Friday, February 24, 2017

Andes, Pacific, and Amazon in Ecuador

We entered Ecuador from Peru at the small La Balsa border station. One grumpy Peruvian official aside, the crossing was pleasant. It took a while, because there is no internet connection on the Ecuadorian side, and the personal and vehicle data needed to be phoned in. The only photocopy machine didn't work either, so we walked back across the bridge to Peru, had the copies made, and walked back to Ecuador.
from la Balsa border crossing to Vilcabamba
From/Von/De La Balsa to/nach/a  Vilcabamba 
The first part of the road to Vilcabamba is unpaved, and we had been warned that it can be a bit difficult. We didn't find that at all; if anything, the worst spots were where landslides had damaged the paved road farther along. The drive to Vilcabamba through parts of the Podocarpus National Park was scenic, curvy, and constantly up and down; like in Peru, we took it easy and enjoyed the trip.
Puyango petrified forest
Petrified trees

Vilcabamba advertises itself as a place where people get quite old, even older than 100 years. We saw no methusalems but many "gringos" who have retired there, some apparently reliving their hippie past of the 1960s and 70s.
Petrified petrinos

We partook in that scene only peripherally and preferred to stay at the Hosteria Paraiso near the north end of town. Jacqueline, the owner, is very friendly, as is her staff, and the on-site restaurant offers tasty and authentic food. When we were there, only smaller vehicles could fit (we barely got in after some careful tree-trimming), but Jacqueline is planning to modify an entry gate so that large vehicles can enter.
Puyango flora and fauna
Banana highway, Ecuador
Banana highway, Ecuador
Our next stop was the petrified forest near Puyango. This is an astounding site in an ecologically functioning area of dry tropical forest. The tree fossils are numerous, many are very big, and most are amazingly well preserved. This park definitely is worth a visit, even though --or because of -- it's a ways off the beaten path.
communication signals
Who needs WhatsApp?/Wer braucht WhatsApp?/Quién necesita WhatsApp?
Farallon Dilon

We continued to the Pacific coast, which we hadn't seen since we left it near Lima, Peru. We skirted Guayaquil, Ecuador's biggest city, and reached the coast at the Hotel Dillon. This belongs to now retired merchant marine Captain Dillon, who has decorated this hotel and its surroundings with artifacts of his professional life. It truly is amazing! There is a museum featuring various collections, but really the whole place is interesting. Everywhere you turn and look, there are details related to life on and at the sea.
Manta, wood boat restoration
Manta boat restoration/Holzboot Restaurierung/Restauración de barcos de madera
Manta beach

A little ways farther north is Puerto Cayo, a small coastal town, where Swiss Samuel Härri has his Jardin Suizo garden and hotel. Since we were there on our way south 14 months earlier, Samuel has added a level parking area for overlanders with electricity and water connections.
With Samuel as a guide, we visited Monte Cristi, original home of the Panama Hat, and the coastal city of Manta. In Manta, the damage of the destructive April 2015 earthquake was evident, especially downtown near the waterfront; we saw mountains of rubble, where buildings once stood.
Puerto Cayo crabs
Puerto Cayo, Ecuador
Puerto Cayo, Ecuador

Now we were eager to return to our friend Mauricio's Hostal Shantí in Canoa. Mauricio and Shantí survived the earthquake, although Mauricio's report of his narrow escape from a nearby three-story building is frightening. Many of Shantí's structures withstood the earthquake intact, because of their excellent construction with giant bamboo.
We were eager to see how the small fishing village of Puerto Cabuyal had fared in the earthquake. And we wanted to visit the school where we had built small balsa gliders with the children. When we arrived at Puerto Cabuyal, we found the dirt road somewhat rerouted, and one school building moved about 15 feet. Also constructed with giant bamboo, it had slipped off its supports but remained largely intact; Cabuyal's families then propped it back up onto new supports.
On the way to El Carmen, Ecuador
Ceibas, tropical dry forest, Ecuador

The rest of our time in Ecuador, we spent attending two model airplane events and again with friends in Tabacundo. And we also wandered around some along the edge of the Amazon jungle, where we visited some spectacular waterfalls. In Ecuador, there are easy routes deeper into the jungle. But while we are happy to know intact jungle ecosystems and efforts for their protection exist, we prefer open countryside.
cacao fruit
Pista Celeste, Concordia — Ecuador

Finally, this blog has caught up with us. We're back in Girardota Colombia, where we started this round 19 months and 20,000 miles ago. Now it's time for thorough car maintenance and the correction of some things which need improvement, such as the mounting system for the camper.

We have the luxury of being able to get this done without hurry, and then we'll spend some time traveling around Colombia. Until then, the blog rests... ; )

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