral and a block from the Old Cathedral. El Centro has a bit of everything and is the perfect place to get a feel of Cuenca. Museums, restaurants, markets, shops, and entertainment are all within a few blocks walk or a short ride on the tram, Tranvia. Busses and taxis are everywhere and very, very cheap. It’s not a big area but a person could spend a month there and not find all of the little gems.
The Santa Lucia was our central point to see the city and for a short day trip to Gualaceo’s Macana factory (shawls), the Orquederia, Ecuagenera Orchid research andretail center, then to Chordeleg with several jewelry shops around the town plaza. We returned to the Santa Lucia for the night before taking a 4-5 hour trip south to thesemitropical cities of Loja and Vilcabamba. We stayed two nights at the Madre Tierra Eco Spa. It is a favorite run and owned by a Canadian couple. The major attraction for us was the drive up to the Parque Nacional Podacarpus. The day we went was drizzling, foggy, and cold but beautiful. We didn’t get the full appreciation for the place until we went back this past February and hiked a part of the 4.5 km loop up a ridge at about 10,000′ above the ranger and maintenance station. The day we were there the first time we couldn’t even see there was a huge building adjacent to the parking area and trail heads.
After two nights at Madre Tierra we drove back to Cuenca for our days free to explore and meet with a residency visa attorney, a relocation specialist, and a real estateconsultant. We also hired Eddy to take us around the city looking at places we thought would be good to live. Had I known what I know now we would have also stopped at a couple mercados, the big Mall Del Rio, Soldados up in the Cajas along the Yanauncay (although we did drive a good way up the road towards Soldados), and, maybe, Laguna Laviucu and/or Tres Cruces (13,666′) in the Cajas. Our focus though was as it should be,is this where we want to make a life.
The answer to that was a resounding yes. We came to look at Ecuador, and Cuenca in particular, for the incredible country, climate, environment, low cost of living butexcellent quality and way of life, ease of immigration, and several factors we had identified as being necessary for us to be willing to go through the long, difficult, andpainful process of preparing and selling a house we had lived in for 23 years. (It took one incredibly difficult year to accomplish!) We found all of those and one we really hadn’t considered – the people. Marcelo of Latin Frontiers and our guides Freddy, and Eddy were great examples of kind, caring people we have come to expect. This isn’t the time or place to go into our fairy tale that began with our arrival through thed past three years living on the side of a mountain in the outskirts of Cuenca overlooking the length of the city. Let me say that choosing to live here has been the best decisions of our lives. The people we are around every day, locals and expats, are why I chose to move here and why I intend to live here the rest of my life.
I have given Marcelo permission to send me the names and contact information of anyone who wants to talk or exchange email about our expat experience, the process of moving and becoming residents of Ecuador, or almost anything else about Ecuador and Latin Frontiers that I can answer. I’ll also consider meeting anyone who comes to Cuenca on a tour and wants to meet over a cup of coffee.