1/12/2001 to Colombia
We got up early and greeted Chris and Joanne. An hour later we were on the bus to Santa Marta, Colombia. We didn't have much checkpoints or passport controls. Around midday we were over the border on our way to the coast. Finally we arrived arround 1.30pm local time. We took the 'collectivo' (the name for por puesto bus here) to the centre and quickly found a nice hotel, hotel familiar. Less then 6 us $ a night for the 2 of us. We were both very tired and didn't do much more that day. In the internet café, we met Iris and Eva, two Belgian girls. Iris invited us to visit Carpe Diem, a finca (fruit farm) in the mountains where she is working. We walked back to the hotel and had dinner in Merkabar. In this restaurant, we would discover the delicious milkshakes and many fruit juices that are so typical Colombian.
We went to Taganga, a village 5 km east of Santa Marta. The Playa Grande was crowded with people so we picked out one of the quiet bays a bit further. On the small, idyllic beach, fishermen were working and their wives prepared soup and fish. The sea was crystal-clear and just perfect for snorkelling! I think I saw the most colourful fish and sea life ever! At 5 pm, we had had enough sun and got back to Santa Marta.
3/12/01: Pleno Mar
After a splendid breakfast (muesli, fruits, yoghurt and honey), we took a colectivo (a small local bus) to Pleno Mar, a beach near Santa Marta. I was a bit disappointed when we got there: no white sand, no crystal-clear water. Maybe we get spoiled after all the nice places we see... We passed the day playing beach ball. Back in Santa Marta, we met with Bram and Tim, two Belgians we saw in Mérida. We had some beers and exchanged our travelling adventures.
4/12/01: Carpe Diem, day 1
We wandered around the old town and saw nice colonial houses and churches. Around 4 pm, Mathias, the owner of Carpe Diem picked us up at the hotel and an old Landrover took us to the Sierra Nevada. It was already dark when we arrived in Carpe Diem and met the other guests. All very nice people.
5/12/01: Carpe Diem, day 2
We saw Carpe Diem for the first time at day and we both liked it a lot. A nice yellow house with a terrace, a garden, a hammock place under a palm leaf-roof and a place with bedrooms and a bathroom. Mathias' wife, Els is a painter and she had a lot of fun decorating the walls. Iris showed us the surrounding and some impressive pre-Colombian stairs. Near the farm was a mountain stream where we took daily our refreshing bath. In the evening, Els prepared a delicious meal.
6/12/01: Carpe Diem, day 3
In the morning, we climbed some other pre-Colombian stairs and had an amazing view on the Sierra Nevada. This place used to be the sacred hill of an old Indian town. In the afternoon, we went for a swim and relaxed in the hammocks till night felt.
7/12/01: Carpe Diem, day 4
Time for some action: a 1 hour walk brought us to some nice waterfalls. The last part of the trip, we decide to go in the river. Very refreshing and a good balance practice. One problem... Big spiders on the benches of the river. But, we arrived safely in Carpe Diem and had enough action for that day. Time to relax...
8/18/01: Carpe Diem, day 5
Wim was ill and stayed in bed recovering of the "Taganga- fever". I passed the day reading and chatting with the so friendly Belgians. 8 december is the Fiesta de Las Bellas in Colombia, a religious celebration. Luz and Alejandro, the neighbours of Carpe Diem invited us to celebrate this at their house. Luz serves delicious chicken soup and Alejandro made us (strong!) cocktails. Everybody was dancing and we had a really good time. I'm looking forward to the next big party!
9/12/01: Carpe Diem, day 6
Sunday... Hmm, we slept late and hanged around all day, relaxing, doing nothing.
10/12/01: Cartagena, day 1
Els brought us back to Santa Marta where we caught a bus to Cartagena. We arrived around 5 pm, looked for a hotel and went for dinner.
11/12/01: Cartagena, day 2
We visited the old centre of Cartagena. This colonial town is completely surrounded by a thick wall and well preserved. The plazas and narrow streets lined with colourful houses make it a beautiful place. We visited the Museum of Modern Art and some other buildings participating at the Salón Nacional de Artistas. Wim seems to miss Italian food so we have dinner at a crazy Italian.
12/12/01: Cartagena, day 3
We returned to the old centre to enjoy the atmosphere. We wandered around till midday. At this hour, the sun gets really cruel here and it is time for a siesta. Our siesta took a bit longer than we planned, and so we only got out for dinner.
