After finishing our morning’s activity of visiting the beautiful Las Lajas we decided to get out of the notably sketch border town and cross into Ecuador. R had been doing her research and she had many fun stops planned on our way down to La Esparanza. Our wonderful Californian friend was feeling under the weather and we were running a bit later than expected, so we decided to make only one of the stops that was only a short taxi ride away from the frontier in the town of Tulcan. It also happened to be the most amazing cemetary I have yet to see (and that’s saying quite a bit since our family has a strange addiction to visiting cemetaries). The story behind this place is that a local artist started clipping the bushes into different designs and the town enjoyed his work so much that they decided to make it a permanent fixture and began paying him for his creativity! The cemetary is full of green animals, people, shapes and mazes.
After wandering around the cemetary for a bit it began to rain so we decided to try our new addiction, helado de crema, and head south to La Esperanza. We arrived in La Esperanza shortly before dinner and haphazardly found an adorable rainbow-colored, family run hostel, Refugio Terra Esperanza. Crossing borders is one of the most difficult things that we have come across in our travels. Not only are we saying goodbye to a country we have grown to love and finally understand, but we are entering a new culture that always seems so dramatically different. We left our wonderful, loving, full-of-life Colombians that barter like its their jobs, and entered the quiet, on-time, shy Ecuador where bartering is much like pulling someones teeth! We had been in a bit of shock most of the day as we moved through Ecuador, but luckily after sitting down with the family over our shared soup they quickly opened up to us and we talked and laughed the night away!
The next morning R and I got up early and decided we were going to hike up a volcano to a lake located inside the crater, we had very vague directions but we assumed there was at the least going to be a visible trail at some point to direct us to the proper volcano. Well, we were wrong and we found ourselves climbing directly up the side of a volcano through a dense forest hoping to make it out to a big open field that we had seen from the road. We are still not sure where exactly we were meant to go, because when we exited the shoulder-high grass and flower-filled field with no path to speak of (much like the miracle R wished for) we ended up at another lake, Lago de San Pedro. But it was a fun hike with many beautiful views, so we aren’t complaining (well, at least R is not complaining loudly)!
Once we returned home we came to the conclusion that our friend was too sick and he needed to see a doctor, so we packed up our bags and left the next day for Otavalo
. This just also happened to be perfect timing as it was Saturday, the day when Otavalo is known for its outdoor markets! R and I explored the market but did not get excited until we found the beautiful veggies! Ecuador seriously has the best looking veggies I have ever seen, and they are cheap! Vegetarian paradise. The market and Otavalo in general is also incredibly colorful and at night all the buildings around Otavalo are lit by different colors like this amazing church!
Otavalo is also known for its beautiful waterfall located just outside the city, Cascadas de Pugache!
We enjoyed our hike and view of the fall before we picked up pace and headed to the majestic Laguna Cuicocha!
This lake is very large and beautiful! It is a nature reserve and has an island in the middle that is being studied at the moment, so unavailable for visits. We spent our afternoon eating lunch and then relaxing and meditating by the water. It was so calming and wonderful that we felt entirely at peace on our journey home to Otavalo. Once at home we saw a game of Ecuador vs Colombia and in our zen trance we decided that whichever team wins the game is where we are going to spend the next 10 days waiting for G and M to arrive…. ;)