In Ecuador with Kevin Lee and friends
by Larry Barham

Last winter I was fortunate to join Kevin, my paragliding instructor, his young son Enakai, and a few other paraglider friends in Ecuador. For me, it was a transformative experience, one that rekindled a spirit for adventure that I thought I had lost.

Our itinerary had been carefully planned to fly as much as possible, which we did, but it was also planned to give us a real feeling for the history, culture and geography of our host country. Our local guides Julian and Juan, are old friends and associates of Kevin's, and were very knowledgeable in these areas. Fluent in both Spanish and English, they were a pleasure to travel with and get to know as friends. I hope to be able to return a bit of their south of the border hospitality when they next visit Oregon.

One of the non-flying high points of the trip for me was as a guest on a cooperatively run farming community in the Andean highlands that still uses farming practices that haven't changed in thousands of years. Sharing wonderfully prepared organic meals freshly harvested from their gardens in their peaceful presence, I was transported back to a simpler way of life that made perfect sense. Such dignity, knowledge, and presence our hosts possessed!

A small country about the size of Colorado, one could easily spend a lifetime exploring its many diverse offerings: towering twenty thousand foot plus volcanoes, white sand beaches, lush Amazon jungle, and high Andean plateau, to mention only a few. It's also one of the safest of the countries in South America to visit. People were generally very friendly and welcoming wherever we travelled.

We flew at an amazing mountain site before heading to the sleepy coastal town of Canoa where we stayed at the luxurious Hotel Canoa. From there it was a short ride to the local launch where we could soar the beautiful ridge and coastline and watch squadrons of pelicans cruising just over the breaking surf below. A wide beach was always at hand to land if the wind got light, with a better than average chance to land right back at our hotel for a nice swim in the warm ocean and a cold locally brewed dark beer.

On our last two days we drove an hour south to a rarely flown site just south of Bahia to a new launch overlooking miles of completely undeveloped coastline with miles of ridge to soar. It was here that I had flights that I will never forget for their unsurpassed beauty! Unending wide beach, a coastal ridge running for miles in either direction, a kaleidoscope of color change in the sea below and sky above, unbroken green jungle inland as far as the eye can see, frigate birds, hawks, friends… it just doesn't get any better. It was a trip of a lifetime, and one that I would recommend to anyone who has the chance.

Kevin has been taking groups to Ecuador for many years, and has the experience and insider knowledge that make trip preparations easy. I especially enjoyed the relaxed pace he prefers, and the feeling of, "we're all friends and family here, locals and visitors alike."