Following are some things to do and know in preparation for an exciting Bridging Cultures mission trip to Ecuador.
They are in the Central time zone but do not have daylight savings time, since their daylight does not change. The sun rises at 6:30 am and the sun sets at 6:30 pm. Living on the equator has its advantages.
The weather is the same every day: 55 degrees fahrenheit in the morning and evenings, and 80 degrees fahrenheit during the hottest part of the day. They have two seasons: wet and dry. We make trips in the dry season, meaning we will rarely see clouds. While the temperature is the same in the valley where we work, it appears hotter. The valley is 8,000 feet above sea level so the heat is deceptive. We will be working four days in the valley on most trips. Sun screen, water and rest breaks are a must. Sunburn and dehydration are not uncommon to those who are not used to dry weather.
Packing is simple. Nothing fancy and layer up. A hoodie or light jacket is good for the cool mornings and evenings, with a t-shirt for the rest of the day. We will be on our feet most of the time so a good comfortable pair of shoes is important. The sun can be a bit strong, so a hat is suggested. Remember: Nothing fancy or expensive!
While we work in the valley, long pants are recommended in the valley because of the sand fleas (Ecuador's version of chiggers). Sand fleas like to bury their heads under the skin. Your best purchase will be light-weight pants because blue jeans are too heavy. Some folks will wear shorts and deal with the annoying bugs. Repellent helps, but is not 100% effective. T-shirts, a hat and a good pair of closed toe shoes will round out your clothing needs in the valley.
For the rest of the time: Outside the valley, the weather is perfect. There is no air conditioning outside of open windows, so comfort is the key. You may want to pack a swimsuit. Shorts and flip-flops during traveling time are acceptable. Evenings after work and clean-up is very casual and comfortable. Remember, shorts should not be too short and tops should not be too revealing. Modesty yet comfort is the key. We want to blend in, not stand out.
The international travel rule allows two bags checked per person without charge. Given the simplicity of the trip, one bag (not to exceed 50 pounds) and a backpack works well.
Suitcases: Pack your usual items of toiletries, PJs, comfortable clothes and under garments. Bedding will be provided. Leave room to bring things back. One of our stops will be in the town of Otovala, which is the largest market in South America. It is tons of fun to shop, barter, and get cool stuff and things for others. Be prepared to take home more than you bring.
Backpacks: These are essential. Suggested items to carry are: facial tissues, wet wipes, snacks, gum, insect repellant (heavy on DEET), phone stuff, camera, books for reading, extra batteries, hat, wallet, work gloves, sunglasses, medicine, pain medicine (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.), sunscreen, extra water, hand sanitizer, hoodie, etc. Many take their backpack with them everywhere they go, keeping their necessities in it. It will be locked up on the bus, which will be the safest place while in Ecuador.
Plan on a long day for travel both getting there and the return trip. For those departing from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the total air travel time is around 7 hours. Depending on the airline, there may be a lay-over. Upon arrival in Quito, our guide and trusted friend, Fernando, will meet us with a bus and will take us to the hotel for check-in. Fernando will take of our needs, clean water, safe food and lodging, while we are in Ecuador.
International flights require that we go through Customs, which can be a lengthy process. Prepare to be patient.
When we depart Ecuador, we go through Customs again at the first United States city we land in. This requires more patience. It is easier to leave the United States than enter. Plus we will be tired and ready to go home.
While we are there: We arrive in the capital, Quito where Fernado will meet us. We will spend the night in Quito. The next morning, breakfast will be furnished and we will leave for the town of Iberra, where we will stay for the next few days. Iberra is about three hours from Quito. We will visit many places and learn of Ecuador's culture, history, government and landscape. We will stay in Iberra while we work in the valley. The Chota Valley is only 15 miles from Iberra, but will it will take us more than an hour to get there by road. Breakfast will be provided every morning before we leave the hotel for the day. Lunch will be provided with care in the valley. Dinner will be in the town of Iberra or at the Hacienda. The day before our flight back to the United States, we will venture back to Quito, stopping at other cultural sites along the way. Early the next morning, Fernando will transfer us to the airport, where patience will be practiced.
All the transportation, food, and the bottled water we carry with us is covered in the cost of the trip. You will need money for food and drink during travel days to and from Ecuador. Drinks for all your meals and during the trip, and whatever gifts you choose to buy, will be at your expense. Ecuador uses United States currency, but do not take anything larger than $20 bills. Cash is the best policy. They do have ATMs. Drinks such as Coke and alcohol are sold at Ecuador prices. Drinks at the hotel are sold at United States prices.
All of the problems we have experienced in Ecuador have been minor and avoidable. Most people do not get sick. When sickness does occur it has to do with one of these three: