Hola Amigas ! After more than a month in Ecuador we finally broke loose of Ecuador and are now in Peru. While we truly enjoyed, explored, toured, celebrated Christmas and New Years in Ecuador, it was time to get on down the road. We’ll certainly miss the cheap gas prices (making exploring the country on the cheap), the great food, the diversity of the landscapes and the wonderful people. So much to see and do in such a small country, the Galapagos, the Andeas, the Pacific coast and the Amazonian.

Driving through southern Ecuador towards Peru was very scenic. Coming down out of the high Andes and into the coast provided some spectacular scenery but was also very dangerous as we encountered many areas with rock slides, animals on the road, blind curves and very steep climbs and dips. Just taking it slow and paying full attention to the road and it’s conditions was the mantra.

Seemingly after hours of this type of driving we hit the coastal plain of Ecuador and knew the border of Peru was not far ahead. Not wanting to drive later into the dark we found a campground less than 30 minutes to the border and stayed the night. Awaking early the next morning we made it to the border before 8 am. We had heard from other overlanders that the borders of Peru were now overwhelmed with Venezuelans, leaving their home country for a better life because of the turmoil in their homeland.

Surprisingly we got there early enough to beat several bus loads of people processing and were in and out in a little over an hour. Now on our way to our first camping spot in Peru, things were looking good. We arrived at Swiss Wassi and were graciously welcomed by the host and other overlanders. A great way to end the day in Peru, right on the ocean and a fantastic place to stay for a while. Stay tuned, we’ll be moving on down the coast and more adventures to follow. Peru, we’re looking forward to discovering you.

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Praise to the Penny, and a coincidental dollar.

Posted: December 27, 2017 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel

Is there a correlation? I’ve been enamored with Ecuador currency situation since I’ve arrived. Of course I knew that the official currency was the dollar, but what I’d didn’t really understand was about the coins.

Ecuadorian centavos (coins) bear the numeric value along with the value spelled out in spanish, and the words Banco Central del Ecuador  on the reverse is printed with the portrait and name of a notable Ecuadorian, as well as the legend “República del Ecuador” and the country’s coat of arms. The exception is the one-cent coin, which rather than bearing a portrait, is printed with a map of the Americas and bears the legend “Ecuador, Luz de América” (“Ecuador, Light of America”). The coins are minted by the Royal Canadian Mint and the  Mexican Mint.

But the coin I love the most is actually the America Dollar coin “Sacagawea”.  You can read more about the coin here: Sacagawea history. Although the coin was barely circulated in the United States, here in Ecuador they are widely used. As a matter of fact, if you go into most shopping establishments and use an actual paper $1.00 bill you might get a funny look.

And thus this brings me to an observation, conclusion, coincidence, whatever you want to call it. Here goes. If you look at the Sacagawea coin with her carrying the baby, and looking around here in Ecuador you see the same resemblance.  Again, just an observation. Interesting to say the least huh? Your thoughts?

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When we first entered town, heading straight for the zocalo, I was immediately distracted. I thought I saw a monkey just run past me, snatch a soda from a kid, open the bottle and  attempt to drink the contents. I say attempt, because figuring out how to hold the bottle of soda right and not splash it all over the ground the monkey had not figured out yet. It was funny and sad at the same time as the kid, clearly traumatized, looked on. Did we laugh, you betcha, not the kid though.

So what do you expect when the main statue in the city park is Monkeys? A zoo without walls is what I’d call it. Going into stores, restaurants, coffee shops, and probably someone’s home if you’re’ not vigilant keeping your place monkey proof, these monkeys run the town.

 

Misahualli, the passageway to Coca, by canoe down the Napo River is the gateway to Ecuador’s Amazonian jungle. There is much to do here. Whitewater rafting, hiking, visit a butterfly farm. You can see some of the many butterfly species found in the jungle including the beautiful blue morpho butterfly. Our main reason for visiting was to experience the jungle, taking a canoe down river to visit an authentic village.

We found what we were looking for, taking a long skinny canoe just inches above the rushing Napo river to a Kichwa community. At the Kichwa community there were dances, a  food making demonstration, shaman services, a small zoo and a gift shop. After exploring the community we took the boat back to Misahualli for lunch.

Overall a great experience and introduction to the Amazon, less the monkey business.

 


Lets not talk about it. It so sad, actually it’s laziness! That’s what I’ll call it.  I said it out loud, just pointed the finger at myself.  Here’s why my spanish is still horribly wrong after driving through Mexico, Central and now South America, about six months.

Here’s a scenario, other than saying to the gas attendant  “llenar por favor” (fill up) I got nothing else. I mean now here’s one guy I should be chatting it up with right, “mucho practicar, si!”. We’ve got time, just standing there watching the gas pump run. But nope, can’t even talk about the weather. Yeap, sad like I said. However as we stand there, inevitably he’ll ask where I’m from “de donde eres”?  Then it takes me an actual minute to figure out what he said in spanish, translate what he said  into english, then translate the english response to spanish  without getting any German words mixed in. I was stationed in Germany for many years and speak German, but that’s another story. See it’s even difficult to explain. I’m sure hoping that I’m not the only person that has this problem.

I know my Spanish is bad, it’s the most horrible choked up Spanish that you’ll ever hear, I promise. Honestly, I think native Spanish speakers feel so sorry for me, so they try their English on me and then it all becomes Spanglish or Esperanto to whoever is listening nearby.

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Now here’s the hard part, once they start speaking to me in broken english we continue the conversation and never revert back to to spanish, thus my english is getting worse.

But, I digress, there is a little light on at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train. I’ve decided to learn Latin now. That should help right? Latin is the root of all the romance languages and Spanish is 90%  Latin, I think. Either way I’ll keep you posted.

Felizmente bien!

Bernard

 


These last few weeks have been a whirlwind of travel and exploring Ecuador. From the Pacific coast, the Andes and down into the jungles of the Amazon, we’ve been smitten with this country. Cotopaxi and Chimborazo volcanoes, Banos volunteering, the Galapagos Islands, we’ve covered a lot of ground.

It’s hard to say what’s been the most exciting or unique thing we’ve done. It seems everyday I go to bed thinking what an amazing day, and the next day is just as spectacular as the one before. Viva Ecuador!

 


I don’t want to bore you with a long story for now. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Of course I’ll follow up with a story you’ll not want to miss about our trek from the Amazon,  climbing Chimboroza and taking the “Nariz de Diablo” all in a few days. This Ecuadorian Life!


 

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.

 

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.