Where are we?


Well I wasn't gone that long at all! We are still in Ecuador :)

We only had 156kms to drive yesterday and it took us 5 hrs!! Lots of mud slides onto the highway to dodge and then the last 30 kms was gravel and pretty much single lane!! It did start raining at one point and we pulled over for awhile waiting to see if the rain would stop. It didnt last long so we decided it was OK to keep going.

Once we got to Zumba we go to fill up with gas but they only take cash. And since this is the last gas station for awhile we have to fill up. We still have 25 kms of crappy road to drive tomorrow and not sure where the next gas station is. We have enough cash to pay for it but then we are pretty well out of cash. So we go to both the ATMs in town and neither will accept our card!

As it turns out today it's raining so we are stuck in Zumba - not going to try and drive that road not knowing how high it goes since the road yesterday was up and down and luckily not cloudy so no clouds to drive thru! But today it would be different.

So we sit and plan and decide we need to drive back north to Loja and then go west from there and back onto the PanAmerican highway and enter Peru that way. There isn't alot we were going to see in the northern part of Peru anyways but just thought since we were so close to the border after visiting Annette we would go.

We sit in Zumba and wait. I decided to make a pot of veg soup for lunch, bought another 3GBs of data and will do more online planning for Peru today. Tomorrow we'll hopefully be able to leave and head back north.

The water just keeps on coming over the highway 

Yup! Long ways down there!

And then all of a sudden back on concrete highway

This river is not to high yet

View of the mud we drove thru from the opposite side 

Doesn't look good!

But passable 

Now we have 30km of this!

Wouldn't be driving these roads at night like the buses do!!

First Bailey bridge

Then an very narrow bridge

Not the best looking crossing we've seen

Doesn't look like this will last long

Made it!

Adiós Ecuador Hola Peru!

We arrived in Vilcabamba around 2pm and dropped off our laundry to be picked up at 5 washed, dried and folded :)  In the meanwhile we walked around the centre of Vilcabamba, which is not that large. Had a nice iced cappuccino and people watched for awhile. Yup lots of gringos live here! Then after awhile we headed to where Annette is staying and parked outside the gate and got onto the wifi - she had given us the passwords :)

Surfin' the net on free wifi :) 

Shortly after 4 we got together with hugs and "can't believe we are meeting up in Ecuador!"  We went into the complex and checked out the place. She has a nice room with bed, desk, chair for reading and nice big bathroom for about $15US a night which includes breakfast! There are nice gardens to look at and also a kitchen fully stocked with dishes, pans etc to use for lunch and dinner preparation.  Quite a nice place. Annette has stayed here now for a month and is moving on to other places - the coast being one of them.

We go back to Vanna to drive to the restaurant - tonight is pizza and beer night 👍 The pizza was great - forgot to bring my camera! We sat and enjoyed a beer and spoke with 2 other Canadians that dropped in. After that we walked around the plaza for awhile and then had an ice cream for dessert. By 8:30 we were back and would meet for breakfast in the morning. Annette was worried that where we are parked would be noisy with roosters and barking dogs. The dogs were a problem for awhile but finally fell asleep and didn't even hear any roosters! LOL!!! Think we are "rooster deaf" now! 😁

In the morning we had a great breakfast of fruit, pineapple juice, eggs and potatoes with toast.  This will hold us until lunch for sure!  Then it was off to the Saturday market.  Again we drove theire since we are going to a German hostel about 2kms outside of town for lunch, so saved us the walk back.

This market also has gringo tables, selling special bread, hand made soaps and veggies. Along with the locals veggies etc.  Ended up having to have a cheese empanada and this time I said yes to the question if I wanted sugar on it. Had to try it the way the locals eat it - and of course it was good!! More like a donut because the amount of cheese inside is negligible :)  I also bought some aged cheese from the local indigenous cheese lady - very tasty! She also makes a very good tasting smoked mozzarella - but I choose just one to buy. It should taste good with the gluten free olive bread I bought.

With Annette, and no we did not plan to all wear yellow today - just happened!! LOL!!

