Thursday, 30 October 2014

0129 A couple of days in Ibarra, and on to Quito

29th Oct
The camp site in Ibarra beside the Lago de Yahuarcocha was just so restful that we ended up staying there for 3 nights !  Actually, we did our (rather large stack of) laundry the second day, and it then rained most of the afternoon so we had to wait an extra day for the sun to come out so everything would dry !  Also Patricia, who runs the site with Hans, happens to bake beautiful German bread which she will deliver to your tent hot and fresh out of the oven !!  And it is SO good !!  Anyway, 3 peaceful days in one place – Very pleasant. They have 4 dogs which, apart from their wake up bark at 6 am most mornings, are lovely dogs, and a couple of them kind of adopted us and would lie around (or under) our car most of the day ! Nice to have a dog around – We miss Trooper !!

The fact that there was a car race track right beside us had nothing to do with staying at the camp site, did it ?  Autodromo Yahuarcocha Jose Tobat Tobar !!   Shame – A race meet is scheduled for this weekend and we would have had free track side seats !!

After getting our local (SOAT) car insurance in Ibarra on Monday (You have to buy a years insurance even if you are only in the country for a week !!) we set off to Quito on Tues 29th, visiting the local supermarket for some supplies on the way out. Ibarra is not really a brilliant town that lends itself to exploring, but there are nice areas and everything you would want is there.  You just have to know where to look. 

They love their statues down here – Especially ones in the middle of roundabouts – You never know what you will see next – Mothers and babies, Archangel Michael slaying a dragon (?), or an ox cart !!

Then it was off into the mountains again – Through Otavalo which is famous for its Saturday markets, past wire stick figures of a rock band (?),  and then on up to Cayembe. Just south of Cayembe you actually cross the equator, but there is absolutely no sign or monument on the road to say so ! And as it is freezing cold at over 3000 metres, you aren’t exactly thinking “tropical heat, Equator”, so we suddenly realised we had crossed the equator without realising it !!  A quick check on the co-ordinates on the Garmin proved it – S 00.01.123.  What to do ?  Go back to look for a sign ?  In the end we plodded on south, and found out later that there is no monument on the road, but there is one just north of Quito on another road, so we intend to visit that later for an appropriate photographic record !  I mean, how often does one drive across the Equator ?  Especially when one has also driven across the Tropic of Capricorn (Rockhampton in Aus), the Arctic Circle (twice) in Alaska, and the Tropic of Cancer in both Baja and Mexico ? So one really has to mark the occasion suitably, I feel !  More on that later.

Incredible drive into Quito – How many times have I said that recently ?  But chatting with other Overlanders, they are all just gobsmacked by the scenery we have driven through over the past few days – It really is like nowhere else on earth, and words, and even photos, can never really portray just how mind blowing it all is.  First the 4600 metre volcan Imbabura on our left, then the  4260 m volcan Fuya Fuya on our right, and then the 5790 m volcan Cayambe on our left !   And it just keeps coming, and coming, and coming.  Love it !

Mountain passes over 3000 metres, beautiful 4 lane highways (some of the way), statues of horsemen, villas beside lakes – You just never know what you will encounter next.   Somewhere down this road to Quito we were told the road had been blocked by a big rock fall after an earthquake 3 months ago – But we never encountered it ! Maybe the road was just re-opened the day we drove it ? Admittedly we did cut across through Guayllabamba on road 23B rather than staying on Hwy 35 – Maybe that helped ?  Anyway, we eventually dropped into the northern end of Quito, and were engulfed by housing, traffic, and the afternoon rush hour.  Yuk.  I hate that, even though the actual driving in it is quite fun, I just find it all a bit too much now !  Getting old, I guess !  We didn’t really know where we were going – We had enjoyed relaxing in Ibarrra too much and hadn’t really planned the day or destination too well.  We had a couple of co-ordinates for possible accommodation, and an address for a travel agent for the trip we are thinking of making to Galapagos, but Garmin has no maps for Ecuador for some reason (nor does anyone else) so it was back to good old paper map reading again – Not Janet’s favourite hobby, to put it mildly !!   When the Garmin was unable to help us to accommodation, we just ended up going to the travel agent, and amazingly found them, and a parking spot, really easily.  After finding diesel here is $1.00 a gallon (like $0.25 per litre) we now find parking in the middle of the city is $0.40 per hour, and the little man doesn’t give you a ticket if you over run  - He waits by your car and you just pay him when you get back !  How good is this place ?

