Hola, Loja!

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After Argentina, I flew back into Guayaquil, Ecuador and then bused it out to Montañita to spend some time back on the beach in my favourite spot. The weather wasn’t near as lovely as it was back in June, this was their cloudy/rainy season after all, but it was still warm compared to the rest of South America and I was able to hang out in shorts and a tank top and throw down my yoga mat on the beach and get back in my groove after a long hiatus. I met with old friends, ate at my favourite places, practiced yoga daily, took dips in the ocean and worked on my blog.

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The time in Montañita was primarily for yoga and my blog, just what I needed. I got a lot done, got my body all stretched out from the hard times in Peru and Bolivia and even got a little sun. I got to watch my first surf competition and best of all, eat loads of Sushi from Shankha, my favorite spot!  Then I spent two days out in Santa Elena, and tried my hand at SUP (Stand up Paddle) on the ocean with Karolo and Mykal. If you ever head down this way, make sure you get in touch with Mykal for some SUP on the ocean, he is the most gracious host and has a great selection of boards. He encouraged me to try some yoga on the board, and I excitedly obliged and was even able to get into a headstand! And now I just can’t wait to try more SUP Yoga!

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Monica, Rafael and I

The last time I was in Montañita, I had met two local Ecuadorian’s who came from a town called Loja in the south. They were so sweet and friendly and invited me to come visit them in Loja, their home. I didn’t have time when I was last in Ecuador, so I made it a priority this time to visit them. I bused it down to Loja and Monica was so sweet as to pick me up at 7am when I arrived, on a Saturday. She offered me her bed, knowing I would need a nap after having not slept on the night bus. I snuggled into her huge warm bed and passed out for hours. When I got up and showered, we had lunch with her family, and then we took to the town where I got the full tour with her and her sister. The whole town runs on wind power, and we visited the huge wind turbines to see them in action and learn about how the city is being environmentally responsible.  That evening we met up with Rafael and we all went out with a few more friends. I stayed with Rafael at his place, and even got my own room! I felt so spoiled! I can’t even begin to explain the generous hospitality of my two new friends.

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They seemed so genuinely excited to have a visitor from Canada and wanted to show me all their lovely little town had to offer. I was given the royal treatment with guided tours of everything and even home cooked meals of traditional Ecuadorian food. Rafael had two geese, two rabbits, several chickens and a rooster, and a dog in the backyard- their own little farm! My hosts ensured I tried all the local delicacies, all of which I adored- empanadas, horchata (a hot medicinal tea like beverage), repe soup, quesilla con miel (a local cheese drizzled with cane honey), melcocha (a taffy sponge like peanut candy), quimbolito (very similar to corn bread, but steamed in a banana leaf) and humita (corn bread tamale stuffed with queso). I ate and ate and ate in Loja! Sometimes it’s scary to try new foods when abroad, but when you have locals guiding you along, it’s easy and not so intimidating. I absolutely loved everything I tried. Of all the food in Latin America, Ecuador definitely was home to all of my favourites and I’ve added many recipes to my repertoire thanks to this awesome country!

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feast of local food!

On my last day, Rafael took me to Jipiro Park. I was expecting just a regular old park, with some swings, maybe some gardens, some trees, maybe a little art. Jipiro park was so much more! It was a massive grounds with horse back riding, soccer fields, trampolines, peddle boat rentals, swans and peacocks, castles and so much more! We spent the better part of the day here exploring and having an absolute blast, the kid in me really coming out to play and enjoy all the park had to offer. We hid in a kids castle during a little rain storm, took a peddle boat out and saved a duck from a gang bang, struggled terribly with the steering, ate loads of ice cream (the local delicacy of coconut with fruit on the bottom is to die for!),went for a ride in a wooden car, and took in all the sights.

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It was a short visit, but I will forever remember Loja and the extraordinary warmth and generosity of my hosts Rafael and Monica who took me into their homes, shared with me their food, their friends, and their beautiful city in the mountains. These are the memories that stay with you forever.  More than the sights of the beautiful places, it’s the warmth of the friendly people who treat you just like family, even though you just met. I can’t thank them enough and only hope one day they will make the journey up to Canada so I can show them the same hospitality!

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Monica and I

*hot tip: eat at Carbon Burger – YUM!*

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