We walked around some more and checked out some jewelry etc made by indigenous people. Very nice stuff but nothing I would really be able to wear. There was one nice necklace but he wanted $45!  Nope not this gringa!

After that it was time to head to the hostel for lunch.  We had a great lunch there, Annette had tomato soup with bread, Dwayne had pasta with creamy mushroom sauce and I had homemade tempeh (tofu) with spatzal! And I forgot to take a picture!! During lunch it really started to rain hard. Pretty usual for this area to have sunny mornings and by mid afternoon the clouds open up and it rains for a few hours. But today it was really coming down along with REALLY loud thunder!

Part of the hostel, owners live upstairs and restaurant below. There are rooms and a pool in the back

Nice garden below the restaurant

A view of Vilcabamba

The rain spoiled any ideas of walking around and seeing more of Vilcabamba!  Tomorrow we head south and hopefully get close to the border. It's still 160 km of VERY windy roads along with gravel parts. Not sure how long it will take us but our plan is to cross into Peru on Monday.

Ecuador has been a beautiful country to drive through. It is so green and the roads are the best! Plus they have everything from snow covered volcanos to thermal baths to lovely beaches.  The cities have all been interesting and easy to get around. We have really loved Ecuador 😍 Now it will be interesting to see what Peru has to offer.  Since we are going into the country from the northeast side where it seems there are no large cities, not sure what to expect. Also now we have to get vehicle insurance so will have to hunt for that in the first small town, and of course need to find a Claro store to buy another SIM card and get hooked up with data again - always a bit of a hassle!

I figured out what we spent for the time we were in Ecuador (a month) and it came to $2536 Can. Alot less than the $3300 in Colombia and less than we spend while in Honduras. The price of fuel being cheaper here helped reduce the expenses. Also being a smaller country we put on less kms - 2475 compared to 3700 in Colombia.  So a good country to live in :)  Anyone want to buy a house on the Caribbean coast in Honduras in a lovely gated community?

So not sure when I can blog again, so don't worry I'LL BE BACK! LOL!!!

Sigsig- the real place for toquilla hats

Yesterday afternoon after we got back to Vanna a young couple and their son from France had moved in. They brought over their motorhome from France to Uruguay and are now on a year tour - SA and going north to Canada.

He was saying that the roads and infrastructure in Ecuador are so much ahead of Peru.  He said especially the roads. So I guess we better enjoy these roads while we can!  I had heard earlier from someone that the Peruvian government spends all its money in the Machu Piccu area and the rest of the country gets nothing.

Today we need to get some propane since Dwayne drained the 20lb tank into the fixed tank on Vanna. No use trying to get the fixed tank filled here.  So we stopped at a place close to where we parked, but here we would have to leave the tank for 3 hours and come back and pick it up. So we decided to drive to the plant instead which is 18kms away.  We found the plant and they took our tank and were back with it within 20 mins! Wow I thought for sure we would be waiting for an hour. So now we have enough propane to last until Peru where it is supposedly easier to get filled. I guess we will see.

I was sitting on the fence about going to 3 towns about an hour away from Cuenca - one is know for jewelry making and the other for hats. But it is cloudy out day and I'm not sure how high we have to drive on a road that looks narrow on the map! Really don't want to drive into the clouds again if we don't have to!  But it did clear up some and the towns sound interesting and since the road we are on actually goes to these towns we headed out.

As it turns out the road was good and the scenery is beautiful. But again like we find so often there is more hype about the place than we find to be true! I usually read sites like Viator for ideas of things to see from their tours. Or blogs. So we get to Chordeleg - a well known place where artisans make jewelry. I was hoping to find some new toe rings.  We drive to the central park, walk around for awhile and all we see is store after store of jewelry, but not the supposed artisans themselves! I like to see where and who makes the jewelry. We couldn't even find any toe rings - bummer!  I guess there must be SOME place here where we could see jewelry being made, but we couldn't find it. And this is not a big town!  So we head out and go to Sigsig - where hats are made.

