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Our route:

31.10.05:
  • Macara

    01.11.05:
  • Loja

    02.11.05 - 04.11.05:
  • Vilcabamba

    05.11.05 - 10.11.05:
  • Cuenca

    11.11.05:
  • Ingapirca

    12.11.05:
  • Riobamba

    13.11.05 - 09.12.05:
  • Quito

    10.12.05:
  • Banos

    11.12.05 - 12.12.05:
  • to Peru





  •   Ecuador
    On this page, we (will) describe our experiences in Ecuador. Apart from the travelogue for this country you will also find a number of links to useful sites, ranging from general information to embassy homepages.

    Written by: Coen

    After we had spent our last Peruvian money on tin cans with tuna fish and bottles of brown rum we drove to the Ecuadorian border. Leaving Peru is easy but the Ecuadorian border officers presented us some nasty tricks. Firstly my valid visa is supposed to be invalid, then they take my valid passport because it supposed to be false and finally they confiscate the cars import papers. While searching the car, the officer discovers our little bowl with Euro cents. He thinks that the cents are Euros so he is prepared to forgive us all our mistakes for two 2 cents...In return for our royal gift, he even wishes us a nice holiday and...:"be careful". On the road Ecuador In the village there was no electricity and therefore we could not get diesel. We have no other choice than to stay and wait. I head for the market in the centre of the village. Close to the equator it is getting really hot and therefore the villagers group together on their verandas or sit outside at a table. The wooden sign boards in green, blue and red are beaten by the weather and farmers are dozing away in the hot afternoon under their fully loaded vegetable carts. I bought a suspiciously smelling little cheese. The next morning there is electricity. "Hay luz", we hear the people exclaim excitedly to each other, so the pumps of the patrol station must be working again as well and we can finally get some diesel. A soldier notes our ration of 10 gallon (38 litres) of diesel in his book, probably to avoid smuggling. The centre of Ecuador, from north to south, is part of a long Andes mountain range. Therefore, directly after crossing the border, the road winds its way up into the mountains. The south is not very densely populated and is mainly vegetated by palm trees and other green plants that I had never expected in Ecuador. Sometimes it looks like central Europe! The villagers wear small straw cowboy heads.

    Via Loja we drive through the green and rolling hills to the relaxing village of Vilcabamba. It is situated between densely overgrown mountains at the border of a national park. Here we decided to stay a few days to walk around and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. In the resort where we could park our car we met some nice persons and in the evening we had some good times at the bar. If we sit in our car the next afternoon, drinking a tea, we see a truck reversing down the hill. He doesn't seem to see us and crashes into the side of our car, which is pushed away for half a meter. Nobody has an insurance or is rich enough to pay our damage. Fortunately, with a big hammer, I can beat out the biggest dents.

    Through a "North-European forest" landscape we move on. The hills are full of conifers, roadside flowers give the view a coloured lining and we cross several small wooden bridges. In the valleys the houses are constructed with weathered grey wood and have low hung over roofs and they use watermills for their electricity. In the meadows we see black and white cows and blue skies with sun and grey clouds take turns. Is this Ecuador? In the city of Cuenca Woman wear colourful dresses, have plaits up to their middle and they all wear the small cowboy hat made out of straw. The road side restaurants sell grilled pork. The huge cut open pigs lie on a wooden construction with their legs spread. In the city of Cuenca we stay for 3 days. We cycle to the city centre, try in vain to buy a car insurance and we lie in a thermal bath nearby. It is obvious to me that in Ecuador the difference between poor and rich is enormous, even bigger than in Bolivia and Peru. Grubby boys without shoes form a stark contrast to the many new cars and western products. After the introduction of the US dollar the prices rose to western heights, the incomes of course didn't. At the entrance of a western supermarket there is a big Christmas tree. Somebody walks around in a reindeer suit and an electrical Santa Claus shouts his hohoho. We are one of the few visitors...

    From Cuenca we drive to Ecuador's most important Inca ruins: Ingapirca. Via a country road we drive straight through village life. We see pigs on a line being taken out for a walk, families on washing day in the river and many new houses with kitschy mirror windows. Later we hear that these new houses are owned by Ecuadorians who, often illegally, worked on plantations in the US. The Ingapirca ruins With two French we share a guide who gives us an interesting tour through the Inca ruins. We come along the bathing areas, we see the rooms where the Inca king lived with too many virgins and we come along several trapeze shaped Inca style doorposts that survived many earthquakes because of their strong construction. The Incas were very advanced in astronomy. In Ingapirca, archaeologists had found a stone with 28 holes. Filled with water and put in a certain position, the holes reflect a certain star formation. By using another stone construction they knew how to determine when the equinox takes place and therefore when to sow and when to harvest. Via the city of Riobamba we drive the so called "Avenida de los Volcanos" (avenue of the volcanos) in direction Quito. Due to the low clouds we do not see a single volcano, but are compensated by seeing a lot of Ecuadorians in traditional dress, in some villages the men wear traditional clothes as well. The road climbs up and goes down. Because of the bad quality (but cheap) diesel the engine has no power and we get on very slowly. Because Dorrit's grandmother is very ill, we decided to drive to Quito as quickly as possible so Dorrit can buy a flight home. The traffic in Quito is terrible. Everybody drives like a madman in his new car without insurance, not paying any attention to others. After some searching we find an hotel (Parana) near the airport where we can camp in the garden. Okay, the windows are shaking when airplanes take off, but there is grass for the dogs, a bus stop in front of the hotel, electricity and a bathroom. That will do for the next two weeks. Within two days we find a ticket to Amsterdam and already the next early morning I wave Dorrit goodbye.

