Travels diaries

3 days with an indigenous community: the Tsachilas

During my travel in Ecuador, I had the opportunity to stay 3 days (2 nights) in an indigenous community named the Tsachilas. Here, there is not a tourist trap. The stay will be with indigenous people and I will live with them like their daily life is usually. So, you can immediately forget the traditional costumes or the shows only for the tourists. The goal of this experience is to discover their way of life today and the beauty of the region.

Day 1

I arrive at the terminal bus of Santo Domingo in the morning around 10h30am. My contact, Byron, is here waiting for me. Byron will be my guide for the 3 next days.

TsachilasOnce I have all my belongings, we talk and eat lunch together in a restaurant. He invites me to try a local specialty: encebollado. It is an onion soup (cebolla means onion in Spanish). When we finished our meal, we take a bus to go to the indigenous community. After 40min of bus and 5 min of walk, we finally arrive at the Tsachilas community. I meet everybody and Byron explains me the plan for this afternoon.

Tonight, I don’t sleep in the community but on a farm in the mountains. I take only what I need for one night and for hiking in my backpack. We leave in a motorbike with Byron and we ride until the farm. On the way, we stop to share a beer and to discuss my expectations and the program. After one hour of a motorbike, we arrive at the farm under heavy rain. But it doesn’t matter, I get to prepare for the hike and we go to the path of cascades!

The path is full of mud, steep and narrow. Sometimes, we have to cross a river or climb a rock with a rope under the heavy rain. But, it worth it. The cascades are so beautiful and in the middle of the forest. We see 7 cascades in total and the last, the crystal cascade, is the most impressive. I was literally soaked and tired but I was so happy to be here. Byron and I went back to the farm before the night.

Once we are at the farm, it is night. There, there is no electricity, so no light and no hot water. We cook with gas and lights with candles. Byron heats water so we can take a shower with hot water after dinner. The dinner is simple but very good: rice with fresh vegetables. Then, it is time to take the shower like ancient time: one big pot with hot water and one small to wash. Of course, there is no bathroom so you have to wash outside, during the night with a flashlight. I think it is one of the fastest showers I ever took! After this first day, it’s time to go to bed. As there is no light or nothing to do (I forgot my card games …) there is not much to do.

Day 2

When I wake up, the sun is shining. And it is good news! Byron prepared me a surprise for this morning: at 7 am, we leave to milk cows with the family who owns the farm. What a surprise!! Of course, I’m really excited until I understand that we have to walk 30min in the mountain to go where the cows are. That’s a hard way to wake up, but there is no choice if we want milk for breakfast! This how I start with 30min of a hike at 7 am. Once we finally arrive, we immediately start to milk the cows and all the family work. For the first time, I tasted fresh milk and I even milked a cow myself!

Tsachilas

At 10 am, we are back to the farm to eat our breakfast. Honestly, I was starting to starve! But after we finished to eat, the rain starts again. Even if the rain doesn’t stop, we stick to the plan and leave the farm with the motorbike.

When we arrive, the rain finally stops. And that’s good news because you want to swing in a river! The place is beautiful, with some shades, a tree and we are alone! I really like this place and we stay all the afternoon to swim and talk. We decide to come back to the community when it’s night.

I eat dinner with all the family and I can finally talk to them. Once the dinner is over, I have to get prepare for a shamanic ceremony. I am not going to tell you in details the ceremony because it is very personal. But I can tell you what happened in general. This ceremony is about reading your past and your possible future (because it may change according to your choices). Moreover, during this ceremony, the shaman “cleans” you from your negative energy so the positive energy can take all the free space in you. If you are filled with positive energy, good things will happen to you in the future. In my case, the ceremony lasts 3h and was a little bit tiring (because you have to focus during the ceremony).

Day 3

Already my last day with the Tsachilas. After breakfast with the family, I visit the plantation of the community with Byron. He explains me the purpose of each medicinal plants they have but also the different variety of cacao, bananas, yucca, etc. The tour lasts all morning and I can even taste all I want: oranges, cacao, medicinal plants, etc.

Tsachilas

Around mid-day, I go to the kitchen, not to eat but to learn a traditional dish: yucca galettes. This time, it is Byron’s sister who explains to me how to cook. I’m proud of the result because nothing burned! And when I taste it, they are really good!

For my last activity and to take pictures with the family, I have to wear the traditional clothing. Thus, as we are taking pictures, we are also saying goodbye. Once the photos are done, Byron and I go to the bus terminal together. We talk on the bus of the 3 last days and what I think about it.

Until the end, Byron was adorable with me because he even went with me to buy the bus ticket so he was sure I had the right bus.

My opinion

The tree last days were very busy and fast. Thanks to Byron, I learned a lot about the Tsachilas culture but also about their traditions, religion or their modern issues. These 3 days were intense even if Byron took care to adjust the plan according to my wishes and my rhythm.

Now after a few days, I regret I didn’t spend more time with the family. I spent all my time with Byron and even if he took the time to explain to me many things, I wished I could talk with the women of the community. But, 3 days is a really short time and I would have to need more time. And my budget couldn’t allow me to stay longer. Because yes, the 3 days cost me 150US$. Everything is included, I paid nothing from to moment I met Byron at the bus terminal to the end.

Whatever, I still recommend you to spend a few days with the Tsachilas. These people are so kind and thanks to them I learned and discovered many things.

The preparation

If you want to spend some days with the Tsachilas, I will give you all the information you need here.

– How to contact them?

The easiest solution is to use their website and send them an email on the page named « Contacto »

– Where?

The community is located in Santo Domingo de Los Tsachilas. It is between Quito and the Pacific coast. From Quito, you need around 5h by bus to go to Santo Domingo.

– What do I need to bring?

You can take all your luggage if you are traveling. But the most important is repellent. Very important.

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