Just over four years ago I had my delayed mid-life crisis. This mainly consisted of waking up in the middle of the night thinking “I don’t want to end up lying on my death bed regretting all the things I didn’t do”.
Eventually this crystallised into a sort of plan. “I want to go somewhere warm and work with animals”. The somewhere warm ended up being Ecuador. So having always been a bit of a wimpy, middle-aged traveller even when I was a teenager (blame my parents, I do, for most things) I suddenly had to be adventurous and go to South America.
I spent six weeks in Ecuador, one month volunteering at an animal rescue centre and two weeks being a tourist, scratching a couple of things off my bucket list (Galapagos; rainforest). I loved it. So much that I came back last September, this time to work in Ecuador for nine months as an ESL teacher. Also I hope to travel around and see some more of Latin America.
But what concerns me is the “somewhere warm” issue. On my first visit I stayed for four weeks in a city in the north of Ecuador (about an hour’s drive from the Colombian border) called Ibarra. There was the odd rain shower but mostly it was sunny. And warm. Even though it was October.
The Galapagos Islands were blazing hot and dry. Yes, the rainforest was, well, rainy. But it was hot rain and I was so distracted by the amazing things I was seeing that I didn’t really care.
So possibly I got a misleading impression of South America being mainly warm and dry.
When I returned last year I came to work in Cuenca, a city in the south of Ecuador. It is up in the Andes, but so was Ibarra so I had expected a similar climate. Guidebooks describe Cuenca as having “a year-round spring-like climate”. This is probably accurate if they mean a British spring-like climate where it pisses down with rain a lot. Plus it’s surprisingly cold at night.
Before I go any further I should make it clear that I love living in Cuenca. It’s a wonderful city and I will write more about this later. But for now I am sticking with the issue of precipitation.
One of the main reasons I was desperate to leave the U.K. was the rain. Miserable, grey, cold, drenching downpours that make any journey a major effort. My mood is vastly affected by the weather. If it’s grey and rainy I am morose and immobile. If the sky is clear, the sun is shining, a soft breeze is playing and the birdies are tweeting I feel I can conquer the world. You get the picture.
What tends to happen in Cuenca is we have a wonderful sunny morning and then a grey and rainy afternoon. Sometimes followed by a grey and rainy evening. I particularly don’t appreciate this as my teaching hours start at 3 p.m. so I usually have to travel in the pouring rain.
Recently I went to Peru for two weeks. I loved the desert climate of Lima, where it apparently rarely rains. Yes, it is a little humid, but I am practising for my next planned teaching destination (Thailand) in my eternal quest for warmth and sunlight.
On my way to visit Machu Picchu I stayed in Cusco in the south of Peru and I was once again back in Cuenca’s climate – rain and cold nights.
However, I made an unhappy discovery. When I was in Lima there was no air conditioning in my hotel room and I was too sluggish to do anything in the heat. There was no heating in my room in Cusco and I was freezing – but I still managed to put some warm layers on and do some writing. So perhaps my plans to live in a warm climate while trying to be productive are doomed to failure?
And in case you think I’m exaggerating here is a video of a Cuenca rainstorm taken from the window of my apartment. You may not be able to see the rain, but you will hear it. In this particular storm hailstones, thunder and lightning were also part of the mix although I did not catch them on film.