Tag Archives: colombia

The Equator…. Finally!

Travelling South out of Colombia

Travelling South out of Colombia

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!

Camping outside of Cali.

Camping outside of Cali.

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.

Sleeping with the trucks again!

Sleeping with the trucks again!

Beautiful hills in Southern Colombia

Beautiful hills in Southern Colombia

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!

The view down to the church (bottom right, in the valley)

The view down to the church (bottom right, in the valley)

Las Lajas Sanctuary

Las Lajas Sanctuary

The inside of the church, with the cliff wall behind the altar.

The inside of the church, with the cliff wall behind the altar.

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.

This weeks travels in Equador

This weeks travels in Equador

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!

Numerous soft and fluffy things available at the market

Numerous soft and fluffy things available at the market

Dave with his new 'Ecuador Hat'

Dave with his new ‘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!

Our view over the town of Otovalo

Our view over the town of Otovalo

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?!

Christine posing over the equator line

Christine posing over the equator line

Each in our 'home' hemispheres

Each in our ‘home’ hemispheres

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!

Smoke and burn marks on the battery cover...

Smoke and burn marks on the battery cover…

Badly overheated battery cables

Badly overheated battery cables

The shakes also wiggled our furnace into not working. And when you’re on the side of a glacier mountain this really sucks!

Camping in view of the volcano

Camping in view of the volcano

All the winter gear was required up here (over 3800m elevation)

All the winter gear was required up here (over 3800m elevation)

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

Christine catching her breath - biking at 4000m is just as hard as hiking!

Christine catching her breath – biking at 4000m is just as hard as hiking!

Another one of our 'typical' volcano photos...

Another one of our ‘typical’ volcano photos…

Christine keeping her dental skills up

Christine keeping her dental skills up

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.

New snow on the volcano - this fell during the storm of our bike ride...

New snow on the volcano – this fell during the storm of our bike ride…

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.

Patchwork hills around Quilatoa

Patchwork hills around Quilatoa

The crater lake of Quilatoa

The crater lake of Quilatoa

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.

The loop road around Quilatoa

The loop road around Quilatoa

Beautiful views from the loop road

Beautiful views from the loop road

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.

The grounds at Pequeno Paraiso hostel

The grounds at Pequeno Paraiso hostel

Enjoying a 3 course lunch in Banos - all for US$2.50 - amazing!

Enjoying a 3 course lunch in Banos – all for US$2.50 – amazing!

With the entire run of the place we got Ginger allĀ  fixed up again! That includes running new battery cables and getting the furnace working again. Dave is not only handsome, but handy too!

Christine checking the electrical connections to the furnace

Christine checking the electrical connections to the furnace

Dave running new cables back to the auxiliary battery

Dave running new cables back to the auxiliary battery

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.

 

This weeks banner - biking around Cotopaxi National Park - in the cold and thin air.

This weeks banner – biking around Cotopaxi National Park – in the cold and thin air.

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Back in action

This weeks travels

This weeks travels

We are enjoying ourselves here in Colombia. After the long shipping process we were anxious to get on the road. The morning we were due to just pop in to pick up Ginger at the Port actually took all day!

The vehicles unloaded and ready for inspection

The vehicles unloaded and ready for inspection

More paperwork - of course!

More paperwork – of course!

It wasn’t just a simple thing but a whole procedure of inspections and more paperwork followed by the search for mandatory car insurance. We did have our fellow shippers to help get this all done and then we were off!

Ginger freed from jail and ready to go!

Ginger freed from jail and ready to go!

We didn’t make it that far though. Couple of hours and we stopped at an odd but kind of cool mud volcano that you can get into. El Totumo volcano is a 15m high mud pile that slowly oozes fresh mud from the top.

The mud volcano

The mud volcano

It’s reportedly 3000-6000 ft deep but you don’t sink and it’s really difficult to move around in it. Christine wasn’t a fan of the sensation, or the mess of it but Dave faffed around in it no problem.

The mud pool in the cone of the volcano

The mud pool in the cone of the volcano

Dave wallowing

Dave wallowing

The weirdest was the ‘mud remover’ guy who’s job was to rub down everyone exiting the bath. But it was a cool, cheap experience and we got to camp right on site. Pretty quiet once everyone goes home!

Luckily there was a lake to wash off in nearby

Luckily there was a lake to wash off in nearby

The next day we actually made some distance and arrived at our destination: Tayrona National Park. We paid the unreasonably high foreigner entrance and car fees and then set up at a Castilletes restaurant camping resort area. We couldn’t make it in on the rough road to the national park camping area.

Our camp in Tayrona National Park

Our camp in Tayrona National Park

We set out the next morning for El Pueblito, which is an archeological site of an old village located high in the middle of the Colombian jungle. Similar but on a much smaller scale than Ciudad Perdida which requires 6 days of trekking to visit. We sweated and climbed up into the jungle and did manage to see some small ruins but it was more about getting out in the jungle and doing the hike.

The hike starts with a couple of hours along the coast

The hike starts with a couple of hours along the coast

Tayronas beaches

Tayronas beaches

Walk-in camp sites along the coast

Walk-in camp sites along the coast

Climbing the jungle trail

Climbing the jungle trail

Dave happy to be at the top (Note Daves shiny new hiking shoes - all of $25 there!)

Dave happy to be at the top (Note Daves shiny new hiking shoes – all of $25 there!)

We were rewarded by a nice swim at the bottom in the Carribean Sea.

Swimming at the beach after our jungle hike

Swimming at the beach after our jungle hike. Spot Dave?

Colombia is our first big country in a while and we are noticing the distances. Also doesn’t help that the roads are only single lane, if that, with the most crazy and aggressive drivers to date.

There are also a lot of heavy vehicles on the highways which make for slow going

There are also a lot of heavy vehicles on the highways which make for slow going

Climbing the roads into the Colombian highlands

Climbing the roads into the Colombian highlands

And the tolls are never ending with at least a few dollars paid at each one, and for some crap roads too.

One days toll receipts

One days toll receipts

Collpased roads seem to be a common occurence here

Collpased roads seem to be a common occurence here

The gas here is also not cheap but similar to home prices. Colombia’s neighbours, Venezuela and Equador, have much cheaper gas so the border areas have contraband gas that they sell on the streets. Not legal but a booming business!

Illegaly imported gasoline for sale

Illegaly imported gasoline for sale

We had two big long 8+ hour driving days in a row to get to our next destination: Villa de Leyva. It’s a cool old colonial town up in the mountains, complete with cobblestone streets. It’s supposed to have the largest square in Colombia but we were a bit disappointed by how barren and empty it was. Maybe it gets filled on the weekends??

The beautiful colonial steets in Villa de Leyva

The beautiful colonial steets in Villa de Leyva

The plaza here is huge - but empty...

The plaza here is huge – but empty…

We’ve been hanging out here in the cooler weather at the Renacer Hostal where they have great facilities and a nice camping area. We explored the town, sampled some food plus hiked up to the Sagrado Corazon which is overlooking the town.

The view over town

The view over town

Dave doing.....? Who knows?

Dave doing…..? Who knows?

But mostly we’ve been gearing up for our big hike next week, which is a 6 day hike in El Cocuy National Park, all around 4,000m altitude! We’re leaving the van here and taking a bus east to the National Park. Should be good !

 

This weeks banner - army ants in the jungle

This weeks banner – army ants in the jungle

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