After having spent an incredible time in Colombia, it was time for us to cross the border and keep going south, to discover what was waiting for us in Ecuador. More than 3 hours went by before we were able to enter the new country with our passports stamped.
To top it all up, the rain decided to join us so that the waiting wouldn’t be so boring. Highly recommended not to cross the border on a Monday morning. Many people spend the weekend over in Colombia to visit the Las Lajas sanctuary and they come back on Monday early early morning, creating a huge line.
It’s quite funny to realize that you can simply cross the bridge that separates both countries without being stopped or showing your passport to anybody. We got our passports stamped cause we needed to, but if we didn’t want to do that for whatever reason, we could have done it without a problem.
Once in Ecuador, we took a colectivo (3.25$ to be divided by all the passengers) to Tulcan, where we grabbed a bus to Otavalo (3.75$). Bye bye to the Colombian negotiation of prices. The price was what was written on the board. I kind of like it that everyone pays the same and that you don’t have to fight for every penny, but at the end this means we would spend more money.
Otavalo is a very nice and pleasant to walk around city. Small and warm, it was a great first impression of Ecuador. Here we realized we would struggle much more than we did in the neighbor Colombia to stick to our daily budget. When asking for prices for a room, the lowest amounts were 7$ per person. With a 20$/day budget, spending 14$ in the accommodation didn’t seem the best choice. So Kasia sat down with the bags and I went looking for the cheapest place in the city. It took me a while this time, but going up from the main square, I can’t remember the street, I found a place called Residencia Santa Marta, where we slept both fors 8$ in a private room with shared bathroom. When it comes to food, the first day we knew we would miss a lot the Colombian “almuerzos”, as they were bigger and nicer. In Otavalo you can find plenty of places where to eat lunch for 2$. You can find some a bit cheaper, but it’s not worth it as in those the amount of food is pretty small.
When it comes to things to do, nearby Otavalo one can find many attractions and places to be seen. The tourist information office is placed next to the main square and can offer you some guidance.
We decided to visit a couple of places. The first one was a waterfall called Peguche that’s at a walking distance from the central square of the city. The entrance is for free, although you can make a donation if you feel like it. The place is really amazing, there’s a very nice walk with clear and clean paths to follow, that takes you to the waterfall and around for a nice little hike. You’ll come across the fertility tree. Kasia hugged it and hugged it again and I passed 3 meters away from it :).
There are couple of attractions within the park. There’s a cave you can visit, but that one comes with a little fee, don’t remember the price though. And there are also couple of swimming pools where you can take a nice and relaxing bath with great views around you.
The second place we chose to visit was the Cuicocha lagoon. A must see for everyone visiting Ecuador I would say. The lagoon is placed on top of a volcano crater, and there’s an incredible hike to be done around it. You can get there by first taking a bus to Quiroga for 0.25$ and then you can either catch a taxi or as we did, you can hitch a ride up and ask the driver to drop you at the entry road to the park. There are many trucks in the road, the first one that came took us, when we hadn’t even been waiting for 5 minutes. The entrance is for free, you are just asked to fill in your personal data.
A great thing to see in Otavalo is the local market, specially during the weekend. Colors all around you: fabrics, bags, clothes, all sorts of handcrafts, there’s plenty to choose from. And to make it even better, the market is also an incredible viewing spot to the volcano Cotocachi.
Otavalo was definitely a great start in our Ecuadorian adventure. Yes, the people were colder than our beloved Colombians, but let’s face it, people like that we won’t find them anywhere else in the world I’m afraid.