13/12/01: Cartagena, day 4
We did nothing special, just relaxed and did some shopping.
14/12/01: Playa Blanca, day 1
We got up early to take a boat to Playa Blanca, a beach southwest of Cartagena, close to Isla del Rosario (a popular gringo spot). Compared to Plen Mar, this is just paradise! White beaches, palm trees, turquoise water! All we needed... Unfortunately, it was a rainy day and we laid in the hammocks, waiting for sun. But, no sun for that day... In the evening, we played card games with two Swiss girls and a French guy.
15/12/01: Playa Blanca, day 2
We woke up and saw a big sun in a bright blue sky. So we jumped out the hammock and ran to the beach for a great swim. The rest of the day, we swam, played beach ball, snorkelled and dived beautiful shelves. At night, we drank lots of rum and heart the most incredible travel stories and amazing adventures. I like this life!
16/12/01: Playa Blanca, day 3
Another day at the "best beach of Colombia". At 2 pm, we took a boat back to Cartagena. The waves were really high and we got quiet a wild trip. Back in Cartagena, we bought a huge milkshake and drank on this nice beach weekend. At this moment, we are really tired of beans and rice, so we accompanied three funny British guys to an excellent pizza place.
Wim arranged a really nice surprise for me... He passed my mother the phone number of the hotel so she could call me. A perfect start of the day! I was so good-mooded that I couldn't sit or stay inside, even if it was murdering hot outside. I went for a walk in the lovely city centre and did some shopping. The afternoon is just too hot to go out. We watched some TV, and Wim made delicious pasta. We're prepared to rice and beans now...
18/12/01: We fly to Cali over Bógota. We will stay some days in Cali and travel to Popayan. Here, we'll visit San Augustin and Tierradentro. Probably we'll celebrate Christmas and New Year in this colonial town.
18/12/2001 To Cali
We took a flight to Cali from Cartaghena airport. We had a short stop in Bogota and arrived in the early afternoon in Cali. We took the colectivo to the bus terminal and from there a taxi straight to Calidad house, a guesthouse recommended to us by a nice Dutch girl who stayed here a while. The owners of Calidad house are an English guy from Jersey (Dave) and his Columbian wife Emma. Great people and a nice place. Especially the fully equipped kitchen is a mayor plus point for us.
With Emma we share a taxi to go shopping in the supermarket. We buy a lot of food, musli, bananas and milk for breakfast, eggs and toast bread, tuna, pasta and vegetables. After all the rice it is very nice to make some 'European' food. Too bad, but in the evening I get a fever again. I go to bed early.
I don't do much and stay mostly in bed. I'm wandering if I have Dengue fever. There are 4 versions of Dengue, and a typical behaviour is that it comes back a few times. You can have a fever for a few days, and then recover for a few days until the fever comes back. I go sleep early while Sofie explores the Cali nightlife with Emma and some Colombian friends.
I'm not feeling perfect yet, but I don't want to stay in so we go to see the old city centre. We visit the modern art museum 'La Tertulia'. The main museum has a nice collection with a diversity of modern (mainly South American) art works. Afterwards we walk up the San Antonio hill. From this
church on the hill you have a great view on the city and the valley of Cauca. Too bad it is quite cloudy, or is it smog... The rest of the day I stay in while Sofie goes out with Emma.
I feel a lot better but now my stomach is complaining. Both Sofie and me have 'turista', maybe from the food we cooked the day before. We don't really know. At least my headache is over. We check out Chipichape, a shopping mall type of place, in open air, with restaurants, cinemas, and all kinds of shops. In the supermarket we go Christmas shopping. Nick, a nice English guy helps us with choosing the perfect present. I know it is very important for Sofie to have presents and a family like atmosphere with Christmas.
But I'm angry she started smoking again. Maybe I'm just a little bit angry because she started again behind my back, and that she lied about it. Anyway, I get some nicotine chewing gums for her in the pharmacy. I can't give only that as her Christmas present so I decide to get her a voucher for an hour-long anti-stress massage in a beauty salon as well! I think she bought me a book ...
We have to get more food because we don't have any more. I also heard of San Andrecito, a shopping market (black market?) where you can buy electro, Nike shoes, and liquors at great prices. After the supermarket we try to find a good minidisc player. I think it is the best travel companion for music. It is smaller and more compact than a cd player, and you can record and erase easily. We don't find a cheap one and decide to come back later.
