Rainbow Mountain and the Grass Rope Bridge, Peru

From Pisac we headed south….but not for long. As we reached the small community of Urcos, Vanna started protesting. It was the same intermittent problem we had had since Colombia. But this time she stopped and refused to move. Thanks to the iOverlander app we could see that we were close to a recommended vehicle repair shop. After a rest,  Bob coaxed her the few hundred meters up the road and then down an incline into El Tigre. Over the next few days we worked with the owner, Cero, and his crew of mechanics, to get Vanna running properly.

Suffice to say we spent the weekend in a hotel in Urcos.

Our room had a corner view of the square. The town seemed dead and we resigned ourselves to a boring weekend. Sunday morning the street noise woke us early, like 5 AM early. When Big Ben in the square announced 7 bells, I finally got up and took a peek out the window. Surprise. A market had sprung up on the side street right below us. Blue tarps were strung up with string and sticks, and underneath each sat a seller with their wares.  We had to take a closer look.

As the day went on the market got busier. People arrived in the back of 3 ton trucks or squished into colectivo vans in traditional  dress. This was not a tourist market, as we saw only 2 other gringos all day. Several blocks long, the market had the usual fruits and vegetables and open air meat. 

Flowers for sale at the market, Urcos, Peru

One group of women had a long row of flowers with huge red roses. We saw sheep’s heads for sale, and tiny live chicks. Stacks of eggs, huge baskets of fresh bread and lots of socks and underwear. Some women were selling towers of round white cheese. We walked around until I found a cheese woman who was not sitting right beside a raw meat stand. Turned out that we really liked the cheese as it tasted like feta.

Checking out the spices at the market, Urcos, Peru

Everyone ate lunch at the market. We chose seats near our hotel where a woman was offering a platter for 5 soles (2.50 Cdn) Another woman sat behind the table and peeled potatoes for the fries. Rice, fries, a wiener cut in fringes but held together at one end, a fried egg on top and a tasty tomato cucumber salad. Everything but the rice and the salad was cooked in a small fry pan over a propane burner on a table in front of us. There were three stools.

As we ate two young girls came along with their dolls. One doll in a stroller and the other wrapped in a pink blanket and carried over the shoulder. They ordered fries and we all laughed when they pulled out little pink wallets and counted their coins on the table. For their age they had a pile of money.

That evening there was a parade. We could hear the band playing from our hotel room and we hurried down to the square. First came a  float covered in balloons and carrying the winners of a pageant. The young prince’s sported black suits. The princesses wore satiny dresses with wide winning ribbons wrapped across.

Prince and princess float, parade in Urcos, Peru

Following the float was a school band, kids with drums, saxophones and trumpets all dressed in colourful costumes. The short stocky bass drummer just whacked that drum, and even though he was constantly turning to look all around, he never lost a beat.

The band led the evening parade, Urcos, Peru

For the next hour we watched dozens of different school classes, or clubs, parade through the square. Carrying home made banners, each group had a different costume, an unusual hat or headpiece, and performed a unique dance.

ONe of the dance groups in the evening parade, Urcos, Peru

Some kids pranced like horses, others twirled and jumped, some had a little shuffle forward and back. The crowd loved it and so did we.

After several days of running around, and thanks to Mike from slowcarfasthouse for providing the correct model of fuel pump assembly, the guys at El Tigre had Vanna up and running. She now sails up the hills without complaint.

Leaving Urcos late in the day, we headed south on PE3S and stopped at a small hotel run by a friendly family. For safety, the kind owner insisted we bring the bicycles in to the main floor restaurant for the night. His wife ran around bringing us an extra pillow, then toilet paper, then towels – items that aren’t usually in the room here when you arrive.

The next morning we decided to have our breakfast there. What were they serving you ask?  Caldo de Galina. A large bowl of flavourful chicken soup, including a boiled egg, a small purple potato, a small yellow potato, a chunk of yucca and some part of a chicken. Coffee was also unusual. First they gave us a thermos and Bob poured out two cups. But it was just hot water. Then they brought a glass carafe of coffee. We thought “OK here’s the coffee”, and poured the hot water back into the thermos, then poured ourselves two full cups of coffee. But the coffee was cold. Light went on. You pour half and half. Then you have hot coffee. Don’t ask why, just drink the coffee. And then eat your soup.

