Category Archives: small towns

From Ponchos to Playa : Northern Ecuador

“ECUADOOOOR”… for some reason we started yelling this as we crossed the border and snaked our way through the mountains of Ecuador. I guess we are pretty excited to be here. My feelings haven’t changed since, and I still have the urge to yell this regularly.

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Our friend Dayna (from the San Blas trip) was going to be in Otavalo on Saturday for the market. This was the push we needed to get out of Colombia. It was great to see Dayna again, and to spend all of our pocket money on blankets and ponchos. We regret not buying more goodies in Mexico, and vowed not to make the same mistake again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Best food ever $2 a plate from the cutest lady. Might have been fried blood and potatoes, ignorance is blissss!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA How much is too much?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe brown bus just got browner.

Loaded up with ponchos and blankets, it made no sense to head to the heat of the coast, but that is what we did. We wanted to get back in the water, and I had read that Mompiche has some good waves for learning. Mompiche itself is a little fishing/surf town, with an end of the road vibe. To me it is the perfect beach town, quiet and dusty with a little bit of style thrown in the mix. Bamboo seems to be the wood of choice, and it has been used to fashion a handful of beautiful houses and hostels which line the sandy streets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADoor to the beach

The heat was a novelty again. We shed our excess layers of clothes and set up camp for a few days in the car park of a hostal.

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The surf was best at the point at low-tide, but it was breaking somewhere all day. Mark was out there at all tides, but in the heat of the day I hid in the shade and snapped some photos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Waiting

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALIttle mid-tide beach break

On the second day, the swell had dropped off so we walked around the point at mid-tide. I love seeing such dramatic changes in the water level, from high to low tide the waters edge must have retreated about 100m. After our surf that day we were both pretty tired, and happy to watch the sunset with a cold beer from the shore. 

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And so begins our zig zag through Ecuador. Time to head back to the mountains again.

Posted from: Playas, Ecuador.

 

Adios Colombia

It took us a few days to say our farewells to Colombia.  We knew it was time make a push for the border, but in typical brown bus fashion we didn’t take the most direct route.

After our usual morning ritual (breakfast, coffee, drop the top and repack the van) we headed up to the archeological park at San Agustín to check out the ancient stone statues.  The park is massive and covers a few different areas where burial sites, statues and carved bathing pools have been uncovered.  The highlight for us was meandering through the Bosque de las Estatuas (Forest of Statues).  The jungle here was alive with birds and wildlife and all sorts of crazy plants and flowers. We were the only people there.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The number of different carvings found in this area is incredible, within the forest walk alone there was about 40 of them. Most of the statues here had been moved around over the years and have now been randomly situated throughout the jungle with a winding foot path connecting them. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We spent that afternoon in Mocoa, hiding from the torrential rain and resting up to prepare for our next big day of driving.  We had to cross back through the Andes to get to the border.

The Mocoa-Sibundoy Road is kind of renowned for being difficult and hazardous.  It has even been nicknamed El trampolin de la muerte (Trampoline of death). The dirt road switchbacks up and down through thick jungle and clings to the sides of mountains.  Many times we had to cross through creeks that rushed over the road and disappeared over the edge. In some spots it’s only wide enough for one vehicle with a sheer drop on the other side, so we had to reverse up to a wider spot to let trucks through. But, the views were pretty nice when we were able to snatch a glance.

All in all, the road was in pretty good condition and guard rails were in place for most of the drive so we didn’t feel like we were going to fall of the edge. Maybe this route is no longer worthy of it’s dire nickname, or perhaps we just caught it on a good day.

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After about three and half hours of winding rocky roads it felt good to be on the tarmac again. Finally emerging from the Sibundoy Valley we cruised down to Laguna de La Cocha.

There is a little village here with houses that line both sides of the river as it leads into the lake. Everyone was super friendly and it seems like they are all competing to make their houses and boats the prettiest. We couldn’t pick a winner.

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Trout is the local specialty here and almost every house or restaurant is selling it. We took a stroll to the lake and chatted to a local fisherman for a while, he had some tips but none of them helped us to catch any fish.  Nevermind though, we found a hotel that served delicious trout dinners and let us stay in the carpark for the night. It felt to good to have a little date night with a nice dinner and a crackling open fire.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We just had one last stop on our run to the border to check out the church at Las Lajas. The ‘miracle painting’ displayed on the rocks inside didn’t convince this skeptic, but each to their own. The church itself, which spans a deep canyon, is really impressive. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We’ve had such an amazing time in this country. It has definitely surpassed all of our expectations.

Adios Colombia, it’s been great.

Posted from: Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

The Cute Towns of Colombia

The last week or so has been a wonderful little journey of discovery.  After dropping Sal and Shaun at the airport early in the morning we hit the road for a long day of driving, with the aim of getting to Bogotá in a couple of days.  The van is back to its good old self and we put in a huge 10 hour drive in the first day. But after that, we slowed down.

Not because of the van, but because we have been continually surprised and enchanted by the mountain scenery and the beautiful little towns dotted throughout the hills.  We couldn’t help smiling as we drove through the Chicamocha Canyon. It felt good to be on the road again, and in the mountains with expansive views opening up before us.

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We took a few detours to visit some small towns along the way. The kind of places that make you want to stay a while and wander aimlessly through cobbled streets and town plazas. So, that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing.

Oscar the chameleon OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsquare2  square1magic towns 08The picture perfect town of Barichara

It took us quite a while to get to our next stop.  The day’s drive took us through some beautiful dairy country of rolling green hills. Farmers hand milked their cows in the fields then waited on the side of the road with their steel churns for the milk truck to come by in the afternoon.  We stopped often to buy locally made snacks and dairy products. After missing a turn and taking a 2 hour detour we finally rolled into the camping area of a hostel in Villa de Leyva just after dark.

We spent a few days here, because we liked it so much and we were in the mood for some downtime. When the weather was good, we spent our days exploring the village and hiking up to a lookout point high above the town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScenes from Villa de Leyva

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe weather rolling in

When the weather turned cool and rainy, (a welcome change from the heat of the Carribbean), we had the perfect excuse to hang out in the van with a cup of tea and a book or a movie.

Every cloud…

There are loads of little attractions for the weekend crowds around Villa de Leyva, so we hit up the local deli for picnic supplies and headed out on the bikes to find a nice spot for lunch.

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One of our favourite spots was the Casa Terracota.  A passion project of an architect from Bogotá, it’s a house entirely handmade from terracotta. Every inch of the house is a custom handmade work of art. There are no straight lines anywhere, it’s all odd curves and lumpy walls. Inside it just feels comfortable and peaceful, sort of like a cave, but with natural light pouring in from every direction.

It’s open to the public for a small fee, and I was able to chat to the builder about the curing process. Since you can’t exactly put the house in a kiln, instead, when a new section is under construction he lights a big coal fire inside the structure and it cures from within.  One of the pillars in the back patio was undergoing this process when we were there. Boring details for some, but not for me.

Posted from Bogotá, Colombia.