Ecuador: is it safe to travel yet?
News items reporting Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake centred on Pedernales, Ecuador, were sadly no shock – the country lies on an active plate boundary where seismic tremors and volcanic eruptions are a fact of life. The scale of this quake, and the high death toll, were unusual and the people of the country will have a long hard slog in rebuilding their lives and livelihoods. Right now, the coastal cities of Pedernales, Manta, Bahia de Caraquez and Portoviejo are going to need time and money to recover, and the country’s largest city, Guayaquil, is reporting damage to transport infrastructure. If you’d like to help, this article from CNN is a useful starting point: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/17/americas/iyw-ecuador-earthquake-how-you-can-help/
You could be forgiven for thinking now’s not the time to be planning a holiday to Ecuador. However, this South American nation is telling us that many of the places on our holiday wish list are unaffected. While aftershocks are continuing, most are only around 4.5 on the Richter scale, with a number of those epicentred out to sea in the Pacific. You can track them here: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/
Buildings at the historic heart of the Ecuadorean capital are currently being checked over but the city’s hotels and transport systems are functioning. A trip to nearby Otavalo’s famous market is still possible as the town has not reported any significant damage.
In the shadow of Tungurahua volcano, the hot springs of this tiny tourist town are a welcome sight to those with muscles aching from volcano hikes. There’s been no major damage and if you were thinking of heading there after a Cotopaxi climb, that’s open for business too.
My favourite of all the places I visited during my 2006 trip, this elegant city lies an eight hour drive away from the area most affected by the quake. It’s where you’ll find Panama hats being made – not Panama! – as well as a pretty river walk, a colourful flower market and plenty of colonial era mansions to impress.
If you know your geography, then you’ll know that this group of islands is located over 800 miles off the Ecuadorean mainland – about the same as London to the south of France. There’s no tsunami alert in place and excursions are running as usual. The blue-footed boobies are awaiting your call!
To find out more, visit the Ecuadorean government website at http://www.turismo.gob.ec/update-on-ecuadors-tourism-infrastructure-services-following-saturdays-earthquake/