Macas, Ecuador


Macas, Ecuador, has a population of about 23,000, according to several websites, though I find that hard to believe. The town's city center is much too big for that small population, and it's way out of proportion to 23,000. At any rate, it's a town in central-eastern Ecuador in the Andes Mountains at the edge of the Amazon Rain Forest in the Upano Valley, with the Upano River running alongside the town. Its byline is "Emerald of the East." The town, founded in 1538, was given the name "Sevilla del Oro." Later, in 1599, it was refounded with a new name, "Macas."

The city is supported by commercial trade, livestock, agriculture, and a bit of tourism. In the valley are crops of banana, yuca, sugarcane, papaya, and coffee (on the mountainsides at higher elevations). The tourism industry is still small but growing due to the new adventure and eco-tourism offerings, jungle trekking, rafting, and trips to indigenous communities. The town has many coffee shops and bakeries, and the ice cream shops mostly sell ice cream bars, with a few selling ice cream treats of various flavors and types. There are several bicycle shops, but when I was looking for a new cycling jersey/shirt, I couldn't find one in my size or that I liked from the tiny selection of no more than 12-15 (men's and women's) in all the shops combined. And I also looked in many shoe stores for Merrill hiking shoes and couldn't find a single pair in the entire city. But, in the much smaller town of Zamora (I visited prior to coming here), there was a shoe store with multiple Merrill shoe styles, just not in my size. Oh well, maybe the next town, Puyo, will bring better results.

Macas has a tropical climate. The average daytime high of 23° C (74° F), and the nightly average low of 17° C (63° F). The city's elevation is about 1050 meters (3445 feet). The average yearly rainfall amounts to 4153 mm (164 inches) of rain. The humidity is typically between 76% - 85%.

So, my impressions: While there is nothing particularly special to see in this town, I like it. But enough to live here? Not unless I had a very good reason to do so. It's surprisingly quiet, no horn-honking, no loud motorcycles (I can count on my two hands the number of times somebody drove their moto as loudly as they could). This town, like almost all the towns I've visited on the east side of the Andes Mountains, has no 3-wheeled moto-taxis, those awful noise pollution/air pollution atrocities all too common in many cities.

My goal is to find a new place to live. So to reach that goal, I am traveling most of South America, visiting the countries of Ecuador, Perú, Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay, passing through a bit of Brazil, and finally visiting Uruguay. I have a list of towns, about 70 that meet these qualifications: Cities with average day temperatures of 22-28° C (72-83° F) and night temps of 14° C (57° F) and higher; and a population between 28,000-300,000. I analyzed climate and population data of around 700 towns in the countries mentioned above and then pulled out the ones that meet the previously mentioned criteria, which leaves about 70. My preference leans towards towns of less than 100,000 people.  And, now that I have visited more than 130 towns/cities (not including more than 70 in Colombia), I've decided I will want an inland town. I love the beach and walking in the warm water, but getting sunburned is just too easy, even on a cloudy day. At least here in Ecuador. I've also decided that any town with more than 100,000 population will be too big. I've decided that any small town/city (less than around 80,000 population) that meets the temp specifications and has a supermarket and ATM is one worth considering to live in.

So, to reach my goal I will visit those towns and discover which one calls out to me - "Chip, Chip, make your new home here, this is your new home town". That hasn't happened yet, but the towns listed below are very close to giving me that feeling. At any rate, I have visited very few tourist attractions and archeological sites, etc., those will have to wait for another trip through South America.

My Top 10 list has these towns on it:

  • Puyo, Ecuador
  • Catamayo, Ecuador
  • Encarnación, Paraguay
  • Formosa, Argentina
  • Roldanillo, Colombia

During my travels in Ecuador, I visited 34 towns/cities. In Perú, I visited 38 towns/cities; in Chile, only five towns; and in Argentina, I visited 16 towns. In Uruguay, I visited five towns, and in Brazil, three. And in Paraguay, I have visited 26 cities. That's 127 towns/cities outside of 77 I visited in Colombia while living there for 9 1/2 years.

Next up: Puyo, Ecuador.