Near Ibarra – our last stop in Ecuador

Having experienced the best that Volcan Cotopaxi had to offer and with something more scenic in mind, we headed north through Quito to Ibarra, just 125km from the border with Ecuador. There, we found ourselves the guests of Hans, a retired German who had found a beautiful spot to set up his private campground and beer garden on the banks of a scenic crater lake with Ecuador’s only International standard race track running along the side. Fantastic you say? Well mostly it was delightful. Hans also had 5 dogs. They were friendly and quiet … unless someone/something went past the fence OR one of the other dogs visiting the campground caused a problem. Now this could happen at any time of the day or night and ll hell would beak loose! Suffice to stay that the campground was lovely but 2 nights was plenty.

Anyway back to the trip…

On the main roads throughout many countries we’ve visited there are always roadside stalls. These vary significantly by region and are usually grouped in such a way that several stalls in a row will have the same produce displayed in the same way. People stand by the roadside waving red fabric to get your attention. On this day, it was apples and peaches and the navigator managed to get a photo that was in focus..not easy at 80km/hour on a bumpy road!

DSC02778On the way through Quito our GPS, affectionately known as ‘Karen’, and occasionally as ‘that evil witch’, managed to make a simple drive difficult (again). This usually results in un-necessary detours on minor roads through areas we might not normally choose to drive. On this occasion, we were travelling nicely along the freeway viewing the valley that Quito sits in from the comfort of a smooth drive, when suddenly, we’ve left the freeway and we are ‘in the traffic’. Sadly this happened twice so it took longer than it should have to clear the city limits – but we did get to see a ‘little bit of Quito’ as a result. ‘Karen’ constantly provides us with opportunities to reflect on the merits of printed maps! She has been the cause of a few anxious moments and no doubt there will be more to come until the navigator really gets her under control! You’d think after 6 months we’d have a good idea when she was up to mischief.

Anyway back to the trip…

We stopped at Laguna Mojanda, a crater lake near Otavalu, to have lunch. The road here takes you past farmhouses perched on the edge of the rocky track and overlooks scenic mountain farming land. We had crossed the Equator between Quito and when we stopped for lunch and here we are dressed in polar fleece, Goretex coats and thick down jackets – at the Equator! Certainly not what we ever thought possible.

Otavalu is famous for its craft markets so a day was put aside for a ‘trip to town’, taking a taxi to and from the aforementioned campground. A little $$ left behind in Otavalu and we were ready to leave Ecuador.

Saturday morning and we were on our way to Columbia. The mountainous drive continues, with the road winding up to over 3,000m before descending a little to the border. We drove past some beautiful, if not a little dry farming land (and filled up with diesel!) in the 125km before entering Columbia.

Yet again we saw groups of people walking along the edge of the highway heading in the opposite direction to us, carrying bags and sometimes bedrolls, pulling suitcases and sometimes just carrying small backpacks. Sometimes these people are sitting in the median strips at traffic lights in towns we’ve passed, asking for money or sometimes selling individually wrapped lollies. Yet again, the border was busy with Red Cross, United Nations providing free access to wifi, vaccinations and health checks. It has been enlightening to see the human impact of current political situations in the Americas and we’ve gladly parted with many coins over the past few weeks. The extra traffic at the border (human and vehicles) made a slow passage from immigration to Aduana and then to a supermarket close by to purchase a SOAT (third party insurance) for Colombia. A good 4 hours of waiting in lines, but we had a bed for the night and good things to look forward to, unlike many of those lined up with us!

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