We love to host people from other countries in our home in Canada, and that’s how we met Fernando and Toa from Ecuador. Nothing tells you as much about a country as a home stay with a local family.
Sites like www.hospitalityclub.org, and www.couchsurfing.org and www.globalfreeloaders.com offer free stays of up to 3-4 days for travellers from other countries. You don’t have to provide food, just a bed for a few nights, and maybe some discussion about your part of the world. It’s really your choice how much help you can or want to assist. It’s a wonderful way to meet people from other countries around the world, and we would never have thought of going to Ecuador if we had not hosted Fernando and Toa.
Fernando and Toa were travelling across Canada to attend trade shows representing Native’s World, a non-profit organization for community economic development of their own hand-crafts and agricultural products such as: mountain Arabica coffee, organic cocoa and Uvilla (Goldenberry), wool sweaters, hats and scarves, dream catchers. They work to preserve the Andean agriculture, language and traditions. The website is www.thenativesworld.com.
Fernando and Toa at a trade show in Saskatoon, Canada.
Our visit with Fernando and Toa in Ecuador with their two kids was amazing. They are the sweetest people, so kind and gentle, but best of all they have such a great sense of humour.
T and I were in total awe of how Fernando and Toa laugh together all the time. They make little funny comments or jokes, and each laughs heartily at the other´s comments – sincerely. They are such happy family!
They live in Peguche, a Quechwa Indian community, just outside of Otavalo, and we expected it to be quite simple accommodation with them. In fact, we didn’t want to impose at all, and said we would get a hotel, but they were completely insistent that we stay with them.
To our surprise, they have a big beautiful two-story home, and our bedroom was huge with a wall of arched windows that led to a patio overlooking the mountains in 3 directions, and an en suite bath to die for. They would not admit it, but we know it was their room.
Bedroom patio overlooking the mountains in 3 directions…
They were so excited to see us and greeted us with hugs and kisses, and the kids were even more affectionate. Even after being there 4 days, they were all excited to see us when we returned home from somewhere. How lovely it was to be welcomed so warmly every time you come home.
Toa didn’t speak much English, but we were able to communicate a little as time went on, as only two women can anywhere in the world.
One day, Fernando took us on, what he said was, a “10 minute” walk to the waterfalls. Ha! In reality it took 2 hours! We were so tired, and my back and legs were so sore that Toa had to come and pick us up. How pitiful.
But we came across a campground along the way with the cutest little traditional cottages.
The waterfall, set in thick lush foliage, was beautiful too!
There was moss so thick and inviting that you wanted to lay down and take a nap in the peaceful forest.
Fernando stopped to touch a huge tree.
T had never been horse-back riding before so it was quite an adventure for us to hire two horses to go riding in the countryside. It was hilarious when we arrived at the stable in the middle of town, and had to ride the horses clip-clopping down the paved street, and stop at traffic lights on horseback!!! Can you imagine, sitting on a horse, and saying “Whoa” as you come to a traffic light?! And then waiting there with the other cars on all sides and across the intersection as if nothing was un-ordinary at all?!
We had no idea that we would be riding the horses up to the top of a mountain. Note the deep valley below with the town of Otavalo nestled in the bottom, and how high up the mountain we had come on horseback, jostling back and forth as the poor horses struggled up the steep hills on a hot sunny day.
We had to stop and let those tired sweaty horses have a rest under the shade of a few trees. Frankly, we needed the rest too!
The cows looked at us in astonishment, wondering what on earth these strange creatures were doing in their space.
The Quechua community in Peguche have all the modern conveniences of running water and power, but the day we went on the sweaty horseback ride up the mountain, there was no water in the whole community. To the rescue, Fernando had us go to his Mom´s hostel next door to his little store, and she graciously let us use the showers there. That night right after dinner, the power went out! But only for five minutes.
We had wonderful meals with the family, filled with fun and laughter, and enjoyed some amazing soups, which are a staple in Ecuador. We had meats and lots of vegetables, but I honestly can’t tell you what most of them were because I didn’t recognize many of them, and Fernando only knew the names in the Quechua language. There was an addictive little snack made out of roasted corn too. Everything we ate was fresh and delicious. Here is a typical Ecuadorian meal.
Once, after asking the family if they knew what a barbecue is and if they ever use one, they went to a great deal of trouble to organize a barbecue and invite friends and a three students studying English!
Cuy, fried guinea pig, is considered a delicacy in Ecuador and is served at fiestas or markets. Many families raise their own, and have a little pen of guinea pigs.
Next door to Fernando and Toa were cornfields and their neighbor was busy processing the corn.
They also had tree tomatoes growing nearby.
Otavalo Market is the world’s largest open air indigenous market with hats, soft alpaca rugs, sweaters/wraps/scarves; alpaca teddy bears; jewelry made from silver, wood, seeds; artwork; gorgeous feather dream catchers; children’s toys; pan pipes, flutes, and wool sweaters.
One can bargain hard. There are no price tags, so you must ask the price, then ask for a discount, an Amiga Price rather than a Turista Price, or suggest a lower price. No need to feel guilty, because they won’t sell unless they are making a profit. If you’re not happy with a price, just walk away and they will usually come after you. We bought some beautiful soft alpaca wraps, and I use them at home as well as take one in my suitcase wherever we travel for those chilly evenings, or to dress up a summer dress to go out for dinner.
I really really really wanted one of the gorgeous alpaca rugs, but just could not imagine trying to carry it all over Ecuador for a month as we continued our journey.
Fernando and Toa also took us on a trip north of Otavalo to a crater lake volcano, where on a gorgeous warm day, we slid through the still waters and enjoyed a beautiful relaxing afternoon.
What a privilege it was to stay with this Ecuadorian family! We were able to experience the real authentic life of a family in Ecuador.
We miss them still…
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