Ecuador and the Ruta del Sol

We desperately needed some sun. After 2 days of torrential rain everything was soaked. Raincoats were dripping, clothes were damp and shoes were soggy. The inside of the van had that dirty sock aroma. We turned Vanna toward the coast.

The Ruta del Sol runs along the west coast of Ecuador, from Esmeralda in the north, to the southern town of  Salina. One long stretch of rocky cliffs and soft sand beaches, secluded bays, fishing villages and touristy towns. Occasionally we would see a gated community with manicured yards and large beach houses, often accompanied by a billboard announcing lots for sale.

How much? Just $65000 US. Continue reading “Ecuador and the Ruta del Sol”

Ecuador and the Spectacled Bear

We have had our first week in Ecuador and we are loving it. There is a feeling of spaciousness and tranquility. The pace seems slower, yet things are organized and efficient.  And gas is  $1.85 US for a US gallon. It’s a nice combination.

On our way to Ecuador, the road from Mocoa to San Miguel was paved, with rough breaks now and then. It was not near as remote as we had believed it to be, with hamlets and farms all the way along. It turned out to be a beautiful five hour drive. Continue reading “Ecuador and the Spectacled Bear”

Colombia: Ibague to Mocoa

After encountering the road block on the Panamerican highway, we hung out around the city of Cali, hoping the road would open.  There was some information on the internet about the conflict, but nothing about when the issue might be resolved. The protesting Indigenous group wanted a meeting with President Duque. He wanted them to open the road before agreeing to a meeting. We asked everyone we met, but people would just shrug. Consequently, we had no idea when we would be allowed through. Continue reading “Colombia: Ibague to Mocoa”

Colombia: Quindio the Coffee Region

An Overlander recently advised us, “If you make one plan, you will end up with two plans, because plans always change”. 

We have realized that with Overlander travel, schedules don’t work. The van needs maintenance, the road is closed, documents take days to renew instead of the expected hour or so. And then there is another place just down the road that locals tell us we have to see. Our original plan put us in Peru in February. It’s now mid March and we are still in Colombia. Continue reading “Colombia: Quindio the Coffee Region”

Peru: Cusco and Machu Picchu

A major tourist destination, Cusco is chock full of museums, old architecture, and traditional customs. It is also the starting point for tours to amazing treks and many Inca ruins. Over the week, we had first-ever experiences like dealing with altitude sickness, holding a baby llama, eating alpaca steak, and waking up at 4 AM to the heart pumping sensation of an earthquake.

Basillica, Cusco, Peru

Continue reading “Peru: Cusco and Machu Picchu”

Medellín, Colombia

We spent a little over a week at Al Bosque camp, near the tiny village of Santa Elena. Situated in the mountains just east of Medellin, the whole area seems to be carved out of the forest, a wandering paved road connecting trimmed yards, small restaurants, and public parks. Tall cedar and pine hug the roadways, with striking orange Black Eyed Susan vine climbing everywhere, over hedges and fences. Continue reading “Medellín, Colombia”

Cartagena to Medellin; driving through Colombia

On route 25, it is 640 kilometres from Cartagena to the city of Medellin, but it is not an easy drive. In that distance the altitude rises from 100 feet in Cartagena to over 8500 feet before it drops down to Medellin. The road was decently paved with only random holes or bumps to avoid. Having had the fuel pump replaced the van seemed re energized. It was not long though before we experienced car troubles again. Continue reading “Cartagena to Medellin; driving through Colombia”

Cartagena, Colombia

We had anticipated a grungy port city, enduring long days waiting for the van to arrive. But Cartagena turned out to be a joy to visit almost from the time we arrived. I say almost because there was that moment at the airport. Going through customs, we were surprised to see a short line just for Canadians. Wow! We skipped up to the window with the red maple leaf sticker. How nice to get special service. Our smiles quickly faded when we learned that incoming Canadians are slapped with a reciprocity fee of $80 US each. Continue reading “Cartagena, Colombia”

Panama City, El Papa, and the Darién

The 30,000 km Panamerican highway that we have been following stops dead at Yaviza, Panama. It begins again at Turbo, Colombia, leaving a roadless gap for 100 kilometres. Known as the Darién Gap, this land is home to three indigenous tribes, the Kuna, the Emberà, and the Wounaan. It also hides drug smugglers, illegal migrants on their way north, and enough paramilitary rebels to leave you shaking in your boots. There have been plans to continue the road but all efforts have failed.  A few travellers do manage to get through using jungle trails, wooden river lanchas, and even a short hop on an 8 seater plane. Continue reading “Panama City, El Papa, and the Darién”