Rainbow Mountain had been on our mind since our visit to Peru last February. And now we just happened to be close to where an access road had been newly constructed.  It was a 2 hour hair pin drive. But spectacular.

Driving through the mountains on the way to Rainbow Mountain, Peru
On the 2 hour drive up to Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Surrounded by mountains, red soil, and sage vegetation, we drove up and along a med colored river as it raged downwards, through small villages, past small corn plots. Alpaca everywhere.

Returning from Rainbow Mountain, Peru

The road was narrow and if I put my hand out I could easily touch the rock faces as we squeezed by. There was no room for 2 cars to pass by but fortunately this new route had little traffic. Because of all the bends we could see a car coming which gave us time to find a spot to pull over and let it by.

Drive up to Rainbow Mountain, Peru
Array of colors on the drive up to Rainbow Mountain, Peru

When we reached the higher level parking spot there were only a half dozen other vehicles there. We left Vanna and started the hike. It was gruelling. Take a few steps, stop, gasp for air. A young couple descending stopped to give me a sniff of Muna oil. Thanks folks, that helped considerably.

Peruvian Flag on the left, Rainbow Flag of Cusco on the right (does not represent the LGBTQ) but is a symbol of Cusco and its Incan/Andean history

An hour and a half later Bob and I stood at 5,036 meters, staring across at Rainbow mountain. Stripes of greens, reds, golds, greys and teal run down both sides of the peak making a V-like formation that is captivating.

Spectacular array of colors on the Montana de Colores, Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Along with 100 others who were on tour from Cusco, and had hiked up from the other side, we stood in the icy wind, and were awed by this Montana de Colores. Struggling on the way up I had  asked those young people “Vale la pena?” (Is it worth the trouble) and the answer returned was “yes”.  Now at the top I definitely agreed.

We made it to the top, Rainbow Mountain in the background, Peru

That night, by accident, we stayed in a lovely refurbished  colonial hotel in the town of Sicuani. I had read the reviews and read “40 soles” but when I went in to the reception, she said 140 soles. Oops. But having spent most of our Anniversary lolling about a mechanic shop, we were due for a splurge. The hotel had beautiful wood doors, tiled staircases with wrought iron railings, and a common area with fireplace.

Our room at the Hotel Wilkamayu, colonial hotel in Sicuani

Our room had a sitting area with a comfy chair and a proper hot shower.  Dinner in the restaurant was excellent, and in the morning the included breakfast was not chicken soup.

On Friday  we opted to visit a UNESCO grass rope bridge, a little off the beaten path. It turned out to be one of the most scenic routes we have ever driven. From Sicuani, we drove north to Combapate, then west on PE34F to Queswachaka (the rope bridge) and then south on CU130 to the town of Espinar. It took 5 hours.

On the scenic drive from Combapate to Espinar, Peru

The wide valley vistas were incredible. We drove through sleepy adobe villages, past  of cattle, sheep, llama and alpaca accompanied by shaggy black sheep dogs.

Typical farm yard, scenic drive from Combapate to Espinar, Peru
On the scenic drive from Combapate to Espinar, Peru

Women in wide red skirts and leggings were hoeing or seeding or sitting on the grass watching over their flocks.  We waved, they waved, young children ran to get a better view of us, then shyly waved. We saw a few discers attached to tractors but most work being done was by hand.

Bicycle cart for transporting goods, rural life, Peru

There were only a few other vehicles all day. But there were thousands of potholes to drive around. Some were too wide to straddle and we had to dip carefully down and across . Average speed 15 km/ hr.

On the scenic drive from Combapate to Espinar, Peru
Rural life, Peru

In one small community we passed a group of school kids dressed in yellow soccer jerseys waiting at the side of the road. A few adults, maybe their coaches, waited with them. They yelled, and whistled at us as we drove by.

Most  towns were quiet, but one we drive through was celebrating.  Throngs of men in leather cowboy hats and women in sparkly top hats were getting on or off transport vans, climbing in and out of the back of trucks. Good in baskets and canvass bags were piled everywhere. Main Street through town was closed to construction and the detour was choked with Tuktuks, motos and 3 ton trucks. We inched our way past.

On the scenic drive from Combapate to Espinar, Peru

At Queswachaka, the grass rope bridge was impressive. Acknowledged by UNESCO, it warranted a National Geographic article in 2018. Yes, you can find it online. 