Found the sign but no real jewelry shops

Sigsig is a little behind in the Christmas spirit - just putting the tree up now
Sigsig is the same size of town.  We did see the mercado and I did read that they have hornado (roast pork) that we both like.  So once we got parked we headed over there. Hoping to see woman making hats. We had a great lunch but didn't see any woman weaving anywhere. So I asked the lady we bought lunch from where the ladies weave hats and she pointed the direction and its about 3 blocks.  Great! So we head out.

Lady serving us our hornado :) 
 We did find one little shop where a girl was weaving and she had a few hats for sale.  Oh course we know that most of the hats that are weaved by local women are sold to middle men who then sell to hat makers in Cuenca.  But from pictures it seems there would be lots for sale here and alot cheaper.  The weavers and hat makers want to try and change the name from Panama hat - since it has nothing to do with Panama and change it to the correct name Toquilla hats. But this will probably take a very long time or not happen at all. They want to give more credit to Ecuador

The start of a hat
One of the weavers carrying her project with her

Anyways we walk around some more but still find nothing. So decide to stay in this area by the river for the night. It's a nice sunny afternoon to enjoy sitting outside relaxing and do some reading.

When we get to the area we can park, we see some kids are out goofing around on the beach, but not in the water. We also see a few women actually doing their laundry in the river and we can hear them smacking the clothes on the rocks! Having seen this at all so far in Ecuador or Colombia.

Trying out a new fruit called tomata del arbol - tree tomato

Once cut open scoop out the fruit and it tastes similar to a kiwi and mango mixed. Really tasty
We get to sit outside for awhile but it clouds over and we go in. After awhile it starts to rain, and I actually got Dwayne to play a couple of games of crib :)

Supper tonight will just be sandwiches since we had a big lunch and didn't do enough walking I guess to make us hungry.  I did find some more info on a place to see hats in Sigsig so tomorrow we'll head to the shop and check it out.

So our trip back into Sigsig was successful and we found the hat store. It was close to where we were the day before but we went one block too far.  So we tried on a bunch of different hats and then watched a few girls at work. This shop has been around since 1990 when 167 women got together to weave, form, finish and distribute to other countries. I now one hat I tried on was actually one that is shipped to England. We did each buy a hat for a total of $45. Now we have nice 'Goin' to town Hats' and our cheap once for walking around and sweating' LOL!!!!

Different dyed ripped palm leaves for the hats

Lots on display and if they dont have what you like they can make it within a couple of days

Hats waiting to be trimmed

More hats hanging outside
Women doing the trimming of the hats

Then this girl puts in the machine to shape 

And 2 of the finished products 😎

We even get a fancy hat bag to carry them in

This was near where we camped - guess the centre support gave way

Now this one has replaced it - made with a solid steel beam.

Entrance to Sigsig
Then we headed back on a different road to Cuenca because we have to get back on the Panamerican highway going south. And it was quicker to go back on these roads then to head southwest to get to it thru the mountains on dubious roads! Since it has been raining not sure how good the "little" roads are that we would have to use.

Once back in Cuenca we get a few groceries and head south. Our final stop in Ecuador is at Vilcabamba where a friend of ours from Edmonton/Honduras stays for a few months every winter.  Its a small gringo town. The last place we stayed at in Cuenco said 'Oh Gringobamba' LOL!! Guess there are some holdover hippies from the 60's still living there. Will be interesting to see the small town. It's only 4 hours away but since Annette is volunteering at the local school everyday, we'll take our time getting there since we're not meeting until after 4 on Friday.

The drive is nice, no rain while driving, but did have to drive thru the clouds but only for a short while. Lots of rock and dirt on the road from small slides because of the rain we've been having at night. The rivers and streams are also muddy now.  Then by 4 we start looking for a place to spend the night. Found a nice gravel "pit" along the highway that we could drive up into and park behind some mounds of gravel so we had a nice hidden spot for the night. It did start to rain again at night but our spot is good because of the gravel that we shouldn't have any issues in the morning.  Also this will be our FIRST night that we don't hear any dogs, roosters or noisy cars! Great spot!!

A lot of mud to be cleaned up

And the water is still rushing down the muddy hill

Another area where the rocks slid down

Tried something different today - roasted salted corn kernels- not bad, a bit dry. Tastes like leftover popcorn kernels but way softer!