In this post ( Saturday 25th ) see details below. I will discuss why Ibarra Ecuador makes a great base camp for Northern Ecuador. Many of which are not in guide books. Lets face it guide books always have the same old top ten! In this forum I will openly discuss, untouristy but unique finds. Some other topics will include :

  1. Vegetarian dining.
  2. Pet friendly accomdations
  3. Excursions
  4. Weather
  5. Meet the locals

Please have your question ready. Saturday 25, I will have an open forum and invite your comments and questions. Until then, thanks for following.

 

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Colombia, we’ll be back!

Posted: November 19, 2017 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel

Who knew, after all the negativity, the unknown and the fear, we’d become Colombia’s biggest fans! That’s right folks, the word is out. Colombia is beautiful, full of wonder, adventure, fantastic people, food , music and history. We’ll be posting more stories, videos and pictures soon. Meanwhile enjoy this teaser.


Hola, Friends! We crossed our first land border in South America yesterday. As many of you know from our past postings about our experience with border crossings, it’s not a fond memory. However, practice makes perfect. So in order to ease our stress level crossing borders, we’ve come up with five easy steps to make your overlanding border crossing more tolerable.

Yesterday crossing from Colombia to Ecuador was really easy. The first thing we noticed was the lack of helpers. Helpers are people who will guide you through the border crossing steps, sometime they take all your documents and get everything stamped and approved while you wait for a fee. We also saw a lot of money exchangers. Money exchangers do what the title indicates. They exchange currencies for a fee, because normally there are no banks at many border crossings. Usually you get just enough money exchanged to get you into the new country.

So lets follow the steps:

  1. Have original docs and extra copies, a minimum of 3 each: Title, registration, exit stamp from the country you are leaving, drivers license.
  2. Read others blog experience of the border crossing you’re about to cross. A good resource is ioverland.
  3. Get there early, before 10 am.
  4. Anyone of the agents that speak english, get as much information as possible on the location of the various offices.
  5. Have patience, smile, laugh and enjoy the experience.

Our entry into Ecuador from Colombia went relatively smooth and non eventful. After clearing the Colombian border, we rolled up to the Ecuadorian border just across a bridge.  First, we went to get ourselves stamped in. Afterwards it was pretty straight forward going to get the temporary vehicle import docs. Ecuador was pretty easy. Taking a photocopy with his (customs officer) cell phone, then uploading all the info into a file in his computer , we were done in 15 minutes each. No vehicle inspection! All in all an easy border crossing. Ecuador to Peru will be coming soon. Stay tuned.


Walking the streets of Salento. We’ve fell in love with you. Look at these pictures, wouldn’t you agree. thanks for following the journey.

Medellin’s combat zone turns a corner.

Posted: November 6, 2017 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel

As we walked around Comuna 13, we began to notice the playfulness and joy in the children we’d meet. Affected by heartbreaking accounts of violence and strife, especially in Comuna 13 it was a welcomed distraction.  However, in the last few years, it has transformed into a place of optimism becoming a livable, vibrant, and growing neighborhood.

Comuna 13, also known as the San Javier, has the most tumultuous history of the city, once labeled the most dangerous community due to homicide rates and forced displacement of thousands of residents.  It’s an over-populated and low socio-economic zone that crawls up along the west hills of the city with thousands of red brick, wooden, cement and corrugated roofing materials type homes. It was a pivotal center for paramilitary, guerrilla, and gang activity. Its location is ideal for crime, as it leads directly to the main highway (San Juan Highway), providing easy transportation of guns, drugs, and money.

From the 1980s-’90’s, Comuna 13 was controlled by groups loyal to Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug lord who lived in Medellín. Illegal activities remained rampant after his death in 1993, as drug cartels sought control of the area.

In October, 2002, The City fed up, launched Operation Orion. You’ll notice in some of these pictures there are hummingbirds flying over the city, while machine guns are aimed down, attached to the hummingbirds backs. One of the most pivotal events was on Oct. 16, 2002, when the Colombian military carried out this controversial Operation. A sure footed blow, a strike to overthrow all rebel groups in Comuna 13. Over 1,000 policemen, soldiers, and aircrew in helicopters attacked the area (comprising of roughly 100,000 inhabitants). Nine people were killed (three children), and hundreds were wounded. The siege made it impossible to seek medical attention for the wounded, and the community took to the streets in solidarity flying white rags. With that action, the fighting stopped.


Now Comuna 13 neighbors voice their discontent and anger with the violence that occurred in 2002 through art and community events. Graffiti art around the neighborhood depicts scenes with the white rags raised for peace and solidarity.

There’s a lot more than what meets the eye going on in Comuna 13. But for now we’ll leave you this pictures and hope in our hearts that this community continues to rise.

Today as we walked Comuna 13,  no longer are people afraid to leave their homes and their quality of life has changed positively. We deliberately walked through some tough looking narrow alleys, kids were playing soccer, vendors were selling fruit, empanadas, and souvenirs, we felt that comfortable. However, slow and gradual, possibly spanning decades, there’s still work to be done.

