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Return to the States + Miami & Guayaquil Airport Vegan Food (Episode 36)

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Most of Amelia’s family lives in Atlanta, GA so we went back to help them out for a few weeks. We took a $12 buseta with Operazuaytur from Cuenca through Cajas to Guayaquil the day before our flight and stayed one night in the Courtyard that’s close to the airport. Our flight left Guayaquil for Miami at 6:40 AM so we wanted to be nearby.

Amelia was a regional sales rep in her previous life so she logged a lot of points with Marriott by staying at Courtyards. This one in Guayaquil was the nicest Courtyard either of us has ever seen. Plus, we were able to use Amelia’s points so it didn’t cost us anything.

Guayaquil airport vegan food and Miami airport vegan food is sorely lacking! We did manage to find a few vegan options in Miami, but other than plain fruit and processed junk food, we couldn’t find any vegan options in the Guayaquil airport. More on that below.

Vegan Food at Noe Sushi Bar

After a $5 taxi ride from the buseta station, we arrived at the hotel in time for dinner. A short walk down the street in Mall del Sol is a sushi restaurant called Noe that’s vegan friendly. We have a Noe near our house in Cuenca and eat there for special occasions. It’s a beautiful restaurant with delicious food (think P.F. Changs), but it’s pricey for Ecuador. This meal with sake cost about $80.

Noe Sushi Bar Guayaquil 1

Guayaquil Airport Vegan Food

A wakeup call from the concierge and another $5 cab ride had us at the Guayaquil airport by 5AM. It’s a beautiful, modern airport with NO vegan meal options. A couple vendors sell fruit and snacks that might be vegan, but we didn’t see any vegan options on any of the restaurant menus.

It’s the worst, most unhealthy food you can imagine; mostly fried animal parts. Hopefully they’ll catch up to the times soon and start offering some vegan meals, ideally not fried.

Miami Airport Vegan Food

The Miami airport wasn’t much better that Guayaquil in terms of vegan food. We walked a LONG way up and down the D terminal and found only a few vegan options and no healthy options. The Veggie Burger at Shula’s is NOT vegan. They were kind enough to get the package for us and it contains both milk AND cheese.

Impossible Burger

There’s a Mexican restaurant that has a vegan option: rice and beans topped with fried veggies. But we opted to try the Impossible Burger at the Corona Beach House restaurant that’s right by the security entrance.

We were both really impressed with how authentic the Impossible Burger tasted. It could easily pass for a conventional burger. However, we later learned that it’s not 100% vegan because it was tested on 140 rats to get the GRAS certification from the FDA.

Impossible Foods’ CEO Patrick O. Brown has been vegan for over 14 years and agonized over the decision to test their genetically engineered heme iron (the ingredient that gives the burger its meat taste) on animals, but he said “Avoiding the dilemma was not an option. We hope we will never have to face such a choice again, but choosing the option that advances the greater good is more important to us than ideological purity.”

Amelia and I had a long conversation about this moral dilemma. If they didn’t test on animals and didn’t get the GRAS certification, a lot of meat eaters might avoid the Impossible Burger and choose a cruelty burger instead. The Impossible Burger is also a lot more environmentally friendly, too. However, testing on animals goes against everything we stand for as vegans.

In the end, being vegan is about doing the least amount of harm and testing this product on 140 rats, which were killed and examined, may be doing less harm if more people eat the Impossible Burger because it’s perceived as safe. It’s impossible to know if that’s the case, but it seems like a valid concern.

Besides, we vegans aren’t totally free from harm either. A lot more than 140 rats are killed during the harvesting of our foods, especially wheat, corn, soybeans, oats and legumes. It’s estimated that 7.3 billion animals are killed each year during the harvesting process. Most of these deaths result from harvesting the 80% of grain that’s grown to feed livestock, but that still leaves a lot of deaths on our vegan hands. There are wild animal-friendly farming methods, but they’re not widely used and they aren’t used at all in factory farming operations.

