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Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Trip to Ecuador - Part 2 Climate

Climate! What to pack? What's it going to be like? Aigh! 
Okay, so let's not panic. While Ecuador is close to the equator (hence it's name) not everywhere is hot. For a trip that traverses the three climactic zones, layering is going to be key. 

The Coast is more casual and you will see more shorts, flips flops, sandals and tank tops. Why? Because it's hot, sticky and everything is damp, especially during the rainy season. (February to early April - but that's only a rough guide line.) It runs in the low to high 30's (Celsius) and occasionally can hit the 40's.

The Andes are cooler, you might need a light jacket at night, or if you're wandering around the Volcanoes or highlands, you could need gloves, knit hat and scarf. (It kind of depends where you come from and the time of year.) In Cuenca and Quito, we get by fine with just a light jacket or sweater, even during the cooler season in July. I've never had to use gloves, scarf or toque (that's a knit beanie for US readers). However, I've been up in the Cajas and have needed all three - oh, and I'm Canadian, so I have a certain innate tolerance for cold.

Here's my strategy: I have a light weight rain shell, that can protect me from unexpected downpours (which are remarkably frequent over a good part of the country), a sweater/exercise jacket and then my shirt of choice. This usually does me for any and all temperatures here. On the coast, I stuck to the same process, but usually only needed one extra layer if it was raining. An umbrella is also an excellent idea.
Trusty athletic jacket and rain shell.
In the Andean cities it is fairly unusual to see shorts on anyone (except children and teenage girls). You do see tank tops and skirts, but men almost always wear pants. Shoes are a big deal here, but most locals expect foreigners to go for comfort and not style. Nice restaurants can have very well dressed people (suits and ties) but there will also be people dressed more casually and you probably won't be denied service because of dress.
Andean Wilderness Trekking Gear
If you're heading to the Amazon you're going to want decent travel/trekking clothes; light weight, water repellent, with long sleeves and pant legs. (That keeps the bugs out.) You'll also want a good hat, bug spray and really good sunscreen. A bathing suit is recommended so you can frolic with the piranhas (not kidding), and other river fauna. Oh, and be prepared for mud...lots of it...the suck your boots off your feet kind of quagmire that only happens in places that are constantly wet.

I want to make a point of discussing is a must. (Many people say the same for hats, but I only haul mine out on the very hottest of days, but I have tons of hair, so that affects my selection process.) The rays of the sun here are strong...really strong. 16 degrees here feels like 23 and 23 feels like you're heading towards 30. It's not something to mess with. I can stay out for most of the day in ambient sunlight in Vancouver and not burn, but here it only takes 15 minutes for me to turn as red as a lobster. Even the locals use sunscreen or cover themselves up and use umbrellas to protect themselves. This applies to anywhere in the country and anyplace even near the equator.
Footwear will depend on what you like to do on your holidays Hiking shoes (good tread, good support and breathable) are recommended so you can be comfortable and trek around easily. They can take you from city streets, to the national parks and the rocky shores of the Galapagos. They also tend to be water proof, which is a bonus for wandering in the mud of the Amazon. You might want to bring rubber flip flops if you plan on staying in hostels and for going to places like visiting towns with natural hots springs like Banos de Imbarra, Banos de Cuenca etc, plus they're great for the beaches on the coast. Whatever shoes you choose to bring make sure they have rubber soles with good grip; this will prevent you from sliding over the wet tiles that often pave the sidewalks in the cities - this is a million dollar tip and will save you from sitting on your fanny in the middle of the street because of a little rain shower. (It;s embarrassing and I speak from experience.)

If you have any questions about Ecuador, please let me know. Further installments to come.

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