About 2 hour drive from Loja to the east in the Amazon forest lies a small and tranquil town called Zamora. Getting there from Vilcabamba in our old Land Cruiser was quite a trip, not because it is far in kilometers but because the road is so bad and so twisty

Part 1 by Pierre Wauters

Zamora has got two things: a huge clock and a lovely central square.

The clock is quite impressive and its size can be appreciated on the photo below:

It is illuminated at night. My six year old wanted to get to the top. There is a steep, footpath. So, up we went and here is a photo taken from the top

From there, one can also appreciate Zamora from above:

Believe it or not but Zamora's central park is easy to miss. One can go round and round and never see it.

The park is manicured and the church is very pretty

Apart from these two sites, we found Zamora itself disappointing. There are no markets or shops worth mentioning. There is a total lack of restaurants, just a few fast food style places serving chicken with rice but nothing, absolutely nothing else. We were there on a Sunday night and we went down every single street (because we were starving) looking for something. We ended up eating a bad piece of chicken and a bad burger with sauce that tasted like pure salt.

My advice: bring your own food or get out of Zamora and get yourself some frogs (more on that below).

From Zamora we took the road to Guadalupe which is about a 1 hour scenic drive along the river.

Note that along that road there seemed to be restaurants worth considering but it was not diner time then and we did not stop.

That drive is scenic and we really enjoyed it. At one point there is a Y junction with Yantzaza on the right and Guadalupe on the left. Guadalupe is not signposted. From there, the road is a dirt road and at the time we were there it was rather a "mud road".


Before getting to Guadalupe, there is a small village called Cantzama. Somewhere around there, there is a frog farm (Asociacion de Ranicultores). They sell ranas for eating. The largest ones weigh about 1 pound each. They are very pretty with beautiful shades of green. I have to admit that I have always had a soft spot for frogs. Below are some photos:

This is a business and I did not find that the animals were having a great life to say the least, packed as they were in these tiny shallow concrete ponds with only pellets to eat. They call that food "balanciado" which means "balanced" and that name conveys the meaning of healthy food containing everything a frog needs. I reckon the frogs would trade that for some juicy bugs instead !

Locals eat the frogs and I tried one and it was "rico" (delicious). The protein is lean and supposedly of very high value. It is a bit like chicken, it is a white meat. 

Warning: the following photos may offend !

I like to try things out and here was my opportunity to eat a frog. So, I bought one for 1 dollar, gave it my love and attention for a few minutes (while thinking to myself: "just tell me not to eat you, do something, I am a softy, things can still be turned around if you try and show some affection or something, I might even take you back home..." and also thinking "well, maybe it is better for you to die here and now rather than later, what is your life worth here anyway?")

... and walked it to the nearest restaurant, making sure to hold it as they instructed me, above the hips, squeezing enough so it can't jump but not too hard so I don't end up with "pate de grenouiile" before I got there.

This is how things are done here. There is no way for the coward to avoid the sight of its catch being slaughtered. You have to take it yourself alive to the butcher.

The lady took no time and in a few minutes the frog was turned into legs and breast, ready for the frying pan

Here they prepare it like a KFC chicken with bread crumps but I would prefer to try it myself with just garlic and butter.

Most of these frogs are for export, guess to where? To New York city ! They are shipped alive, in boxes. They can survive without water and food for up to 3 days.

Browsing the internet, trying to figure out what type of frogs these were exactly, I found that they were "rana toro" or "bullfrogs". Here is the link to some info in Spanish and in English. They are not native from Latin America. They were introduced from North America and Mexico because they adapt very well to various conditions and as such are farmed a lot. I found a PDF file about the Zamora frog export business,in Spanish.

Ecuador has a number of native frogs and some are really stunningly beautiful, some are lethal like the "dart frog". I don't want to tun this post into a frog story and I will leave it at that for now.

In Guadalupe, there is a catholic mission and clinic run by volunteer doctors and nuns. One can get healthcare there for a mere few dollars. The setting is beautiful, all clean and tidy, in sharp contrast with the villages that we had just driven through to get there. The name of the mission is parroquia "Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe" and they have a web site here

To be continued...