Ecuador in October 2015

What is now Ecuador was home to a variety of indigenous groups that were gradually incorporated into the Inca Empire during the fifteenth century. The territory was colonized by Spain during the sixteenth century, achieving independence in 1820 as part of Gran Colombia, from which it emerged as its own sovereign state in 1830. The legacy of both empires is reflected in Ecuador's ethnically diverse population, with most of its 15.2 million people being mestizos, followed by large minorities of European, Amerindian, and African descendants.

Francisco Pizarro landed in Ecuador in 1532, accompanied by 180 fully armed men and with a lust for gold. They marched over the Andes until they reached Cajamarca, where the new Inca Atahualpa was to hold an audience with them. The Spaniards attacked and massacred unarmed escorts of the Inca and captured Atahualpa. Pizarro promised to release Atahualpa if he made good his promise of filling a room full of gold. The gold duly arrived, but, after a mock trial, the Spaniards executed Atahualpa by strangulation.

After 300 years as colonialists, the Spanish were defeated between 1820 and 1822, and Ecuador gained independence, first as Gran Colombia, finally as Ecuador in 1830. However independence has been plighted by a series of land wars with its neighbours over boundaries. Even as recently as January 1995, the Ecuadorian military shot down Peruvian aircraft and helicopters and Peruvian infantry marched into southern Ecuador. Each country blamed the other for the onset of hostilities. A peace treaty appears to have resolved the issue in 1999.

After a military coup in 1972, the country returned to democracy in 1979. The emergence of the indigenous population as an active constituency has added to the democratic volatility of the country in recent years. The population has been motivated by government failures to deliver on promises of land reform, lower unemployment and provision of social services, and historical exploitation by the land-holding elite. Their movement, along with the continuing destabilizing efforts by both the elite and leftist movements, has led to a deterioration of the executive office. The populace and the other branches of government give the president very little political capital, as illustrated by the most recent removal of President Lucio Gutiérrez from office by Congress in April 2005. Vice President Alfredo Palacio took his place and remained in office until the presidential election of 2006, in which Rafael Correa gained the presidency. In December 2008, President Correa declared Ecuador's national debt illegitimate, based on the argument that it was odious debt contracted by corrupt and despotic prior regimes. He announced that the country would default on over $3 billion worth of bonds; he then pledged to fight creditors in international courts and succeeded in reducing the price of outstanding bonds by more than 60%. Correa is still President in 2015.

The military tradition started in Gran Colombia, when a sizable army was stationed in Ecuador due to border disputes with Peru, which claimed territories under its political control when it was a Spanish vice-royalty. Once Gran Colombia was dissolved after the death of Simón Bolívar in 1830, Ecuador inherited the same border disputes and had the need of creating its own professional military force. In the ensuing years a number of Generals later became President of Ecuador. Due to the continuous border disputes with Peru and due to the ongoing problem with the Colombian guerrilla insurgency infiltrating Amazonian provinces, the Ecuadorian Armed Forces has gone through a series of changes with large increases in defence spending.

Following the financial banking crisis of 1999, the U.S. dollar became legal tender in Ecuador on March 13, 2000, and sucre notes ceased being legal tender.

We had 10 days in Ecuador from 9 Oct 2015 to 19 Oct 2015. The full itinerary is on this page . But essentially it had the following stays, plus the driving between them as shown on the map above

After three days in Quito, we took a taxi to the airport to pick up a Hertz car (this saved the problems of navigating in Quito with its maze of one way streets and lack of road signs)

From Quito Airport it was following, more or less, the Pan American Highway for the next seven days to Cotopaxi, Banos, The Devils Nose Train and Cuenca.

Finally we left Cuenca on the morning of the last day, and drove some 4 hours to drop the car back at Guayaquil Airport - as Guayaquil did not seem to be a city for tourists. And from the airport, a taxi to the Silversea Explorer in the port.