So we go and start chatting to the travel agent and the girl there, Adriana, is really helpful, and we find a cancellation enables us to get on a 16 berth catamaran for a 5 day Galapagos tour at a reduced last minute rate, leaving next Monday.  Only one hang up – It turns out it is a public holiday in Ecuador next Monday, so all the locals are travelling, and there are no flights available to San Cristobal Island on that day, or any preceding day !  So we have a cruise booked, but no way of getting there !!   Bugger !

So we go off to find a hotel while Adriana looks for alternatives. Our French motorhoming frinds Greg and Estelle have told us which hotel they are staying in while they get their brakes fixed on their van, and it turns out to be just round the corner from the travel agent.  So we take the time to go to their hotel, and find we can get a room too.  Also, across the road from the hotel is secure underground car parking with a height clearance of 2.2 metres – Perfect – Troopie is 2.13 m.

Later that afternoon, we return to the travel agent and Adriana has found us a way to meet our cruise.  We have to fly the day before the cruise (Sunday 2nd) but to Baltra airport on Santa Cruz Island.  We can leave our car in Guayaquil and fly from there.  But once on Santa Cruz, we have to take a shuttle bus, then a short ferry ride, then a 40 minute bus ride across the island to Puerto Ayora where we then catch a speed boat for the two hour ride over to San Cristobal !  Then we are in a hotel there for one night before joining our cruise the next morning. Phew !!  So Sunday looks like being a full day just to get there.  I am sure the blog that day will be breathtaking…………

So, with the Galapagos trip now fixed, I have to thank (I think !) all the many people who, when I expressed doubt about going there a few days ago, wrote back and all said “YOU MUST GO”.  If those people would now like to take some responsibility for their persuasive advice, and deposit some funds into our bank account to help pay for this unplanned side excursion (we still have the Amazon, Macchu Pichu, and the Antarctic trips to do yet !), we would be extremely grateful !! Email me for details !

We then drove to the parking lot near our hotel, and entering the steep underground ramp (of 2.2 m clearance notification), we were horrified to see as we turned a corner that a new sign said “2.1 m” !  Then on entering the garage, yet another sign said “2.0 m Maximum” !!  Oh Hell !!  Anyway, the very nice parking attendant found us a lot right at the edge of the garage where we literally squeezed in with about 1 cm to spare – Photos prove it !  We were concerned that when we got out of the car, the car might rise a little and hit the roof (all those tacos etc we have been eating !!), but luckily we didn’t and all was good.

We had a pleasant evening over in the Plaza Foch (which is the restaurant and night club area of Quito) with Greg and Estelle, and also Ravi, our Indian motorcycling friend from multiple borders along the way !  Unfortunately Ravi has been denied entry by Peru and told that the only way he can get a visa is to fly back to the US (where he is resident), obtain a visa there, then fly back to Ecuador and ride on south !  I don’t think so – So right now he is looking to see if he can ship his bike to Chile and by pass Peru altogether, so he can then continue his planned journey to Santiago. Twists and turns of a South American journey !
(They had cuy (guinea pig) on the menu at the Ecuadorian restaurant we went to, but nobody was game to try it !!  Maybe another time.......)

Back to the hotel, and a good night in a warm room with the cold Equatorial winds blowing outside !!
Sorry - The internet won't let me link the photos which are in Picasa - You will have to come back later to see them !!

Update - Internet let me in this morning so here is the link - But no time to annotate them all or do the map.  Later !!


  1. Ah yes. The funds for the Galapagos? well, things are a bit tight here, vis a vie housekeeping, unexpected bills . You know how it is. Could you bring me back a turtle? A kosher one. I'll fix you up later.
    Just remember that your nautical experience will stand you in good stead. You can cook at an angle...I'll vouch for that!
    Safe trip xx J&S