Valle de Chota, Ecuador – A name, a country: Ecuador, the equator state

That was the fastest Latin American border check so far. The departure from Colombia took 15 minutes including pulling in, pulling out, and money exchange. Of course there is a customs clearance as well. The temporary import permit is simply withheld, but we are asked politely if we would like to have a copy and get it stamped. Then we receive the departure stamp, and off we go to Ecuador. The passport check is fast like always, only at the customs we have to wait a bit since another German couple enters with its own camper as well. All border officers are very obliging. We need altogether an hour, and then we have the vehicle permit in our hands. There are no obtrusive border helpers in South America any more. Although we come from the drug country Colombia, nobody is interested in our camper’s content. Maybe that’s because Ecuador plants enough cocaine itself. Both border crossings were free.

On inquiry we are confirmed that a third-party-insurance for vehicles is mandatory for foreigners in Ecuador as well. We could buy it in the next town Tulcan what doesn’t work out. Finally they send us to the next city Ibarra, which is not on our itinerary today. Instead we visit the cemetery that might be the most beautiful in Ecuador. Hundreds of cypress bushes were cut into elaborate shapes, partially according pre-Colombian motifs. The facility is huge and still offers a lot more room to die. Between the green works of art white multi-storey urn tombs with affectionately decorated graves were built. The initiator of the art cemetery himself is buried under the green in the meantime. “A cemetery so beautiful that it invites to die” is written on his gravestone. His sons continue the tradition.

Five kilometres (3 mi) behind Tulcan the old Pan-Americana branches off to the west and leads in an arc over a plateau at around 12,000 ft to El Angel. In the course of the wonderfully lonesome stretch it touches the El Angel reserve, where the frailejonas that we already met in Colombia (see blog entry from 01.11.2011) get several metres high. Their sheer amount is impressive – they are millions and millions. The mountainous region that’s called páramo in Ecuador isn’t less attractive. Apart from the tiny hamlets in the beginning and the end of the 42 km / 26 mi long trail there is no traffic on the way and only one tiny hacienda. The route consists of old not hewed paving stones that disappeared for the most part and gave way to dirt. There are some deep mud holes on the marshy plateau – it’s better not to dare to get here without all-wheel drive. In El Angel we reach asphalt and 20 km / 12 mi later the new Pan Am. In between times we fill up our tank. Ecuador is a dreamland for drivers. Diesel costs 1.03 $ per gallon, regular 1.48 $ and super 2 $. The diesel is filtered and not dirty at all.

Further down we go on the Pan Am to 1,500 m / 5,000 ft to the hot valley of Chota River. The climatic enclave is alike a semi-desert with few precipitation. We are looking for Julius, a Liechtensteiner emigrant who is resident and married in Ecuador since 18 years. His small hostal isn’t yet opened officially, so we don’t find the ex-rocker and Harley driver immediately. Since there is only one gringo in town we finally discover what we are looking for and are warmly welcomed. Behind the restaurant we park relatively protected from the noise of the Pan Am. Julius is always available for a beer and a chat. He became quiet now and fond of children as well: He’s got four now. His facility Route km 121 is located in ideal distance to the border. Camping shall cost 5 $ per vehicle, including use of the pool. Ask also for his cabins. Cold beer and barbecue stuff is on hand as well. Julius asks for booking if somehow possible (E-Mail / Facebook:, Tel. +593 (0)6 2637223, Mob. +593 (0)94 119763). He can be found 100 m / yards south of Ambuqui toll station on the western side of the road at km 139.5: N 00°28’09.6’’ W 78°02’37.4’’.

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