The best part of the trip for me from an activity perspective was the downhill mountain biking. I always thought mountain biking was a technical thing – around rocks, over roots, through a stream – but this was totally different. Daredevil stuff in a beautiful setting. The speed and the scenery were great. If anyone thinks they have the guts, I highly recommend this activity in Ecuador or anywhere else.
I think our favorite location was Banos. There was a ton of stuff to do, and we could’ve easily spent another couple of days there without getting bored. Kind of a hippie, ski-village vibe without the snow. Lots of outdoor activities, decent nightlife. It’s obviously geared towards tourists without being tacky or “touristy.” Still hidden off the radar, so easy to take in on a limited budget.
Doing the sporting activities in a different country was interesting because of the risk element & because of the level of cultural immersion. I’ve never felt so far from the US or what I considered “normal” life. Plus, some of the activities were a little dangerous, and because of the language barrier (more on that later), the safety training was very different than you would get for similar activities in the US. I know we talked about it before, but if anyone is going on this trip, they will enjoy themselves a lot more if they have at least a little experience with whitewater rafting, canyoning, or fairly intense hiking. You don’t want to be a rookie at everything.
As far as advice for others looking at a trip to Ecuador, tourism seems pretty new to them. As a result, things there are cheap (since the money-grab hasn’t started yet), there aren’t many opportunities to buy souvenirs (let alone the t-shirts or hats most Americans expect), and the language barrier is VERY real. Even at a major hotel in the capital city, the desk clerks didn’t really speak English & were not very sympathetic if you didn’t speak Spanish. I kind of liked this (after all, I want to know I’m in Ecuador, not feel like I’m in Epcot), but people should know what they’re getting into.
As for the adventure aspect, G Adventures tells you just how physically challenging a trip will be. Travelers will be wise to listen to them. I think this trip rated a 4 out of 5 as far as how challenging it was & that was a very accurate rating. In pretty much every activity there was a real risk of harm and people experiencing minor injuries (twisted ankles/knees, minor falls, blisters, cuts, bruises) throughout the trip. In addition, because of the altitude & intensity, fitness should be taken into consideration. You don’t need to be an Ironman triathlete, but you need to do more than walk the dog to get ready to make it through this trip.