From Ecuador to California

| April 30, 2015 | 41 Replies

On Vacation… From Ecuador to California

Can I get away with this as my April post?

Just post “On Vacation” and send it out.

See you next month.


The front deck of my California cabin.

Of course not, but I do have a few challenges here. The only internet connection I have at the cabin in California is my cell phone. And I have limited data.

So, lets have a guest writer this time. My friends Mike and Lotis traveled to Cali, Colombia, and have some pretty good things to say about that trip.

And I have some pictures of the first week of my travels in California, some pictures of an old home we are rebuilding here in Forest Falls, and some other easy to post items. All these items are fun but only a few are about Ecuador.

But what do you expect…I’m on vacation.

Lets start this with a couple of letters I received from Ecuador George readers. The questions people ask are always very interesting.


We Get Letters

Dear George,

We know friends that live in Ecuador and they have told us that every apartment they have rented has been right next door to a meth lab. These apartments were in nice neighborhoods! Is this a problem? Can you avoid these areas?  Is there anti gringo sentiment within the current political regime? How much is health insurance? Is there contamination in the air in Cuenca and are there chem-trails in the skies? Is there a 100 percent duty to export items like leather products. How is the plumbing situation? Can an expat start a small business in Ecuador?

Please respond soon. These issues are important to anyone wanting to retire in Ecuador.

Best regards,



Here is what I know…

  • I have never seen or heard of a meth lab anywhere in Cuenca. I am sure that there are people here that make drugs, but not in the amount that your question suggests.
  • I have experienced the odor of marihuana just walking down the street here in Cuenca and it was all over the place in Montanita. I have also noticed that special brownies are always available at parties I attend. I think most expats in Ecuador have glaucoma.
  • As far as I know the current political regime has a welcome mat out for expats and gringos are courted to retire here.
  • The majority of people I know pay $70 a month for health insurance, and if you have a spouse, they are insured also for an additional $15 a month. Many expats don’t carry insurance because handling normal medical issues are so inexpensive here. I know a man who had prostate cancer and the entire issue was handled for just over $5,000.
  • The only real polluted areas in Cuenca are in certain areas in El Cento, mostly caused by the diesel buses. By next year the Tranvia will be operating in El Centro and that pollution should be reduced. We live about a mile outside the center of town and the pollution is minimal.
  • I have seen what looks like condensation trails in the sky. Not to many, and I would have no idea if they have chemicals in them. I am sure they are not seeding the clouds…we already get enough rain to float a boat here in Cuenca.
  • The import duty is very high, but the export duty that you are asking about is very little or maybe nothing. Ecuador loves exporting anything that is produced here. They do regulate what is coming into the country and many have the opinion that the regulation is too stringent.
  • Toilets flushing is the test of any working plumbing system. I have been all over the city and flushed many toilets. They all worked fine. No unusual sewer smells either. I have smelled much worse in New York City.
  • With a good idea, money can be made here in Ecuador. If you create work for the locals, you become a local hero. It is not a good idea to start a business that takes away jobs from the already economically challenged local work force. I personally don’t know anyone getting rich by starting a small business here, but I do know a few people that are surviving.

Hope this information helps you.


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


Dear Ecuador George,

What do you do all day now that you are retired? Do you ever get bored?

Jane W.


Dear Jane W.

I do get bored once in a while, but that is because I get lazy and don’t plan my day very well. But most of the time there is more than enough to do.

I walk everywhere so it takes at least half a day to complete a task. Just food shopping will take 3 or 4 hours.

I go to a couple of meetings a week. I write the blog, a few short stories, and a column in our local paper. I am also working on a couple of books.

I spend a little time each day learning and practicing Spanish. I love criminal and detective television. I go to the gym now. I am in Spanish Language School off and on.  And I love to travel.

Check out the pictures below of some current travel and tours that I have been on.

Beautiful day tour of Giron Ecuador

Not shown in the picture above are the beautiful waterfalls in Giron. This little town is just outside of Cuenca and always a very relaxing destination. This tour lasted all day and also included a visit to a Tequila factory.

