Las Lajas sanctuary, colombia
We were up again at daybreak to tackle our last stretch of winding Colombian highway. We both slept ok, considering our hotel had no air conditioner, fan or hot water. Come to think of it, out room didn't even have windows, but rather screens with bars across it - rather like a prison cell, but with cow print sheets.
After a 3 hour drive and short breakfast stop at Mister Pollo in the City of Pasto, we drove straight to the Colombian / Ecuador border and the neighbouring town of Las Lajas. Las Lajas is famous for its basilica that is built into a giant gorge (as you can see above).
After enjoying the basilica, we headed for Ipiales, the Colombian border crossing, which is normally a 10 minute ride. A massive detour turned the short trip into an hour and a half wait-a-thon.
When we finally reached the Colombian border crossing, we exchanged our remaining pesos for US dollars (the dollar is the official Ecuadorian currency) and then went to turn our vehicle permit. We then went to immigration and were stamped out of Colombia. All of this took about 35 minutes, so we got back into the car to do it again on the Ecuador side.
We crossed the bridge into Ecuador, and were given directions to park behind the building. From there, we entered immigration and got stamped in, and headed over to get our Ecuadorian car permit. We had only been in Ecuador 30 minutes, but looked to be almost finished with our paperwork! Bob was amazed at the efficiency of the process. But wait...
The customs official processing our car permit said the immigration agent hadn't put the amount of days we were allowed to stay on the stamp, so we had to go back and find our immigration officer and have him write in the date. By the time we got back to the Customs, there was a long line, so we had to wait another 40 minutes before we were helped. After that, things went fast - she went out and took pictures of the plates and the VIN number, as well as my passport, title and drivers license, and voila, we had our permit!
By now we were a bit behind where we wanted to be, but decided we would press on to Otavalo - we would get there right around dark. The Ecuadorian highways are amazing, and the route from the border is being 4 laned whole way, so we made good time until before Ibarra, just 30 Kms from our destination. A massive traffic jam kept us almost immobile for 90 minutes, which brought us into Otavalo well after dark.
By 8:30 we had found ourselves a hotel and after a large chicken dinner down the street we are ready for bed.
Plans for tomorrow involve going to the world famous Otavalo market, a bit of hiking, finishing up in Quito late in the day...
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
- Mark Twain