On the Road Again

The very 1st post on this leg of our trip. From Colombia to the south.

We’re flying back to Colombia, enter Ecuador and visit the 1st towns and mountains in the country.

We’re enjoying Swizzyland’s summer. At least more or less. Maybe rather less on the days when temperature reaches 36 degrees and everybody spends the days in the water of Lake Lucerne. The days you dream of a thunderstorm in the evening. 

And the days, when drinking beer becomes a matter of survival. No worries, we still have significant stock in our apartment –  and more importantly, we know, we’ll be back in South America by August. Back to the cool’n’rainy weather of the Andean paramos

If not cooling down in Lake Lucerne, we have time to observe how things are developing in Swizzyland. Of course, just a few years ago these high temperatures would have mobilized a great part of the population to call for effective measures against climate change. Well, the Coronies threw cold water on ecological questions. Just to add Putin’s aggression – and the world is lamenting these new issues.

Suddenly, many brave Swizzies think they may impress Uncle Wlady by showing Ukrainian flags everywhere, or by asking him to stop the war.

Others – of course, mainly the rightwing’n national-populistic stick-in-the-mud fraction of the Swiss Vüdli Pürger (SVP) asks to immediately enforce rigorously Swizzy’s neutrality – to avoid any sanctions against Russia, to ensure the sympathy of their oligarchic friends, and to save their business in Russia. They insist on immediately arming Swizzy’s lousy defense forces to save the fatherland, should the world turn into a nuclear nightmare. And finally, to fight the impending energy shortages by building everywhere huge nuclear power plants. Of course, they pretend to finance that all out of the budget allocated to programs against climate change. Thus, nobody would be harmed.

Well, business as usual – weird ideas keeping politics away from being functional.

Still, there’s real life. We need to prepare for the next leg thru South America. Observe how strikes and political unrest develop in some of the countries on our bucket list. Find out where to go in the different countries, and of course, to replace a few socks we’ve been wearing every day during the last trip. Finally, Prado needs some spares to be waterproof again. We get them from Dubai. Thanx to partsouq.com.

As weather is mostly fine, we also take the opportunity for some extremely dangerous hikes. Just for fun – without any intentions of suicide.

By now, July is coming to an end. 1st August is approaching. The date we’ll be back on our way to Bogota. We’re learning, that European airports, especially in Germany, are hardly in a position to handle the crowds intending to fly to Mallorca’s Ballermann to recover from 2 years of Corona restrictions. It’s the time when German airline staff starts to be on strike, planes are overbooked and baggage normally is sent to Nirwana’s eternity. And we’re flying Lufthansa. Great isn’t it.

Bogota, 3rd August

Then it’s time to head for Bogota. Well, today the short leg to Francfort.

As we know about the catastrophic situation at Zurich’s proud airport, we arrive 3h early – instead of 1h as before. We head to the baggage drop. Just strange – there’s next to nobody. After 10′ we’re done, ready to explore the airports boring shops for the next 2 1/2h. Finally, we discover the airport’s Beach Corner to wait for the flight.

Then we’re on our way. Of course, with some delay. But who cares if you get such a beautiful sky on the way to Frankfort?

In Frankfort we stay in 1 of these airport sleeperies; international chain, terrible surroundings, relatively cheap, and you even don’t get what you pay for. Still, somehow, they even seem to care for their hasty clientele. Maybe they had a few guests believing in Trump’s special Corona medication.

Whatever, there’s an Italian restaurant next door selling beer until midnight.

The next morning, we’re ready for the chaos at Frankfort’s airport. Again, we arrive pretty early. And again, very few passengers, no chaos at all. And for us plenty of time for some more airport sightseeing. Especially, as the plane is late again.

Then we’re on the way to Bogota. Just 12h with a living space of a quarter of a sqm. The guys even wish us a pleasant flight and an enjoyable meal. Probably you know it as well, the overcooked pasta with a lousy tomato sauce. As they tell us it’s vegetarian fodder to honor the 2% of non – carnivore people. Wondering when we may honor vegan carnivores.

But who cares? In the evening we arrive in Bogota, smuggle ourselves into the migration’s priority lane, and shortly later we – and even our bags – are on the way to the next airport sleepery.  

Bogota. We don’t see much of it. Just the highway to the airport, our sleepery, and the few roads around it. Nevertheless, we have a layover of 1 day as there are no daily flights to Ipiales.

Ibarra, 5th August

Ipiales to Otavalo

On 4th August we finally move on. At 2.30 am we get up to catch our flight leaving Bogota at 5.45. True, the guys just need 2h to get the passenger’s luggage to the plane.

Whatever, we leave on time. Nearly 2h flight to Ipiales. All above the clouds. Thus, no chance to marvel Colombia’s Cordilleras.

A short drive with a taxi to Parqueadero Lemaye in the outskirts of Ipiales. A pretty long discussion with the owner of the parking about the time they hosted Prado and the advance we paid. 

We find Prado save’n’sound, impatiently waiting for us. As far as we could see, it had no chance to find a girlfriend among the other cars. 

Prado even wakes up immediately. To greet us with a huge cloud of white smoke. No wonder at these temperatures.

Still, after all discussions, we’re not really convinced whether we can recommend this long-term parking to anybody. Even if the car is ok, they don’t seem to be too honest.  

We definitely need to clean it. No chance to find a nearby car wash’n’spa. As we’re not too keen to search for a long time we simply use some old towels and clean it the African way – by mechanically rubbing off all dust.  Surely Prado’s paintwork is more than happy about this treatment.

