Monday, February 16, 2015

Christmas in Otovalo, Ecuador

Our first South American border crossing was a breeze. The whole process from Colombia into Ecuador took a total of about an hour and a half, much faster than the crossings we got used to in Central America. To leave Colombia took six minutes! We couldn't believe it, and I had to double check with the customs agent that everything was complete and we were ready to go. He said, "Yes, that's all," so I told him we were just confused because some of our other crossings had taken up to four hours. He replied that they were much faster here in Colombia. We agree.

Entering into Ecuador took longer to register the bikes and get copies, but everyone was extremely friendly. Our welcome into the country was a warm one, and we could tell that Ecuador wasn't going to let us down. It's amazing what a difference a good first impression makes on your whole outlook and attitude when entering a new country. Also, it was a nice surprise to have no charges for entrance. Along with Colombia, South America has been "fee free" for us so far.

It was Christmas Eve, and we wanted to ride somewhere nice to spend the holiday. Our destination was the mountain town of Otovalo, situated in the Andes between three beautiful volcanoes. A couple-hour ride from the border, with a pretty major detour for construction, and we arrive in Otovalo.

Outside of town there was a nice hostel recommended to us by friends, but unfortunately after a 6 kilometer ride up a rough, rocky road, we found that they are full. About one kilometer back down the road was another hostel with an equally beautiful setting overlooking the town and one of the volcanoes. Although pricey, the setting alone was worth it. We planned to stay a couple nights, relax, Skype with our families, and spend Christmas together.

On Christmas morning, we woke up and took the six kilometer hike into the city to look around, have lunch, and buy groceries to make ourselves a Christmas dinner. The hike was beautiful through pastures and along a stream into town. We passed through several small communities that you could only hike into. 

For being Christmas, the town was surprisingly busy. The market was very active, and we were able to buy all the vegetables and meat we needed to make a big pot of soup for dinner. 

Hard to tell in picture, but these are bigger than basketballs!

For just under two dollars U.S., we made a whole dinner of soup and bread that fed both of us and a couple of campers from Quito that showed up with no food. It turned out to be a very nice night of conversation with new friends.

We're really far away from home, friends, and family this Christmas.  It isn't the first time we've been away for the holidays, but this time it'll be months before we return so we feel extra far away. We always manage to make the most of it though, and we couldn't have celebrated in a more beautiful setting.

The day after Christmas, we pack up and hit the road. Next, we head towards the rainforest and will cross the Equator in the process. Ecuador has been beautiful so far, and we're excited to see what else it has in store for us.

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