Monthly Archives: October, 2013

How Does That Grab You?

Well, this should be a blog post to remember… it sure was a day we won’t easily forget

Our hostel in Piura was a complete disaster – even though called Hospedaje California it had no hint from California what so ever. Sleeping in a room without a proper window and hearing all the late night city sounds does not deliver a good night sleep. We should add ‘windows’ to our hostel checklist… we did not check behind the curtain properly this time.

That was only the start of the day… because someone broke into our car around 9:00am. We had stopped for breakfast in town (it is Sunday morning after all) and we returned to the parked car, Patrick noticed that the stuff on the backseat had been moved around and then we noticed that the trunk was open and the front door lock was forced open.


It took us a while to find out what exactly had gone missing as most of our stuff was still there, but it seems now that all our (empty) bags and hiking boots have gone missing. That is all of them, even the big backpacks and Marijke’s rain proof handbag which was hidden in the back of the car behind all the clothes. The bags are empty (except for a fake wallet with old credit cards) and Marijke’s old phone – which does not work outside of Europe. So Mr Thief, the joke’s on you!

Funny part of this all – if there is such a thing – is that there is a police office right around the corner of where the car was parked. When we went there they didn’t even help us one little bit: it’s not their department. Luckily this nice lady from the restaurant where we had breakfast offered to come along to the other police station to help with the declaration. Our Spanish was not nearly good enough to thank her for such a nice act!

After the declaration was written up, we drove out of Piura as fast as the injured Rodrigo could take us. Even though we drove through a beautiful desert today, our minds were in other places, wondering if we could have done something differently, noticed something beforehand. I guess that it was just that place and time thing.


And when you’re in the desert, you might as well release your frustrations… nobody for miles around!


When you think the day couldn’t possibly get any worse, we got pulled over by a policeman who tried to get a bribe from us for not having a permit for our tinted backseat windows. If anything, our windows should be tinted more as proven earlier today! We made clear that we were not informed about this at the border and that we would pay any fine only at the police office in town. We stood our ground and did not take any crap from him (even though he was listing a series of bogus infractions) and he walked back to his car and drove off. We double checked this policy with the tourist police in town and they told us that this permit is only necessary for people from Peru, not for foreigners. You see, this is not our first day on the road!

Tonight we are staying at a lovely ranch called ‘Rancho Santana’. The people here are really nice and the farm animals wander around our car. Hopefully we will be able to catch a good night sleep after a difficult day.


(Sneak preview of tomorrow’s blogpost: Rodrigo was fixed up for $10 USD and we fitted a new alarm system. Everything back to normal!)

How does that grab you darlin’?

How does that mess your mind?

I Can Feel The Sun Coming Up (And I Need It)

After spending a week in the mountains of Ecuador, we figured it was time to make our way to Peru. In a way it is a shame to spend only a week in a country like Ecuador, but if we want to arrive in Buenos Aires in early December we need to move. The discussions in the car the last days have been about the final 6 weeks of our trip and our strategy for selling the car. We need to leave ourselves some time to sell the car in Buenos Aires – and we have already found some interested people – so we are considering to end the trip there instead of Ushuaïa. We’ll see in the next weeks what our progress is like.


When we left our hostel in Catacocha, the sun was shining over the mountains. We were stopped at a military checkpoint where they checked our car import documents – that was the first time anyone checked in Ecuador. A soldier with a big rifle asked us to come over to his desk so he could write our names in a book of people who had driven past. After filling up on cheap fuel for the last time, Rodrigo reached the ‘Puente Internacional’ between Ecuador and Peru. It was very quiet at the border – and unlike Central America nobody jumped on the car to help us. We filled out the paperwork for leaving Ecuador and about 10 minutes later we crossed the bridge to Peru. An uninterested official stamped us into Peru and, after buying insurance in someone’s kitchen and changing some money, the customs official started typing away at the import documents. It took some time to get everything in the system, but in the end Patrick signed and fingerprinted all the documents.

Safely across the border we drove into the desert landscape of northern Peru. The temperature reached 34° Celsius and Rodrigo’s air conditioning was working overtime. The pigs, goats and deer wander freely across the desert… and the highway. We’ll be following the Panamerican highway for long stretches throughout Peru.