Then we’re on our way to Rumichaca. The border to Ecuador.

On the Colombian side, it’s pretty easy.  Just a few minutes to wait at immigration. No need to visit customs for the car. We already exported Prado last April. Just before flying back to Swizzyland. So, we can’t feel any need to repeat this ceremony. Especially, as they don’t ask for it.

Then a km or so over the bridge and we’re in Ecuador.

Entering Ecuador is slightly more complicated. Not immigration, but the software of customs.  Visibly they like Prado. But the smart lady filling in Prado’s genealogical tree also needs our mail address. Of course, the software asks us to confirm our mail immediately by sending us a code. So far fine. Only, we’re not online. Of course, no problem as next door we can buy an Ecuadorian SIM card for next to nothing. Only, the card can’t be activated at the border post because there’s no network available.

Still no problem. Martin is allowed to enter the customs office. Just to use 1 of their computers to get this damned code.

Ok, just need to enter our mailbox. Not to mention our joint effort and the time to remember our password.  Finally, we overcome this obstacle – what a relief. Just Google asks the code of an SMS they sent to our Swizzy phone number. And how the hell should we access this Swizzy SMS in Ecuador. Still, no problem, just time-consuming, of course. All Ecuadories participate in our mishappenings – from inside the customs office, as well as from outside. Finally, a shop owner takes pity on us. Monika may use his network. And we get the code. Easy, isn’t it?

5′ later we’re done with a TIP for 3 months, and we’re on our way to Ibarra.  2 1/2 h on a perfect road without any trucks. What a difference to Colombia.

We head to Finca Sommerwind near Ibarra. The place we plan to get everything sorted out before continuing.  Unfortunately, they just have a bungalow for 2 nights. So, we need to speed up a little.

To start with, in the evening we have to get a clear picture of the quality of beer in Ecuador. 

The next day. We’re simply busy ensuring Prado’s well-being. New filters, new oil, check if all 4 brakes are still working, and finally an extended spa. Next time, when you’re lazing around in Ibarra, and your car cries for a mechanic – try AR Talleres. A pretty modern workshop with good mechanics. Ask Daniel to make a good prize for you. It’s on the right side when u drive towards the town.

Then some shopping to replenish our stock at Supermaxi’s, some packing to get everything in the right place and we’re ready to move on.

Otavalo, 8th March

Early next morning we’re on our way to Otavalo. Just a few km from Ibarra. 

Of course, the main purpose of our visit is the town’s famous Saturday market. Said to be the largest indigenous market in South America, the most colorful in the world, and the ultimate place to visit – wherever you are in the world.

And that’s the place we’re now. Ready to visit.

True, Otavalo’s market is pretty colorful – at least in certain corners.

True as well, there are many indigenous on the market. As vendors, as well as clients. Remains the question of whether it’s the largest one or not. Probably definitely not.

Still, somehow, it’s not a market as fascinating as the 1 in Chichicastenango in Guatemala. At least for us everything is too organized, too much perched on the streets and the plazas of Otavalo’s definitely ugly town center. And maybe it’s just too much mix of so-called indigenous handicraft and cheap Chinese kitsch. 

Maybe nowadays a reality in Otavalo which leads to our conclusion that this market is definitely overrated and doesn’t need to be a priority on everybody’s bucket list.

Next morning. Enough of markets and the very worst of 3rd world architecture in Otavalo.

We head for Laguna Cuicocha. For 1 of Ecuador’s best hikes. For us also the opportunity to get more used to the country’s altitude.

A 1/2h drive on a good road up to the volcano. At 3000m the hike starts. Some 4-5h along the rim of the crater. Up to 3500m.

Of course, it’s not only the view. The volcano is also a paradise for all flower-addicted guys. Among these veggies numerous species of orchids.

Late afternoon back to Otavalo. To get ready for tomorrow’s adventure.

We’re on the way to Volcano Cayambe’s mountain hut – the Rifugio Oleas Bergé at 4600m altitude.

A short drive to the city of Cayambe, then some 30km on a gravel road up to the hut. In the beginning, a pretty good road, degrading considerably as we get further up. The absolutely worst part just 2km before reaching the Rifugio. Thus, the kind of road Prado admires.

As we drive up weather improves considerably. The blue sky appears and a short while later we even marvel at Volcán Cayambe.

Despite the altitude, Prado seems to like the trip. No black smoke, no imminent fatigue, or other sign of its age. It just steadily climbs up. Only about 1km before reaching the hut at around 4400m the drivers consider the road too bad, or the risk of an expensive repair too high, respectively.

Thus, we walk up the last km to the hut. About ½ h at this altitude.

Finally, we reach it. Everything closed. Not really a huge surprise as there’s only 1 other couple visiting the place.

We’re busy marveling at the view of the volcano – and especially more than happy about the weather. Bright sunshine and no clouds.

Just another 100 – 200m to get the full view of Mount Cayambe and the surroundings.

Then we’re already on our way back. We definitely don’t have the equipment to climb any higher.

Unfortunately, weather gets worse. But still a lot of opportunities to admire Ecuador’s paramo.

Late afternoon we’re back to Otavalo. Just on time for a well-deserved beer after our ascent to 4700m.

Yeah, guys – that’s it for this post. New adventures in the next 1. Remain patient and be happy that you don’t need to search for new stuff to report on each’n’every day.



Out of Colombia
Central Ecuador - Highland Adventures