10 Years of Blog Archive

Friday, October 03, 2014

What’s It Like to Live on the Equator of Ecuador: Sunburns and Early Evenings

The nation of Ecuador is situated on the (imaginary) line of the Equator. The position or point in Ecuador that is closest to the sun is called, The Mitad del Mundo ("Middle of the World"), which is a popular tourist attraction just outside Quito Ecuador.  There is also a solar museum and numerous craft shops in the area as well. The Mitad del Mundo is known as one of the most popular tourist hot spots on the equator line.

What Are the Equator Seasons Like in the Andes Mountains?

Living on the equator you will notice little difference between spring, summer, winter, or fall. We have noticed a slightly rainier season in the spring, and slightly cooler temps in the winter, but we have not yet seen any real noticeable distinctions about the weather in Ecuador.  As a matter of fact, we have witnessed more rain in the dry season and less rain in the rainy season. You just never know what to expect as it is always just about constant.

It never snows in Cuenca Ecuador, located way up in the Andes Mountains. It never freezes in Cuenca, and if it does, it’s a rarity.  Temps are usually stable with an average of 72 degrees during the day and 45's-50’s at night. When the sun comes peaking out of the clouds it warms up nicely, sometimes too much, and yet the temperature rarely goes above the 80 degree mark, but it sure can feel like it; it is cloudy more than sunny; and you never know when it will rain so it is wise to always be prepared by dressing in layers and carrying an umbrella with you.

Is Cuenca Dry or Humid?

We think it is somewhere in between dry and humid. Let’s put it this way. It’s not dry like Arizona, and it’s not humid like Miami Florida. Cuenca feels somewhat damp most of the year, even when it hasn’t rained for days; and as you begin to walk around, which we do a lot of, it warms up your body fast and you will sweat. The reason why some people think its dry here is because the altitude makes them thirsty because they are working their body harder, and when the sun comes out it feels hot, even though it is only 72 degrees Fahrenheit.  The mountain air at this altitude is thin, but it carries with it certain amount of dampness. Read on.

Mold Can Be an Issue in Cuenca
(click on the photo to enlarge - this is black mold under my kitchen drawers!)

It is a recurring theme here in Cuenca; the dreaded mold growth, see more photos here.  We know of several expats to Cuenca that had to move from their home or apartment because of the black and green mold growth. We had mold in our home, hiding in the most inconspicuous places; it took me several cleanings with bleach and then white vinegar to eradicate it, but it still grows back, and usually faster in the colder winter months of July and August.  Read our story about mold here.

Cuenca Sunrise and Sunset

The sun rises around 6:00 o’clock AM every morning without fail and it begins to set every evening around 6:00 o’clock PM and by 6:30 PM its dark outside. This is one reason why everywhere in Ecuador people begin to head home around 6:00 PM and by 7:00 the city center is pretty quiet with only a few people mingling about; however, there are exceptions to this when there is a festival or holiday going on, which in Ecuador could mean every month a holiday or festival.

The turning dark by 6:30 PM gets some getting used to, especially if you’re coming from the Southeast in North America where in the summer it does not get dark until after 9:00PM.

Warning: Ecuador Sun is Powerful!

The equatorial sun is VERY powerful in Ecuador and when it comes peaking out of the clouds it warms everything up instantly, including your body.  You can easily get a tan here, even when the sun is behind the clouds. It is recommended that light skinned folks work themselves up to getting used to the sun before they sunbathe or allow the sun on their face for more than 15-minutes; do wear a floppy hat or sun visor to shield your nose and forehead, which are the most vulnerable to getting burnt when walking around Cuenca. 

We rarely use sun block and believe  people use it too much, which actually keeps them from getting a suntan and receiving the healthful sun rays on their skin. Sunshine is actually good for your skin in moderation; the key is to not allow yourself to get burnt!  However, I have found the sun to be much, much more powerful in Ecuador and so on rare occasions I will dab a little bit of sun block on the bridge of my nose and forehead when I know I will be out all day in the sun. 

Sunblock is really expensive here in Cuenca, so you might want to bring some along with you.

FACT: Getting sun burnt over and over again can make us susceptible to skin cancer. Working the body up to getting used to the sun rays on the skin is good for your health and is the only TRUE way to receive Vitamin D, which is a much needed Vitamin that helps keep diseases and cancer at bay!

Brandon, our oldest son got this terrible burn recently when we went to Punta Blanca Beach. The day was overcast, very windy and about 72 degrees. He only laid out on the lounge chair for a couple of hours and this resulted.
 He was in pain for a full week!

On the third day his legs literally turned purple; wish I would have taken a photo of it then because it looked really awful. Anyway, just be careful as the sun is very strong here. 

Brandon said it hurt so bad it was difficult to wear pants! LOL. Thankfully, he had his face shielded from the sun so it did not endure such a burn.

High Altitude Symptoms? 

HINT: Everyone’s body is different; therefore, not everyone will experience the same symptoms. 

Some people have symptoms only for a week or two, while others, the symptoms last one or two months. Below are some of the symptoms we had and that were reported to us from expats to Cuenca.

Common High Altitude Symptoms

1. Shortness of breath
2. Difficulty exerting oneself

3. Slightly head-achy
4. Thirstier than usual
5. Dry mouth
5. Feeling tired
6. Sinusitis

Uncommon Altitude Symptoms

1. Panic Attacks
2. Headaches (sometimes migraines)
3. Nauseous
4. Nose bleeds
5. Popped blood vessels in the eyes
5. Dizzy
6. Memory loss

We think it is important, and we always advise newcomers to Cuenca to take it easy for the first couple of weeks. It’s fine to do some walking, however, it is a good idea to take breaks and rest when you feel out of breath; and drink lots of water so you will not get dehydrated. It’s also a good idea to NOT eat greasy, or deep fried foods, white flour and sugary foods, alcohol and sodas while the body tries to adjust to the new altitude and climate. 

Some expats tend to overdo it by over exerting themselves, eating unhealthy, and letting the stress of the move get to them and they end up getting sick the first week they are here, for two or three weeks! Remember: the first month in Cuenca pamper yourself. Slow down!

VERY RARE Altitude Symptoms/Conditions

In very rare cases, those with preexisting conditions may experience strokes or bronchial respiratory issues and in some instances, complications may arise; we think the latter is a mixture of preexisting medical conditions and the body's inability to acclimate itself to the altitude and climate. Understand, these are rare cases, so please do not let it worry you too much, we just want to make our readers aware of it. 

MOST people adjust fine to the higher altitude and will not have any problems.  Living on the Equator is a new experience and different; we’re glad we’re here basking in it and that we have the opportunity to tell our readers about what to expect too.

We're an Expat Family of Five Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy in Cuenca Ecuador! Enjoy the blog!

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