Last remaining Inca rope bridge made of Ichu grass, Canas Province, Peru

A community undertaking, the art of traditional bridge construction has been passed down through generations. This last remaining Inka rope bridge spans 120 feet over the Apurimac River. Renewed each June, it is made by twisting ichu grass into different thicknesses of rope.

Only one person at a time, Me, on the rope bridge, Canas Province, Peru

For 10 soles ($5 Cdn) you were allowed to walk across. On my journey both the bridge and I were a little shakey. The thin loose ropes on the sides provided no sense of security. If you lost your balance I am pretty sure those flimsy side strings would not hold. You  would soon be on the last unaided flight of your life. Anyway, I walked across and back, and didn’t die.

The bridgemaster told Bob and I about how he learned from his father and that his 2 sons also now help. He said that at one time this bridge was used to move sheep and llamba across the canyon. Although that was hard to visualize. Wouldn’t those tiny hooves break right through the holes in the mat?

Proud Bridgemaster and Bob in front of the rope bridge that is renewed annually each June, Canas Province, Peru

After we left the bridge, we drove through more lime and lemon colored grass hills with tufts of spiked grass. Winding tight turns, and the relentless dodging of potholes.

On the scenic drive from Combapate to Espinar, Peru

Large dark clouds were accumulating and after 5 hours on this road we pulled into the small town of Espinar. Another hospedaje and cheese sandwiches for supper.

Pisac and the Medicinales

We were intrigued by the Day of the Dead weekend, even though there were no colourful parades or celebrations. On this designated November weekend, Peruvians take flowers and special shaped breads to loved ones who have passed on. Wanting to see for ourselves, we headed to one of the Christian cemeteries in Cusco.  I imagined a large grassy yard, with loaves of bread and flowers strewn over the graves. Wrong.

At the cementerio, Cusco, Peru

Entering through a gate in a cement wall, we were surrounded by towers of individual cubbies, about 2 foot square, each with a locked glass door. There were walls and walls of these, the rows labeled with letters, the columns labelled with numbers, so one could easily find a relative’s resting spot. Library ladders were available to access the higher cubbies. We walked the aisles, knowing no deceased, but peering with interest at the arrangements inside of each cubbie. There were photos, animal figurines, ceramic angels, teddy bears, or cans of beer. On this special weekend fresh flowers and tiny specially shaped breads were also placed inside.  It was all neat and tidy and sensible.

On Tuesday, Millie managed our vehicle inspection, which occurred without a fuss. A  young woman in a navy uniform strode around the van with a clipboard, took photos, and went away. That was it. Wednesday we went to town in search of Insurance. We walked a long way.

Old stone walls, Cusco, Peru

The first place was closed. The next place we tried was open. A young lady, assisted by a friendly older woman, looked up the price, made lengthy calculations, and typed out a form. Since most buildings here are not heated, It was freezing in that office and both women wore winter coats while they worked.

Mission accomplished and Insurance in hand, we were legal to drive Vanna again.

Narrow stone streets and blue doors, Cusco, Peru

We decided on a drive to Pisaq, one of the archeological ruins in the Sacred Valley. We had only a short visit there in February, not enough time to take it all in.  The one hour drive from Cusco was pleasantly paved. The best part was the road into the town of Pisac, a long series of switch backs, descending from high mountain to low valley, with magnificent views the entire way down.

At the market we found groceries, then headed to Casa Camacho, a campsite located closer to the Archeological Ruins. 

Casa Camacho, Pisac, Peru
Casa Camacho, Pisac, Peru

Parking in the small yard, we were warmly greeted by owners Jaun and Ynes. Around the complex were several low adobe buildings, each with rooms for guests. A  kitchen, dining lounge and spacious bathroom were available for all to use. The mud brown adobe walls, the surrounding mountain peaks, and one long green valley view  combined to create a tranquil setting.  But little did we know that we had just dropped into another life. 1960’s California.

Félix, a Brit, was standing in the doorway of the oficina when we arrived. For us, having barely climbed out of the van, he launched into an explanation of why many people come to this part of Peru. Travellers from around the world arrive here for “medicinal enhancing spiritual enlightenment”.  He listed off active ingredients and possible outcomes – all to which we had one response. “What?”

