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ABOUT THIS BLOG

In the summer of 2009, Nicolas Rapp decided to take a break from his Art Director job at The Associated Press to attempt a one-year overland travel around the world in a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser. He was back in New York in February 2011 after traveling 15 months and 37,000 miles.

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  • Coming down the coast, reaching Peru

    Posted on February 12th, 2010 Nicolas No comments

    food

    Again I have to apologies for this delayed update. In the meantime, I was able to cross Ecuador and reach Peru. The truth is I had the same trouble than in Colombia. I was not being able to connect to my server from Zorritos, the town in northern Peru we arrived at. There may be some websites hosted on my server that doesn’t fit some governments, which would be the reason for its inaccessibility in some countries that censor the internet access.

    But let’s start from the beginning. We picked up my friend Dan at Quito’s international airport at 1:30 on a rainy day. He flew from New York City with a stop-over in San Jose, Costa Rica. Dan works at the United Nations in NY, and was able to take three weeks off that he intends to spend with us.  It is nice to have someone additional to help with taking photos, so I can just walk the streets of old cities without carrying my camera and worrying about taking good shots.

    Plaza in Quito, Ecuador

    Plaza in Quito, Ecuador

    Quito from Above

    Quito from Above

    After picking up Dan at the airport, we drove to the historic center of the city, and quickly found a cheap hotel (Hotel Grand, US$7 per person, recommended, inside parking).
    Despite the rain, we went out for some drinks and Ecuadorian food (great ceviche) in the northern and more modern part of town. There were a lot of people there, in bars and dancing, and it looked like Quito is a lively metropolis, something that I would not have imagined.

    Rainy day in Quito

    Rainy day in Quito

    At night, the old city seemed dead, and somehow not very welcoming. On the Sunday morning, it was the inverse. Probably the best capital city we visited since the beginning of the trip. We took a two-hour stroll around, and were able to see the inside of churches, a difficult thing in Latin America, as those are often closed when there’s no mass. Also the traffic is reduced in the old streets, so you can have a pleasant walk. There are no modern buildings there, making Quito old quarter a well-preserved historic gem.

    A_triB

    A_triA

    We had good coffee, bought croissants in a panaderia, and had excellent time walking all the way to the northern part of town – Mariscal – to have lunch. I wish the pictures of the city would show better how Quito is, but I would recommend anyone to spend few days here, to enjoy the city and its delicious food. The Lonely Planet walking tour of the old city is recommended. Eventually, we came back using the electric trolley system, and were leaving the city around 4 p.m.

    Our next destination was Banos, a small town of 20,000 inhabitants at the foot of Volcan Tungurahua. It took us more time that we thought to get there, and it was pitch black when we arrived, after a very difficult drive in the night and rain. We camped on the soccer field of the city this night, after cooking pastas.

    G_cooking

    Cooking pasta

    In the morning, we drove through the city to reach the municipal baths, where one can take advantage of the mineral-loaded water in concrete pools of various temperatures.  We stayed until noon, roasting in the hot water. Then, we were back in the mountains, this time to reach Guayaquil, the economic capital of the country.

    Baños

    Baños

    The drive was pretty interesting. We were high again, at 4,000 feet. People in the mountains – especially women – wear the traditional attires, which is something similar to Bolivia.  When we began to go down, an opaque fog stayed around us for few hours, sometimes so thick I could not see few yards in front of the truck. That, combined with a sometimes poor road surface, did slow us down, and we arrived to Guayaquil at the beginning of the evening.

    D_fog

    There, we were invited by Oswaldo, the owner of the Regina hotel (http://www.hotelreginaguayaquil.com/) to spend a night (thanks Paul, my friend). We slept like rocks in the quiet hotel, after getting quick diner and drinks in the center of the city. There is not much to see in the big town, as the place is mostly a step for travelers to reach the Galapagos Islands, which we will not visit on this trip, unfortunately.

    Peruvian border

    Peruvian border

    After that, and saddened by the rainy weather, we decided to push as far south as we could, possibly passing the Peruvian border, which we knew was open 24 hours. Exiting the big city was a nightmare, and it took us almost two hours after getting lost.  Most of the day, there were banana farms on both sides of the road. Before the border, we made sure to fill up all the jerry cans and the tank of the truck, since gas is way more expensive in Peru. You can’t beat Ecuadorian prices, at around $2 a gallon.

    Of course, customs officials were not so happy when they saw our gasoline reserves, but they waved us through anyway with it, after saying first we could not take the precious load with us. This is the first border crossing we take at night, and we were the only people on the Peruvian side, which made the formalities faster than ever. No fees to cross the line, import the vehicle, and get a temporary driver license.

    Not happy with gas reserves

    Not happy with gas reserves

    In the darkness, we found a camping on the beach, few miles south of Zorritos, and were happy to open the tent there, after a long day of driving. In the morning, as the sun came up, we discovered a really nice beach, and agreed we should stay until the day after to relax, and enjoy the sun. In addition, I had some overdue work on the truck to do, and I intended to take care of it there.

