Last Updated on February 8, 2023 by Left Lane
With Covid-19 quarantines, and government travel restrictions in place. It had been a very long minute since I’d gotten an escape from work. Working 7 days a week, 12 hour shifts almost everyday. I was in need of a getaway.
It was a very busy time of year for me, with a lot going on behind the scenes. I started looking for a destination as a much needed break from work. During a time when many countries had travel bans, plus an extensive list of demands that must be met before entry.
I needed to look around for a list of travel destinations available for consideration. That’s when I came across this comprehensive list of Countries Currently Open For Travel by CNN.
THE GAME PLAN
I had decided upon a South American getaway as my destination. With my choice for locations being: Peru 🇵🇪 , Bolivia 🇧🇴, Brazil 🇧🇷, or Ecuador 🇪🇨. I really wanted to go to Peru and do the Machu Picchu, and Nazca Lines tour, but due to certain travel restrictions, & tour closures, it wasn’t possible at the time.
Bolivia was my next choice, wanting to explore Lake Titicaca, and visit the ancient ruins of Tiwanaku and Puma Punku. After checking what the U.S Department of State currently recommended about travel to the region at that exact time, I decided to hold off until a later date to visit.
With the decision made, I packed my bags for Ecuador 🇪🇨. Deciding to fly into Guayaquil Ecuador, instead of their capital city Quito.
Another perk of traveling to Ecuador is that I was able to use my prepaid JetBlue flight credit before it expired. Which came from a forced cancellation due to Covid Travel Restrictions for a trip planned to Montego Bay, Jamaica. (Catch you soon Jamaica 🇯🇲 😜)
Unfortunately I had to work all the way up until time for my flight, and after just finishing a 12 hour work shift. I was extremely tired, but excited to finally escape work. Gearing up for my first international trip in 2021.
My partner and I, weren’t scheduled to land until 11p.m. in Ecuador, at Guayaquil International Airport (GYE). Therefore thinking ahead I pulled up a map of the area and booked the closest hotel I could find to the airport.
Which was the Holiday Inn Guayaquil Airport Hotel. Which was in walking distance of the airport quite literally being in the same parking lot.
Just to make the story a little more interesting, remember what I’m about to tell you.., My throat was starting to feel just a little bit scratchy, and sore on my first day in Ecuador.
After making it to the room and getting situated for the night. We got some well needed rest. The next morning, we got up for an amazing breakfast made in the hotel restaurant.
The staff attended to our every need during breakfast, and we needed for nothing during our dine. After leaving on a full belly, we walked back to the airport to get our rental car, and get our exploration of Ecuador under way.
A ROAD TRIP IN ECUADOR
We had a 3 and a Half hour drive to our destination in Manta Ecuador from Guayaquil. Ecuador is known for its strict traffic police. They adamantly enforce the rules of the road.
Knowing this in advance, I took my time enjoying the scenery. Taking in the many colors of Ecuador.
It didn’t take long to meet the Ecuadorian police during our trip. They were standing in the road at random locations, conducting at random road blocks and vehicle searches.
As we continued along our road trip across Ecuador. There was tall grass along the side of the road (5 to 6 foot tall grass), a red car 🚗 flew up on my bumper. Impatient with my touristy driving speed, the red car dropped out and passed me in a no passing zone.
Out of the tall grass to both my, and even more so the driver of the red cars surprise. Walked a Police Officer on foot. Who had been hiding in the grass to watch the road. He blew his whistle at the red car, and immediately pointed to the side of the road. Pulling the red car over on foot. Did I mention they take their Traffic Control serious in Ecuador?
Our arrival at the Balandra Hotel was every bit as beautiful as promised in the reviews. The staff welcomed us to the hotel, and escorted us to our room.
After a long journey, we were ready for dinner. There’s a restaurant called the El Faro on the grounds of the hotel. The food is great, and well prepared. We decided to have dinner on the balcony, and enjoy the view.
NOTHING BUT RELAXATION
Taking a tour of the Hotel grounds at the Balandra. You can see the work, the staff put into making sure it was an oasis in the middle of a city.
A CITY TOUR
Choosing to ditch the car, in favor of a foot tour. We got out to see the sights of the city.
