New Year, New Hemisphere – Ecuador


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I started with a picture on purpose…look at these gas prices!!! Thats US dollars btw.

I know, i know its almost the same in the states. But when we were leaving it was at $3.50/gal in San Diego.

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Since no one wants to fill up with the “expensive” Colombian gas, there are lines at the gas station right after the border.

Otavalo

The city itself is nothing special but it claims to have the largest outdoor market in South America.

We like markets…lets go!

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Hm…not the Guadalajara market that we expected. Its clothes and souvenirs.

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Do i need a hat? No…but i do want one.

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Hyein in a dashingly beautiful blue hat. The clothes were actually very nice and decently prices. There were wool, cotton, linen and alpaca wares. We walked away with a few hats and a pair of pants.

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And of course, no market is complete without some home cooking. We couldn’t quite figure out what kind of meat was served in the soup, we guessed it was lamb.

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Don’t know where to look? Look at the LATITUDE… thats 0.02 degrees south of the equator.

WOOOHOOOOOOH!!!

This is a first for both of us, neither one of us has stepped a foot in the Southern Hemisphere. This trip has had a lot of “first” for both of us.

Quito

Quito – the highest capital in the world. And NOT the largest city in Ecuador.

Driving through the country and into the capital you can’t help but notice that Ecuador is nice.

The roads are nice, the shoulders are clean. The cities and villages are tidy, there seems to be rule and order to things in this country.

And probably 20 minutes into the country we got caught by a speed camera.

It was such a bizarre thing, i would have never expected it for a million years. We will see just how well the bureaucracy works when we try to exit Ecuador.

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Anyway back to Quito. Couldn’t find a good place to stop for the night so we parked our car at the central park and took a taxi to the old town.

The cathedral, if not beautiful, look magnificent in the setting sun.

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Little streets leading up from the cathedral to the main city square.

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Little rascals were graffiting the wall. But tried to look so innocent when they got caught.

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As you can tell from the clothes in the picture, even though Quito is at the equator. It is pants and jacket, very much like San Francisco weather here.

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Looking back up at the cathedral from the main square.

I swear, some of these cathedrals in Latin America are no worse, some even better than the French and Spanish ones.

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Hung around the square looking for some food when we came across a group of people crowding a bicyclist.

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Turns out he is Korean guy travelling the world on a bike. Like a real Korean, from Korea. This is the first time we met a Korean traveler and Hyein was very excited.

To make money along the way, he develops his photographs and then writes things on the back in Korean or Japanese. I guess that made enough money for food for the day.

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Inspired by his idea, we took a stab at our own photo/postcard. Anyone want to buy it? 50 cents and we will even sign it in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, English, Spanish, Russian…whatever, just give us the 50 cents.

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Turning out to be quite a “korean” day for us. After old town we jumped in a taxi and headed to the new and hip part of town.

On the way there, Hyein saw something written in korean on a building and jumped out of the cab. It was a cafe.

And as soon as she saw the menu with korean food on it… she literally started jumping around with joy…so much that her sunglasses flew off.

For the past month at least once a day she would get that dreamy look in her eyes and then proclaim a name of a korean dish and start drooling. Mostly it was: “KIMCHIIIII!” and then sobbing for 5 minutes until she realized that no kimchi can be found for miles around.

Sadly, all the food was done for the day and we left with just a pretty picture.

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The “new and hip” part of town turned out to be a small area filled with American style restaurants.

It was nice a clean but reminded me of Pacific Beach too much.

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The plaza was called “Foch Plaza” so obviously they couldnt resist from a little pun…but who could blame them…definitely not us!

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I could resist myself 🙂

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I’m liking this new trend of beer photos. I’m getting thirsty for one as i write.

Banos

We spent the night in Quito sleeping in a parking lot of the central park. And at some ungodly hour (~4am) people started parking there and going for a jog, making a general ruckus of things.

Luckily it started to rain so all these healthy exercise people got scared off and left, giving us a few more hours of calm sleep.

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Nothing special about this photo, just wanted to give you a chance of what we get to look at when we drive.

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Banos, yes it is spelled and pronounced like “banos” for bathroom, is a beautiful little city located in a valley next to a giant volcano.

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For such a small place it has a really nice little cathedral.

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So, the city is located on one side of the valley and we needed to go to the other side to get to our camping spot.

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Drove across a bridge and had to stop. People were bungee jumping off of it.

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This kid decided to be cool and special and jumped backwards.

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It was funny and breathtaking, watching him fall down, legs kicking and arms flailing about.

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Before getting into the car managed to snap a few photos of the rainbow.

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Its not the first rainbow i have seen, but the most vivid one so far.

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Yup, you guessed it. That is the Banos, and that is the river down at the bottom where we were just looking at the rainbow.

