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Tag Archives: Ecuador

Quito

Ever since we arrived in Colombia we kept hearing bad stories from almost every couple who had visited Quito, from snatching sunglasses off their heads to right out mugging with screwdrivers at the throat. Needless to say we were worried about visiting the capital, so much so that we decided to only stay 2 days.

As most of the stories we heard seemed to be based on incidents happening in the historic centre, we opted to book ourselves into the new town area of Mariscal instead. We left Otavalo in the morning and arrived at the main north terminal 2 hours later at around lunchtime. From here we took a rather expensive taxi for $10 to our hostel, Alcala and checked ourselves in.

The first thing we did was to ask about the safety in the area, if I had been hoping to hear we had chosen well then I was in for a surprise. It turned out that whereas the historic area is notorious for muggings the majority are carried in a “harmless” way, however, we were told that in the new town the crimes tend to be carried out with the use of arms as criminals believe tourists to just be convenient ATMs for them.

We were therefore given the following advise by the hostel;

  • do not take anything of value out with you,
  • if you see people on the curb who look up to no good then cross the road,
  • do not walk around after 6pm if you can, instead take a taxi,
  • and if you can don’t carry too much cash in case they decide to frisk you

To say we were a little concerned is an under statement.

With the above advise firmly in our heads we decided to head straight out to the historic centre as it was early afternoon. We decided not to attract any attention to ourselves and as such did not take a camera with us. We spent a good hour walking towards the old town, taking in the sights on the way, and once we had reached more or less the other end we decided to stop for a coffee in a lovely cafe before taking a taxi back.

The afternoon walk went without any problems for us, we didn’t feel unsafe but we had ensured to seriously dress down and stick to main roads. Despite the stories and advise in our heads we managed to walk around the town and see a good part of Quito.

That evening we decided to try our luck and walk a few blocks to the main eating area of Mariscal. We heeded the advise and crossed roads when we saw guys hanging around and made sure to stick to well-lit areas. We managed to go out have a meal and come back safely and this helped us to relax a bit.

The following day we took a taxi to the cable cars (Teleferico) located on the outskirts of the city. The taxi cost us $5 to get there and the entrance to the cable cars was $8.50 each. What makes the cable cars a must is the height which they reach and the views you get once at the top.

Quito - Teleferico: on the way up

Climbing to a total of 4100m you really get the feeling of being on top of the world and from there you have a clear view of the whole city and the surrounding mountains and volcanoes – a truly worthwhile couple of hours!

Quito - Teleferico: view to the south

Make sure that you go for mid to late morning so that the clouds get a chance to clear, because if you go in the afternoon there’s a good chance the clouds will be back.

Quito - Teleferico: south with Cotopaxi in the distance

If you are feeling particularly active you can opt to hike further up and climb the nearby mountain or you can also trek back down, but we felt lazy and took the cable car back down!

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Otavalo

After crossing the border from Colombia to Ecuador, we arrived in the town of Tulcan. From here we caught a bus from the main terminal to Otavalo, located a further 2 and half to 3 hours away. We were slightly worried as we would be arriving at around 8pm and were not too sure as to what to expect, however we had pre-booked a hostel so we figured the worse case scenario would be a needing a taxi from terminal to hostel.

The bus did not actually go into the centre of town, but instead stopped on the cross roads, this was not a problem as there were plenty of taxis on the main road. We hailed one and went straight to our hostel, Chasqui.

The hostel was lovely, we were given the “suite” room which had amazing views across the whole town and the hosts couldn’t have been friendlier if they tried. In the end we loved it so much that we extended our stay to 5 days.

Otavalo - Hostal Chasqui: panorama of the city at sunset

The following day we explored the town and were delighted to find everything you need on your doorstep, from supermarkets to fresh food markets. We had timed our arrival to coincide with the famous Otavalo market that occurs every Saturday, and we were not disappointed by the size of the market! The only thing we noticed was that unfortunately the market seemed to have less variety than other markets we had been to, having said you could easily spend the afternoon walking through all the stalls as the size was impressive.

Otavalo - Saturday market on the streets

We found the town to be very peaceful and extremely safe, the roads were lit at night and the main plaza was a lovely place to relax in with a coffee whilst listening to ambient music from the hidden speakers.

Otavalo - Parque Bolivar

During our time there we also visited the nearby waterfall of Paguche, a few kilometers walk from the town. To be honest I have to say we enjoyed the walk more than waterfall as it was not very big, and the park in which it is located is quite badly littered.

Otavalo - Cascada de Paguche: full view

We also decided on the same day to see the nearby lagoon of San Pablo. The walk took you through little villages filled with friendly people stopping to talk to you, however, when we reached the lagoon itself there was not much there.

Otavalo - Laguna de San Pablo

Overall I would say that Otavalo offers visitors a very safe and laid back place to amble through nearby villages or simply take in the local cultures. The town itself is modernising but it still manages to retain its original charm as a town amongst the mountains.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Colombia to Ecuador border crossing

After travelling to Ipiales from Pasto and stopping for the morning to visit the Las Lajas Sanctuary we undertook the border crossing to Ecuador.

The easiest way to get to the border is by taxi from the bus terminal for 7,000 pesos, an alternative is a collectivo for 2,000 pesos per person, from the same place. The actual border crossing is located only a 10 minutes drive away.

Ask the driver to drop you off at the Colombian border side for your stamp out as otherwise they will take you across the bridge to the Ecuadorian border. The process is very simple, there are no exit fees to pay and you are simply stamped out.

Once you have your stamp walk across the bridge to the Ecuadorian side, a 2 minute walk, and head into the building on the right. Again there are no fees to pay for entry but you do need to fill in an immigration form before you queue for your stamp.

To carry on with your travels, once stamped into the country, walk across the road and take a collectivo to Tulcan, the first town in Ecuador. The half an hour ride should cost you around a dollar each. Note that in Ecuador the local currency in US dollars.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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