Tag Archives: Ecuador

Waterfall Trekking & Horseback Riding

My friends and I spent the weekend in the Cotopaxi Province of Ecuador. It is home to the Cotopaxi volcano, which is the second highest summit in the country. We stayed at the gorgeous Secret Garden hostel, which had a guide take us trekking in the forest and along the streams to waterfalls. We also went horseback riding for six hours up to the top of a mountain for a closer look at the volcano. Here is the video:

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Filed under Activities, Ecuador, Facts, Global, Latin America // South America, Nature, Outdoors, Sites, Tour, Travel, Worldwide

Oriententing Myself

I’m at that point where I am nervous and excited about my move to Ecuador. I have to continually remind myself that I’m leaving this weekend to visit family in Indiana, with a side-dish road-trip to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky.

It will most likely be filled with ups-and-downs because my grandpa just went through a quadruple bypass surgery after a minor heart-attack and, well, let’s just say that side of the family still seems to be going through World War II, which is where the seed for the family-tree was planted.

This will be my only vacation taken all summer and I haven’t even started doing laundry. In my opinion, once you’ve traveled internationally, you lose the excitement of packing for any trip. You wait until the very last night before or the day you leave — depending on the time of departure — to actually put the loads of laundry in the washer and toss a pile of disheveled, wrinkled clothes into a suitcase.

For Indiana and Kentucky, I’ll most likely revert to an Adidas duffel bag and wing it:

  • Shirts – check.
  • Cargo pants than can become shorts with one quick zip – check.
  • Converse – check.
  • Toothbrush – check.

No stress. No worries.

My mind is more focused on Ecuador than anything else. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? I’m practically moving to a foreign country. I’m thinking about money. I’m thinking about the internship – what if I’m not cut out to be a travel writer. I’m thinking I need a full-time job. Why can’t I be normal like my older sister and twin sister. One has been a crime-scene technician for more than a couple years now and loves it. My twin sis just started her career as a teacher today — and I’m still here, going from internship to internship still trying to get the big break.

But isn’t that part of the excitement in not knowing what’s going to happen? Stepping off that airplane and into an entirely different part of the world brings out that adventurous spirit in myself. This is the job I want. This is the office where I want to work. I admire those like my sisters who can take pictures of dead people and have the patience to mold the minds of our future.

However, I want the opportunity to bring cultures to people in all corners of the planet, whether it be in the pages of a geography book, in an online article or in the pages of a travel guide I may have written or contributed to.

At this point, I have to stop wanting and actually do it. This is the dreaming turning into reality.

I will educate people about a variety of languages, food, cultures, music and places they may never have heard about, because maybe, just maybe they’ll think of traveling there one day because of the pictures I have taken and the words I have written.

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Filed under Ecuador, International, Internship, Travel

Stamp of Approval

So yesterday I flew to California for the day. Yup, just the day. My mission was to get my Ecuadorian visa. I took a super early flight out of Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona where the baby blue skies were speckled with some stray, wispy clouds.

The desert landscape spread out below us the entire flight.

During descent, one flight attendant came over the speakers to insist that everyone turn off and put away their portable electronics because Burbank was consumed in fog and clouds. I suppose the devices were interfering with the pilot’s navigational system. I looked out the window and sure enough, an entire blanket of puffy clouds had made the celebrity haven completely invisible.

The plane slipped through the clouds and I kept glancing as hard as I could to see any sign of land below us. After about a minute of falling through whiteness I saw it just as we landed. It was if the sky and earth had left no distinction between each other.

Side note: I highly recommend the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank because it is much smaller & less busy than the LAX International Airport. Plus, it has great historical & educational displays throughout on the people and events that held significance. Such as, Amelia Earhart & Charles Lindbergh!

My shuttle took me directly to the consulate, which is located on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California on the fifth floor of a building that is also home to the Brazilian consulate (seventh floor). I walked into a completely empty room decorated with orange chairs and colorful artwork.

No one was even at the desk behind the glass windows. After standing for about 5 minutes I located the service bell and pushed it. Unanswered.

I contemplated pushing it again but then the consulate door swung open and a lady, and a couple behind the lady extravagantly entered the room.

The first lady pushed her way in front of me thinking someone was helping me and then she realized there was no one. In broken English she asked me if I had been helped and I said, “No, I suggest you push the button.” She pushed. Miraculously, someone appeared.

The lady didn’t even allow me to go, instead, she spread all her paperwork on the table and started talking in rapid Spanish. Apparently she needed to fill out more of her paperwork because the lady behind the glass acknowledged me and asked what I needed.

“I need to get a student visa.”

“Do you have your paperwork.”

I handed her my manila folder with all the paperwork complete, or so I thought.

“What will you be doing in Ecuador?” she asked.

“Student.”

“Student?”

“Yes, I’m going to be a student.”

“Oh, okay.”

She glanced at each piece of the required papers and forms for not more than 10 seconds. There was about a total of a minute of flipping papers and then an unexpected speed-bump.

“This isn’t notarized,” she said, pointing to my financial paper from the bank. “This needs to be notarized.”

My heart skipped a beat and my breath caught.

“I can’t give you a visa if this isn’t notarized.”

“Well, is there some way I can do it here or around here because I flew in just for the day to get this visa.”