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We tried to stay at the hostel in town, but luckily for us they were all booked. So we had to drive to other side of the valley, climb half way up the mountain and park right across from the volcano.

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Thank you, backpackers for filling up the hostel. Otherwise i would have never witnessed this beautiful sight. We were close enough to hear the deep, rumbling explosions of the eruptions.

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The spot where we stayed was also a family farm, and the owner was more than happy to show us his land and animals.

Those are guinea pigs or “cuy” as they are called here. Damn, they are cute…but the real questions is “are they as delicious as they are cute?”

I’m sure we will find out soon enough. For now good bye little furry friends.

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Mother hen sitting on her eggs, didn’t look too happy about us being there.

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This is probably the coolest camp site we stayed at so far. Since we are on the side of the mountain, the place is nothing more than a flat plateau about 10 meters at its widest and 70 meters long.

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If you stand on the edge, it literally looks like you are at the end of the world .

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But the next plateau is about 6 meters below us. The views are absolutely stunning, i wish the volcano wasn’t covered by clouds.

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Now, can you imagine if you could fly off of the edge and just sail into the sky?

Well, Sergei is not here, so we cant just bug him to take us paragliding.

But we could swing off the side of the mountain.

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An amazing feeling, of swinging out and having nothing underneath.

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We felt like children again for a while!

I’m not sure of the specifics required for paragliding, but this seems like a really cool spot to do it.

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More behind the wheel photos. On our way to Cuenca – the southern ‘capital’ of Ecuador.

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As luck would have it, we got there on the day of a festival. It’s like Halloween, but it is only in Cuenca and people actually try to dress up scary.

Not a lot of “sexy nurses, sexy zombies, sexy whatevers”, just plain old zombies and vampires.

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It seemed that most of the people there were either in high school or just out of high school.

Maybe we are old, or maybe it was the absence of public bathrooms…we ducked into a restaurant and escaped the general chaos.

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Next morning, we asked for directions to a supermarket and accidentally ended up at something much better – a farmer’s market.

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For the past couple of weeks, we had problems sourcing fresh green veggies. So finding this place was like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert.

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Just look at how fresh this produce is.

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Excited, we bought a little bit of everything. Filled up our fridge all they way.

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Hyein very excited for all the fresh veggies.

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And i found my favorite vegetable – its is best slowly baked and served with a lot of fatty bits.
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I look a bit scary, even mad, in this photo – i’m just hungry.

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Pitahaya or dragon fruit, you are most likely familiar with the pink version of this fruit. Although it is native to Mexico, we did not discover our passion for it until Ecuador.

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The inside is similar in texture to a kiwi and is best eaten with a spoon. We tried to bargain at the markets about the prices. But were told that this is an “exotic” fruit.

It is so funny to hear such things in places that we ourselves consider exotic.

Vilcabamba

Just a little village on the way to Peru. We were tired of driving and sleeping in parking lots, so we decided to stay there a couple of nights in a nice hostel.

The first night we tried to make dinner, when it was dark and instantly regretted it.

Our lights were so bright that they attracted every bug in the vicinity. Generally, we have grown used to bugs…

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BUT NOT when they are soooooo large.

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Fine…call me a pansy, screw it i dont care. I knew this guy will not harm us, but he was flying close to our food and then decided to attach himself to the carpet right in front of our kitchen drawer.

I couldn’t open it without destroying the bug.

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After 20 minutes i finally managed to pry him off the carpet and safely transport far away from the camp.

Summary of Ecuador

  1. Clean and beautiful country
  2. US currency, so you dont have to use your brain to calculate prices
  3. REALLY cheap gas
  4. Good, fresh food.
  5. Nice people
  6. Good roads and weather.
  7. Definitely recommend.

Oh and remember that speed camera? Well, we decided to exit through a border that had a dirt road leading to it, in hopes that they would not be able to check for tickets.

When we got there the customs officer had to call the main office and tell them our information. By his yelling I assumed the connection was not the best and after a while he told us everything is good. I’m not sure if he gave up trying to communicate our info or the bureaucracy was so slow that we outran it. Either way – no tickets.

5 Comment

  1. Andrey B says: Reply

    Really enjoyed reading this (and other) posts.
    Volcano pic is specially awesome!
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    1. irazinkov@gmail.com says: Reply

      Thanks, im glad people are actually reading this 🙂

  2. Андрей, дядя :) says: Reply

    Здорово, Вань, молодцы! Вулкан, действительно, впечатляет 🙂

    1. irazinkov@gmail.com says: Reply

      Da, ya tozhe v pervij raz videl izverzhenie. On vsyu noch eshe grohotal.

  3. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is magnificent blog. A fantastic read. I will definitely be back.

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