Where are we?

Adios! Colombia and Hola! Ecuador

Monday Nov 11

We all made a quick stop in the border city of Ipiales to get a few more groceries and gas since we still had Colombian pesos left.  Also, foreigners cannot purchase fuel in Ecuador within a 100km of the border! Since the price is suppose to be so much cheaper.  We kept 10,000COP just incase they slip in another toll in the last 5km before the border LOL!! I also checked our mileage and we drove a total of 3700km in Colombia.

We get to the border and find a parking spot and then walk back to Immigration. There is no one in line ahead of us. So we all got thru very quickly. Then we walk over to the DIAN building to give up out vehicle TIP.  We take a picture of the TIP before we give it up incase we need it for some weird reason later.  Then we got back into our vehicles to go over to the Ecuador side. We get stopped and the customs guy (?) asks us a few questions and looks inside Vanna thru Dwayne's window and points us to go around the back of the building. I put in a (?) because the guy was wearing one of those plastic white hazmat coveralls - I saw him later spraying "disinfectant" on the under carriage of a Colombian semi-truck as it was about to cross into Ecuador.  We go around the building and find a parking spot and go into the immigration office, again no line up - wow we are lucky today!!  Get stamped in for 90 days and then over to the Aduana to get our TIP for Vanna which also only takes 10 mins. Our total time in crossing was only 30 minutes. That's a first 😀

We discuss with Marc and Herlinda what we'll do next. We decide to meet at the cemetery in Tulcán that is suppose to be really nice to see.  It's only about 5km away.  On the way we stop at a store to buy a SIM for Claro but he doesnt have any. Guess we'll wait until we get to Ibarra since it's a large city and where we will be staying tonight.

We get to the cemetery but have lost Marc and Herlinda. We go into the cemetery knowing they cant be far behind. We walk in and see the most beautiful topiary garden I've ever since! These guys have Edward Scissorhands beat bar none!!  😂  The workers here use hedge clippers on cedar trees to keep these works of art in shape and do a fantastic job!  It was started back in 1936 by the head gardener and now there are over 300 figures.  He passed away in 1985 and is now buried in the cemetery which was renamed in his honour in 2005 to José Maria Azael Franco Cemetery. Now his 5 sons along with other cemetery workers keep all the figures trimmed.  His epitaph reads: "In Tulcán a cemetery so beautiful that it invites one to die!"

Amazing topiary figures

One of the gardeners trimming the arch 

After we've walked around for awhile we find Marc and Herlinde. When they came in they turned left while we had turned right :)  We decide that we should go have some lunch since we are ready to leave and they still want to walk around some more.  We go to a nearby little restaurant and order coffee and soup.  Chat some more of where we are going. Since they plan on 3-4 years in South America they will be taking their 90 days in Ecuador as for us we'll be here for 30 days!  We are going on to Ibarra and they are not sure yet.  We pay for our soup and coffee $3US for BOTH Dwayne and I!  After our lunch we hug and say goodbye. Not sure we will meet up again since they will be going slower. Was so nice to meet up with them and travel at least a couple of days with them to get to know them better 😊 Goede reizen Marc and Herlinde!! 😍

I wondered why Ecuador uses the US$ as it's currency and I read the reason is because before 2000 the country's own currency the sucre collapsed so badly that people were putting their holdings in US$ which unofficially dollarized the country's economy. So in 2000 the president officially made the US$ currency of the country.  I'll see how it goes in our spending for the month we are here compared to what we spent in Colombia. I figured out that we spent in Oct was a total of $4659.17C and if I take off the port/agent fees of $1444.30 we spent $3215.17 on actual living expenses.  When I look at last year Nov expenses in Crete with rent (but no vehicle) we spent $3042.  I dont have Honduras expenses but think they usually run around $3000/m.  In Canada we are usually closer to  $5000/m expenses. Gas and food is of course so much more expensive in Canada!

