After nearly a week in Vilcabamba Ecuador catching up with friends and planning our route through Peru, we head to the remote border crossing at La Balsa.
La Balsa sits on one side of the Río Blanco, connecting Ecuador and Peru via a bridge (a raft once ferried passengers across, hence the name La Balsa). The crossing was established after Ecuador and Peru settled their border differences in 1999, ending the longest-running international armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. It is the furthest inland crossing and by far the least frequented.
We set out from Vilcabamba at 11:00am hoping to camp before the crossing. The road turned immediately to dirt and we grinned in anticipation of the off-road Continue reading
We pulled into Vilcabamba Ecuador, thrilled to find Malin and Espen of UNurban and George and Andrea of ToyoTours. Every year there are only a handful of people driving the PanAm. Eventually you start to feel a familial respect for your fellow overlanders. Swapping road stories over a bottle(s) of wine, reminiscing on border crossings, and sharing future routes is one of our favorite aspects of the journey.
Although our class photo is missing a few outstanding students: SprinterLife, Dave & Ann, Adventurous Spirits, and super seniors Lost World Expeditions to name a few, we maintain an ongoing curriculum. These are our new peers, where peer pressure leads to travel extensions, remote border crossings, and yes, Continue reading
30 kilometers east of Guayaquil a gray Peugeot whizzed past us, honking madly, the men inside waving their arms wildly and smiling from ear to ear. This was our introduction to Antonio, Javier, and David, three bothers with an incredible affection for one another, and the cousins of our visitors, Antony and Laurie. Rather than offering convoluted instructions on how to reach their neighborhood they drove out to meet us and guide us through the city.
Tannia and Patty opened their beautiful homes to us and made us feel like honorary primos. We were treated to a tour of the family’s banana plantation, the beautifully restored Malecon, an iguana park in the middle of the bustling city, and a trip Continue reading
At 13,000 feet, even this close to the equator, the thin air chills you to the bone. We are sipping rich hot chocolate, our frozen toes propped up on the fireplace at the lodge in Cajas National Park, west of Cuenca Ecuador. As it often does, the conversation turns to the route ahead: Peru, Bolivia, Las Pampas, and Patagonia. This is easily our most anticipated leg of the journey.
Before our hands are warmed by the fire, it has been decided – we are going to extend the trip. The timing will allow us to spend summer in the Southern Hemisphere and return to the Mid-West in the spring. We agree on March 15th.
The logistics behind the decision Continue reading
Almost as if being punished for our unusually exuberant attitude toward Quito’s biggest tourist hot spot, the Mitad del Mundo, the fuzz was on our tail and the day ended with an expensive shakedown and a dirt parking lot at sunset.
Watching the GPS hit the 00′ 00.000 mark was a serious milestone for us, moving from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern our spirits were high. We were ready to pick up our friends visiting from California and take as many hokey tourist pictures as could fit on our 16gb memory card.
We had our pictures, we had our post cards, and even a hand-painted Peruvian flute among other gift shop knick knacks. Now all we needed were cocktails Continue reading
My eyes snap open, my heart is thumping erratically, I can feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins. I don’t believe I have ever been more aware of my consciousness as time begins to slow. In the total darkness of midnight I lift my head from the pillow and feel the warm blankets being shuffled frantically. In one swift movement Logan has bounded from the bed to the camper door and swiped the keys from their hook. The truck alarm echoes throughout the Otavalo foothills for only a few seconds.
Now enveloped in silence we stare at each other wordlessly in the darkness. Our minds are racing but we remain motionless. The alarm is triggered only by a broken window Continue reading
We heard border crossings only get easier in South America. We are happy to report this is true. The process seems more dialed in down here. One central building with well marked windows and offices. One official doing one job, no more 15 man teams for one position. From the border, our first stop at Otavalo was an easy drive. We highly recommend these camping areas just outside of the town center:
For a more off the grid (sans wifi) experience – La Luna Hostel
And for the more wifi inclined, make camping reservations at their in town location – El Rincon del Viajero
Our guide for the Ipiales border crossing into Ecuador. Continue reading