Life Lessons From Latin America: Part 2- Ecuador

Yesterday, we followed Darshita as she recounted her trip to Mexico, where she learnt to make natural dyes, and discovered pyramids. Today, she meets up with friends in Ecuador, the country of the famous Andes. 

Words & Images by Darshita Thurairajah
Edited by Nur Safiah Alias

Holding myself to a promise I made to two friends, I started my five-week trip to Mexico  , Ecuador and Peru in June 2013. I only began planning two weeks before my actual departure date. First up was Mexico with my friend Maria, then down to Ecuador with friends Tefita, Carol and Karen and finally, couchsurfing in Cusco, Peru with Mario.

Second stop, Ecuador!

1. If you don’t knock on other people’s doors, how would you know they could be so warm?

From Mexico, I travelled down to Ecuador where I met another good friend, Tefita Parra. I lived with her family near a cow farm while I was there.

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She kindly put me up in her family home and the Parra family extended the warmest hospitality to me with exceptional warmth. Being alone in a foreign land gets to me sometimes. But the Parra family told me, ‘Mi casa tu casa’ meaning ‘my house is your home’. That immediately made me feel much better.

Every morning for a week, I helped Tefita’s younger sisters with their English homework before accompanying Tefita’s mother, Elva to drop them off at school. Elva and I would then go on tours of Quito, the capital while Tefita was at work. I loved my time with Elva, she had so much to tell me!

But, as with Jesus, my surfing instructor in Mexico, we had a language barrier. Our first day together was a challenge. I could hardly ask Elva questions as she was unable to converse in English. Eventually, we got along with a smattering of Spanglish.

This time, I was more calm about facing the situation, even though we barely understood each other. I remembered lesson #2  in Mexico (read part 1 of my trip here):

When there are language barriers, instead of getting frustrated at the inability to interact, it is sometimes more enlightening to listen patiently.

I began to realise that these are genuine, humble and friendly people who love to show their love, and they show it simply through hugs and kisses on the cheeks.

My guard was up in the beginning of the trip, not used to this overwhelming display of affection. I don’t remember when I got used to it but I realised I was opening up and showing them my love in return. I learnt something new. Life lesson #3: If you don’t open up to others, how can they open themselves up to you?


2. In Ecuador, you can be in two places at one time.

Tefita and me made a trip to Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), a national landmark north of Quito. Here, I crossed another item off my bucket list- standing on the North and South hemisphere concurrently. YES!


Ecuador boasts the middle point of the Earth and I witnessed some funny tricks that could be done there – an egg balancing on a nail and how water could flow in different directions depending on which side of the equator you were on.




3. If you are going on a trek, wear the right shoes! I cannot emphasise this enough.

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After staying in Quito, I went to Guayaquil, the main port city of Ecuador to meet my couch-surf hosts, Carol and Karen. We took a spontaneous two-day road trip to Cuenca, the third largest Ecuadorian town.

On a whim, we stopped by Caja Nacional Parque to visit the huge lakes and wild llamas. But, to our dismay, our lack of appropriate footwear denied us access to one of the many beautiful trekking routes. What a waste!

Cuenca is an old, Spanish town in comparison to Guayaquil a modern city. There, we visited Ingapirca ( “Wall of the Inca”) which was located at the river basin of the Cañar river. We learnt that the Cañari indigenous people believed in the Moon god and followed the lunar calendar (in stark contrast to the Incas and their belief in the Sun God).

Latin Americans and their indigenous cultures have believed in the Sun and Moon God for ages. I sat down to reflect on how much more primed to the Sun and Nature than we think we are. The world has changed slowly, shifting away from nature into worshipping other things today. Life lesson #4 Take some time to pause and realise the importance of nature in our lives.


4. Abseiling down a waterfall is the scariest thing ever!

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Baños was a culmination of adventurous activities with my Ecuadorian friends. It was heart-warming to have all my close friends in Ecuador come together although they barely knew each other.

Baños is famous for the Tungurahua volcano (which erupted a 2 weeks after my trip). I spent most of the first day on a “party bus” – a day tour that brought us to all the exciting points of Baños (“baths”). We went zip lining, horse riding on the Tungurahua volcano and of course, canyoning which is a glorified term used to describe exploring canyons.

Our experience had us trekking to the top of a huge waterfall and then abseiling down four steep falls to reach the base.

It was terrifying.

I grabbed onto any rock I could get hold of, but they were so slippery! Water would gush in my mouth as I blindly reached for stable hand and footholds. I had to grip the ropes tightly, place my feet correctly and maintain the right posture just so I wouldn’t fall and crack my skull open on the rocks.

Halfway down, I panicked. With my brain pounding it’s way out of my head, I turned to Tefita on my right. Only, she was just as afraid. Wanting to calm her down, I shouted her name and smiled at her. “Hang on!”, I mentally sent her the message. My head cleared.  I had calmed myself too.

I began to consciously enjoy the moment, scaling down this amazing waterfall. After the first section of the waterfall, the rest was a piece of cake; it was thrilling! I felt truly connected with nature then.

This is the second of a three-part series on Darshita Thurairajah. 

Part 1 and part 3 are linked here. 

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