Ecuador Invited Us!
- [Georg] So it all started with this call. - [Niels] Hola, Georg! Hola, Tara! - [Georg] This is Niels Olsen, the Minister of Tourism of Ecuador. - I saw your video about Ecuador and I loved it, but there's so much more to see.
Do you guys wanna come back? - [Georg] Last time we traveled through this relatively small South American country, we quickly realized that we had only just scratched the surface. Being back here felt eerily familiar and also completely different, as we continued painting this picture of this unlikely country we fell in love with, a place that's so rich in culture, history, and biodiversity. But rather than tell you, let me just show you. And just like all of our travels, they usually start with a big city you fly into, in this case Quito. But if you're familiar with our adventures, then you know that we like to keep our city stays short and sweet before heading to the more off-the-beaten-path destinations.
- [Liv] Buenas noches! Our first stop was Mashpi, a lodge that has acquired over 6,000 acres of rain and cloud forest from logging companies and has made it its mission to protect one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth. Something between the giant gate, the fog and the modern architecture of the lodge itself, made it feel like we were stepping into "Jurassic Park." - We're literally staying in the middle of the jungle.
- [Georg] Hey, Bodhi, what do you need? - [Georg] I think I got the perfect one. Oh my gosh. - [Georg] Yes.
- This is so cool. This little vista here where it opens up for a second, and all you see is clouds. - [Georg] To be honest, we didn't know the difference between a cloud forest and a rain forest. And our guide, Anderson, explained that it's the elevation. Anything above 900 meters or around 3000 feet is considered cloud forest, and anything below that is rain forest. Mashpi has both.
What is that? Have you ever seen anything like it? - [Tara] That's a huge snail. That is the coolest thing ever. We're gonna move it off the path so it doesn't get stepped on.
- [Georg] Hey, Liv. - Yeah? - [Georg] What are we doing? - Going on a night walk. - [Georg] We trekked upstream through a small river bathed in darkness and surrounded by the nighttime crescendo of an invisible orchestra made up of thousands of critters, in search of the elusive glass frogs. So that's the Mashpi frog? - Oh, it is a moth.
- [Georg] Liv, when did you become so brave? Hmm? - [Georg] Look at this, where we are about to go. - Oh my gosh. - [Georg] Tara, the highest point is going to be 140 meters. That's almost 500 feet in the air. - No way.
- You can literally see the clouds forming. What do you see out there? Do you see the butterflies? - I'm gonna live vicariously through my child because I don't really want the big one on me. (Georg laughs quietly) - That's right, and it tickles a little, okay? - [Tara] Oh. Oh my goodness. If you look carefully, on this side is the owl eye, but then over here if you come down looking this way, there's like a little eye and a little eye, and then the bottom like a big mouth. - [Georg] All I see is snakes everywhere now. - Everywhere.
That's all I see. - [Georg] Tara, check this out. - You got it.
Oh, it's landing on you. - [Georg] No way. Kids, I made a new friend. - [Tara] Bodhi, look at Papa! - [Tara] I haven't been up enough stairs yet with this little duder on my back.
So, what's another hundred more? - [Georg] That was a lot more than a hundred. - Woah. - [Georg] Wow. You think we can see Colorado from here? - [Tara] Maybe if you use your binoculars. - [Georg] You'd need some really strong binoculars, and the world needs to be flat, too.
- So fast. You getting anything? - Yeah, check this out. There's a hummingbird in the trees, I'm waiting for it to lift off. - I'm a little nervous having Liv be out of arms' reach.
- [Georg] Go, Mama, go! - We're at the Cuicocha Caldera, and we're gonna go out into the middle of the caldera in this boat and look for bubbles coming up from the volcano. - [Tara] Oh, Bodhi, look. - [Georg] The bubbles. - [Tara] Look, right over there. - These are two baby volcanoes that we have here. - This is becoming a theme. - [Georg] Where are we? - We're at the equator.
- [Georg] It was time to get ponchos. Again. And what better place than the famous Otavalo Market, which locals refer to as Plaza De Los Ponchos. How fitting is that? - So, should we have like a system here and go up and down? - No, everything is packed every day. So it's basically where you want to go. - [Georg] That doesn't work with you, does it? - I don't like that.
My brain's exploding a little bit. This one. Do you like it? (Bodhi laughing) What is happening? - [Georg] I didn't know that was gonna come out of there.
- Yeah, me neither. - [Georg] I like to think of each of our stops as little islands. You know, chained along, that you swim across, and that's sometimes exhausting. But getting there is all the more rewarding. - This is so pretty. - Zuleta has different fingerprints, really.
The first fingerprint that we have in Zuleta is the Caranqui tribe that was part of it before the Incas when Ecuador was a group of tribes. So tomorrow probably, you'll be seeing the condor site. There in that valley where the condors are, you will see the the pyramids and the mounds that the Caranqui tribe left us. - [Georg] How's that? - I have such a big noggin. - [Georg] Does it fit? - Barely. - I'm ready.
- [Georg] Let's go get in our carriage. - Bodhi, does it get much better than this? - Yeah. - Yeah? I don't think so. I think this is it.
- [Georg] Where are we going? - We're gonna go climb an ancient ceremonial pyramid over there. - Around the ceremonial pyramid, There are actually 12 more pyramids. So 13 total, and a whole bunch of burial mounds, as well as housing mounds. So there was a whole village centered around this mound. I wonder what that looked like back when.
- [Georg] We're going to check out some condors. It's quite the adventure just getting here. So now just a short hike away. Let's see what we find.