The Bamboo Hotel in Canoa
The Bamboo Hotel in Canoa

The picture above is from our week long coastal trip of Ecuador. We went from Salinas in the South all the way up to Canoa. This was a pretty good trip. We rented a car from Cuenca Car Share and drove ourselves.



Tequila Factory Tour

If you are around Cuenca long enough and get out of the house, you will make new friends. These three characters I already knew and I met even more nice expats on the tour we were all going on.



A Trip To The Galapagos Islands

This was taken a few months ago in the Galapagos Islands. When you live here you will find very economical ways to tour areas that are usually very expensive. This 5 day tour included airfare and food was only $799. That is a pretty good price.



Wine Tasting Party at Casa Ordonez

Expats like their wine. Here is a great way to pass your time. This was a wonderful event. Lots of good information on how to really enjoy wine and when the evening was over you got to keep the expensive wine glasses. Everyone had a great time.


There is something going on almost every day. Most events are free or very cheap. If you want to stay busy it is very easy. I sometimes have to say no, just so I can stay home and enjoy a night off.

Thanks for the letter Jane



Featured Guest Writers Mike and Lotis on Cali Colombia

Mike and Lotis are friends of mine. They were just in Colombia and were nice enough to send me a little article and a few pictures of their trip. I was just in Medellin Colombia a few month ago and it was beautiful. I could easily live there.

Lets see what they have to say about Cali.



Parque de los Gatosby Mike and Lotis Sullivan

My wife and I are very happy permanent residents of Cuenca Ecuador for the past year and a half. We are originally from Brooklyn, New York.

In the first week of February 2015 we took a trip to Cali Colombia using our timeshare exchange bringing two friends with us. All of us had an outstanding time there, as Cali surprised us in many wonderful ways.

It’s only natural to make comparisons between Cali and Cuenca. And I will do so in this article.

Cali is the second largest city in Colombia (in area) behind Bogota; with Medellin surprisingly coming in third place. It has a population of approximately 2.5 million people making it more than 4 times the population of Cuenca. It is 3281 feet above sea level in a basin surrounded by mountains, making it much warmer than Cuenca and easier to breathe. The week we were there the temperature (in degrees F) reached into the mid 80’s with amazingly low humidity during the day, and down to the low to mid 70’s at night with nice cool breezes.

There are so many things to see and do and buy in Cali, from nightclubs and casinos (Cali is the Salsa Capital of S.A.), to world class restaurants, an amazing zoo, historic churches, monuments, museums, parks and squares. I will leave it to this link in Wikipedia about Cali to describe them all in greater detail.

What I will include here are our personal experiences and impressions of Cali, together with a few of our own photographs.

Unlike Ecuador, shopping in Cali was a pleasant surprise to us. You can buy cars and TV’s and clothing and liquor and just about anything else at close to the same prices as in the US. There are huge open air malls such as Chipichape Mall which we saw. However, the best prices for consumer goods are in Cali’s outlet stores where prices are even lower . The reason for this is that Colombia has an open trade agreement with the US and other countries, while Ecuador does not. For those of you that love to shop at Costco when you were back in the US, Cali has the equivalent mega warehouse stores called MAKRO (for commercial businesses) and PriceMart for the rest of us. Both require club membership cards and have very low bulk prices on consumer goods. You can even go to a shoe store in Cali and pick up size 13 shoes if you need.

Costco Equivalent in Cali


Because of the diversity of people in Cali, expats tend to blend in with the general population, unlike in Cuenca. The people of Cali are extremely open, friendly, and accommodating when you engage them in a conversation. Also, it’s true what they say, the women (in general) are tall and beautiful in Cali.


Within Cali there are plenty of yellow metered taxi’s to take you anywhere you want to go safely and securely. You just need a basic understanding of the peso conversion, as it can put the fear of God in you as you see the taxi meter going up into the thousands for the first time, but actually only costing you (in pesos) the dollar equivalent of $2.50.

Typical Taxi

Colombian Pesos


Considering that gasoline is not subsidized by the government as it is in Ecuador, the cost of a gallon of gas in Cali is over $4.00. But taxi rides are still comparatively cheap.

