Welcome to this "tiki-toki" presentation of our experiences in Ecuador. This is a sort of interactive timeline that allows you to scroll horizontally through our trip, and stop to investigate any event with photos, videos, and commentary. It provides a somewhat richer story-oriented way of presenting our experience than just a collection of Facebook photos or a YouTube video. ;xSTx;br;xETx;;xSTx;br;xETx;Thanks for visiting!;xSTx;br;xETx; ;xSTx;span style="font-style: italic";xETx;Mark & Emily;xSTx;/span;xETx;;xSTx;br;xETx;;xSTx;img src="";xETx;;xSTx;br;xETx;You can scroll the timeline by dragging on the background image, or use the slider at the bottom. On the timeline are a series of “stories” each of which contains photos, videos, and text. Click on the “More” button ;xSTx;img src="";xETx; of any story on the timeline to view photos and commentary.;xSTx;br;xETx;;xSTx;br;xETx; Each story shows small thumbnails of photos:;xSTx;br;xETx;;xSTx;img src="";xETx;;xSTx;br;xETx;Click on a thumbnail image to see it in the larger viewing area. Click the larger viewing area to see the photo full-screen. ;xSTx;br;xETx;;xSTx;br;xETx;Each story links to the next at the bottom of the window so you can just walk through all the stories in sequence, or you can close the story window and scroll the timeline to any story of interest.;xSTx;br;xETx;;xSTx;br;xETx;To get started, close this window and click on the ;xSTx;img src="";xETx; button of the INTRODUCTION.

Heading Home

Final stop on the way back to Quito at Jipijapa to get a genuine Panama hat. Final night at Hotel Quito (again), and then flying back home Saturday.

Middle of the World

On the way to Pimampiro, we stopped at two "equator" sites. The first site is on a true latitude zero location (determined by high resolution GPS - our handheld GPS did not quite agree). At this site there were many displays of indigenous Ecuadorian culture and artifacts. And yes, the water drain test really works - on one side of the line it spirals down clockwise, and when moved to the other side it spirals counter-clockwise. On the line, the water flowed straight down the drain. At first I thought it was a gimmick (could a few feet one way or the other really have such an effect?), but it really seemed to work.

Packing Up and Heading Out

Sarah was waiting for us at the airport when we arrived Saturday night - that was a terrific surprise. She stayed that night with her Quito family (whom we met later in the week), and our guide drove us to Hotel Quito. Since it was late we did not see much, but awoke to some beautiful views all around the hotel. We were to soon learn that Ecuador has incredible scenery almost everywhere you look.

Hotel Quito

Sarah came to the hotel Sunday morning for breakfast, and then we headed out for the 3 hour drive to Pimampiro. We had a driver and a guide who was very knowledgeable and helpful for many aspects of our trip (including the day Sarah found she did not have her passport as we were preparing to board a flight with her from Quito to the coast; he convinced the gate agent to accept her NC provisional driver’s license instead…).

The Road to Pimampiro

The drive to Pimampiro from Quito is about 3 hours along the Pan American Highway, through some beautiful mountain country. Around every corner was a new breathtaking view of volcanos (there are many in Ecuador), lakes, mountains, and deep valleys. We stopped for some picture taking along the way, including one unique rest stop that provides a terrific view over the valley from the bathroom stalls (and for only 15 cents!). Sarah’s Ecuadorian boyfriend (Jose Louise) rode with us. The roads were surprisingly good and drivers were mostly courteous. We did not drive ourselves as our tour guide supplied a van and driver for all our transportation.


We arrived in Pimampiro, a community of about 7,000 in the late afternoon. Sarah’s host family (mom, dad, 2 teenage brothers, and a 4-year old brother) were so friendly and welcoming to us. Sarah had to do all the translating as they speak no English, and we speak no Spanish. It was amazing to hear how Sarah has picked up the language (she did not know any Spanish when she arrived in Ecuador). She talks like a native, translating back and forth for us. She can negotiate prices in the market, argue with taxi drivers that charge too much, and really hold her own in this country. It is amazing to behold.