Felix then explained that he sells Bufo, a toxin extracted from the pustules of a Mexican frog. Used for “medicinal” purposes it causes an intense psychoactive experience. “Similar to the San Pedro cactus”, he said, and pointed us down a small hallway.  The hallway opened up to a grassy courtyard where a dozen people sat semi circle, a long haired leader occasionally chanting. “Yoga?”, I asked. No. This was a San Pedro  ceremony. Another “medicine” extracted from a local cactus, used to elicit a spiritual reawakening.

Bob and I checked on that group from time to time, throughout the rest of the day. They sat on blue mats, barely moving. All afternoon.  Past dark. Hope they were enjoying it.

Just in case you are interested, a one week San Pedro experience will set you back $2400 US. For us though, camping with no add-ons –  $15 Cdn per night.

On Friday morning we took a taxi to the ruins, a paved road winding relentlessly uphill.

Pisac Archeological Park, Peru

At the entrance we hired a guide named Media, a local Quechuan woman and mother of 2 youngsters. Together we explored the expansive ruins, stopping to admire the water system which ingeniously brought water from lakes located behind the mountain. Then we walked way up to view the tombs dug into the cliff face across the valley. In those tombs, 3500 Inkans are  buried. Some of the white skulls have rolled out to the entrances and are visible even over the distance.

Inka tombs in the cliffs, Pisac Archeological Park, Peru

 Further on, we squeezed through a tunnel so narrow that Bob’s hat scraped the sides, then more climbing. At one point we looked down upon the housing area of the agricultural workers, each house situated in such a way as to collectively form the shape of a bird.  Incredible planning.

To help with stair climbing at this altitude, Media gave us a whiff of Muña essential oil, distilled from a local plant. We rubbed the oil on our hands, then inhaled. Our nostrils enjoyed a burst of fresh mint, allowing us to race up the next 10 steps. That was it though. The energy dissipated and we were back to puffing our way along.

Pisac Archeological Park, Peru

At the highest point Media stopped to let us rest on a rustic bench and take in the views out over the valley. She pulled a wooden flute from her bag. The hand carved instrument has an earthy tone, her slow clear notes floating out toward the mountains. I tried it but it squawked.

Our Guia playing the flute at Pisac Archeological Park
Our Guide on a steep stairway, Pisac Archeological Park, Peru

Media spoke a combination of slow Spanish, and basic English, with Quechuan names thrown in. We will never remember any of the Quechua but did learn that the language uses a hard kkk from the back of the throat, followed by a glottal stop. We practiced this with her. Might be useful sometime. And we learned a few tidbits about her family. The kids go to school in their own small comunidad where they speak both Spanish and Quechuan. And like the Inca, local families keep live cuy (guinea pigs) under the bed. Media only keeps about 15 at a time, yes under the bed, and she says they are very delicious.

Pisac Archeological Park, Peru

Our guide left us at the peak since we wanted to walk down the other side of the mountain into town. The trail was steep, lined with large grey rocks of different sizes. It was often necessary to jump down as opposed to stepping down. So it was a rough walk. But we strolled through the grassy Temple of the Sun, cruised past the extensive terraces which were once used for cultivating crops, and halfway down we encountered an old Quechuan woman selling her hand woven belts. I bought a blue one for my sunhat. Down further, we talked to a flute player, were passed by two groups of younger tourists, crossed a rickety wooden bridge, and then finally, with tired legs, we hobbled our way along the wide stone road into town.

Passing terraces on the way to town, Pisac, Peru
Wide stone road on the way to town, Pisac, Peru

As we sat at a small outdoor restaurant a crowd began to gather on the street in front of us. A lingering school girl told us it was a competition. We watched as parents arrived holding a young child in one hand and a pink or red plastic car in the other. The children looked about 3 or 4 years old. Eventually the parents formed a human road block across the street to stop traffic, the policeman blew his whistle non stop, the countdown began, and they were off.

The little tikes pushed hard with both feet. Having no pedals, their momentum careened them and their car, hopefully together, down the street.  The crowd was enthused. Proud parents, older couples, uniformed school teens, the restaurant cooks in white aprons, the policeman with his navy ball cap.  One little girl flew ahead of the rest. But the unfortunate child in the rear fell over. Twice. And then her mom picked her up while she wailed.

Let’s recap. A cluster of tiny tots, in plastic toy cars, speeding downhill, on pavement.  No brakes. No helmets.