Christmas Eve is coming so we go shopping with Emma for the evening dinner. All but 1 of the other guests in the house wants to have a shared Christmas dinner. Everybody pays the same price. If more people enter, more money is left for drinks... On the way back me and Emma stop at 'San Andrecito', to see if we can find the minidisc player I want to get, and to see if Emma can get a 'special' price... The Sony MZR700 is not available, but I get the phone number of a place that can sell it for 200 US$. We go back to the guesthouse and prepare for a party evening.
The food is good and the drinks go quickly. Around 10 o'clock Sofie and me open presents. She is quite disappointed with her nicotine chewing gums (angry is a better word) so I quickly give her the real present as well (the massage). I got a Herry Potter book, the second one, in Spanish. I'll go see the movie first to get to know the characters. Then it should be easy enough to read the second one in Spanish, I hope.
After midnight a lot of people want to go out. A lot of bars open around midnight, and the 'avenida sexta' (sixth avenu) is only 3 blocks down. This is the street with all the discotheques, bars and
restaurants. Great to go out. At 4 o'clock they close and everybody goes to bed with in the part mood.
Merry X-mas. I get up at 10 to 11 to pick up the phone. My parents, brother and sister wish me a merry x-mas. Afterwards I go sleep some more.
Today starts the Feria de Cali. A week of parties, Miss Cali elections, parades, bullfighting and a lot more. The opening parade is the Cabalgata, with horses on the sexta. We go take a look in the afternoon and have some drinks in the evening.
Today is the English 'Boxing day'. For me it means going to the pharmacy to get some pills for my stomach cramps and diarrhoea. He gives me two doses, one to take immediately and one for the evening. He doesn't tell met what it does, but I find out quickly. It seems to clean everything that is inside and get it out quite quickly at unpredictable moments. So I'm stuck in the hotel (I don't want to move to far away from the toilet). Sofie goes to a salsa contest in the park and gets back by midnight.
Emma is great! She arranged press passes for Sofie and me. Suddenly I am a reporter/photographer for the Catholic university of Leuven cultural magazine. At 11am there is the bathing suit parade of the Miss Cali election in some resort at the side of the city. Together with some other (fake) colleges we enjoy the view and make some nice pictures. Cali is the city
with the most beautiful girls of Columbia, or maybe South America, and we saw it all.
Afterwards we go eat in a French restaurant and I really enjoy food for the first time in a few days.
The pills have worked although the night was quite heavy.
In the afternoon we have a nap to prepare for a party evening. A super concert in the stadium with salsa and Merengue is planned. We go quite late and our press pass brings us straight to the first row (and backstage). We party until 3 o'clock when a Mexican band starts playing awfully slow music. Everybody starts sitting down, but we go for a burger outside and get back to the hotel with our press colleagues.
We had a great day.
We like Cali and the Feria so we will stay for New Year, and try to pick up a bullfight as well.
Best wishes for the New Year to everybody!
After the great party at the concert the day before, we relax and have an easy day. My stomach problems seem to be really over, no more diarrhoea and no more cramps. I write some mails while Sofie goes to see a fair of old cars. It is more like a carnaval parade, where people show their nice old cars and everybody starts drinking in the early afternoon. Like everyday in the 'Feria de Cali' it is party time, the earlier it starts, the better.
In the afternoon I notice that Bram and Tim have arrived as well. We saw them before in Merida, Santa Marta and Cartaghena. They seem to be following us. Luckily they shaved off their beards, so now they look like reasonable, young, nice fellows. Before it was more a poor criminal like of look.
We wanted to go to the bull fighting today, but the entry cards (for press and photographers) are being shared with the other people of the house and they reserved them first. Emma, a cute English girl went to the bullfight with Denise, an American girl. After 2 of the planned 6 fights they came back already. They didn't like it at all, too bloody and too cruel. Me and Sofie will go tomorrow, so I'm curious what it will be.
Because we have nothing to do, and because I need to get a haircut, I pull out my shaver and Bram is keen on getting the job. Less then half an hour later your reporter has lost most of the hair on his head. A shower and a shave later I also look younger, but Sofie says, more like a criminal...
We have the bullfight tickets and we can arrange a free one for Bram as well. We go in and are prepared for some shocking scenes. I saw a bullfight already on television before, and what I see is what I expected, except for the time it takes. In no time the bull is killed, the first one maybe took twenty minutes. Sofie can't get a smile on her face, and Bram isn't keen sheering either. With the second bull and the second torrero, the crowd is more enthusiastic. He shows more courage and almost pays for it. In a split second the bull catches him behind the knee and catapults the torrero in the air. Luckily without continuing the attack. The crowd gets noisy and then the torrero shows his real courage. He gets up and starts showing some real bullfighting, ole, ole, ole.