"Mountains of Hope"

Our first morning in Pimampiro, we spent with Sarah seeing the places she works and meeting her friend Jenna. Unfortunately we left the camera at the house and did not get photos of the school where Sarah teaches English and Art classes, and the senior center where she volunteers leading the elder folks of the community in various art projects.

Otavalo Market

Tuesday morning we said goodbye to Sarah’s host family in Pimampiro and drove back to Quito, stopping on the way at the leather-making town of Cotacachi, and then the famous Otavalo Market. Sarah had sprained her ankle the day before we arrived, so she had to go easy on the walking.

Return to Quito

We were all quite tired from a day of shopping, and were glad for a few hours of quiet time in the car driving to Quito, but I could not help taking a few more scenery photos! We checked back into Hotel Quito and then went to have dinner at Sarah’s Quito host family home.

To the coast

After another night at Hotel Quito (with Sarah) we got up VERY early, 4:30AM, to catch a 45 minute flight to Manta, a city near the coast. We were a bit stressed because we realized the night before that Sarah had left her US passport at her home in Pimampiro and we were not sure she could board a flight even though it was within the country. Our tour guide (Carlos) came to the rescue and walked us through the security system at the airport and did a lot of fast talking to the agents. After much discussion they finally allowed her to fly using her NC provisional driver’s license as identification. Whew.

Mantaraya Lodge

The rest of our stay in Ecuador was at the Mantaraya Lodge, a small resort on the coast near the fishing village of Puerto Lopez. The lodge is a small (15 room) resort with a fun, colorful, and unique architecture (we stayed in the “Turtle Room” room, much to Sarah’s delight). Our large private balcony had a great view and a great hammock. The service was personal and top flight. We enjoyed some real quality time with Sarah relaxing by the pool, in the whirlpool overlooking the forest and ocean, or hanging out on the balcony. The highlight of our stay on the coast was a day spent on Isla de la Plata (Island of Silver), the subject of several more stories in this timeline.

Isla de la Plata (Island of Silver)

The high point of our stay (besides seeing Sarah, of course) was the day spent on Isla de la Plata (Island of Silver), a spectacular place with similar animals, plants, and ecosystems to the Galapagos Islands. This is sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s Galapagos” as it is much more affordable and accessible than the Galapagos (which are about 500 miles off shore).

Machalilla National Park

Our first day at the coast was spent in the Machalilla National Park. We visited a museum of archeological finds from several “digs” in the area, from which much has been learned about the indigenous cultures that have inhabited this region for centuries. We walked though some of the dig sites and saw lots of wildlife and local people along the way.

Isla de la Plata - Part 2

We chose an 8km (5 mile) hiking trail that allowed us to see most of the island. The views were breathtaking – rugged shorelines, steep cliffs, fascinating flowers, plants, and birds everywhere. The white lilies which grow there are particularly beautiful.

Isla de la Plata - Part 3

The Booby birds (yes, that is really what they are called) have no natural fear of people and allow visitors to come quite close. Most common is the “blue-footed” Booby which has bright blue feet as an adult (the young have white feet). We did see a single rare “red-footed” Booby. We also saw Vultures, Albatross, Frigatebird, and many other types of birds the guide identified for us.

Isla de la Plata - Part 4

The later part of our hike came to some vulture nesting areas. We captured some nice video of them taking off and flying along the cliffs. 5 miles of hiking in the sun left us a bit worn out.

The Beach

Our final day at the coast was spent at a secluded beach in the Machalilla National Park. The beach was in a small bay surrounded by high cliffs. We climbed out on the rocks trying to get into a cave but the tide was high and strong waves were washing into the cave that morning.


The week of January 26 through February 2, 2013, we journeyed to Ecuador to visit our 18-year old daughter Sarah (known as "Kip" to many).

Thank You!

This trip would not have been possible without Carol McMillan who traveled from Michigan to stay at our house and "be the warden" handling all those things we do every day (taking care of our elderly parents, reviewing Wilson's homework, etc.). We are so grateful for her and Doug and all the support they give us.

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