Can’t buy enough alpaca sweaters, Pisac, Perui

That night I was sitting in the dining room, working on the laptop, when a young man came through the open doorway. A thin frame, his dark brown dreadlocks askew in all directions, he strode directly towards me, wrapped his arms around me in a hug and said “ I love you”.  Well hola California. Then he sat down for a long chat about his travels. A Swiss Franc, Gian-Luca has been in this area of Peru for 2 months, living on love and ganja. The next morning Bob and I  invited him for omelet and avocado sandwiches. Chatty yet unassuming, we both took a liking to him.  He is weaving  bracelets to sell, and we admired the glossy beads he purchased in Lima. And somehow we were not surprised when he showed us hIs  unique foot tattoos, the chemical formulas of his favourite ingestibles. Interesante.

As always we do not want to leave a place we are just getting to know.  But staying in one place makes us antsy.  So we turned Vanna south, towards Arequipa, Lake Titicaca and whatever else we find on the way.

Return to Van Life – Canada to Peru

We are back in Vanna again. Although the rainy season will begin soon, it is sunny and warm today.

In May, when we arrived home in Manitoba we were reacquainted with the beauty and bounty. Long evenings, magnificent  sunsets, wide open spaces, orderly traffic, and plenty of wildlife. One evening a fox ran across our lawn, the deer wander freely, many types of birds and  hawks and the occasional bear sighting in the park.  No wonder that people think Canada is beautiful.

Sunset, Manitoba, Canada

We enjoyed our time at home visiting friends and family, had a canoe trip in Quetico with Dave and Sally, and then sold our home of 30 years, packed up our belongings and moved out. We will miss living there for sure.

After Thanksgiving with family, and a birthday visit with our son Brett, we drove to Calgary to stay with our daughter Kelsey and our almost son in law Chris. More good visits and last minute shopping for car parts, a few gifts, and yet another drugstore run. A stock up of things like ibuprofen, Advil liquid gel, vitamin B12, and After bite cream, all of  which you may or may not find in SA. 

Having booked a morning flight, Kelsey dropped us at the airport in Calgary at 6:30 AM on Wednesday. We landed in Cusco, Peru on Thursday at 11:30 AM.  It was a bit long.

Stone carvings, Calgary Airport, Alberta, Canada

Our first stop was the small Terminal 4 in Cancún, where the Canadians land on their quest for a warm vacation. Needless to say the mood in the plane was exuberant. Our luggage came around the carousel first, which never happens. So we were grinning as we headed down a wide hallway, the exit doors in sight. Not so fast señor. Bob was randomly selected by some uniformed hallway intelligence to be pulled over for a bag inspection. That resulted in a $50 Cdn tax on all the car parts. We explained several times that we were not staying even 1 night in Mexico. No arguments accepted. These are the regulations. Pay the money.

After that we took a shuttle to Terminal 2, a multi floor building full of international shops and restaurants. It was a long wait for our overnight flight to Lima. We arrived in Lima in the early morning, expecting to pay some kind of Peruvian entrance fees or tax. But we were not even given a form to fill out. As we headed for the exit we had a choice.  An Items to Declare line or No Items to Declare line. The first was full of tables of opened luggage. We didn’t hesitate. In seconds we were out the exit and legally into Peru …with nothing to declare.

Next was  a one hour flight into Cusco and a friendly cab driver who was familiar with the location of our Quinta Lala campground. We had a joyful reunion with Millie the campground manager. Bob had Vanna running in no time and we moved her out of the storage area and into a camp spot. Everything in the van was just as we left it, neat and orderly. Now there are piles of stuff that we brought back, more clothes, medicine, first aid, new indoor lights, a stainless steel coffee press, etc. We keep moving the piles around thinking we will find a spot for them soon. Ha.

Vanna and friends, Quinta Lala campground, Cusco , Peru

We had suspended our vehicle permit in May and now we have to unsuspend it. Levantamiento de Suspensión. Millie explained that we had to start the process on Thursday since both Friday and Monday are holidays here.

It’s  the Day of the Dead weekend.

So after a short nap and a shower we took a cab into town to the SUNAT. First we were to obtain a photocopy  of the document that Millie had prepared. Across the street from SUNAT was a sign which read Impresión. Sounded like photocopy to us. So we went inside. The woman at the desk shook her head and pointed up a short stairway. We went up but that room was bare. We went out a side door to another office. The man shook his head and pointed to the right. We went that way to another office. This guy said no and pointed forward. In that office an American woman said “This is a travel agency. We don’t sell photocopies, but we will certainly make you a copy”.