Contrary to our pre-apprehensions about security in Cali Colombia it is, in our opinion, actuality very safe. We never felt unsafe be it day or night. When you walk through neighborhoods you will not see any homes with electric security fences as you do in Cuenca. Also, very few visible armed guards in banks or stores, unlike in Cuenca. When we spoke to our host and hotel owner about security concerns in Cali, he told us that security concerns were grossly overblown by the US and other countries and are practically nonexistent in normal everyday life. Colombians prefer it that way as it tends to limit the number of visitors to their beautiful country. However, it always pays to be vigilant no matter where you go.

During the time that we were in Cali I took the time to check out the price of properties in the beautiful neighborhood that we were in called Miraflores. A typical house in Miraflores with multiple bedrooms could list for the USD equivalent of $200,000 and up. The yearly property taxes in Miraflores could range from $700.00 USD and up. Much more than in Cuenca if you chose to live there.

Cali from Above

Overview of Cali

La Ermita Iglesia


The neighborhood of Miraflores reminded us of the hills of San Francisco; and the clusters of great restaurants within some local neighborhoods also reminded us of lower Manhattan in New York City.

I’m missing Cali already!

Christ Statue


The next time we go to Cali, or possibly Bogota, or Medellin, in addition to seeing and experiencing new areas of Colombia, we will go there with almost empty suitcases so we can buy great quality clothes and other merchandise at more reasonable prices.

Whatever we can fit in our suitcases.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


Thank you Mike and Lotis for this great article on Cali Colombia. I feel a shopping trip in my future. Who wants to go to Colombia with me?


I have run out of time for this post. Lots of meetings with friends today and tomorrow and then I am off to the island of Maui. Not sure if you would be interested in hearing about Maui. If you are, and want to see pictures, let me know in the comments and I will include some in my next post.

Maybe I should have called this post “From Ecuador to California to Hawaii”.


And I promised a few pictures of what I have been doing for the past week here in California.

Mostly I have been visiting friends and cleaning up around the cabin.

Here are a few pictures of a family project that I am involved in. It is a cabin rebuilding in downtown Forest Falls.

What do you think?

Should be pretty close to finished by the time I am ready to go back to Ecuador.



Below is what it looked like when we bought it last year. This home was being held up by rocks and boulders. There is now a brand new concrete foundation under the entire home. We chose a California Craftsman style because it is such a classic look and fits in just about anywhere. I am very excited to be involved in this project and grateful for my very talented family and all their hard work.



Here is the little sketch I made right after we bought the house. Came out pretty close to the drawing.



Almost done…

I do want to post a couple pictures of a family outing.

A few days ago we went on an 8 mile hike in the woods in my neighborhood. It was a perfect day.





See you next time.

Love My Ecuador

Love My Ecuador

You know I love comments and questions… Leave them below and I promise to answer each one.

Much love to all of you and especially to my family for all their support on this trip.

It is alway good to be close to family but I miss my Ecuador too.


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Category: Living in Ecuador, Retiring in Ecuador

Comments (41)

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  1. Annette Crosby says:

    Always great to read your stories George!

    • Ecuador George says:

      Thanks for coming by. These stories are like a little journal. I go back a couple years and I can’t believe how many bucket list items I have done. Thanks and see you soon. George

      • Ron says:

        This was a exceptional article on Cuenca & Cali can’t wait to see both

        • George says:


          Cuenca is a very special place. You will certainly love it.

          Colombia is very fantastic too. If I were asked what my second choice of places to retire would be, Colombia would be on the very short list.


  2. I have a good author friend who writes great mysteries who lives in Makawao, Hawaii. Depending on how long you will be there, let me know if you’d like to meet her.

  3. Tom Gallagher says:

    As usual George, nice job. Enjoy your trip to Maui. Been there and road the train.

    • George says:

      I have a really nice timeshare I am selling while I am there at the Sands of Kahana. I have been going to Hawaii almost every year for that last 12 years. I want to see other places. It is a great 2 bedroom on the water. If there is anyone interested, let me know. Almost free for the taking, just closing costs and it is yours.