The lady beside me decided she had finished completing her paperwork and that she could continue where she left off.

::rambling Spanish between the two::

The lady behind the glass put her hands up in universal language, which I took as meaning “too much, too much, let me finish with her and then I’ll come back to you.”

“There is a notary in the Brazilian consulate who can help you. Go get this notarized and then I can help you.”

On the way up to the seventh floor I call my mom and update her. I soon find myself sitting on a small love-seat in the smallest reception area ever waiting for a notary. My phone rings.

“I faxed a copy of your financial paper to the guy at the bank. He’s signing it right now and having the notary sign it too. It will be faxed right afterward.”

My head felt immediately lighter. THANK YOU MOM!! I go back down to the Ecuador consulate and tell the lady. After a few more bell pushes, she said she had received the fax, asked for the $130 cash ($30 for the paperwork, $100 for the visa) and said it would take 45 minutes to complete the visa. Fast-forward.

“Allison.”

I walked up to the glass window.

“Here you go.”

I got it! I will now be able to stay in Ecuador for up to one year.

The mission was completed.

After a whirl-wind day trip to California, I can finally breathe and start preparing for my move to the equator. I don’t think it has really set in yet. In 32 days I’ll be in Quito, Ecuador.

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Filed under Arizona, Ecuador, Latin America // South America, Travel

Visa! Shots! Pills?

For the past two months I have been preparing for my move down South. No, not to Mexico. I’ll be  on the equator after moving to Quito, Ecuador in a little over a month for a travel writing internship! I will be working with V!VA Travel Guides and learning how to make my dream career a reality, while hopefully becoming bilingual at the same time.

Since I’ll be staying for longer than 3-months, which would have meant that the only document I needed to enter the country legally was my passport, I had to start the dreaded Visa process. This is where it gets complicated, so for those really interested in this whole thing, pay close attention. Please.

I had the decision between a tourist visa or the student visa. There were really some big differences between the requirements for these two types of visas. However, the one that really made the choice easier was the fact that the tourist visa, or visa 12-x tourist, would have been valid for only 6 months.  I plan on staying a bit longer because family and friends want to visit and I would like to show them around using my apartment as the home-base.

The simpler route and most beneficial for someone in my situation was to obtain the student visa. I had my contact from V!VA enroll me in a Spanish school for three months. She sent me the forms I needed for the Visa 12-V Student and that was that. I will not only be able to stay for up to one year but will be able to add a language to my resume. As a journalist, that’s a huge bonus, trust me.

Requirements from the California consulate that I’m flying to this Friday include (I’ve also posted how much I had to pay for each item if a cost was needed):

2.1.1   Complete in your computer, and sign two copies of each form of visa applications. Free

2.1.2   Passport valid for at least for the next six months Already have

2.1.3   School registration or proof of admission to a government approved school, college or university Approximately $70 USD

2.1.4   Certificate from bank indicating good economic standing with letter from the parent/guardian indicating that they will support the student while in Ecuador. Free

2.1.5   Certificate of deposit in a national or foreign bank or financial institution domiciled in Ecuador in the amount of at least $1,000. Was told it was unnecessary

2.1.6   If the visa applicant will be traveling with close family members the deposit will need to be increase by $500 for each member of the family traveling Traveling alone

2.1.7   If the foreign student has close family members who reside in Ecuador or any another immigrant who can guarantee the foreigner subsistence, no proof of deposit will be required from the applicant.   In this case, the close family member or immigrant will need to issue a notarized financial guarantee. My employer gave me a note for proof it is a paid internship

2.1.8   Document issue by a local or foreign bank or financial institution which can prove that the applicant will have the sufficient funds during his and his family stay in Ecuador. $10 USD

2.1.9   Two recent photographs, passport size, in color, white background Approximately $10 USD

Total Cost of the Ecuadorian Student Visa itself: $130 USD

I have checked all the requirements off my list and the final thing to do  is to fly to California and wait the two hours they say it will take to receive my Ecuador Visa.

Traveling to Ecuador also has another requirement: shots.


Before I got the shots necessary to survive in Ecuador, I had to go to my family physician and get an updated record of all my shots. Took that record to the international shot place and handed it over. The lady sat me down and went over all the indigenous diseases found in the country and what shots she highly recommended. She explained how Quito is located on a strip of land in the middle of Ecuador that doesn’t have a lot of disease but if I planned on traveling outside of the zone that it would be beneficial to get the shots she recommended.

I ended up getting my Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever and updated Tetanus shot with Whooping Cough.

Total Cost: $400-$500 USD

According to my health packet:

  • Hepatitis A is transmitted through fecal matter, person-to-person contact and contaminated uncooked shellfish, fruits, vegetables and contaminated water.
  • Typhoid Fever is transmitted via contaminated food & water.
  • Yellow Fever  is transmitted by the Aedes sp. mosquito.

She also suggested: rabies (but I don’t think I’ll be walking up to random dogs in the street to pet them no matter how much I want to) and dengue (but greatest risk lies near the coast, which I’m not located near & I plan on using insect repellent because it is transmitted via mosquitoes), and traveler’s diarrhea medication.

What I would like your opinion on is malaria pills & altitude pills (since Ecuador is so high in elevation), would you recommend these or not?

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Filed under Ecuador, Facts, International, Internship, Tips, Travel