One of the really good things about Hotel Balandra in Manta, is the fact that it is within walking distance of the Mall Del Pacifico. The mall has an amazing food court, with about every kind of culinary delight your heart could desire.
We made more then one trip to the mall. It also had a conveniently located Covid Testing Lab on the 3rd floor which we needed to visit in order to reenter the U.S. It also had numerous banks inside, making it easy to break down larger bills to spend at local street vendors easy.
Walking off a big lunch. We decided to visit the Cultural Center Museum of Manta & learn about the Los Manteños, the last of the pre-Columbian civilizations of Ecuador, which existed between 600A.D. – 1530A.D.
Were we homesick for real? No, we were just plain ole sick. Remember that scratchy throat I mentioned earlier? Well it progressed into a Cough, Chest Congestion, runny nose, and a sore throat.
I managed to get myself into a little predicament, being sick out of the country, in the midst of the Covid outbreak. To make things even worse I gave whatever I had to my partner as well, so now we were both sick.
We had to pay a visit to the local pharmacy, to buy some medication. After talking with the pharmacist, she thought I might have the Flu. Which surprised me, because I had also had my Flu shot, but here I was sick anyway.
Don’t know what the Flu medicine in Ecuador contains, but it was definitely effective. We both felt better after we took it, then we did before.
Now we were starting to get a little nervous hoping it wasn’t Covid (We had both been Vaccinated as well), we had to get a negative Covid test before re-entering the U.S.
As we walked into the Covid Testing Lab to get our tests, we were both a little nervous, and hoping we weren’t going to have to get quarantined out of the country.
After getting our Nasal Swabs for the Covid Test we waited in silence for the results waiting to see what the verdict was. Finally after what seemed like days, we got our Negative Results back! That meant no quarantine for us!
The Jipijapa, Ecuadorian Hat, Toquilla Straw Hat, also known as the Panama Hat. Is a hat made from the Toquilla Palm Plant, and hand woven in Ecuador.
It became known to the rest of the world as the Panama Hat in the early 1800’s, because the majority of South American merchandise, first passed through the isthmus of Panama. Only then did the merchandise head out to the rest of the world. . Thus acquiring the Panama Hat name from this international port.
The Jipijapa, or Panama Hat really became famous back in the U.S. when President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Panama Canal in 1906 and was photographed wearing a Panama Hat.
Enjoying my new hat. I wore my Jipijapa every morning to breakfast, & the hotel staff loved it.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. I originally took this trip as a much needed relaxation break from work, and to get some business taken care of that I didn’t have time to do whiles working back home.
With my business taken care of, my break was over and it was time to make the almost 4 hour long drive back to Guayaquil International Airport.
What I should have been paying attention to is that 80% of the Country of Ecuador is predominantly Catholic. Meaning I took this Easter trip during one of their most important holidays.
Even after Nuns in the bank, handed me money that I had dropped, and was completely unaware that I had lost. It still didn’t register to me that when I left it would be right before Good Friday.
After making it all the way to Manta without getting pulled over. I didn’t manage to make it back to Guayaquil without getting pulled over.
I thought we were making good time because there weren’t many cars on the road. Turns out, the reason there weren’t many cars on the road is because the Ecuadorian government was slowly shutting down the road in the Manabi Province for the Good Friday – Easter Sunday holidays.
They phase the cars off the road by tag number, and wouldn’t you know our tag number wasn’t supposed to be on the road. I explained to the motorcycle police officer that pulled us over, that our flight left at midnight on Good Friday.
The officer ended up radioing ahead and telling the police in the next town we were coming through. When we made it to the next town they all watched us, but let us pass.
After a narrow escape due to sickness, and finding out we weren’t even supposed to be on the road. We were finally on our way back home.
Our Trip to Ecuador, was definitely not one that will be forgotten. The people showed us kindness, and hospitality. Until next time Ecuador!
The Roving Gypsy®
Thanks for reading my Travel Blog, I hope you enjoyed this Ecuadorian Adventure as much as we did. Like what you read, & want more, or have a suggestion? Follow, Share, Comment, & let me know.