The Middle of our Travels in South America: Ecuador

We are in our last month of travels for this trip and it feels as though it is time to get another blog post ready to go. Five and a half months seems like a long time when starting out yet here we are in Peru counting down our last few weeks. Our last post wrapped up our time in Medellín and in this post we will highlight our travels in Ecuador. I was going to include Peru but I think it deserves its own posting!

The post is organized first around our travels (chronological), then followed by a section on travel tips.

We spent a month in Medellín and became very comfortable in this city. There are many places of interest and the Metro system makes navigating the city very easy. I think we covered a lot of it in our last posting but here are a few pictures from our last days in this great city and a few hours in Bogota.

We flew from Medellín to Quito Ecuador via Bogota and found our way to a hostel (The Colonial House) in the Old City of Quito. Quito is very high and we noticed the altitude every time we walked the little hill up to the hostal. We spent about 12 days here and were able to connect with Penny’s friend Claudia who was home visiting family for Christmas. She toured us up Oltavalo, a small town north of Quito with a large artisanal (largest in the Andes) market. While in Quito we visited the many plazas, churches and interesting streets, the middle of the world (aka the equator), and climbed a volcano. And we found a couple of great coffee shops that served some pretty awesome coffee!

One of the special places we visited was the Capilla del Hombre including the home of Oswaldo Guayasamin. He is one of Ecuadors renowned artists and his last project was to build the Capilla del Hombre and to create the artwork that spoke to injustices around the world. One of our regrets will be that we did not purchase a print of his work.

From Quito we decided to travel by bus to Cuenca. To do it all in one day seemed long so we broke the trip into 2 days with a stop in Riobamba. The bus ride from Riobamba to Cuenca was dramatic and beautiful. We were tempted to take the train from Riobamba to Alausi as the description of this rail line sounded amazing; however the weather was overcast and the view would have been limited.

Our prebooked hostel in Cuenca was in a good location and we decided to take a few days to find an apartment to rent. We connected with a lovely family (through Airbnb) and they offered us a furnished apartment just a block from the hostel. We were in the historic center and within walking distance to markets, gyms, and Penny’s spanish tutor. Cuenca is a lovely city and is becoming pretty popular with expats. We did some day trips to nearby communities and to the Cajas National Park. Definitely could have spent more time there and explored more places!

From Cuenca we took another bus to the small coastal fishing village Crucita. A friend of Larry’s (and his wife) have settled in this small village and we wanted an opportunity to visit them and to see the area. The weather was lovely while we were there, the water is warm but still refreshes, the beach is long and conducive to good walks and slowly we were able to learn the ins and outs of life in the village. There is a market for fresh produce and meats (however it is open only on Saturday mornings). Fresh fish can be found in little hidden places. The cost of travel on a collective to one of two larger cities (Manta or Puertoviejo) is pretty cheap ($1 or half price if you are over 65).

One of our highlights was to try paragliding with a local company… not nearly as scary as I (Penny) would have thought!

We left Crucita February 14th making our way to Loja (back in the southern interior of Ecuador) where we caught an early morning  bus to Piura Peru. Both of us enjoyed our short stay in Loja, and although we didn’t explore the area too much, there was a nearby National Park (Podocarpus) that was recommended to us as well as the nearby town of Vilcabamba.

Travel tips:

Here are some blogs covering South America that I have found very helpful:

Along Dusty Roads  These folks travelled for 2 years and documented  the details of their traveling experience.

A long way from tupelo A friend of ours is responsible for this blog. She travelled for about 8 months and provides great details about the places she travelled and how she got there.

Transportation Tips:

The Metro system in Medellín is very straightforward. You can purchase preloaded cards that you swipe at the gate to each station. Once on you can go to the end of the cable cars. Going to Parque Arvi requires the purchase of another ticket.

There is public transit from the airport in Bogato to the downtown (which is where we picked up the graffiti art tour). First you pick up a bus at the airport that takes you to the main bus system. There are a couple of lines that go straight downtown to the central plaza (and may be called J or I lines I think)

The public transit in Quito is pretty straightforward once you try it… although a little intimidating the first time. Most hostels have information on which lines to take to get to the different sites. The Red and Blue lines will get you to the North bus terminal (Blue) and the South bus terminal (Red). People generally are pretty  helpful alerting you to the stops. There is a site online that provides a map of the system: Metro Info for Quito

Places we stayed:

  • Quito – The Colonial House Hostel (well located and good price)
  • Cuenca – Mi Hostal and then found an apartment to rent for a month through Airbnb
  • Crucita – through the expat community found a rental apartment for 3.5 weeks
  • Loja – Real Colon Hostal (well located) (found through either hostel world or hostel booking)

Border Crossings:

  • Colombia to Ecuador we flew Medellín to Bogota and then to Quito via Vive Colombia. The only problem we encountered was a requirement to have a ticket exiting Ecuador. In the end I booked on line (in a rush) and then no-one asked for it. Fortunately the website processed the ticket as a hold and since my payment didn’t go through, we did not have to hassle with changing it once we got to Ecuador.
  • Ecuador to Peru. Based on my research we figured the best crossing was at Macora which required catching a direct bus from Loja to Piura. The bus waits for you and you do not have to take your bags off the bus. There was a departure at 7:00 am with Loja International costing $14E per person. I have heard that the Tumbas crossing is better than the postings online suggest… We decided to see Loja and play it safe. there is also a third crossing that will get you to Chachapoyas but it involves a number of collectivos along the way and seems to be more of an adventure and longer!

 

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