Things Money Cannot Buy

by | Apr 23, 2001 | Archives

Ecuador is called a third world nation so many feel it is poor. In dollars and cents, maybe, but there is more there than you would expect. There are some things that money cannot buy as you can see below.

IMAGES: The images on this page that Gary sent from Ecuador are incredibly beautiful and inspiring though with 12 images this page would have been slow if we included them all. But they are all wonderful! So please click on the link to each photo., and then hit your browser’s back button to get back to this page, and the next image.

There are so many wonders in Ecuador, one of them being flowers! Here is Merri and me in the gardens of Hostria La Sieniga.

This is where Baron Von Humbolt (discovered Galopogos and invented the metric system). These gardens are full of geraniums, but you can get just about any type of flower there. A recent article in National Geographic pointed out that Ecuador is now one of the largest flower exporters in the world because the sun and varied altitudes creates innumerable microclimates so any type of flower can grow. Here are the gardens at La Sieniga.

There we were, middle of the winter, soaking in the Quito sun, thinking about things that money cannot buy, such as 365 days a year of direct sun so near the USA. That’s only available in Ecuador no matter whether you are rich or poor.

We feel deprived when we come back to the U.S. There is such a huge variety of fresh vegetables and fruit (as you can see in the picture).

Merri and I love to stroll through native markets. What piles and mounds of field ripe fruit! Bananas, pineapple, mango, apples, pears, huge purple grapes, babacos, naranjillas, maracuyas, berries of every sort, plums, cherries, corn, potatoes, every type of vegetable and fruit imaginable, just picked, ready to eat. Nothing is plastic wrapped! We can squeeze, sniff and really eyeball the food before we choose, so we get exactly what we want. The vendors make us feel like a king for buying from them as well. Their smiles are better than the fruit! No amount of money can buy this in the western industrialized world. Yet here prices are so low the food seems free.

The scenery is another wonderful feature in Ecuador. Here are a few typical views we see:

There are other things that money cannot buy as well. For example Merri, fell and dislocated her arm. Having just finished an article for International Living Magazine on the wonders of Ecuadorian hospitals I was about to test this advice myself.

Everything about this experience was wonderful (as much as a trip to the emergency room can be) from the many people who stopped in the streets genuinely offering help to her, the very understanding taxi driver, rushing wrong ways down streets, taking every short cut, sympathetic and determined to get us there fast.

At Metropolitano Hospital things really excelled. A Doctor met us at the car. The emergency room was calm. Nurses and Doctors took immediate action, treated us all gently, letting all of us in the treatment room, discussing what had happened, what was going on, how they would help.

The dislocation was severe. She did not want to have any drugs or be put to sleep, so they called their top specialist. He was in the middle of Sunday lunch in the country but rushed right down (and stayed three hours to make sure, after the final x rays that everything was okay). Dr. Xavier Ramos, an Orthopedic Surgeon, had studied at the University of Madrid and spent 10 years resetting bones without any anesthesia, so quickly, confidently and easily relocated the elbow without once asking her to change her mind and accept the drugs.

Not once until the ordeal was over did anyone mention costs, who or how we were going to pay. The bill for the emergency room, two emergency room doctors, the cast, six X rays, blood tests and miscellany came to a paltry $47.82. The specialist’s afternoon cost $100.

There was no push, brusqueness or intimidation felt. We were all treated with courtesy, respect and the whole family was involved, informed and welcomed through the entire process. This helped Merri and me know and think it was good for us too, being there and not worrying in the waiting room. Even more surprising were our Ecuadorian friends who showed up to drive us back to the hotel. How they found out is a mystery still, but the ride so warming, making us feel at home.

What is the price for this genuine sweetness, respect for the patient’s wishes and gentle care? This is something money cannot buy.

Heartfelt sweetness and friendliness are without a price as well. This cannot be faked and it is everywhere in Ecuador, hotels, restaurants, tour operators, even my Ecuadorian barber is such a cheerful soul. I somehow feel he will be crushed if my four dollar haircut was not absolutely perfect and to my liking. He wants so badly to please and when I give a dollar tip he makes me feel like I really have made his day.

Back at the hotel the message therapist (massages range from $12 to 25) has that same aura of wanting to please. I never feel rushed not like the massage ended too soon. Just cared for.

Nowhere else can you find gardens lush twelve months a year, filled with tropical flowers and fruits, coconuts, hibiscus, lemons and orange, yet having flowers from the north (fuchsias, roses and such) lined up with the southern feel. Yet at the Hotel Quito, our home away from home, these gardens exist and they are quite typical of the lush flora throughout this mountain nation.