      Thanks for the comment Tom. We are going to have a great time.


      • Robert says:

        I have been interested in acquiring a 2 bedroom on the water. Could you send me more information please?
        Many thanks

  4. vikki gerhart says:

    Great stuff as always. Question: Where is our beautiful golden Missy? Sam misses her pics!

    • George says:

      I can’t believe I didnt post a picture of Missy. She is at the ranch enjoying the outdoors. Caty takes care of her when we are out of town.


  5. Sharon says:

    Aloha George
    Very nice completion on your ‘cabin’ ! What a makeover!
    Yes! By all means do take photos of Maui!! It’s so heavenly over there. When I close my eyes I can ‘smell’ the Hawiian aroma.
    Sharing your blog so we can get better acquainted with Cali was spot on! Great photos! Who knew there would be a ‘costo’ type store. Sounds like a less expensive alternative to shopping in the States! Let’s GO!
    Love your posts, no matter what’s going on and where you’re traveling, it’s your life in and out of Cuenca-ville. What you say matters:))
    Have fun kiddo,

    • Ecuador George says:

      I miss you and your smiling face. I will be back in Cuenca at the end of May. We should do an Almuerzo for sure. Thanks for your nice words and support. This one was hard to do because of where I am staying. See you soon. George

  6. lanikk says:

    Fabulous as usual dear George.

    Wondering about the expat community in Columbia and how good would one’s spanish have to be?
    Kind Regards,

    • Ecuador George says:

      We were just in Medellin and if I remember correctly there seemed to be more English speakers there. Of course life is easier if you know Spanish in South America. Go for a visit, you will not be disappointed. Still love my Cuenca though… George

  7. Rob Hertzenberg says:

    Great blog as usual, George! Your friend’s travelogue on Cali was very well done. Would love to hear about and see photos of Maui. Safe travels and see you back here soon!

    • Rob,
      I will post some pictures on Facebook while we are there and then write a small feature here on Ecuador George. Everyone loves Hawaii. Look forward to meeting you when I get back to Cuenca. Welcome to Ecuador.

  8. Barbara McDole says:

    As always I really enjoy reading your blog! I miss you my friend. Say hello to all our common Cali friends!

    • Barbara,
      I saw some of the gang yesterday. Lots of happiness but some bad things too. Life is so hard for some people and not fair… I left being very grateful.


  9. phoebe says:

    George, if your time share were anywhere else I could have been very interested. Unfortunately, Monsanto and Dow are causing a great upheaval in Maui because of the thousands of acres they have bought for their GMO experiments and the use of their (Monsanto´s) poisonous pesticide “Roundup”. The citizens of Maui voted AGAINST the GMO experimentation but the local government has rejected the vote because Monsanto managed to bribe the authorities, so now the vote is being contested in court. This is probably no news to you, and I think it´s a good idea to sell. Julia Roberts has until now been able to find a buyer for her property in Maui.
    Good luck and keep the news coming in.

    • Ecuador George says:

      Wow Phoebe,
      I was not aware of all this. My attention has been to South America lately and I am not up to speed on what is happening in Hawaii. Thanks for the heads up. I will get more info when I get there. Stay tuned. George

  10. Fiona says:

    So glad you posted. I was in my garden today and was wondering if you had forgotten us!
    Love the posts as usual

    • Ecuador George says:

      It has been a very interesting month but I would never forget to post. My resolution is at least once a month. I am hoping to post more often but shorter articles. Lets see what this month brings. Thanks for being an enthusiastic reader. George

  11. James Lannon says:

    Hi George, glad you’re having such a great visit. Can’t tell you how much your adventures mean to me. At 70 and in poor health my days of adventure are behind me, but I still like to dream when reading your blog. I used have a saying when I was younger that if I told you I was moving to the Moon then you should go down to the post office to get the zip code because that’s where you would have to send my mail to if you wanted to reach me. You have that same spirit and I am sure there are many others who follow you who like me enjoy very much riding along on your coat tails, so to speak. Thanks for the ride. Jim L.