Our rough guide to Peru directed us to a hostel in Piura. It’s Saturday night so we’re not counting an uninterrupted night of sleep. We have learned that if we stay in towns in the weekend, usually there are fireworks at random times, endless honking of taxi’s and distant pan flutes. We had a nice ice-cream (limon and sauco – still need to look up what that is) before calling it a day and finding our bed. We’ll be camping more over the next days hopefully!



Oh yes, in case we were not sure that we made it to Peru we stocked up on all things Inca. The Inka Chips are nice but the Inca Cola will not be recurring item on the menu.


I can see the sun coming up

And I need it, oooh yeah

I feel like I’ve been down for a while

I Need A Dollar

We did not know it ourselves until about a week ago, but the official currency of Ecuador is the US dollar. We had some dollars left from Panama, so we did not have to change too much money coming in to the country. It does turn out however, that a 50 dollar bill is unusable here… it’s just too much. Patrick tried a lot of different stores and petrol stations, but nowhere will they accept it. I guess that bill will have to go back in the emergency fund (for emergencies outside of Ecuador).


The weather was much nicer today and we managed to do some serious volcano-spotting. We had some trouble matching the volcanos with the right names – and the lack of internet access the past few days did not really help to clear up much. A nice lady at a fruit stand gave us a quick intro to the volcanoes surrounding us here. We bought a whole bag of fruit from her – which cost us only $1,50.

There’s the Cotopaxi volcano in the background. We were much closer to it yesterday but the visibility was poor due to the weather.


Then there’s the Sangay, spitting out smoke in the background


This unidentified mouton looks like it belongs in a Swiss chocolate advertisement


And finally, the Chimborazo volcano with an impressive 6,268m. If you stand on top of that volcano (I leave it up to you to judge if that is a wise thing to do), you’re the furthest distance from the earth’s core – even further than when you would be on top of Mount Everest!


The rest of the day took us through the mountains past Riobamba to the town of Canas, where we will spend the night. It has been a bit cold the last few days and we are looking forward to a hot shower. And by the way, it’s not because it’s cold that you cannot eat ice-cream. An ice-cream costs 25 cents here… finally our travel budget is recovering a bit!


And I said I need dollar dollar, a dollar is what I need

And if I share with you my story would you share your dollar with me

Get Off Of My Cloud

We arrived in Canas yesterday in the rain, but this morning the sun was out – and followed us all day. We picked up croissants for breakfast on the road and after about 20 minutes, we could see the Andes mountains reach above the clouds. As we drove up and down mountains today, we even reached temperatures of 30° Celsius again in the valleys.




We continued our drive down the Panamerican highway and made a stop for lunch in a small mountain town. We were not really sure what or how much we really ordered – but for $4 we had soup, chicken, steak, rice and beans and a lemon juice. We made some copies for the border crossing tomorrow and continued to look for a flag sticker for the car – without success.


As we need to stick to our schedule a bit – and there is so much to explore in Peru and beyond – today will be our last full day in Ecuador. For the driver this has been the easiest country since the US… I wonder what Peru will be like!


Hey, you, get off of my cloud

Don’t hang around ’cause two’s a crowd

On my cloud baby

I Walk The Line

We left our abandoned campground this morning around 8:00am and drove through beautiful mountain scenery. The roads in Ecuador are much wider than in Colombia – or anything we’ve seen since the USA. There is still a lot of construction ongoing to widen the Panamerican highway and every now and then we drive past big machines that are digging up mountains. There are toll roads here as well, but the toll is only $1 and – unlike Colombia – you actually get a nice road in return!


