After a quiet few days at Lago Calima, while KP took windsurfing lessons and I caught up on my reading and relaxation, we started to get the itch to cross a border. We had over-stayed our original planned six weeks in Colombia by a week already and we were getting antsy to see a new country and keep to our timeline. Plus, after days of watching people kitesurf, KP decided he was up for the challenge, but with not much for me to do in Calima, we decided to head for the coast of Ecuador so that I could take surf lessons while he was kiting.
After a two day run to the border town of Ipales, we stayed a night so we could visit the iconic Las Lajas Sanctuary built into a beautiful canyon over a hundred years ago. The pictures tell you everything you need to know about this gorgeous spot.
We made it to the border about 10am and started the long process of waiting in line. Unlike the Central American borders we’d crossed, this one was very well organized, but BUSY! And we had the misfortune of being there on a holiday weekend. It took an hour to get stamped out of Colombia, and 4 hours to get stamped in to Ecuador. We were spared at least an hour more of waiting on the Ecuador side by our friends Jo and Phil who spotted us at the back of the line and invited us to cut in next to them. We bought them ice cream as a thank you and promised to buy birthday beers when we got to camp as it was Jo’s birthday!
The overlander camps in South America have not disappointed so far. Finca Sommerwind is run by a lovely German woman and serves as a huge campground for overlanders (see the photo gallery of rigs <---) and a weekend café where she cooks up German sausages and AMAZING desserts! Our one-night stop over turned into three nights as we caught up with Jo and Phil, and our Brazilian friends Gabriella and Phillippe who we met at Christmas.
We also met another Brazilian family, who may have been the most redneck people (and we say that with utter love and respect as we ourselves are proud rednecks) we had met since leaving Eastern Oregon. They were in the midst of a year-long trip from Brazil to Alaska and back, in their Hi-lux with two roof top tents and a few antlers rescued from the states hidden in the truck canopy so Martin could make knives when he got home. Told you they were redneck! We had a big family-style BBQ our last night, with men running the grill and ladies providing the coleslaw and potato salad, very traditional-like.
We said goodbye the next day with plans to visit Martin and his family in Southern Brazil! Did we mention they have a couple farms and a brewery… ya they may be our new best friends! We made our way, with Jo and Phil in tow, to go for a hike at some high altitude and start acclimating to the mountains we planned to spend so much time in. Our camp site at the edge of the Cotacachi National Park turned out to be gorgeous, situated up high enough to see out over the whole of the valley we had left that morning. We were joined at our spot by a German couple who had also come from Sommerwind, and a French couple heading North. The French couple spoke very little English, so we did something we had been prepping for for over a year: spoke Spanish with another overlander because it was our common language! We are so spoiled to be native English speakers because almost everyone speaks English as a second (or third or fourth) language, but that night we spent hours learning about each other using only our Spanish and it was amazing. Challenging, but so rewarding! They brought over some INCREDIBLY GOOD cheese that they had smuggled in from France along with some yummy bread and crackers, and we all shared a meal and conversation around the campfire. It was lovely!
The hike the next day was challenging, as none of us had been at elevation for a long time. In fact, it was the first time KP or I had ever hiked over 10,000’! The 13km trail had an elevation gain of about 1400’ overall, and we took our time climbing up the hills to “appreciate the scenery” (i.e. huff and puff and catch our breath every few minutes). But once we got the hang of it, it was wonderful and we are looking forward to doing more hikes like this as we head into the remote parts of the Andes all the way South.
We left Jo and Phil the following day with plans to meet up again soon for more hikes and campfires. But first, a trip to the beach!