I must ssay that their is some cutlure, tradition and courage to it, but only if a torrero really does a great show. If a torrero does well, one ear of the bull is cut of as a prize (after being killed). If the torrero is a real hero, two ears are cut of. If a torrero really sucks, everybody start waving a white handkerchief (Louis Van Gaal knows this feeling) are even throwing with things. The third bull is brought in, and a boring fight is the last we want to see. The bloody preparation, and the (kind of) cowardless killing at the end does not weigh up to the tradition and culture for us. We decide to split and go home quietly.
The last day of the year. A good year for me. But how do I end a good year ? I don't really like this day, and I don't like the party much either. So I decide to go to the movies, to see The lord of the rings. I enjoyed the 3 hours of action, and so did Belen and David whop saw the movie with me. It´s already 7 pm so we rush home with a taxi. With Bram and Tim we decide to make it an easy evening and to get take away Chinese. With some wine and rum we make it until midnight. Outside everybody puts some fireworks in the air. Looks a little bit like in Italy. People stay in and have family dinner and some drinks. After New Year some people decide to go out, but not all the bars open, or only from 2 o´clock. I decide to stay in, but Sofie goes out dancing with some other people from the house. At 2 o'clock I go out with Davy to walk the dogs. Afterwards I have some more drinks with people coming back and finally find my bed at 4 am. Sofie stopped the music too and gets in half an hour later.
1/1/2002 New Years day = lazy day
Lazy all day ...
We decide to make a nice dinner in the evening for Emma and Davy. Bram joins us so he can cook for his love, and Tim joins as well, to eat. I phone to the electro shop that sells mini disc players to see if the new one has arrived and I´m lucky. We go to San Andrecito to buy it, and to go to the supermarket for food. Although there was some panic in the kitchen at first (burned bechamel sauce and overdone potatoes), we have a great dinner at the end. We have toast mushroom as a starter, then a big steak with mashed potatoes from the oven and gratinated coliflower in milk sauce. To end some chocolate icecream with hot appel slices in canel. A great dinner for a great 15 days in Cali.
3/1/2002 to San Augustin
We wanted to leave early but an unused alarmclock seemed to be a little bit wrong. We got up an hour later then expected and we still wanted to get to San Augustin the same day. After a long search we luckily found a taxi service to Popayan. Normally they need 2 to 3 hours but this exiting ride took us in 1 hour and 45 minutes. At moments not good for the heart, and to know that the driver said he lost a lot of time because of busy traffic... Once in Popayan we needed a bus to San Augustin, 5-7 hours. But it was just midday and the last bus might have just left. One more buscompany had a bus at 2 pm. We would arrive in the dark, but I had the address of Casa de Francois, recommended to us by Jan and Danelli. I phoned them and try to reserve a room. Francois wasn't there but one of the guest seemed to have understood that I wanted a room, but that we would arrive late. We ate a 'almuerzo' in the bus terminal, a typical fixed lunch with soup and a rice, beans and meat dish. We bought some water and got on the nicest bustrip of our trip up till now. A beautiful scenery through green valleys, through the national park of the Puracé vulcan, with a military checkpoint before going down again to the small town of Isnos. The busdriver didn't want to stop for us in SA but to drop us of where the road splits to Pitalito, his final destination. I didn't like the idea off being dropped of in the middle of nowhere, with our backpacks, in hte dark. Some fellow passengers thought the same and advised us to take a minibus from Pitalito instead. The driver would pay ... At the crossing the driver stopped and I made clear that I thought it was not safe enough to drop us here, and the other passengers backed my story. A few 100 metres further a minibus was picking up people for SA, so the other passengers urged the driver to stop and help us on the minibus. He even payed and half an hour later we where in San Augustin, in front of the World Heritage Tourist Office. The minibus driver told us the tourist office guy would probably give us a ride to casa de Francois. And so he did, in the meanwhile explaining us what to see in San Augustin. We decided to join a jeep tour the next day which was already planned with 4 Columbian people.
4/1/2002 Jeep tour
Sr. Garcia picked us up at half past eight so we could pass at the bank and get the necessary money. Then we joined the Columbian family in the jeep and left with Garcia's son as the driver alias guide.