We have learned this is common navigation system in South American. Each person points you on to another location, which is the wrong place, and you do this repeatedly until you find the right place. Weird but it works.

We stayed in town, shopping at the San Pedro market for fruit and vegetables. Then we perched on white wooden benches and ate savoury home made chicken soup, served by women wearing white aprons over sweaters and blue jeans.  A battery transistor radio belted out Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers while we ate.

Special breads for Day of the Dead, San Pedro market, Cusco, Peru
San Pedro market, Cusco, Peru

Later we hung  out at the Plaza de Armas which serves as a large outdoor community center. It was Halloween evening and the square was full of local families, moms and dads escorting little goblins, butterflies, cowboys, and superheros. There was cotton candy, balloons, entertainers, and music. The niños carry small orange plastic pumpkin pails, and earlier we saw them walking from shop to shop, holding the bucket out at the entrances where they received one tiny treat each.

Hallowe’en in the plaza, Cusco, Peru
Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
Plaza de Armas at night, Cusco, Peru

We plan to hang out here for a week or so. The next step in our vehicle process is that the police will come to the campground for a van inspection on Tuesday. Until then we will relax and acclimatize to this altitude. (Cusco 3400 meters; Calgary 1045 meters). We generally feel ok but get out of breath randomly. Walking uphill from town on Friday we felt fine, but later I got out of breath just getting in to bed.

The campground is full of the vans, RVs and truck campers belonging to travellers from France, Germany, US, and a couple from Argentina who formerly lived in Calgary. The facilities include a library, a small kitchen with stove and sink, and 2 washrooms with shower, flush toilets and sinks. The tap water is cold only, but the showers are warm. Not many toilets for the number of people here but some rigs have their own of everything.  As a bonus, there is an outdoor clothes washing station with 2 large sinks, cold tap water, and a clothes line. Free.

Quinta Lala campground, Cusco, Peru
Library at Quinta Lala campground, Cusco, Peru

There are quite a few kids in camp right now. The family beside us are from France and this morning we both have our doors wide open. I can hear the kids doing their homework in English, French and Spanish, arguing with their mom who is patiently answering. I wish the kids linguistic skills would rub off on me.

Meeting other campers is always interesting. Yesterday we finally met a woman who has been following Bobs Instagram. Funny we were following her travel app comments last winter. It was nice to finally say hello in person. And George, the Germán fellow I talked with last night said he had shipped his rig to Halifax, and over a year and a half had crossed Canada, driven up to Alaska and now down to Peru. He is headed to Argentina and expressed concerns about travelling in Bolivia. There are political demonstrations there, as well as in Chile.

Both of those countries are on our route. We will have to keep our ears open and our eyes on Google.

Metal Christmas llama, purchased from street vender, Cusco, Peru,

Peru – Time Out

Way back when we were planning this trip, we thought we would get to Argentina sometime this May. Well we won’t make it. But never mind. We have a new plan. We will get to Argentina eventually, but right now, we need a time out.

New plan. Store the van in Peru, go back to Canada for the summer and then resume our adventure in the fall. Our Canadian health care will expire if we do not return soon. And we need all those the fun things like dental cleaning, Colon check, and the ever enjoyable mammogram.

 Seeing family and friends will be stupendous. Continue reading “Peru – Time Out”

Ecuador to Peru – Lines in the Sand

Before we left Riobamba, we got a new windshield for Vanna. We had begun to dread each police stop, worried they would give us more hassle over the crack.  And then we paid $70 to a motorcycle cop who got the better of us with his fast talking performance. He phoned his boss to see if we could get a discount on the $100 fine. And apparently the boss said yes. So we actually saved $30. Haha. It is all such a game. But we speculated that the police in Peru might be the same or worse. Continue reading “Ecuador to Peru – Lines in the Sand”

Ecuador High

There are over 50 National Parks and protected areas in Ecuador. Combined with 40 plus active and inactive volcanoes, it is pure agony having to choose what to visit and what to pass up. The Andes run north south down the center of Ecuador and we knew we had to do some hiking in this region, also known as the Sierra. Continue reading “Ecuador High”

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”