4th May to 7th May 2014
04.05.2014 - 07.05.2014
We left our beloved Colombia early in the morning, so that we could get through the border quickly and head on to Ecuador. Our first stop was Ipiales were we needed to get a shared taxi to the Colombian border. After getting our exit stamp (in the same queue as people entering Colombia) we crossed the bridge over into Ecuador and before we could even get our entry stamp, taxi drivers were pestering to take us into the nearest town. So theoretically we could have entered the country without needing to show our passports! This made us think how easy it must be to smuggle drugs and stuff into Ecuador, particularly as there was no military presence – very weird! We played by the rules of course and got our stamp, and were officially welcomed into Ecuador. Our next stop was a town called Tulcan where we managed to get a bus very quickly to the town of Otavalo, which was three hours or so south. Straight away we noticed that Ecuador had a less efficient transport service than in Colombia (meaning slightly dodgy buses) and it felt a bit like the transport in Asia. The transport is about as cheap as Asia as well! We made it into Otavalo in the afternoon and found a really nice room for quite a reasonable price. Unfortunately, however, when we logged onto the internet we found out that our fridge had broken at home and so we needed to sort out a new one quickly for the tenants – so we sent around emails to try to arrange something! Otavalo is a traditional market town and is famed for its indigenous population who sell traditional (and not so traditional) goods in the daily market, which spills out onto a massive square in the centre of town. After investigating fridges, we wandered around the market looking at all the wonderful array of colourful goods such as ponchos, scarfs, mats, musical instruments and so on. We had an early dinner at a really nice restaurant, which turned out to be the only choice as everything else was shut on Sundays. The food was great though and a real improvement on most of the stuff we got in Colombia. After having a wander around the pretty old square with funky lights, we spent the rest of the evening trying to sort out a new fridge – great fun!
The next day we hit the market again with the purpose of buying Susanne a poncho. After a couple of hours, she finally decided on a lovely dark green one made out of alpaca wool which we haggled down to $13. In the afternoon we headed on to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, to decide our next move. It was a short two and a half hour journey to the city and we chatted to a nice English chap called George who was doing research in Ecuador for his PhD in anthropology, so it made for an interesting journey. When we arrived we jumped into a taxi with him once we had finally found one that would go on a meter rather than trying to charge us an extortionate $18. To drop George off and then go onto the old town (which was about an hour from the bus station) cost us $10 in the end. We got dropped off at a hostel we had found online called Colonial House, right near the centre of the old town. They only had one fairly expensive private room left for $25, but it was lovely with a big comfy bed and nice features. The hostel itself was great with three floors and loads of nooks and crannies to chill out in, a TV room with DVDs, pool table and so on. We decided to cook ourselves, so went out and got some ingredients to cook up a nice pasta and save some money!
The next day we joined a walking tour around the old town. To our surprise it was run by an Irish chap who had only been in Quito for a few months. Initially, we were fairly disappointed particularly as we had such a great walking-tour experience in Medellin with a passionate local. However, the Irish chap turned out to be quite informative and showed us some of Quito’s impressive colonial sights, including a massive basilica church and plaza grande which was full of beautiful colonial buildings and monuments. We also met some nice people on the tour, including an Irish woman (Louise) who also wanted to go on an Amazon tour in the next couple of days so we decided to hook up and book something together. So in the afternoon we met up again in the newer part of town (called la Mariscal) to look up some of the Amazon tours which turned out to be quite a tricky task. In the end we decided on one, but the agency had already shut so we needed to book it the next day. In the evening we met up with Louise and some other people from the walking tour in a place called La Ronda, which is a street in the old town with some nice restaurants. We picked a traditional restaurant that had a great selection of typical Ecuadorian dishes. Matt ordered what he thought was going to be pork chop but wasn’t quite what he expected – due to a slight translation issue the English said ‘leg’, but he didn’t notice that the Spanish was ‘pata’ (or foot). So what actually came up was a pig’s foot – it was quite disgusting! The next day we headed up to la Mariscal early to book our tour, but when we arrived the agency wasn’t open. When we returned after a coffee, the office was open but when they tried to open the door for us they broke the key in the lock! This was not the only great laugh that occurred when booking the tour, as the write-up printed on a leaflet said that along with the wellington boots that were included, we would also get 'Musketeers'. We hoped that we did not need these, and it transpired that they meant mosquito nets (a slight google translate mistake!). Eventually we got in and booked the tour for the next day, which meant getting a night bus that night for 8 hours to the town of Lago Agrio. So the rest of the day was spent packing our stuff ready for the trip to the Amazon and finally choosing and ordering our new fridge-freezer (after about 5 hours of scouring the internet!). Before catching the bus we also had time to chill out on the sofa at the hostel with a pizza and a film which was lovely, although it completely put us off going to the bus station. The next stop will be the Amazon and we can’t wait!