Consuelo was doing a touristic tour in the region with her daughters Irene and Adriana, and her youngest son Santiago. Very nice people and perfect to have a fully spanish speaking tour.
First we went to the 'estrecho de Magdalena', where the river Magdalena is on its smallest in a rough rocky environment. They say the river is more then 15 meters deep in the smallest part.
We continued to a small town where the central square is an open air museum. Here they restored some burial grave from the old pre-Columbian culture. Up till now they don´t know very much from this disappeared culture because they never found settlements, but the more burial caves. So many cemeteries have been found, and so many still undiscovered, that they must have been a great population. The earliest traces go back to 3300 BC , but when the Spaniards came, the culture had already vanished, wiped out by the Incas, or ... In and around these burial caves you can find pottery, gold and off course statues. Statues of manlike figures, of animals and of half gods, looking half man, half animal. In the 'alto de los idolos' we encountered some beautifull statues as the 'doble yo' (double me). A figure with a second mask on top of it, with a body ending in an animal form. This statue is like the totems of the Indians, personalizing a person with a protecting spirit or animal. Other statues look like warriors or have ornaments like knifes or even babies...
On the way to the next burrial place we stop at a cooperativo making 'panela'. Panela is made of sugar cane, and is used in 'agua de panela', which off course is very sweet. Here they drink agua the panela with cheese inside. The production process is simple. You crush the cane in a crushing machine, extracting the juices. The juice flow into a hot pan, which flows over into another one (a little bit lower). Under the pots is a fire, oven that heats the sugar water and brings it to boiling. Going from one pot to another (total of four), the solution gets more concentrated and more caramelized. At the end a brown caramel like fluid is poured into a square form, where it cools down quickly to make the brick formed like panela.
During the tour we also stopped at two spectacular water falls. We couldn't get close to them, but the small viewpoint (bridge) over the edge of the valley was quite scary. It was a nice day, great weather and nice people in the tour. We arrived back in the dark and signed for a horse tour of half a day for the next morning, with the same tour family. We bought some food and beers on the way up and had a nice evening with Jonas, a Danish guy who plays awfull chess, but who is very funny when doing so.
5/1/2002 Horse ride
I remember the ass hurting horse ride from the Llanos tour, but was quite convinced that it would be more fun this time. The group would be more quite and the environment to walk in looked more promising as well. We started the tour from the (small) center of San Augustin and with a crazy guide went up to the smaller archological sites, only reachable by horse or hike. The most different from the first day was la Chaquira, a rock formation where statues and drawings have been carved in. We had a great ride and I really liked it this time. Too bad for Sofie who got a quicker horse, but also a nervous one. She didn't enjoyed it as much as I do, just the opposite from the Llanos horse trip.
At midday we didn't have lunch together because of some misunderstanding (my spanish is not perfect yet). But at 2 pm we went with the Adriana, Santiago, Irena and Consuelo to the archeological park of San Augustin. We rented a guide and he explained us some interesting details of what is known or suspected of this old culture. The park itself if a large collection of statues and graves, most of them ripped out of their context and put together as a tourist site, put still well run and well preserved. 'La fontana de lavapatos' is a religiously interpreted part of rocks and river, carved out channels and figures where the Indians supposedly cleaned their feet to rinse their sins of. Before going back to casa the Francois, we decided to have almuerzo the next day together with the Columbian family.
We had a nice almuerzo in hotel colonial. I ate fish, for the first time in a few weeks and it was quite good. We exchanged e-mail address and saluted. Maybe one day I'll be back in Bogotá and Adriana will give me some salsa lessons. (I need them) In the afternoon we chatted with Jonas and played some chess. In the evening we made the all famous Wim's vegeterian pasta. Too bad we accidentally used ketchup instead of pure tomato sauce. The result was Wim's not so famous sweet and saur pasta sauce. Luckily Fracois has a herbs garden and gave me some Koriander, which actually gave the sauce a good 'Chinese' like taste.
Casa de Francois is in the middle of nature, plants, a lot of flowers, two dogs, a colourful house with upstairs a big wooden terrace, hammocks, scrabble game, silence ... Anybody who would see this place could understand why we stayed here a week more. We could cook, so eating and sleeping is cheap. Furthermore I could borrow there CD player and CD's too copy some on minidisc. We did nothing more than playing scrabble, playing music, reading, sleeping, ...
