I Adore Ecuador

This item appears on page 39 of the March 2020 issue.

The topic “I Adore Ecuador” was contributed by Marcia Brandes of Atlanta, Georgia, and it inspired numerous essays. ITN staff did the judging, and the clear winner was the essay by ROBERT GANDT, earning him a 2-year extension to his subscription to ITN (or he can pass his prize along to a friend). Coming in at second place was the work of JULIE YUAN-MIU, who gets a 1-year extension.

We are currently accepting essays on the topic “Threading the Silk Road.” If you are an ITN subscriber and have traveled anywhere along what once was the Silk Road, which connected East Asia to Southern Europe, entice our judges with an essay of no more than 300 words. Describe what you saw and experienced, what it felt like to be there and what the people were like. Give vivid imagery and try to leave the reader feeling moved. Express the ambience of a place by sharing an insight into the culture or reliving a memorable encounter.

Email your essay to editor@intltravelnews.com or send it to Essay Contest, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include your mailing address. The deadline is April 30, 2020. A prize will be given for the winning essay, which will appear in ITN.

Now here are the latest winning essays.

Biology was my favorite subject in high school, and Darwin’s theory of evolution was particularly fascinating. So, at the tender age of 15, I decided I would one day visit the Galápagos Islands. Biology faded from my life. The desire to visit Ecuador did not, and it landed on my bucket list.

Fifty years after making that promise to myself, 11 of us boarded a small ship to explore several islands in this renowned archipelago. Naturally, we visited the must-see tourist sites, and I cheered the giant tortoises as they slowly made their way up an embankment at the Giant Tortoise Reserve. Birds of every kind, including the finches that I had come to see, were a daily sighting. We stood back and admired the iguanas from afar, to avoid being spit on.

Not fond of water activities, I did not originally intend to snorkel, but a little voice said, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!” Looking like a relative of the blue-footed booby, given my blue fins, I flipped backward into the clear blue waters. Colorful schools of fishes, summersaulting seals and a large fish that looked alarmingly like a shark were mesmerizing.

At the museum situated on the equator, I was proud of myself for successfully balancing an egg on its end. Water from a basin drained straight down when placed on the equator line but swirled clockwise and counterclockwise on either other side of it, only inches apart.* It was riveting to watch. I was somewhat dubious when the physics instructor lectured about this phenomenon decades ago, but there was no denying it now. Seeing is believing, and I felt the awe of a high school student at age 65!

Ecuador’s natural beauty and the museum’s science lessons made this vacation unforgettable!

Julie Yuan-Miu
Oakland, CA


Bienvenido a Ecuador. Our heads buzz as we hike the cobbled streets of Quito, the country’s capital. It’s the first day of our Ecuadoran adventure, and my wife and I are adapting to the 9,300-foot altitude. In La Plaza Grande, Quito’s historical center, we soak up the neoclassical architecture, the diverse ethnic mix of passersby, peddlers hawking everything from beads to blankets, old men immersed in conversation, kids in school uniforms darting across the plaza….

From Quito, we drive north on the Pan-American Highway along the high ridge of the Andes. First stop is Otavalo, the famous market village, where we haggle like natives over hand-wrought crafts in the hundreds of outdoor stalls. We make an obligatory visit to Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) to be photographed straddling the equator. Then it’s back south, along the mountainous route to the well-preserved colonial towns of Riobamba and Cuenca.

To the east we see the Amazon rainforest with its swelling industry of upscale ecotourist lodges. But our route this trip takes us west, down the slope to the Pacific. From the skyscrapered port city of Guayaquil, we fly to Ecuador’s most famous attraction: the magical Galápagos.

“We’re not a cruise ship,” the captain reminds us when we board the Santa Cruz. “We’re an expedition ship.”

He’s right, and, despite the cramped quarters, our little vessel becomes the ideal platform for experiencing the Galápagos. We spend most of the next week exploring the islands, snorkeling, marveling at the exotic creatures Darwin studied in 1835. Each evening, in the glow of an equatorial sunset, we toast our adventure with a splendid Malbec.

All too soon it’s over. From the air, we catch a final glimpse of the islands. We say “Adios” and vow to return. Ecuador es espléndido.

Robert Gandt
Port Orange, FL

*The Coriolis force is actually too weak to have much of an effect on the direction of water swirling down drains. Debunkers point out that the equator museum achieves its specific results because the demonstrators pour water into the basin from a certain direction, and it is still moving, even if slightly, before the plug is pulled. It has nothing to do with the basin’s location. Though presented as a scientific demonstration, it might be better appreciated as a good magic trick. If you visit, see if you can spot how it’s accomplished.