So here we are, departing Ecuador, now three months into our fourth year of traveling around the world.
And it’s been way too long since we posted a travel update. I remember the days when we used to post monthly travel updates that detailed our routes, miles traveled and favorite experiences during each month. Those were fun while they lasted and we hate that that we haven’t had the time to keep up with those posts.
Instead we’ve been trying to focus more on informative posts. We’ve really been on a kick lately to try and show people how you can have some amazing travel experiences, with a relative level of comfort, without spending a fortune. It makes us smile every time we see a comment or receive an email that we’ve helped someone with their trip planning or inspired some travel adventure.
But doing so has come at the expense of giving regular updates on what the heck we’re doing these days. Our last travel update has now been over a half year ago while we were living in that tiny town in the mountains of Southern Spain.
So what better time than now to go ahead and give a quick personal update on our travels and this bizarre nomadic lifestyle we’ve gotten ourselves into.
From Africa to Ecuador: A Brief Travel Recap
I’m not going to attempt a big travel recap from where we last left off in Spain. If you’ve been following us on Facebook, than you know all about our two-month Overland trip across Africa from Nairobi to Cape Town. You can read a review of that grand adventure here and check out the video recap below. But we still have a lot more to say about that incredible journey, so you can expect a few more posts about it later on this year.
From Cape Town, we rented a car and spent a month driving clear across South Africa. That country has been, without question, one of our favorite countries we’ve roamed around yet. We hope to soon be writing much more about what makes the bottom of Africa so amazing.
Once our Africa trip ended, we caught a flight back to the US so we could attend a friend’s wedding. Fun fact: although this was our fifth time crossing the Atlantic, it was our first time by air! This was a lot quicker than the two weeks we typically spend crossing the ocean by sea!
Back in the US, it was great to visit friends & family, not only at the wedding, but also while lingering in the States over the holidays. We even managed to squeeze in a road trip down through the Southern US. We took advantage of a rental car relocation deal and drove from Washington DC to Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Along the way we stopped for a few days in Charlottesville, Virginia and quickly fell in love with this historic college town up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We even loosely kicked around the possibility of settling there – really! But we were also discussing maybe, just maybe, continuing our travels for an unprecedented fourth year of what started out as a one-year trip around the world.
Deciding to Continue Traveling & Roaming Around Ecuador
Returning to the US in late 2016 was actually the first time during the past three years that we had come back without having any onward travel plans. We may be slowing down a bit, but are still love having the freedom that enables us to be nomadic and travel. Further fueling that, we’ve kinda gotten ourselves into a weird economic situation where it is actually a better financial move to continue traveling than it would be returning to more normal lives in the US, as our cost of living while traveling is often so low.
So it was decision time. We needed to make a move …somewhere!
We have a very bad habit of traveling more than we work, and that ratio needs to be reversed. It was time to settle in to place for a bit and attempt to catch-up on things instead of constantly changing locations. But where?
We desired someplace not too far, low cost of living, and cool temps. We adore Mexico and strongly considered returning. Plus we’re always craving tacos. For us Mexico is easy & familiar and would be a great place to return to that checked all the boxes. See all our Mexico posts to understand everything we enjoy about it. (Not just the tacos.)
But we’ve also covered Mexico fairly extensively and we’re always looking to explore new destinations. We started looking for inexpensive connections from where we were in South Florida and discovered a cheap flight to Quito, Ecuador, just before New Years. Previously, we had only popped into Ecuador for a day once before in the port town of Manta during our Panama Canal repositioning cruise back in early 2015. We didn’t know much about Ecuador other than our short, but good, experience we had in Manta.
The more we researched Ecuador, the more it seemed to make sense for us. It had everything we’re always looking for. So we pulled the trigger. We made the decision to live in Ecuador for a little while and pause our travels. …Or so we thought.
Roaming Around Ecuador
Once we arrived, we started uncovering all the things to do around Quito. There were cloud forest to trek through, volcanoes to climb, and craters to swing off of! So much for pausing our travels to get some work done. We were right back into full-fledged travel mode. Oops!
And how could we travel to Ecuador without a visit to its famed Galapagos Islands? From Quito, we ventured over to the Galapagos for two weeks of snorkeling, wildlife watching, and lots of sun! (See post: Galapagos Budget Travel Tips.) It was all such a great experience but, wow, that equatorial sun was no joke! We were ready to get back to the mountains.
So we settled in colonial Andean town Cuenca for some rest and relaxation. But we didn’t find any R&R there. We arrived to town just in time for a contentious and close presidential election. Once the dust settled there, it was time for Carnaval celebrations to begin. That was nearly a weeklong party full of concerts, parades, and lots of mischief in the form of spray foam.
