We left Salento and headed South. We made a stop outside Cali at a nice, quiet Hostel on a river in a beautiful valley. It was Sunday and the small towns and river banks along our route were packed with people taking advantage of the nice weather and weekend. It was a completely different place when we left the next morning with the streets pretty much deserted!
We then headed towards Ecuador and were hoping to hit the border town to spend the night, so we could cross over first thing the next morning. The mountain roads and traffic were a lot slower than we had expected, so we ended up pulling into a big 24hr gas station and asking to spend the night. No problem! Not the best of sleeps but a relatively safe place to hunker down for a few hours.
The next morning we were up early and made a stop to see a very cool church that is built on a bridge! Las Lajas Sanctuary is a Gothic style church that is built on the site where an apparition of the Virgin Mary was seen in the rocks. It’s also a popular pilgrimage site with many people claiming miraculous healing. An impressive place!
After the church we crossed into Ecuador with ease despite a bit of waiting in line ups. We even picked up a fellow Canadian traveller who we drove to our next destination, Otavalo, Ecuador.
Otovalo is known for having the largest market in all of South America! Well at least on the weekends but sadly (or gladly depending on how you look at it!), the majority of stalls, and all the live animal market was closed and the scene was very laid back. There was still a good market and Dave did end up getting a very dapper Ecuador hat!
QUICK TRIVIA: Panama hats are actually originally from Ecuador. In 1945 for the World Fair Ecuador sent over all kinds of hats but since they travelled through Panama to get there the people in Paris assumed it was made in Panama. So poor Ecuador got no credit at all!
After hanging out at some nice cottages overlooking Otavalo we hit the road again and finally crossed the equator. It’s about time! And it’s only taken us 7.5 months. But it was very cool to see the line and a good photo opportunity. Now wouldn’t you think that the equator would have nice hot weather?!
Next we drove into Cotopaxi National Park to do some hiking and biking. Cotopaxi is the second highest mountain in Ecuador and is a snow capped vision (and an active volcano)! When you can see it that is! The roads were a bit rough going into the park especially this one corrugated area where we thought the van was going to vibrate to bits. Thankfully she didn’t, but we did manage to squash and cut a cable on our auxiliary battery, causing a short circuit with the battery. There was smoke, and a lot of running around and panicking, but phewf no fire!
The shakes also wiggled our furnace into not working. And when you’re on the side of a glacier mountain this really sucks!
We stayed on the mountain for two cold nights with all our blankets and thermal undies on. We could have handled the cold but on our lovely long bike ride around the valleys an unexpected storm blew in with heavy rain and hail
The roads turned into gushing rivers full of hail and our hands seized up from the cold. And the lightening was stiking so close it was scary! We were soaked to the bone and poor Dave just couldn’t get warm again. After a few hours and a long hot shower we started to feel our toes again.
We picked up another traveller coming from the park! This time a British guy who was having a hard time in Ecuador with tales of being robbed and being taken advantage of. Hope we helped him a bit! We dropped him off on the Quilitoa Loop which is a beautiful yet rough road around a volcanic lake and surrounding lush valleys.
Pretty and impressive! We had planned to hike around the crater lake, but the weather didn’t cooperate and with rain in the long and short-term forecast we decided to move on.
We moved on to the little town of Banos where we were the only guests at the Pequeno Paraiso Hostal. The owners are ex-overland bus drivers and specialize in taking in the huge overlanding tour groups, but the season hasn’t started yet.
With the entire run of the place we got Ginger all fixed up again! That includes running new battery cables and getting the furnace working again. Dave is not only handsome, but handy too!
A big development in our plans is that we have found a buyer for Ginger! A few weeks ago we put her up for sale on a website popular with people doing similar trips as ours. Well wouldn’t you know we received an email from a British/Canadian guy who is keen to buy Ginger for a year of exploring around South America! A few logistics still to be worked out, but we are very happy that she’ll have a great new owner, and that we don’t need to stress out about finding a buyer any more.
Tomorrow we plan on getting into seeing the sights around here before moving on and finding some new places to explore.