Since the Impossible Burger was tested on animals, it can’t be considered vegan under the strictest definition of the word vegan. However, if more people choose it over a conventional burger because it tastes the same and/or because it carries a much smaller environmental footprint, I’d say that’s a big win for veganism and for the poor cows that would have otherwise been bred into existence, tortured for their entire lives and then brutally killed to make a greasy hamburger that people spend less than 5 minutes eating.

Sometimes life just isn’t black and white, as much as we might want it to be….

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Ecuador’s Southern Coast Part 1: Cuenca to La Entrada (Episode 6)

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This was our first trip to Ecuador’s Southern Coast and we LOVED IT! We’d heard great things from our friends about Ecuador’s beaches, Montañita and the Bed & Breakfast where we stayed, Villa de Los Sueños. And they were right! It was amazing!

This video covers our trip from Cuenca, Ecuador to La Entrada, Ecuador where Villa de Los Sueños is located. La Entrada is about a 20 minute drive north of Montañita, Ecuador.

We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful scenery, and the interesting people we meet along the way on our journey to Ecuador’s southern coast.

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People & Places (and Animals)

El Cajas National Park

1 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

El Cajas National Park is about a 30 minute drive east of Cuenca, Ecuador. It’s located in the highlands of Ecuador and looks like it’s from another world.

2 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

El Cajas has lots of these perfectly rowed trees. That’s not a genetic mutation; they’ve been planted. We were told that during World War I and before, every tree in Cajas was cut down for timber used to build things, including the war machine.

Over the past 30 years, they’ve been planting trees to regrow the forest that once stood there. It’s kind of a shame that they planted them so geometrically, though. Perhaps a random pattern would be more authentic?

3 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

El Cajas has lots of hiking trails and it’s home to the world’s largest hummingbird. That makes this a popular place for hikers and bird watchers. However, the weather is very unpredictable and the trails aren’t clearly marked so plan accordingly. Bring layers of clothes, food, water and a GPS so you can find your way back to your car or the bus stop.

4 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

5 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

It truly is otherworldly. This looks like it could be a scene from a sci-fi movie.

6 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

A beautiful mountain lake. We’ve been told you can hike around this one.

Leaving El Cajas

7 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas Clouds

You may notice the American flag air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror, but that’s not the point of this photo. Just below that are the yellow lines of the road. On the eastern side of Cajas, it’s common to drive down (or up) through the clouds. A few meters before this picture was taken, we were in bright blue, sunny skies. The fog is often so dense on this part of the drive that you can barely see the yellow lines. It’s quite terrifying!

8 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

A little further down in altitude is a tropical rainforest. This part of the drive lasts about 20 to 30 minutes with lush green foliage and palm trees often blanketed in a shroud of fog.

The Plains to Guayaquil

9 Cuenca to La Entrada Cacao

Once we left the rainforest, we entered the flat plains on the way to Guayaquil. This isn’t a great picture since we were in a rapidly moving buseta (a small passenger bus operated by Operazuaytur), but these are cacao trees (bushes?). Ecuador is known for its amazing, high quality chocolate and most of Ecuador’s cacao is grown in this region and south of here.

Cacao is a very picky plant and will only grow in very specific conditions near the equator making this area perfect for the beans that will become the magic dark brown elixir to the gods.

10 Cuenca to La Entrada Bananas

Ecuador is also a huge exporter of bananas. We used to buy Ecuadorian bananas in Denver. They’re covered with plastic bags to minimize pesticide exposure. Hopefully, they recycle all that plastic.

11 Cuenca to La Entrada Toll Booth

There are several toll booths between El Cajas and Guayaquil. A car costs 25 cents if I remember correctly. Commercial vehicles like the buseta that we were in have different rates, apparently based on the number of people since I heard the driver tell the toll booth attendant how many people were onboard.

Guayaquil, Ecuador

12 Cuenca to La Entrada Guayaquil

A long bridge over Río Guayas delivered us into the heart of Guayaquil, Ecuador, just south of the airport and bus terminal. The busetas are run by a private company with their own drop off location near the airport. When we got off the buseta, a line of taxis were waiting to take people to places unknown.