Driving in Ecuador is much smoother! The roads are very good and seem very new.  The landscape stays the same as in Colombia for awhile, then switches to more desert looking and then flat valleys. Once we get closer to Ibarra we're back in the mountains. Soon we should be able to see volcanoes, which Ecuador has many of.
Looks similar to Colombia for awhile 
Then it becomes a little barren on the hills 
The highway is smooth :) 
In the flat valley areas sugarcane is grown. This hill in the center looked out of place 
Lots of sugarcane fields
Kids in their school uniforms. Boys even have matching jackets to their pants
This piece of metal art shows that bicycling in Ecuador is also something alot of people like to do
We arrive in Ibarra around 2:30 wow, that was a quick trip from Tulcán - just like maps.me showed 1.5hrs!! We are going to park overnight at a gas station but since it's to early to park we drive into the city to look around. We find a auto supply place and go in to buy some red and white reflective adhesive tape that we will put on the back of the van on the box and spare tire cover. Seems to be something else the Peruvian police like to hassle overlanders about.  I also see there are alot of "night clubs" here advertising "dancers" We didn't see anything like that in Colombia. We find a mall and even get to park underground for the first time!  We go up and then see a Claro store across the street. We head there and ask about a SIM.  The girl puts one in my phone but still shows No Service. She tries another SIM card and again No Service. This is strange since we had no problems in Colombia with Claro. She said our phone wasn't compatible with Claro in Ecuador.  Maybe try Movistar? What?? Ok so we leave and head back to the mall where I see a guy in a Claro kiosk. I ask him about a SIM - and he puts one in and it works!! WHAT??? So we buy the sim with promo of 1.5GB of data and buy another package of 3GBs of data for $15US. A little more expensive then Colombia. But at least I have the phone set up again.

We walk around the mall and see how the stores are decorated for Christmas - they like to start early like my daughter! Well actually they start much earlier here because there were Christmas decorations in Colombia at the beginning of November. We see a sign Pizza Hut 😂 yup that's going to be supper! And then we will head back to our spot for the night and set up.

I sure didnt see this kind of advertising of car washes in Colombia!

One of the store windows with a blue Christmas theme 

Tuesday Nov 12

Had a peaceful sleep, watched another movie that we got from Paul and Tanya - Mission Impossible - Ghost protocol. Good movie but funny how Tom Cruise is always running so fast in his movies!

We drive thru Ibarra but not alot to see so we drive up to the town of Cotacachi only about 15 km away. I'ts known for it's leatherwork. And once we got there and were walking around I'm surprised how many gringos seem to live here. We  walked by a real estate office (another oddity) and it had pictures of places for sale and rent and was mostly in English.

We stop at the main square and check out the church. It was built between 1919 and 1954.

Can't get over how nice the highways are. 6 lanes in some parts! And the 2 tolls we drove thru yesterday were only $1 each. Colombia the average was $3 per toll and the roads are terrible!

Cathedral Matriz in Cotacachi
Beautiful doors 

View of Parque Matriz from the church
Dwayne having a story read to him by Carlos Coba Andrade who was a researcher and composer in Cotacachi

Love the look of some of the palm trees
2 local indigenous women shopping. Love how the baby is sleeping on her back

Even found a statue of Charlie Chaplin
Displaying what the town is known for 

I bet the kids love throwing their garbage in these cans!

When I was taking a picture of the wall a beautiful indigenous girl walked by. Her hair is down to her knees! If you click on the picture you can enlarge and see her better

Yes of course after walking need a treat! Mousse cake 😋

We then decide to drive to Laguna Cuicocha - second largest crater lake in Ecuador.  It was a nice spot to have our lunch but unfortunately it started raining just as we got there. But the view was still pretty.

There are 2 islands in the lake

This was the best shot I could get of the inactive volcano Cotacachi which is at 4939m. At the lake we are at 3100m

This is a picture of the lake and volcano that was inside the visitor centre
In the visitor centre they also had displays of the indigenous people and there dress

We then drove to the Condor Park just outside of Otavalo. But after driving 3 kms on cobble roads we find out it is only open on Wednesdays and Sundays! So we drive back along the cobblestone road into Otavalo where we will spend the night parked by the main square.

We have found out that when we give a $20 bill for something we buy we quite often get back alot of dollar coins and maybe a $10 bill.  So while we are in Otavalo we take in our $100s and $50s to the bank and exchange for $20. Even paying at the tolls which are only $1 we could only pay with a $20 and nothing larger. So when we were driving thru the 2 tolls yesterday we used a $20 each time to get smaller change. Now we have pockets full of $1 coins!!

We find out where the market is held here every Sunday - which we will miss, but read that Wednesday are the second busiest day when the locals bring in their goods to sell - mostly handicrafts.  So tomorrow we can go to the market and the Condor park :)

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