Monday, April 19, 2010

Otavalo & Quito Ecuador

Currency: US $'s (some of their own coins, .50, & $1 coins)
Bus Popayan to Ipialses $28.000 - 8 hours
Collectivo Ipialses to Rumichacha $1,000.000 (Colombian) - 10 minutes
Collectivo Ecuador border to Tulcan .75 cents - 1/2 an hour
Bus Tulcan to Otavalo $3.00 -3 hours
Taxi Pan Am Highway to Hostel (Otavalo) $1.50
Bus Otavalo to Quito $2.00
Tolley/Trole Bus From Bus Depot to Hostel (Norte - Carcelen to Old Town Quito) .25 cents

I got up early to leave Popayan, it is recommended that you not take night buses on the Ipialses route due to holdups so I caught the 7am bus out as I wanted to get to Ecuador in 1 day. The bus makes a stop for lunch and I was in Ipialses by 3:15. I had wanted to go to see a really cool church there called Las Laja, however the bus gods were not going to let that happen. There is a luggage check at the bus depot where you can leave your big pack, which I did. The lady there told me the bus for Las Lajas leaves from the bus terminal, my Lonely Planet said the buses run frequently, like every 15 minutes. I figured I could get up to the church and back in 1/2 an hour (it is 7.5kim from town) spend an hour in the church and be on my way. Well I waited for 45 minutes for a bus and no sign of one, I guess as it was towards the end of the day they were probably up there and in most cases they won't leave until they have enough people to cover the costs so hence no buses at the town end. I gave up on that plan as I didn't want to arrive in Otavalo after 10pm and I didn't want to stay in some weird little town in between the border and there so I collected my backpack and caught a collectivo van to the border.

The border crossing was relatively easy once I figured out where the crossing were. The rest of my bus passengers were from Ecuador, I guess they have an agreement with Colombia on not needing to go into immigration so my driver dropped us all of on the Ecuador side, when I asked him where immigration was he pointed at the building across from us. It was Ecuador immigration and I needed Colombian immigration as I needed an exit stamp. Ooops in the country illegally, luckily not a big deal. Colombian immigration is on one side of the bridge, Ecuador immigration on the other so a short walk and I had my exit stamp back over got my entrance stamp and I'm all legal.

The buses in Ecuador are way cheaper than Colombia, I paid .75 cents to get to the bus depot in Tulcan, there was a bus getting ready to leave for Otavalo so paid $3.00 and I was on. The bus did take longer than the advertised 2 1/2 hours due to the many many stops it made and we went through 2 police check points were you have to show your documents/passports and if they feel like it they go through your bags. We lost a couple at one of the check points, a Colombian couple, seems they didn't have their documents. Not sure what happened exactly but there was much excitement on the bus. My bus did not take me into Otavalo, it was going through to Quito so it dropped me on the Pan Am Highway, lots of taxi's waiting there so no problem getting a lift to the hostel.

In Otavalo I stayed at Ricon del viajero hostel, I had my own room with a shared bathroom for $10.00 a night with breakfast included. It is in a great location a few blocks from the bus depot and a few blocks from the main square and markets. Otavalo is know for it's markets, there is the grocery one where you can get any kind of meat, vegetable and fruit you want, including some weird red spiky fruits. There is also an artisan market that is jewelry, hammocks, cloths etc. and a ton of stores that sell them as well. This area is know for it's alpaca clothing however be warned that much of it may not be alpaca but in fact may be synthetic as my amiga V pointed out. I purchased a couple of pull overs at a store and I think I got the real thing, both of them make me itch, synthetics don't usually do that to me, just natural materials so I think I am good, I paid $20.00 for 2 long sleeve pullovers with hoods. So before you go shopping make sure you know what alpaca is suppose to be, I didn't and just lucked out but I should have done some research before venturing out. I also found a used bookstore with English books, it is listed in the Lonely Planet, good thing as I had read the 3 I brought with me and had somehow managed to loose them all so I couldn't do a book exchange @ a hostel I had to buy one.

Unfortunately I did hit this area in the rainy season, there is lots of hiking and things to do in the area however the twice daily downpours (and I mean it really comes down) at noonish and 5ish tend to put a damper on outdoor activities. I didn't stray too far form the hotel when the clouds moved in to ensure I could get back before getting soaked. There was a really cool rainbow the one day, the picture is at the top of this post. It stayed totally bright for over an hour and went over the whole town, sadly I keep meaning to figure out how my panoramic setting works on my camera but to date have not done so. I stayed in Otavalo for 3 nights, it is a nice town and I enjoyed wandering the streets and checking out the shops and markets. I would recommend going during the dry season in order to take advantage of the hiking opportunities in the area. I come from Vancouver so the last thing I want on my travels is rain, I could stay at home for that so off in search of drier pastures for me, on to the capital of Ecuador Quito.