The holidays are over. Back to the world and back to travelling. We bought a ticket for the bus that leaves at 6 am to Popayan. This time the ride even seems to be more beautiful and spectacular then before. Next to us and in front is a group of youngsters, quite funny and relaxed, but very sympathic. They go to Cali for some meeting but I didn't really understand what kind of meeting. I'm happy I only ask them half an hour before arrival in Popayan what kind of meeting. It is the national meeting of evangelists. Columbian people who read the bible and preach the holy word. One of them is really in the mood and starts convincing me on how important it is to read the word and live by it. But he is also interested to know how I think about it, how Catholicism is in Belgium... At the end he gives me a quote from the book of words that I should remember and read whenever I need to think about life. I wrote it down. We arrive and take a taxi to one of the hotels in the book (not the book of words, but the South American Handbook). We leave our luggage and try to find better (cheaper will be impossible) accommodation. Finally in one of the more expensive hotels a guy doesn't want to let me go before I see a room. For 2000 pesos more than the cheapest (very basic) we found, we get a room with private bathroom, hot water, clean, kitchen and laundry service available. Perfect, we take it. We stay in to watch the news and we eat Chinese. Huge potions but with the unpretentiousness of the hotel owners soon everything is finished. The news is quite exiting and might get important. Pastrana the president has given an ultimatum to the guerilla movement FARC of 48 hours. Concrete peace talks or the end of a 3 year kind of cease fire. Uno and international ambassadors are involved and the army is mobilized on the streets and in the cities. After the news luckily there is a good movie, 'la vita e bella' and we go sleep around 11.
Today we went to develop film (the pictures you can see right now), get some tourist info and write these stories. At the moment of writing we are 3 hours away from the end of the ultimatum. Today even more military were visible in the streets of Popayan. We go to the hotel and go check the news, it might be important.
If everything goes well we take the morning bus on Wednesday to the border with Ecuador. There we do Quito, Otavalao and then to Banos.
To all of you who wrote me some nice new years greetings!
The ultimatum is over and only few hours before the Farc agreed to continue on peace talks. Now a new ultimatum is set for the 21st. By then we will be out of the country for sure. I got up early and Sofie is not feeling well so stays in bed. I decide to go to the nature historic museum of the university. Stuffed animals of Columbia and abroad, insect and butterfly collections and some pre-Columbian pottery and objects are displayed here. I am the only visitor and my guide is a young guy doing his military service. We wander around and have some good talks on the tense situation in Columbia, the American 'Plan Colombia' but also about stuffed animals. It was my grandfather's work for more than 30 years so it is nice to compare his work with the exhibited animals from South America. After 2 and a half hours I have enough and go back to check if Sofie is up already. We have a set lunch and want to go to the museum of Negret, a Columbian artist from Popayan. The museum is closed, nobody knows why so we wander around the city and admire the churches and old convents. In one of the city buildings is an exposition on cartoons. Great jokes about the Colombian president but also on Bush Jr. Afterwards we visit the house of the famous poet Guillermo Valencia. We go to bed early, after nice pasta in a Swiss (Ticino) restaurant.
16/01/2002 To Ecuador, Otavalo
We get out at 5 am and take a taxi to the bus station. We get on a bus to Ipiales, at the border with Ecuador. The first part of the route is to Pasto, and the locals claim it is the most dangerous road of Columbia, not for the danger of accidents, but for guerrilla traps and bandits. But now, due to the tense situation and military build up, it should be safer then ever. Without any problem we arrive at Ipiales around midday and meet a nice Columbian guy on the bus on his way to get a job in Quito. We cross the border with him and complete all the formalities (exit stamp, immigration stamp and declaration form), which goes very smoothly. No checks of luggage, and on the bus to Otavalo only 2 passport checks. We expected some thorough luggage checks on this side of the border but it seems an easy smuggling route. The bus that takes us from Tulcan, the Ecuadorion border town, to Otavalo is driven by some youngsters of which Sofie suspects that they don't have a drivers license yet. They drive through the dry mountain landscape as if they need to be somewhere in a hurry.
As expected they will not drop us in the centre of Otavalo, but on the Panamerican highway, at a gas station. Luckily there is a taxi stop and we arrive in the centre around 7.30 pm. It was a long day and we settle our bags in hostel Santa Fe, not in the books, but it looks ok, with bathroom and cable TV. The next-door restaurant has good food and Ecuador looks promising, although the people seem less friendly and more suspicious.