    For two weeks I occupied myself with the city of Quito. What surprises me the most is the US American and western influence. On almost every corner there is a Burger King, a Mac Donald's or a Pizza Hut. You can do your groceries in huge malls and the city centre is full of big colourful bill boards. A poor woman with a baby on her back roams between the new cars that are waiting for the traffic light. A blind person in a Spanish Telefonica suit sells telephone cards and meagre, grimy boys run along the waiting cars and try to sell their sweets. If I walk the dogs in a neighbourhood where the richer citizens live, I am surprised by the way these people turned their houses into prisons. Almost every house is surrounded by high fences and has a private armed guard. Besides a Dobermann or Rottweiler dog, some houses also have high voltage cables on their walls. It appears to be a punishment to be rich here but still it seems to be the only thing everybody really wants. Directly in front of our hotel a bus is being shot at and robbed out, in the shopping mall in front of the airport two people are robbed in broad daylight (although every shop is guarded by an armed guard) and the newspaper is full of crime and murder... The following days I spent drinking coffee together with a boy from the Dominican Republic whom I had met in a Syrian kebab restaurant and I visit the Columbian embassy. I could talk with a colonel from the Colombian army and they all advised against driving through the south of Colombia by camper van right now, because the army is heavily fighting the FARC rebels near the Ecuadorian border. Street theater in Quito I regularly take the bus into the city. Every day there is another show with people selling something. CD's with tranquil baby music and waterfall sounds, recipe books, musical instruments, the 15 most delicious chocolates for 0,25$ and even rappers with a ghetto blaster performing professional dancing shows. Every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday I visit Rigoberto in the Quito state prison. He is a Dutch man and is in prison for six years. The circumstances are terrible. Foreigners are being heavily discriminated and for decent food and clothes the prisoners are dependent on their friends and family. Moreover violence, arms and "settling affairs" are daily business. We eat together and we chat away the hours, pacing the courtyard up and down, up and down. In the courtyard there is a fighting cock with only one eye... In Vilcabamba we had met Dave, a Scotsman who temporarily works and lives in Quito. I spent a lot of evenings with him and his housemates. The whole week there are festivities because of the independence of Quito and the city is one big parade. Decorated cars, a lot of folklore, dance and music festivals in the streets. At night we even take a ride on one of the Chiva's, trucks full of singing, partying and drinking people. On top of the truck plays an orchestra and we join up to the old centre and roll back... The balance after 6 days of celebrations in Quito: 64 deaths and a few hundred injured.

    Two weeks later Dorrit returns. When I pick her up from the airport, it had taken her 60 hours to get from Amsterdam to Quito. I take her to a small original Indian restaurant I had discovered and we eat, chat and exchange stories. Furthermore, because we can not drive through Colombia, we make new plans. In the beginning of May we will go home and we decide to spent the last months of our trip with doing what we like the most: trekking and camping in the mountains and forests in the Chilean and Argentinean lake district. Here the summer and the trekking season has just started. Also, we will have to start preparing our return: booking our flights, arranging the shipping of our car, writing our CVs and starting to apply for jobs via internet.

    A colonial street in Quito The following days we visit the old centre of Quito. There are many beautiful colonial churches and buildings. Here nobody has worn out plastic shoes, there are no old crooked porters and no beggars. It is in big contrast though with the streets I walk through when I am on my way to the prison. Than we take the bus to "La Mitad del Mundo" (half of the earth) also called the equator. We visit a nice museum where one can do several tests that has something to do with the equator. I let for example balance an egg on a nail and we see how on the equator water in a sink runs off without a whirlpool. 2 meters north of it, water runs off with a whirlpool to one side and two meters south of it to the other side. We see stuffed jungle animals, shoot with an Indian blowpipe and there are several trophy heads; through a special cooking process shrunken heads of conquered Indians. They are as big as fists and can be easily attached to the belt of he victor. Then it is time to leave Quito and to head for our last destination in Ecuador, Banos. Long before we reach the village we see the (a few years ago still very active) volcano tower high above the village. That evening we lie in the 40oC hot thermal water that gives the village its name. It is dark, we are surrounded by green plants and above us a 200 meters high and illuminated waterfall crashes down in two parts. Wow, what a view! We shower under the cold waterfall and afterwards in the car we sleep like a log. Between banana plants From Banos we leave the mountains and head towards the coast. The mountainous landscape is followed up by jungle vegetation with reed villages hidden between huge banana leaves. Little stalls at the roadside are filled to bursting with several sorts of fruits. An old man with a stubbly beard on an ox carriage sells coconuts. Then we enter the banana plantations. As if we are driving through a green tunnel we cross the plantations for kilometres on end and on both sides of the road we see the big yellow bunches of bananas hang between the enormous leaves, all the way to the Peruvian border.

    Goodbye Ecuador, que le vaya bien. On the radio we hear that in Bolivia, partly because of the strikes of poor farmers, the socialist, indigenous Evo Morales is elected as president of Bolivia. Unfortunately, mainly because of the introduction of the US dollar, this won't be possible in Ecuador...

    Coen



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    Our top 3:

    1. Vilcabamba

    2. Cuenca

    3. Ingapirca

    TIP

    In Quito you can "camp" safely in the garden of Hostal Parana, Av. Amazonas and Rio Curaray, opp. the airport.