Okay it rains in Quito too, pretty much just as much as Otavalo so puts a cramp in going anywhere far away from the home base. My bus dropped me at the Norte bus station, there are 2 bus depots the north for buses coming and going from Northern points and the South terminal (Quitumbe) for buses coming and going from the southern routes. I grabbed a bus to the trolley bus, it runs about every 15 minutes and drops you at the airport where the trolley is. The trolley runs all the way through the city from North to South in a designated lane so traffic really isn't an issue. it costs .25 cents to get from one end of the city to the other. It gets pretty packed and people don't get out of your way if you need to get off so you need to do some pushing and shoving to make it out. My stop was about 15 down the line, found it with no problem and got to the Secret Garden Hostel without getting lost. The cost is $8.50 a night + 12% tax for a dorm room with 6 beds, there is no kitchen but they serve breakfast for $2.80 and diners range from $3.50 to $4.80, the food is really good and there is a lot of it. There is free coffee, tea, water and WiFI and best of all they have hot water in the showers. The hostel has an awesome balcony on the top level with a view of old town and the mountains, it is partially covered so even in the rain you can sit up there and admire the view. Old Quito is very beautiful and with the backdrop of the mountains/volcanoes it is one of the nicer views I have seen on my travels.

A word of warning, there are lockers in the dorms, use them a couple of people had money stolen out of there packs while I was here to the tune of over $200.00, it was not the staff it was some slimy piece of shit backpacker who probably ran out of money and should have gone home months ago. Funny, people on the road think that one of their own would never steal from them and sort of as a show of trust lots of them don't use lockers and leave their cash in their bags. News flash folks not everyone who travels is nice, in a perfect world they would be but in the real world not so much.

Old town Quito is awesome, lots of old buildings and tons of twisty streets, a great place to get lost for an afternoon. There are tons of churches some of which come with nuns. The really devoted kind, they only get to talk and watch TV for an hour a day, ran into a few on the street, I think they are in league with the Colombian nuns in the plot to get me. Despite my paranoia I did go visit a few churches and the convent, the art work and craftsman ship in these things amazes me. On Sundays in a lot of the city they close the roads down to cars and everyone is encouraged to ride bicycles. In old town due to the hills there were not many takers but in Mariscal tons of locals were peddling down what are normally very busy roads. I found they do this in a lot of Latin American cities, including Mexico City, perhaps us North Americans should give it a go. We talk a good game when it comes to the environment and health time to show it folks.

A lot of the hostels in Quito are in the new area of town Mariscal but I really prefer staying in the old sections of towns if I can do it and this hostel was in old town. Great location, I could pretty much walk to everything including Mariscal. Due to the rain I stuck pretty close to the hostel, I did explore old town and Mariscal but I did not venture out of the city to the surrounding areas nor did I choose to do any hikes. There are a ton of churches in old town, a market and some really old buildings. I did take a walk to new town on Sunday and there was a market in the park and an artisano market a little up the street. There seemed to be more restaurants & bars geared to backpackers but the buildings were not as nice and the whole feel of the place was a little ghetto like.

To be honest I have had more than enough rain, I signed up for 10 hours of Spanish courses otherwise I would have booked it out of here after day 2. On the upside the Spanish course is going pretty well, I seem to be getting better at it so perhaps the rain factor is making me study more. The class is 1 on 1 for 2 hours a day, I set it up through the hostel and the cost was 10 hours for $70.00, the teacher comes to the hostel and lessons are on the top terrace Tomorrow is my last class and we have a field trip, we are going to go to the market so I am looking forward to it. I am going to get bus food as right after the lesson I am heading out of Quito to a town called Banos. It is located right below an active volcano and they have hot springs.. Warm at last and if not I just won't get out of the hot springs until it is time to head to the Pacific coast of Peru.

I did meet lots of nice folks at the hostel and I got some great travel tips on Peru, my Spanish has improved marginally and I enjoyed my time in Quito. On my way out of town I again caught the trolebus for .25 cents, the C4 going South which dropped me off right at the Quitumbe bus station which is it's last stop. Love the transit in this city.

1 comment:

  1. I did return to Ecuador just over a year later & did the Galapagos Islands tour (8 days) Don't book online, just visit a travel agent in Quito once you are there. You can get 1/2 price deals if you can go within a day or 2. Boats are going out anyway so they sell off empty bunks cheap. I used Carpedm Adventures same building as Secret Garden Hostel

    Also went to MontaƱita for surfing. Really cheap, nice people and the night life will kill you. Bars get going at 1am and the party goes till the sun comes up. Way better than Mancora in Peru, didn't feel like a waling ATM locals where great, no scammers.