 

 

Guatape, a nice little surprise

Posted: November 3, 2017 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel
Tags: , ,

Having only wanting to find a place to the park the trucks for the night, catch up on some sleep, and get up early the next morning to hike the stairs to the top of  The Rock, we stumbled upon Guatape.

Wow, what a surprise! This small village amazed us with its beautiful and ornate homes. Such a small village of only 6,000 inhabitants, a square  (zocola) with a church, plenty of authentic restaurants, bars, stores and merchants, we wandered aimlessly for hours just admiring. Take a look at this pictures, can’t you see why ? Stay tuned, we’ll post our stair climbing story next.

Oh, it was halloween. So if you see any people here in costume, you know why.


By Scottt Woodhams

Photos by Bernard Barbour

 

How serious are Central American countries about futbol (soccer)? Let me tell you!
Last night Panama won their game, so at midnight, the President declared a national holiday today.
That’s all fine and great, but that means everything closes, including the shipping ports! Guess what we were supposed to do today? Last day to load our vehicles on the ship.
We received a message when we got up this morning that we would have to load tomorrow morning. But, our flight leaves from Panama City at 10 am. Not enough time to do everything and drive back to the airport by then!
As you can imagine this threw a tailspin in our plans, as we had hotel, flights, and our air bnb all booked and paid for. Nothing is refundable at the 12th hour, despite our situation.


We decided to go to the port anyway. We found that there were only skeleton crews. Nobody wanted to do much though, with it being a holiday. We finally sought out the “Hefe” (the customs boss).

After the small group of us Overlanders, some from Germany, Uruguay, USA and Spain,got together, the boss took us as a group to process everything by hand!
It took about 3 hours, but we finally got our final inspection, paperwork, and stamps!
It was a little daunting seeing our vehicles being driven off without us, to be boarded on the ship!
Now you know, futbol is serious business! At least Panama qualified for the World Cup!!

 

See you in Colombia South America!


By Scott Woodhams

@Life all Out

 

Yesterday we ventured out to visit a 125 year old coffee farm up in the Andes mountains, above Minca Colombia.
We chose to take a Toyota Land cruiser instead of our trucks, due to the low clearance on the rustic “road” leading to the farm. Although we originally booked this tour thinking we were going to be off roading in a vintage Land Rover, but due to mechanical issues that did not happen.
Sheer drop off cliffs with no railings, along side the narrow rutted path, offered lots of adrenaline pumping through our systems!
Half the adventure was getting there, climbing the steep route to the optimum coffee growing region. We passed other 4×4 vehicles, motorcycles, and horses, all accustomed to their daily commute.
Once we found the entrance to the farm, we traversed the narrow road flanked by massive Stone walls, huge bamboo shoots, and straight drop offs. At one point we drove through a natural bamboo tunnel formed by the 3-4″ diameter bamboo shoots. Then we came to the facility, and after driving across the small river crossing in the driveway, we arrived.
The farm is 125 years old, and they seem to still use equipment from the origin of the farm! Archaic massive, steel gears, belt driven dryers, all added to the uniqueness of the farm.
We were introduced to the process, and I was intrigued to find out that over the 1400 hectacre farm, there are 23 chutes, where workers drop the coffee fruits, after being picked, and they are gravity fed through large pipes all the way to the hopper Inside the building . There they begin the process of quality control. The bad fruits float to the top of the water, and are removed.
They use both water and air to move the beans throughout the facility to each step of the process, until they finally reach the dryers. The last step is being introduced to the roasters, where the time and temperature is closely monitored to create bold, medium, robust, etc.
I was also impressed that they are still using an old Jeep Willy’s truck to transport their final product! I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, applies here.
The beautiful farm has horses, flowers, coffee plants, and even a composting bin, where the coffee bean fruit casings are composted for 45 days.
We topped the tour off with coffee sampling, and even a great lunch.
We have been staying in Minca, a small town up in the Andes. It is still hot during the day, but cools down nicely to around 70 degrees at night. We have enjoyed these past few days here.
What more could you ask for in an adventure? Off roading, coffee, food, and cooler weather. My kinda day! Oh,and Juan Valdez? Check the photos….

Yeah! South America

Posted: November 2, 2017 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel

We finally got the trucks shipped from Panama and are in Cartegana Columbia. Yesterday we picked up the trucks after four long days of going back and forth to the port. Exploring Cartegana by day and night, getting a vibe Colombia, we have enjoyed our stay, but yet we are ready to move on. We have a lot to catch you all up on dear followers, and we will. Meanwhile enjoy the pics. Thanks for following.

 

The Panama Canal. Ships go in and ships come out!

Posted: October 7, 2017 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel

I remember learning about the Panama Canal when I was in Elementary school. “Bernard” my teacher would yell I as buried my head deep in my history book. “Yes ma’am” I’d snap back out of my adventure fantasy of being there when the Canal was constructed. I’d see myself hacking away through the jungle, slowly with a troop of many finding our way from sea to sea.

As we stand here today watching huge ships of types sizes and from all over the world transcend the Canal, frankly, I’m still amazed.

But, of course there’s more to see than the Canal. So afterwards, we spent the rest of the day sightseeing, souvenir shopping and just taking it all in. Enjoy the pics.