After rinsing off, we spent several days trying to experience all there is to do around Cuenca. We really started to understand the appeal that draws many expats here. We loved this walkable UNESCO-listed city. It was full of great restaurants, friendly people, loads of recreational pursuits, and even a few brew pubs to quench our thirst. This was somewhere that was tough to leave. But adventure lies ahead!
So Where To Next?
Ecuador’s tourism slogan is “All You Need Is Ecuador.” This motto refers to the four different environments packed into this small country.
You’ve got the high Andes mountains, lush cloud forests, and beautiful coastal area that include the Galapagos Islands. We’ve enjoyed all these regions over the past few months. But there’s one more…
The Amazon Rainforest!
Since departing Cuenca, we’ve been on a long & twisting series of bus rides spanning a few days. We rode around Ecuador’s tallest mountain all the way down to the small town of Coca, Ecuador, situated down in the Amazon Rainforest.
It’s here in Coca, that where the Napo River flows, acting as a major tributary to the Amazon River. Coca is literally the end of the road for Ecuador, and we’ll be taking to boats from here.
The Rugged Journey Ahead: Hitching Our Way Across the Amazon
What have we gotten ourselves into? This may be our most adventurous journey yet. Our ultimate goal from here in Coca is to get to Iquitos, Peru. Iquitos is known as the largest city in the world that’s not accessible by roads.
So we’ll only be using the Napo and Amazon Rivers to get there. Sounds like a great trip, right? But there’s one problem. One big problem. There is no boat that makes the journey directly from Coca to Iquitos.
Instead we’ve found a boat that will take us only a tiny fraction of the way on a twelve-hour journey down the Napo River towards a small indigenous village near the border of Peru. From there, we’re entering the unknown. We’ve read about slow cargo boats that pass by. There are also supposedly occasional motors boats to potentially hitch a ride on.
We’ve read reports that the journey can take upwards of three weeks as you’re relying on random boats moving up and down the river. Accommodation along the way seems very rustic and we may be spending a few nights in hammocks.
We’re excited for potential wildlife sightings along the way. This part of the Napo River is known for pink river dolphins – how cool! But there are also crocodiles, piranhas, and anacondas – not cool! Yet perhaps our biggest concern is the mosquitos, carrying malaria and dengue, among other disease. It’s gonna be a long way to Iquitos but we’re excited for this adventure and the challenges we’ll inevitably face.
We’ve just eaten our last good meal, taken our final hot showers, and have stocked up on canned goods and other non-perishables. Our Amazon adventure begins now!
We’re assuming that we’ll be without Internet throughout this crazy journey, so our social media channels may be quite silent over the next week or so (hopefully not three weeks!) But we’ll be sure to post an update on our Facebook Page once we’ve safely emerge in Iquitos. And if we manage to find a wifi connection sooner, we’ll check-in. (Update: Read all about our Amazon Adventure from Coca to Iquitos.)
So Where Are We Roaming After That?
Since our boat is about to leave as I’m typing this, I need to wrap this post up. But in short, we’re continuing a southbound trajectory. You know we can’t possibly go to Peru without venturing to Machu Picchu, so that’s on the list, of course! (Update: See all about our Machu Picchu Jungle Trek!)
We’re planning to continue on South from there with many exciting destinations in mind as we likely will be returning to two of our favorite countries roam around: Argentina and Chile. Ultimately we’ll be getting back to the US by June for another friend’s wedding, and we have a few interesting routes in mind to get us there!
So stay tuned and see where we may end up! We’re not even sure at this point, lol. And wish us luck on this crazy journey that lies ahead. Happy travels to you too! We’ll see ya next roaming around Peru!
Marian Anderson says
I am an orchid grower so I hope you might get photos of some beautiful blooms. Marian
Marian Anderson says
Please don’t get some weird fungus , bacterial infection, or other swampland malady. My family and I are awaiting your updates. God Speed Marian
Heather Widmer says
Hey Marian, thanks so much for the comment and following along on our adventure. We’ve safely arrived in Iquitos, Peru and can report that we didn’t get any fungus or infections 🙂 We look forward to sharing our entire experience in the upcoming days.
As a future world traveler I applaud your spirit of adventure! As a Mother of three kids around y’all (yes I’m very Southern) age…I worry about the uncertainty of your next week getting to Peru 😁! Safe travels and I will keep checking for updates.
Heather Widmer says
Hey LaShon, thanks so much for the comment. Happy to say that we’ve arrived safely in Peru after our adventure going down the Napo and Amazon rivers. Enjoying the AC and a hot shower and will be sharing our full experience soon. Thanks for following along 🙂