We entered Ecuador at a tiny border La Florestra, an easy border crossing some 6 hrs drive from Macao, Colombia, and headed for the river town of Coca , on the Western Equadorian Amazonian Rain Forest. From the lofty Heights of the Colombian Andes we were now in the Humidity of the Amazon.
Coca is the point where 3 major rivers merge, Napa, Coca and Payamino and become the Rio Napa which itself converges some 1200klms downstream into the Mighty Amazon River. Much has changed in this area over the past 50 yrs as Oil Drilling is extensive and is pipelined from this area West across the Equadorian Andes to the Pacific Ocean coastal refineries and export Ports. Other than the not too obvious pipelines, life for the locals continues daily. A day trip up the Napa River calls at remote river villages and offers a view at daily life for the indigenous peoples that still eke a daily existence from the waters and jungle of this section of the Amazon.
We parked the truck under 2 trees in Coca next to the museum and River (free spot and right in the middle of town), and found after 2nd night we had been eaten by Amazonian Fire ants who using a touching Tropical frond as a super Highway, entered Wiggy and our bed and stung us repeatedly over the course of a night. Amazingly we didn’t feel the bites but our torsos next morning bore witness to this attack. Hundreds of bites! We suffered for 6 weeks!
We’ve managed to misplace our Canon G7X Camera on a few occasions but was here in Coca we finally did manage to lose it for good. In a taxi of all places and the general rule here being who ever finds it owns it. Local tourist office extremely helpful in trying to locate but to no avail. So, out with the big Canon from here onwards.
From Coca to the lovely city of Quito, fringed by 4 Volcanos. At 10,000 feet, this is where lots of international athletes altitude train. The Parque de Carolinas is an enormous civic park, some 12 klm’s from Centro Historico, with a 1 km walking/running track, lovely green parklands, various excercise stations scattered all around and thousands of people use it daily. Zumba classes at 6am any one? This is where you go.
This pretty central place is where Overlanders can park overnight for 10 pesos and is secure. We cooked outside of Wiggy and had a procession of park visitors coming up to us as they thought we were a food truck!
The Avenida Rio Amaozonas boasts many Medical Rooms and was here Ian had a broken tooth extracted, hearing checked, Pen got medication for Allergies. We finally took possession of front wheel seals sent to us from Australia and had replaced at a local Mechanic shop.
Quito to Mindo for 3days, a superb little cloud forest town with colourful birds and a ecological haven for hikers and birdwatchers alike. Many hikes to Waterfalls.
Mitad del Mundo, Quito. Colombia. “Centre of the world”, on the Equator. In fact the Equator has a plus or minus of 5 klm’s depending on the Earths Axis. An amazing feeling to be straddled across 2 Hemispheres.
This place has the most visitors than any other in Ecuador. Strange that for the next couple of years we shall be in the Southern Hemisphere again. Even stranger still to be looking at the “Southern Cross” constellation from the North.
Back to Quito and the San Jose Airport private parking for trucks . Great spot with facilities and a safe place for Wiggie while we flew to the Galápagos Islands for 7 days.
We flew from Quito to the major Galapagos island of San Cristobal, having secured a last minute discount deal on a terrific cruise ship, Santa Cruz 2, for 4 nights and 5 days from the Port, and having arranged an extra 3 days at the end of the cruise to explore by ourselves, and do some more island hopping.
The cruise was really excellent, in so much as the guides who took groups from the boat on the walks etc were all qualified naturalists, and multilingual. Capacity of 90
Passengers and 56 staff. Excellent food, comfy cabins all with view! Bargain! Go see Ecotours in the old square in Quito!
San Cristobal, overnight sailing to Santa Fe Island where we deep water snorkelled with seals and fabulous fish.
Next Santa Cruz for the giant tortoises, bike riding to the coffee plantation.
We feel so privileged to have experienced these magnificent Islands. Had a 2 hour fast ferry to Isabela Island. We managed to add 2 more to our list of 11 endemic animals to make it 13 out of “The Big 15”. Missed out on Galapagos Fur Seal and the Flightless Cormorant.
One day tour by little boat of Isla Isabella for one night and then back to Quito by plane.
Parque de Carolinas in Quito again while we had Wiggie serviced..
Quito to Cotopaxi with a slight detour back to the mechanico to pick up our kindle which we had left at the workshop.
Stayed near a dairy at Cotopaxi, very cold and windy and we couldnt see the famous volcano due to heavy cloud and mist the next morning.
Continuing South once again on the PanAmericano Highway our next destination towards the ‘highest point in the world’ Volcan Chimborazo at 14,400+ feet (true as the bulge of the Earth at the near Equator make this place higher than Mt Everest!), via the Flores Ambato, a wonderful road through high passes with narrow valley and lots of agricultural plots growing an assortment of crops. A wonderful days drive. We were planning on staying at the Volcano, but it was just to windy and as it is in desert, there was serious sand flying around! Wiggie said ‘no’. Lots of vicuña in this very high country. We kept on driving to Laguna Colta, and then onto Cuenca and the wonderful Umberto and Marie and thier property Cabanas Ranuncay where we parked in a paddock below thier house and heard hysterical stories about their neighbours.
Ian minor surgery with Umbertos best friend and walks to the local supermarket along the “Street of 13 Pigs” Pigs and Cuy (Roasted Guinea Pig) on spits along this street.
Fridge finally fixed after 6 months having received part, shipped from Miami. Thanks Umberto for arranging everything! Umberto is ones typically charming, trading rogue, and he was so good to us and had all the local contacts we needed to move forward!!!
Barbara and Doug… they are living in Cuenca and very generously agreed to be the recipients of essential parts for us. Thank you so much for patience and trust having to pay out Import Duties!!!
Our good Austrian friend Rommie who we met at home in Australia, came on the bus to Cuenca from Vilcabamba to meet us( 250 kms and 9 hrs drive further south) have dinner with her old friends. She joined us on the trip back to her home. We perched together in the front of Wiggie (Pen on the engine in the middle) chatting all the way to her expat home where she and her American husband Charles still work as artists. They love life there, and it is a really attractive very old and small village in the hills with lots of expat support, but still with integrity.
We spent 5 night parked at the sports ground just up the road from Rommie and Charles house. We had a wonderful time catching up. Markets, good bread, a good stretchy walk, a very special time to catch up again!
In Vilacamba we packaged up little ornaments from 10 Countries collected and sent off to the UK to Martin (old friend) who is collecting for his Church’s International Friends Xmas tree.
Now at constant Altitude in the Andes, noticeable are the headaches, some nausea and other altitude related stuff ie water boils at about 20 degrees less than normal so forget about cooking Rice.
Next episode Peru, where we’ll bust our suspension. Wiggy has altitude problems and we catch an almighty flu virus.