Archive for the ‘Ecuador’ Category

Cayambe, Ecuador – Snow on equator

Samstag, November 19th, 2011

Another delightful piece of side road goes from Ibarra via La Esperanza, Zuleta and Olmedo to Cayambe. Until Olmedo we chug over old pavement stones and gravel, the last 18 km / 11 mi are paved. The route takes us through scenic páramo highland. Buses go here, so the road isn’t exacting to the vehicle except for suspension and damping. We get close to the beautiful 5,790 m / 19,000 ft high snow-covered Cayambe. The dormant volcano whose southern slope is crossed by the equator is worldwide the highest elevation along the equator line.

The weather is kind to us today and the glacier peak is aglow in front of steel-blue sky. We stay in Cayambe town and ask in the horse farm Shungu Huasi if they would allow us to camp. The hotel operation seems to sleep and there are not many horses. Doesn’t matter, the young woman welcomes us and we agree on 5 $. We prefer to park in front of the residential building instead at the stables where there are bathrooms but many flies as well. A quiet kilometre off the main road we still have a precious view to Cayambe Mountain. Shungu Huasi horse farm: N 00°03’02.2’’ W 78°09’17.5’’.

Ibarra, Ecuador – Insurance and other purchases

Freitag, November 18th, 2011

The insurance office is located in Ibarra at the named site (N 00°20’47.8’’ W 78°07’53.8’’). Colonial Seguro sells us a third-party-insurance for a month although the lady at the reception claims something different in the beginning and I nearly want to leave. A SOAT is available for one month or one year only. We receive a paper and a sticker for the windshield to show the police from far that we are insured. The costs for an RV shall vary between five and seven dollars, we pay 5.09 $. Since 2000 Ecuador uses the US$ as only valid currency. A couple of hundreds of yards south to the insurance office a mall is situated with a supermarket of the nationwide Maxisuper chain (N 00°20’46.4’’ W 78°08’07.3’’).

Generally food in Ecuador is slightly less expensive than Colombia, but prices are subject to strong fluctuations. Especially inexpensive are cheese and produce with many varieties. Meat is o.k. in price, bread in comparison insolently expensive. A loaf of coloured (“wholegrain”) or uncoloured white bread gives you 4 $. Alcohol is very expensive with nearly one dollar for a small bottle – remember we are in a third-world-country with very low incomes. Maybe the current president wants to solve the ever-present alcohol problem (everywhere in Latin America) in his country that way? In the mall you can find all mobile phone providers to get SIM chips for your phone, or air cards as well. We are lucky that Julius sells us his USB modem that he doesn’t need, so we save a lot of money. In Ibarra you can overnight at the PS gas station N 00°21’39.8’’ W 78°06’43.2’’. We prefer to go back the half hour to Julius to barbecue with the entire family.

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

Donnerstag, November 17th, 2011

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’’.