This is really a two-part review. First, the experience in general: This was a fantastic way to see some highlights of Ecuador outside of Quito. Alejandro tailored the trip to my preferences and interests. He also knowledgeably answered my constant stream of questions. Hiking through the jungle was lovely, and there were a lot of examples of what my houseplants would look like at 10 times the size. The other highlight for me was the chocolate factory, which was fascinating (and delicious).
Next, here’s how things changed from just “well that was a great day out” to “I’m naming my firstborn child Alejandro.” While I was enjoying the peace and beauty of the cloud forest, Quito was becoming the center of political unrest due to the government ending fuel subsidies. Protests shut the city down, with transportation at a standstill. (Don’t let this put you off of visiting Ecuador— hopefully it will all be a distant memory soon.) By the time we were finishing up at the chocolate factory, word was trickling in that some of the roads in and out of Quito were closed due to blockades put up by the protesters. Alejandro made the (as it turns out correct and very smart) call to not try the main roads back, lest we get stuck. Instead, he took dirt backroads ~50 miles through the jungle. He promised me he would get me back to my hotel safely one way or another, and I completely believed him. He drove safely and confidently through rough roads and villages, and, bless him, he kept giving me interesting tour guide facts along the way. I felt safe and comfortable, in spite of the circumstances, and I trusted him absolutely. I kept thinking that the drive reminded me of the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. We didn’t know what the roads would be like once we got into Quito, but he picked a route through particular neighborhoods that he correctly predicted would be less impacted by the trouble. I was worried about how he would get home himself, but he repeated that it just mattered to get me to my hotel, and that he could walk home if needed. He kept his word, and I was safely delivered back to my hotel, where we said our goodbyes, even though “bye, thanks!” Felt totally insufficient after what we’d just gone through together.
I would highly recommend this tour and Alejandro, and I will be looking into his longer tours for future trips. Not many guides can make a government-declared state of emergency feel like a day out at Disneyland.