Our first stop of the day were the mysterious ‘Piramides de Cochasqui’. The pyramids were built about a thousand years ago – long before the Incas conquered these lands. On top of the pyramids there are large moon and sun dials, which demonstrate that the people who built them had a solid understanding of time, location, movement of the stars, … and understood the significance of this place near the middle of the world. The pyramids have not been fully excavated because they would erode too quickly in this landscape. We did a guided tour for $6, which is about 1/10th of the cost to tour a Maya site in Mexico. There are wild llamas that wander around as well…






The pyramids are 10 kilometers north of the equator, so it was about time to take Rodrigo to the southern hemisphere! You would think that somebody would put a sign up saying “the equator is right here” but unfortunately we crossed the imaginary line in a place where it is not marked. With the GPS in hand, Patrick went out on foot to look for the magic spot. It’s near the traffic sign next to the curve in the road in the picture below…



We had expected a bit more drama crossing this imaginary milestone – or at least a nice picture of the car next to a big sign. Slightly disappointed we drove on – and symbolically it also started raining. We reached altitudes of 3400m and the temperature dropped to 7° Celsius. Hopefully it will clear up tomorrow so that we can have a good view of the Chimborazo volcano!
As sure as night is dark and day is lightI keep you on my mind both day and nightAnd happiness I’ve known proves that it’s rightBecause you’re mine, I walk the line

Escucha Me! Ecuador!

Unfortunately it was time to say goodbye to Colombia today. Once we left Cartagena, we have been impressed with how friendly people are here! Even today at the border, Patrick was surrounded by guys who wished us all the best for our journey. From our love motel we drove to the ‘Sanctuario de Las Lajas‘, an impressive basilica built over a raging river! The basilica is surrounded by beautiful green hills. It was very cold and windy at our viewpoint so we didn’t hang around for too long and headed to the border.




It was about a fifteen minute drive to the border. We checked out of Colombia in less than 10 minutes (it took us two weeks to get in) and drove over the international bridge to Ecuador. We were stopped by the army in no-man’s-land. The officer had a very funny chat with us – involving trying to understand the job content of a consultant in little Spanish and laughing about carrying tons of cocaine in our trunk. With a handshake, wave and big smile he let us drive into the country without the tiniest car check. Then we headed for immigration and after a short queue we got stamped into the country. This was going much too smooth for our luck and so when we had to do the final step (get the vehicle permit), our fortune changes. Patrick had to collect all types of documents (copy of passport photo page and stamp, insurance, …) to get the permit document started and then wait for a very, very long time to have the admin finished. So in the end it took us a good 2 hours still to get across the border.


Happy to be in Ecuador we went looking for tonight’s campground. We wanted to fill Rodrigo with Ecuador’s cheap fuel (about €0,40 per liter) but there is a limit of $10 for filling up (apparently too many Colombians come here to fill up). At the second petrol station, Patrick used all his charm on the female pump attendant and she let us fill the car up completely. The ‘Hosteria Aruba’ no longer accepts campers but the ‘Hosteria Oasis’ next door let us stay for 20USD with access to a pool. After the long drive and heavy border crossing today, Patrick wasn’t up for more driving so we decided to give ourselves a little treat. There even is a bonus furry animal that wanders around the cabanas here… Tomorrow we will go and explore our new country.




Dame tu mano!

Y venga con migo!

Vamonos al viaje para buscar los sonidos magicos

De Ecuador!

Keep The Streets Empty For Me

Today we headed further down south as we want to cross to Ecuador on Tuesday. Whilst we were driving the only highway from Popayan to the border, we noticed the environment around us changing multiple times. We started off in the green mountains, where the many trucks on the highway slowed our speed down to about 20 kilometers per hour. There isn’t a single car in the pictures below… but rest assured there are plenty on the road.

Around noon we drove through the valley and made some good progress over flat road. We also stopped for lunch at the side of the road and had yesterday’s leftover pizza and salad.
Not before long though we were back in the mountains. The roads were wider than this morning, so the drive was also more relaxed. Every now and then we saw a truck, bus or car coming down the mountain in the wrong lane – but somehow we are used to that now. We have not resorted to those tactics ourselves and accept our role as the underdog of the Colombian roads. We were pulled over by the police once today, but they did not want to check our papers as they were collecting money for a children’s charity. We felt a bit cheated as we were pulled over and thought it was something more official… but in the end it’s for a good cause.
Gradually the landscape became dryer and dryer – and the temperature hit 33° C. The scenery reminded us of Mexico and the Grand Canyon.

At the end of the road today, we started climbing again to above 2.000 meters. With that the rain came and the temperature dropped to 13° Celsius. Tonight we are staying in a motel just outside of Pasto. With such cold temperatures outside and no places available to camp, it’s an ideal solution. When we do the math, it’s even cheaper than camping, the car is off the street and secured, we can charge phone and computer batteries, we can have our home-made sandwiches inside, …

Memory comes when memory’s old

I am never the first to know

Following the stream up north

Where do people like us float?