Our plan was to take a taxi to the bus terminal, which was about a 5 minute drive away. However, the taxi driver asked us where we were going and offered to drive us all the way to Montañita, Ecuador for $80. It took us less than 3 hours in a taxi, but the bus ($7/ticket) takes between 4 and 5 hours. My back was already hurting from the buseta ride, so we decided to take him up on it.

Sadly for him, he got a speeding ticket about halfway there. He was going 9 kilometers over the speed limit (that’s about 5 miles/hour). I’m pretty sure a taxi on the highway with two gringos in it had something to do with that ticket….

13 Cuenca to La Entrada Hand Sculpture

Ecuador has lots of these giant sculptures along the major roads. We’ve noticed more of them in Guayaquil and Quito than in Cuenca, but Cuenca does have a few unique sculptures.

14 Cuenca to La Entrada Street Vendors

Street vendors are also common throughout Ecuador. As soon as the light turns red, people come from out of nowhere selling everything from bottled water and food, to electronics and floor rugs. It’s like IKEA comes to you for 2 minutes, and then disappears into thin air!

Ecuador’s Southern Coast

15 Cuenca to La Entrada Fish Shacks

The first ocean sighting may not look like much, with beachfront shacks galore. But these are actually fishing shacks that are bustling with activity in the mornings. The fishermen go out in their boats at night and return in the morning to sell what they caught.

As vegans, we’re not in support of this activity, but these aren’t giant commercial fishing boats dragging nets behind their boats for miles scraping everything off the seafloor and capturing everything from fish to dolphins, turtles and baby whales. These are tiny fishing boats with one or two guys on them. They’ve been doing this for generations so convincing them to stop won’t be easy. My guess is they’ll be forced to stop in the next 20 years when there are no more fish to be caught and the oceans are dead thanks to the industrial fishing operations.

Please, for your own health and the survival of our oceans, stop buying seafood!

16 Cuenca to La Entrada Oil Dock

This is an oil pipeline dock that goes out into the sea. On the other side of the highway is what appeared to be an oil holding station. It wasn’t a refinery; it only had large storage tanks. I’m guessing they pump the oil from the tanks out to oil tankers.

Before the oil bust, oil was one of Ecuador’s main sources of income. Now they have a more balanced portfolio with food and flower exports, some manufacturing, and tourism.

17 Cuenca to La Entrada Horse Pasture

We saw so many different types of terrain and climates on our short 6 hour ride from Cuenca to La Entrada it was sometimes hard to believe. Close your eyes for 5 minutes in a dessert and you might wake up in a rainforest! This picturesque farm looks like it could be a Kentucky horse ranch. On the other side of the highway from this ranch is the ocean and beaches. What a diverse country!

Villa de Los Sueños, La Entrada, Ecuador

18 Cuenca to La Entrada Villa de Los Sueños 1

The tide was out when we arrived and the rocky oceanfront off the back of Villa de Los Sueños was clearly visible. Most of the beaches in this area are very wide and sandy, but they’re rocky in front of the B&B. It was only a short 2 minute walk south on the beach to get to the sandy shores where you can swim or boogie board. Surfing is popular in Montañita and Olón a little bit south of La Entrada, but the waves weren’t quite big enough on this stretch of beach.

19 Cuenca to La Entrada Villa de Los Sueños 2

We rented the penthouse apartment, mainly for the kitchen so we could cook our vegan fare, but we were really happy with the larger room size, private hot tub and amazing views of the ocean.

The owners are Shell and Marsha. On our first night there, Shell took us into Olón to buy some vegan staples such as fruits, veggies, rice, pasta and hot sauce. We cooked several meals in our room and had romantic dinners with ocean views and sounds. We’ll share more about our amazing, relaxing stay at Villa de Los Sueños in Part 3 of this series.

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We hope you enjoyed the first part of our trip to Ecuador’s Southern Coast. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video