- [Tara] Oh my gosh, it's like, it's like a golf ball on his head. But our trips aren't complete without Bodhi getting a huge bug bite on his forehead. - [Jan] As a biologist, I got some pretty nice place to work in. So welcome to to my office. - This is Jan. He is Zuleta's resident biologist overseeing the condor project.
- [Jan] So Coya, for example, the female on the left, she has shotgun pellets in her. - [Tara] Oh. - The two main threats are shooting and also poisoning. Poisoning being even worse.
Intentional poisoning. People leaving carcasses with poison. So we have here some rescued condors. The Andean Condor is an endangered species in Ecuador. We think there's something around 150 for the whole country. They are part of a national conservation program.
So we try to breed them and hopefully in the future be able to release some of the young ones born in captivity to strengthen the wild population. - You have one eyeball with a bald head. - [Georg] One of our favorite parts about traveling is to take something with us. And oftentimes, that comes in a form of skill or some knowledge that's been handed down. - This is a place that has been inhabited for more than 1,400 years. So we recently found an 11th century original floor near the pyramids that you had picnics today, no? That's for me, one of the most sacred places.
- [Georg] Cheers. - [Host] This is called Aguardiente. - That's yum. - Stepping into Cajas National Park, just outside Cuenca, has these incredible monochromatic qualities. - It looks like a different planet up here. - [Georg] This place right here sits at an elevation of over 13,000 feet or four kilometers.
- Is it the prettiest sunset you've ever seen? - [Georg] Bodhi, this is going to take you three years to make your way down there. Looks like we made it to Cuenca. Still going? - Right there.
- [Georg] Oh my gosh. Two and a half years later, Bodhi. - This is really cool.
- [Georg] It looks like a film set, doesn't it? - I know, I know. - [Georg] The craftsmanship around textile production runs deep inside Ecuadorian veins, and loving on a litter of kittens runs deep inside that of our children. - It's amazing they're keeping this family tradition alive. - [Georg] Go, go... Go. Bye. - [Georg] Oh.
Can you pay for them? That whole bouquet of roses cost $1. - Oh, thank you, baby! - [Georg] This is our next stop right above you. Right there. Should we climb it? - Let's do it. - [Georg] So part of us coming here was to attend the launch of the Ecuador Film Residency, which is a program that supports content creators like us, to help tell their Ecuador story. So this is not our bodyguard.
No, this is Felipe, our friend and guide. He's looking very fancy for today's event. You know, we really had no idea what we're in for. And to me the most incredible thing was to see how much of an impact sharing your story can have.
This right here is a celebration of all of us. Storytellers, filmmakers, YouTubers, content creators, or whatever you want to call us. And I do believe that we have the power to bring everyone a little closer together creating a braver, kinder, and more connected world.
If you wanna find out more about the film residency, check the link in the description. Are we're gonna try and find some wild llamas? - Yes. - [Georg] In Cajas National Park. - And alpacas.
And I don't know how to tell the difference between one and the other, but we're gonna find them all. I think. - These are fairy shoes. - [Georg] Uh-uh, there are fairies here? - Yeah. What do the fairies even look like? - [Georg] And why are they losing their shoes all the time? - [Felipe] Yeah, they are losing their shoes all the time.
I don't know why. - Oh, this is so pretty here. It's like vast open spaces with alpacas and wild horses roaming the landscape. Check this out. Stepping in front of a herd of alpacas sounds a lot less scary than it felt.
This is not a zoo and there are no fences. You're face to face with, I grant you that they're cute, but nonetheless, wild animals. Can you go over there? This one's real friendly here.
- This big one? That almost just trampled you? Georg, look at those in the back. Yeah, let's go before we get totally drenched. Ready? We've got to run. Bodhi, are you ready to run? - Yeah. - [Georg] Okay. - [Tara] Are you ready? - Yeah. - We just got to Ingapirca, and it's this crazy archeological site from the Incans.
You have temple installations, and it was also a military base that was overlooking this whole valley. That's the temple. - Bodhi's so cute, he's like, "Are we here? Are we here?" And I'm like, "Not yet, baby."
Not yet. But now we're finally here. We're here. We made it. This is a very wet master suite. - [Georg] Oh, sweet. - For the king and queen.
- [Georg] Next we were invited to take part in a traditional blessing ritual set on top of a mountain, performed by a shaman of the Saraguro people, which have inhabited this region of Loja for a long time. Not knowing what to expect is hands down one of our favorite aspects of travel. Needless to say, we had no idea what she, the shaman, and the other participants had in store for us.
What is going on? - What is happening? Where are we going? - [Georg] I don't know, but it's beautiful. - I love it! - Our ceremonial guide, Patricio, was tending to and carrying the ritual flame through the light mist up the mountain with a pride and determination of someone carrying the Olympic torch. - [Georg] My daughter, Liv, is a Colorado girl. From the mountains. What are you doing up here? Did you climb the whole mountain without us? - Uhhuh, now I'm just sitting here. - [Georg] As we got up there, the shaman was already preparing the ceremonial site.
- What is going on? - [Georg] I'm not sure myself. - To connect with Mother Earth. - You cleanse your body with it. - [Bodhi] I think it's broken. - [Shaman] Hooyayai! - [Everyone] Hooyayai! - [Georg] And with these powerful words of unity accompanied by song and prayer, and we are being seen off to our next chapter of our adventures here in Ecuador.
- [Tara] Do you want to give Felipe a hug? - [Felipe] You bet ya. - Aww Felipe gets a a big hug. That was amazing. - [Georg] We feel extremely grateful for having gotten to know this incredibly diverse country a little better and for all the amazing people we met that made our time here so special. As we look out to the horizon, to a place that would exceed even our most ambitious expectations. Next up, Galapagos.