Accessible Travel in Ecuador
Wings on Wheels operates small, escorted group holidays for people with mobility problems and the disabled worldwide and in January 2011 I took a group of 11 people (10 wheelchair users) to Ecuador.
We flew to Quito and stayed in a hotel overnight where we had some wheelchair accessible rooms and they even moved the big double bed out and put 2 smaller ones in sideways for us so we could make the most use of the adapted rooms. We had dinner out at a local restaurant which we walked to, there was a step to enter but this was manageable and we were brought a delightful selection of local fare.
We travelled with 10 people using manual wheelchairs, 2 of whom were anchored down in the vehicle we used throughout. This was a school bus that was converted and had a ramp and tie downs. The driver was really good and very helpful with everything we needed. He stopped when we needed him to for toilets, took the journies really steadily and was on hand to help with loading and unloading all the time.
We travelled in the first instance to San Pablo Lake and stayed in a lodge there overlooking the lake with fabulous scenery. The staff there were great and couldn’t do enough to help us with moving furniture, taking off doors to bathrooms, putting in ramps where needed, changing meals to suit diets and eating times etc.
Whilst there we visited Otovalo Market a riot of colour and local goods made from Llama and Alpaca wool, local fabrics etc. all totally flat and accessible. That afternoon we also visited a local village to see a family that made panpipes and other local instruments. We had to negotiate a cobbled ramped access but again this was manageable with the help of the bus driver, our guide and Ground Agent staff. We enjoyed a demonstration of the making of panpipes followed by a singing and dancing show. We also visited the town and went to see a Mazapan Doll Factory at work making items from bread dough, this shop was up a steep step and there was another steep step inside, however, we managed with our helpers.
We then left on our journey to the Amazon Rainforest crossing 2 mountain chains including the Andes and driving through 7 different climate floors. We stopped off for lunch in Banos in a local restaurant with steps to enter but manageable. The toilet was accessible with a small wheelchair and we coped well. We arrived at Hausquila Lodge on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest. This was an amazing place, owned by the brother of the Ground Agent we use and run by his parents.
There are large cabanas set around the grounds in amongst the plants of the forest, all have large bedrooms with moveable furniture and some have wheel-in bathroom areas with a toilet at one end with rails, basins in the middle and a wheel-in shower area the other end with seat on the wall. They also have shower chairs, toilet raisers, walking frames etc. for your use. The staff are wonderful and will help in anyway possible, nothing is too much trouble. We had several nights here enjoying the local landscape, sitting in the open air restaurant/bar/lounge having our meals and chatting with the staff and owners overlooking a lovely pool watching the wildlife. They also have a swimming pool with Jacuzzi area and a shaded sitting area where you can enjoy the waters and still see all the amazing scenery. They have a hammock lift to get people in and out of the pool and the staff of the Lodge, the bus driver and the guide all helped our group in and out of the pool? We had a problem at night that there are no telephones in the rooms for people to call for help so we were given a satellite phone and the staff’s mobiles to hand to clients so the could ring for help.
Local people were brought in to help push the wheelchairs from the rooms to the restaurant and back as some of the paths are steep and uphill. We tried whistles but these did not work as the wildlife is so loud we could not hear them! Whilst staying here we visited a local indigenous village. It had rained and the pathway down to the village hall was steps built in the hillside, so it was a bit difficult to get everyone down but we managed it.
We were given a delightful show of how they make drinks and dishes from the roots and leaves of plants and we tried some of them, we also tried to play some of their instruments one of which was a Turtle shell! We then were given a show of dancing and a wedding ceremony was played out with one of our clients playing the groom! To get everyone back up the hill we used the special rickshaw type wheelchairs from the Lodge, where there are handles on the back and on the front, one person pulls and one pushes, very ingenious and practical.
We also went in 2 groups into the forest, from the Lodge with an indigenous guide who gave a demonstration and talk on the medicinal and culinary uses of the plants that grow in the forest. This was undertaken in the rickshaw type chairs and we used a wooden board and a chair cushion to put behind one lady who needed back support.
When we left the Lodge it was another long journey back to Quito again stopping at Banos for lunch. We stayed in Quito for 2 nights before returning home. We went out to another local restaurant on the first night, again within walking distance of the hotel and with good access and great food, a pub like atmosphere.
Next day we visited the Colonial Center, declared World Culture Heritage by UNESCO. Here we saw the squares and churches of the town and then went to the Middle of the World Monument which is located on the Equator and the Inti-Nam museum where we observed and tried out some experiments that prove we were in the Middle of the World including watching water go down a plughole different ways and balancing an egg on the head of a nail! We had lunch here in the village at a local restaurant and shop which was totally flat and accessible as were the toilets.
We then left the town and went up to a hill where we had dinner at a lovely restaurant overlooking the town with it’s historical buildings all lit up, a wonderful sight. The food was lovely, the toilets fairly accessible and entrance to the restaurant flat. We had a show of photographs taken during the holiday and this was a fitting end to a wonderful trip.
It was sad to leave such a wonderful country and lovely people. The Ground Agents we used could not be helpful enough and being a family concern really meant we felt part of their family, it was great fun and really easy to overcome any little problems we came across.
We have organised holidays like this around the world since 1998, and this proves that you can travel anywhere in the world as long as you have imagination and are willing to be adventurous. Sometimes we have really good facilities and sometimes we have to compromise with what is available in the country we are visiting, however, many of our clients come back year after year because they know they can visit places they couldn’t otherwise go in a wheelchair or without some help. We also organise tailor made holidays for individuals, families, groups, clubs etc. to their specifications.
For more information please contact: Jean Burdett, Director, Wings on Wheels on 01945 871111 or by Email via the website www.wingsonwheels.co.uk