Here at the hotel we find this “money cannot buy it caring” every day as well. Washington, the bellman picks a rose out of the huge displays that are everywhere and presents it proudly to Merri every day (and picks the color that perfectly matches her outfit). I even watched an IL reader, who has purchased a house outside of town, stop by and ask the manager if he could store a batch of furniture he had purchased but did not have time to ship. “Of course,” the manger smiled, as if furniture storage were just another service in their hotel. This was a natural response because there is an inner quality of caring in these people. They laugh instead of bark when something unexpected comes up. Yes is the automatic response, instead of no and this easiness is refreshing and makes life good.

Tour operators who arrive early and call on us the night before to confirm they will be there, is another something special Merri and I have found here. We have taken groups on tours in dozens of countries but rarely see such dedication and pride by the people who serve us on out trips to the equator. The country has a university course in tourism and the tour guides, like the waiters, bellmen and all types of service providers are professionals that are only happy when we are.

This is what Merri and I really love about Ecuador-all these many little things that money cannot buy.

Plus there are quaint unexpected surprises, like the mineral springs we found deep in a coastal jungle. That’s me covered with sulfur mud and having fun!

Plus there is the beauty of the ocean. The pictures below were all taken around the Puerto Lopez area. Empty beaches, clear indigo waters and daily sun.

Yet due to a depression that is just ending, the things that money can buy also abound. A few dollars goes a long, long way.

As a tourist you can find quaint haciendas with histories that extend back centuries and where the staff start a roaring fireplace in your room at night while you dine. Yet prices can be as low as $40 to $60 a night including meals. In the real estate market, the incredible bargains everywhere are gone, but some can still be found for those who shop. On our last trip Merri and I traveled the country. We had not taken a long trip in and around Ecuador for over a year. New roads surprised us. The government has been on an all-out road building program to help kick-start the economy. This has created some wonderful new buying opportunities.

Empty beaches are something money cannot buy in many parts of the world, but here there are still plenty and some are offered at really low prices too. For example a new coastal road running south of Manta to Puerto Lopez reminds me of Highway 101 in the west of the U.S. Property owners with land between this coastal route and the Pacific don’t know what this will mean to land values, so we looked at a 38 acre parcel with nearly a half mile of broad empty beach for just $15,000. I believe this area will explode upwards by the way. Puerto Lopez is full of eco tourism, beach walking, boating, whale watching, a Galapagos type Island (Isla De La Plata) with rare blue footed boobies, diving, surfing, fishing and hundreds of thousands of acres of national preserve for hiking and horse riding. Quaint hotels offer stunning coastal views with broad beaches, aquamarine and indigo waters that reach to the western horizon. Tourism has doubled every year even through the depression.

Money elsewhere also cannot buy views like you get in Quito overlooking the Guapulo Valley. Yet here Merri and I looked at a three bedroom, two bathroom condo on fashionable Avenida Federico Gonzalez Suarez with scenery that extends over the entire valley and into the mountains many miles beyond. Yet the asking price was just $52,000.

Money cannot buy the quaint charm of the colonial city Cuenca, which unwraps in a circle from a huge gold crusted cathedral with amber ceramic domes. Cobble stoned, red tiled and clean, this is perhaps South America’s most beautiful city, yet brand new town houses on the River Tomebamba start at $45,000 and a 150 acre farm nearby has two wonderful sulfur hot springs and a rushing mountain river has an offering price of $150,000.

Sweet, charming people are everywhere. Biological diversity is equal to what you find from the equator to the Arctic Circle but in just a few hundred miles. Sites, sounds and smells charm us at every turn. Views are magnificent. The scenes we see everyday, bizarre and crazy, titillating and full of surprise. Where else will an Amazonian jungle chief dressed in parrot feathers of yellow and red suddenly show up, unannounced and sit waiting for you all day. Miguel Pandan, chief of a small community (the Kanus) who are part of the Shuuar community heard of our foundation that helps the poor there. He traveled for days and then waited the entire day in the lobby, just to meet us and ask if we could help a sick orphan from the community get medical help. Where else do leaders care for those they serve like that?

This picture is of the kids in a small Amazonian community we are helping.

This is Ecuador, a mountainous land on the sea where your money goes a long way when filling your physical needs while your heart is warmed by the things that money cannot buy. Merri and I hope to share it with you some day soon! Until then good global investing.