    A nice surprise in the morning

    A nice surprise in the morning

    The camping we were at, Three Puntas, was great, and was no more than US$3 per person and per day. A leak in the gasoline stove forced us make a fire on the beach the second night, and use it to cook. One more thing I would have to fix.

    I calculated that since we left, we drove an average of 95-miles a day. At such speed, you have to manage yourself some stops when you find a good place. Being constantly on the move may become stressful after a while, especially when you add up the lack of comfort synonym with camping.

    Stopped by landslide

    Stopped by landslide

    Anyhow dear readers, we are back on our way south, and we know we will have to face some difficult weather while we cross Peru, as there are some episodes of strong rain and we suspect landslides may have caused road closing between here and Trujillo. I hear the Machu Pichu, victim of flooding, is still closed for at least three weeks, so I guess we will miss that.

  • Market day in the Andes

    Posted on February 6th, 2010 Nicolas 9 comments
    The animal market in Otavalo

    The animal market in Otavalo

    Diana, our host in Popayan

    Diana, our host in Popayan

    I guess a lot happened since the last time I wrote. First of all, we were able to find a place to stay in Popayan. We met a nice family who let us stay in the driveway of their house and taste homemade marmalade. Diana and her husband did not only let us sleep there; she also invited us to have breakfast in the morning at the hotel she manages, La Loma

    Popayan

    After this taste of luxury, we visited the city and it’s beautiful white houses, colonial style.

    Like always, we wished we could have stay longer, and get a better feeling of the place in the evening, but we had to be on our way, and around 1 p.m., we were back on the Pan-American, in direction of Pasto.

    Flying through the clouds

    Flying through the clouds

    The drive down there, through the mountains was pretty, especially close to twilight, when the rain and light changed the surrounding landscape.

    All the places we park to sleep are not exactly paradise

    All the places we park to sleep are not exactly paradise

    Eventually, in Pasto, we set camp in a truck parking lot which GPS coordinates was given to us by our French friends who camped there the day before on their way south.

    Beautiful road across the mountains

    Beautiful road across the mountains

    Temperatures are getting colder as we advance, which get us worry about the cold we will meet in Peru and Bolivia.

    Santuario Las Lajas

    Santuario Las Lajas

    The following day, as we got closer to the Ecuadorian border, we exited the main road to visit the Santuario Las Lajas close to Ipiales.

    The rain will come

    The rain will come

    After cooking a quick lunch, we speeded to the border, anxious as always at the idea of the long waiting time. As a matter of fact, it could have been worst, and we were done with everything in three hours. The whole process was free. It is always exciting to get to a new country. Perhaps because such an adventure could stop at any time if something bad enough happen, and the further I am, the best I feel.

    Land border between Colombia and Ecuador

    Land border between Colombia and Ecuador

    We decided to drive a bit in the darkness for once, as I wanted to be at a lower – and warmer –altitude. Once in Ibarra, feeling dirty and attracted by low prices of hotels, we decided to check in and enjoy a warm shower. It did cost us US$6 per person at the Hotel Imbabura (recommended). There were some nice restaurants in town, and it was great to relax after another long day of driving. When I woke up, I continued to work on the AP story I’m schedule to send soon about our travel through Central America. There are some great bakeries since we arrived to Colombia, and again, we took advantage of it. There is only one sad thing I would like people to explain to me. Why would you be in the area where the best coffee beans in the world are grown, and you regularly are offered Nescafe in coffee shops?

    The animal market

    The animal market

    Anyhow, we were ready to get back on the road. This time, cap on Otavalo, a close-by village in the mountain famous for its Saturday animal and craft markets. The markets date back to pre-Incas time where people from the lowlands were coming up to exchange goods with people from the mountain.

    Breakfast at the market

    Breakfast at the market

    I have to say, the animal market was by far my favorite, and the craft market, oriented toward the tourist crowds didn’t offer anything amazing. I saw more seducing hand-knit goods in San Cristobal, Mexico, for example. It is recommended to wake up early to see the best of the animal market, and to avoid the tourist buses coming up from Quito.

    The animal market borders the Pan-American

    The animal market borders the Pan-American

    In the small town, we stayed in the hotel, Residencia El Rancio, for US$5 per person. Yes, that’s right, two hotel nights in a row. As you guess, we are dreading the cold, and taking advantage of cheap places as we can. But don’t worry, soon enough your favorite travelers will be back under the rain.

    The equator line

    The equator line

    At 10 a.m., we were on our way to cross the equator line. We passed it around noon, on the Pan-American. Nothing much to see there, and in addition, we were on our way to pick up another traveler who will spend time with us in the upcoming weeks. Dan was arriving at 1:30 p.m. at the Quito airport. It was raining hard as we were going down south.

    I promised my old friendI will get him some fresh oil

    I promised my old friendI will get him some fresh oil