Ok, let´s jump right into it.
I find Ecuador not too difficult to stay vegan, if you are prepared to make some compromises:
- aside from chips and a basic salad, it´s hard to get anything vegan in restaurants, so no restaurants.
- street vendors mostly sell meat so options are very limited, but there´s one lifesaver that´s easy to get in any bigger town – cevichocho. It´s a mixture of grilled corn, chocho, onions, tomatoes, salt and loads of lime juice, then sprinkled with platano chips. Amazingly fresh and crunchy and also pretty healthy, filled with proteins and fibres.
- Soya milk is very hard to find and costs a lot ($4 compared to $1 for 1 liter of beer…. it´s a lot right)
But there are some positives too:
- fruit and veg markets are everywhere and cheap. I can buy vegetables and fruits for about $10 that last for several days.
- jugos (juices) are also easily available, made from fresh fruit as you wait. Best ones are coconut and some kind of combinations, blackberries is my favourite.
- Quinoa and beans are very common here, so very cheap and available everywhere.
- No soya milk? There´s an alternative – Avena con frutas. Drink made of oats with fruits. Not as good as soya milk and has less vitamins added, but does the trick
Not eating in restaurants also turns out being much cheaper. See my July-August 2012 expenses report, I spent on average around 2.80 GBP per day on food which is awesome!
One thing that I do need to keep an eye on is my weight, as I lost 5kg over 2 months, so will start eating more. I´m happy with the weight as it is now (70kg, 180cm tall), the target is to keep it at this level.
I was eating less mainly whilst moving between places, as I couldn´t cook. But once I´m at a place with a kitchen, I cook and eat more. Now, I will also treat myself to a big meal every time I achieve a target I set myself.
I made one fuck up, when I decided to eat in a restaurant, spent 10 minutes staring at the menu, then decided to have an onion soup, which was listed in a soups section, away from creamy soups section, so I thought it´ll be clear (not creamy). Wrong I was, but as it was already ordered, wasting it would be pointless, so I ate it. Learning – ask about the content of ANY restaurant meal, as I never know what ingredients do they use in there.
But everyone who told me it´s difficult to be vegan in Ecuador, that´s not correct, unless you are not prepared to compromise or you get lazy. But then your reasons for being vegan in the first place weren´t that strong to start with right?
Volunteer on animal projects, charities
I spent my first 4 weeks in an animal rescue center Zanjarajuno, run by a couple of nature and animal lovers Medardo and his wife Lucero. These guys are doing a great job caring for the animals, learning about them and trying to breed them and release them into the wild, but also supporting a community of wild living monkeys, who rely on the center for protection. On top of that, they are very active in local communities, organizing events educating local farmers about the importance of the forest, as the government wants to look for oil there.
I spent most of my time feeding the animals and learning about the reasons why they are there (mainly trafficking and injuries), I was repairing their enclosures, paths, building a green house out of recycled plastic bottles.
There were many parrots, most of them didn´t know how to fly, as they were kept as pets in tiny cages. A bird is made to fly long distances, a cage where he can barely spread his wings is the worst thing for them. Please don´t keep birds as pets, unless you live in their habitat and they fly around freely!
There were also two sad stories, one happened before I arrived, when the only tapir in the area, who was Medardo´s best friend, was killed by locals for meat. He was roaming freely, only occasionally popped into the center, so this was always a risk, but it just shows that even if we know an animal is one of few (because it´s very hard to find), we put our short term needs (need food!) before compassion. The locals know the jungle, they must have known that the tapir was very rare in the area.
Second sad story was Molly´s death. Molly was a baby chorongo monkey,
who´s mum has been killed, so she was adopted by Lucero. She kept her on her body all day (inside her jumper, the baby was holding on her belly, just like it would on it´s real mother). Unfortunately, she caught a stomach bug, meaning she wasn´t eating and natural medicine or antibiotics didn´t help, so she died during our first week.
My second volunteer stay was on an eco project – building cob house, a house made mainly from soil, sand and straw, with lots of thought that went into recycling water, growing own vegetables, using a dry toilet and making the most of sun energy.
I like the idea so much that I want to build one in Slovakia now…. let´s see if I still want to build one when I return from this journey for a break in Slovakia 🙂
That´s volunteer on eco projects covered.
In terms of keeping fit, the two months were good, but I can do better. They were good, because I was doing loads of trekking, manual labor, some running and exercise. This lead to losing 5kg, which I´m happy about. Now just to keep at this level, or even gain more muscle by doing more exercise.
I started a more strict routine of basic ashtanga yoga poses for stretching and at least 100 push ups a day and 100 abdominal lifts or whatcha call them.
I let the ball drop a bit by smoking again, which I have to say, I enjoyed, but I will drop it again, as it´s one of the pointless / harmful luxuries that one doesn´t really need. I could feel a difference in my lungs after two weeks of smoking a couple a day and a few more when drinking.
So challenge for next month (and ongoing) – quit smoking.
Overall, I´m pretty pleased with how the two months went. In terms of September, I´m off to Galapagos, but don´t have any volunteering lined up, let´s see if I can find anything. After that, I still have to find a good place to volunteer in Colombia, that´s if they let me into the country without a proper passport….(original was stolen, getting a provisional one, to cut the story short).