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This

One thing we have not mentioned yet about Colombia is the large number of mullets we have seen. They say the eighties are coming back… well they have arrived in Colombia for sure. Apart from that, we have to say that people in Colombia are very nice and helpful. They like to talk to us a lot, but unfortunately we are struggling a bit with our Colombian Spanish which is making us very good listeners but very bad conversation partners.


Today we also got to see a different side of Colombia. After driving through the mountains around Medellin, we arrived in the valley of the Cauca river. This area is home to the most fertile lands in Colombia and we drove past miles and miles of sugarcane plantations. The road trains that transport the sugarcane to the factory are quite impressive – the roads are even specially designed to accommodate them.


Marijke felt like some Asian food for lunch, which is notoriously hard to find in Colombia. We pulled over and set up our gas stove to boil water and eat the pot noodles that we bought a long time ago.


The change of scenery today was welcomed by both the driver and the passenger. We managed to cover 400km today thanks to the excellent (but expensive) toll roads.


The navigation was set for the town of ‘Popayan‘ and around 3:00pm Rodrigo rolled in to the abandoned streets. Due to major road words around our targeted hostel we drove around a bit to get to the car park. We had some time left to explore ‘The White City’ and a cup of coffee on the central plaza finished off a successful day of driving!


Sweet dreams are made of this

Who am I to disagree

I travel the world and the seven seas

Everybody’s looking for something

Cuando Yo Me Voy Para Medellín

Looks like we were right… the trucks were very loud and kept us awake for most of the night. Around midnight a truck pulled up next to us in the car park, which at least kept Rodrigo out of view of the highway traffic. Otherwise the night was rather uneventful as José was on patrol.


We were up at 7:00am (well, we were awake a long time before that but we stayed in the tent until then) and an hour later we were on the road again. Nate and Sarah followed us up to Medellin, where we went separate ways. We made it to Medellin around noon and after a very confusing roundabout (we figured it out the third time) we followed the ‘Rio Medellin‘ to guide us out of the city. We continued the drive towards the south and parked the car outside of Manizales. No camping tonight as we found a hospedaje (you can compare it to a motel) with a room and parking for 25.000 pesos (that’s about €10). Considering that lack of sleep in the last 2 days we are looking forward to a night of uninterrupted dreams…

Cuando yo me voy para Medellín

En cada montaña yo dibujo trozos de ti

You’ve Been Thunderstruck

Well, we were very happy to sleep in a room for a dollar more. An enormous thunderstorm woke us up in the middle of the night! That storm is probably at the top of our thunderstorm charts so far. The thunder made the walls shake and the lightning was too much for the little lightbulb in our room. We managed to get a few more hours of sleep before the morning. The owner offered us a cup of coffee before we left, which was very nice.


Our ambition today was to get as close to Medellin as possible. Colombia really is a big country and we are driving through the mountains at altitudes of 1.500m, so our progress is quite slow. The beautiful green landscape makes up for that of course: we’ve seen a lot of coffee plantations and vineyards. Today we also saw a lot of Colombian football shirts, as Colombia is playing tonight against Chile. In some towns, 1 out of 3 people wear a yellow shirt today to support the team!



We were pulled over by the police only once to check our paperwork. The officer also inspected the driver seat and the trunk but everything was okay. Around 4:00pm we started looking for a place to park and camp. We first checked a petrol station, but the attendant said he did not recommend camping there. A little further up the road, we saw a restaurant with a big car park. The owner, José, came out to welcome us and was absolutely amazed with our story. We even gave him a little tour of the car and the tent, as he could not believe we could live like that for half a year. With José on guard all night, we had a small picnic and went to bed early. It promised to be a difficult night, as the highway was very close and the trucks were very loud… Patrick enjoyed his birthday beer (cold! thanks to Nate and Sarah’s fridge) with a view of the Colombian mountains!


Sound of the drums

Beatin’ in my heart

The thunder of guns

Tore me apart

You’ve been thunderstruck