    • Ecuador George says:

      It is 5:30 in the morning and I am running out the door to catch a plane to Hawaii. I am a very fortunate man today and I do my best to never forget that. Thanks for the best comment this morning. George

  12. Annette and Mark Brennan says:

    Hi George
    So great to read your current post. We truly missed them, but know you must have a ton of things to do settling in Cuenca. Marvelous idea for the Cali post. So very interesting. Our granddaughter went traveling alone all over South America and while we were worried sick about her safety, she said she loved Colombia and it’s people the best! Go figure…so most of the negatives are propaganda. Kept trying to get us to go and we never did, now I think we’ve missed the boat (health reasons). How I wish we had started going to Ecuador 15 years ago. We would have bought in San Clemente which we love and would still be there. Now it’s not prudent at our advancing ages. We’re not sad, we traveled the world in the last twenty years and are grateful. A word to the wise, if you have plans to retire anywhere else, don’t let small things hold you up. If it’s truly in your heart, go for it while you can.
    Also we have a daughter who goes to Maui every year…could you email me with the price and particulars when you can and I will advise her.
    Many thanks for all you do. So great to hear that book is coming and yes would love to see your pics of Maui. By the way you have a beautiful family and are a very lucky man. You know that right! Hoping to go to San Clemente maybe in fall…do hope to head up to Cuenca so we could meet you. Take care to you and Chad!

    • Hey,
      How did I miss answering this comment. I have been a bit preoccupied. You will understand when you read the next blog post.

      By the way, propaganda about Colombia is mostly lies. It was fantastic when I was there.

      And yes I know I am a very lucky man. I will never forget that, no matter what happens during the rest of my life.

      I have decided to keep the timeshare for now. Probably take one more trip before I sell it. Wont take much money to buy it. Stay in touch and I will let you know when and how much…but it will probably be only closing costs and it would be yours…


  13. phoebe says:

    Hi George, didn´t mean to shock you. I thought you knew. Here´s a link where you can get all the necessary info on the GMO scandal in Maui. Jon Rappoport has done extensive research and knows in detail who has been bribed by Monsanto et al (incl. judges and government officials). I hope they don´t start in Ecuador. You know that big money goes a long way but they were turned down in Brazil. Good Luck and stay away from GMOs.

  14. Rebecca says:

    Great article on Cali! Have to check it out. Have a great time in Californis. I know you have already had a gret time in Hawaii but would love to see some pics and info!

    Beck and Dana

  15. Carol Van Alstine says:

    Hi George, I’m glad you are staying in touch while you are gone from Cuenca. I have enjoyed your blogs and have been living vicariously through you and your adventures. I will be in Cuenca for the month of June and Loja the month of July. If you plan to be at home in Cuenca in June and can spare the time, It would be great to meet you. I am traveling alone and could use some survival and fun pointers.

    Have you and Chad had dinner at the Secret Garden? and how did you feel about it?

    Have a great time on Maui.

    Paz amigo

    • Carol Van Alstine says:

      Forgot to mention I am coming from California looking to see if I would like to live in Cuenca or Loja. I will also be spending the last week of May in Salinas.

    • Carol,
      I will be home here in Cuenca the entire month of June. I would love to meet you. July I will be traveling to Peru and then back to California, so that will be a bit crazy. See you next month. Oh, and Secret Garden is pretty good and lots of fun.


  16. Donna says:

    Yes, pictures and comments regarding Maui (one of my favorite places).
    As always, I enjoyed your stories and pictures and thanks to your friends for story & pictures of Columbia!

  17. Erica says:

    Hi George,

    Your blog is very insightful. My husband and I are in our early 30’s and have decided to retire early. Living in San Diego at the moment but coming to Cuenca in September. Just wanted to thank your wonderful blog. It can be scary moving to a new country but it’s nice to know others had done it and are very happy. Until next time!

    • Ecuador George says:

      Please look me up when you get here. I need to be around younger people once in a while. My soul is in its mid twenties and it needs nurturing now and again… Thanks for the nice comments. Good luck. George

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