Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ibarrra, Ecuador and back to Colombia - Tuquerres, Laguna verde, volcan azufral

I just had a wonderful day.  Having just arrived back in Colombia I am again reminded about how wonderful Colombians are.  Yesterday on the bus to border of Colombia in Ecuador the man next to me started talking to me and was from Colombia and when I asked him how much the bus fare was.. his answer... can you guess??? I will pay for you... After much back and forth and him trying to insist he finally let me pay.  Then another Colombian on the bus also offered to take me to my next destination but I explained to him that I had to go to both immigrations and I didnt want him to have to wait for me.

Yesterday I spent the morning in Ibarra in the north of Ecuador walking around the city and climbed up the to the arcangel viewpoint which overlooks the city and the lake.  The bus goes up to the viewpoint but I walked up then took the bus back to town for 25C.  There is a tourism office by the park Moncayo that gives out free maps and advice.   I stayed at Hotel Madrid for $9 a night for a nice room with a tv and private bath and they had wifi in the room.  Ibarra is about 2.5 hours from the northern bus terminal Quitumbe in Ecuador.  The bus costs about $2.5 and 20 cents for the terminal fee.
The bus station is just a short walk from the city center and markets.  The bus to Tulcan was $2.5 and they said it would take 2.5 hours but actually took over 3 to get to the bus terminal.   I got off at the terminal because that is where the collective van dropped me off when I arrived from Colombia to Ecuador.  But when I got to the bus terminal I was told that the collective vans leave from the park.  So I took a local bus (25 Cents) to the park and then took the collective van (75 cents) to the border.  You have to ask to let you off at immigration in Ecuador to get your stamp otherwise they go direct to immigration in Colombia cause locals just need their ID card and not their passport.  Both times the crossing was quite easy.. they two immigration posts are just a couple minutes walk from each other.  Then after there is a collective van to Ipiales bus terminal.  From the bus terminal in Ipiales  I went direct to Tuquerres since I had already been in Ipiales and seen the Lajas church.  

Arcangel viewpoint with the lake and city below

Below the arcangel, squinting cause of the sun!
 In case you havent realized by now I love maps.
Ibarra map from the tourism office

City center of Ibarra

To get to Tuquerres I took the collective taxi which cost 7,000 COP (~$4) but I heard you can haggle them down to 6,000COP.  It took about an hour to get to Tuquerres.  I stayed at hotel Inti Ande across from the Hyper market and it was 15,000 COP (~$8) with a shared bathroom. They had wifi and a kitchen too.  It was a perfect location as I was hungry and wanted food and there were a lot of bakeries, restaurants, street food and market right there.

Laguna verde & volcano Azufral
Volcano Azufral - hotel reception told me a taxi would cost around 20,000 COP (~$11) to get to the ranger station.  I was also told I could take a motorbike but the receptionist thought it would be around the same price and recommended taking the bus that leaves from the park and costs 1,000 COP but I would have to walk maybe 4KM to get to the ranger station and then 6 KM to the crater lagoon.  I had read on another blog someone was able to get a motorcycle to take him for 7,000 COP but just decided to go for the bus.   I had bought some food and water the night before and had all my warm clothes cause I heard it can get very cold at the crater.  The bus dropped me off and I walked for maybe 15 minutes and saw a house with guy standing next to a motorcycle and asked him if he would be willing to take me to the ranger station.  He said yes and when I asked how much he said 5,000 COP.  So I said ok since I wasnt sure how far it was, the receptionist had said it was 2 hours walking from the where the bus would let me off, but I thought that meant 2 hours walk to the ranger station.  He had to get gas so while I waited for him they invited me in for coffee.  I kept saying no but they insisted.  Then they brought me coffee and a muffin and some other bread type food. But I couldn’t eat it cause I had just eaten.  So after my coffee off we went.  We get to the ranger station and I register and pay the 1,000 COP to enter.  Then he goes back and forth with the rangers while they insist he cant drive past the ranger station saying he will damage his bike and he kept insisting that he wont so finally they say ok go ahead if you want.  So off we go to the top of the crater.  Its 4,000 meters high and the lagoon is nice though clouds sometimes float over obscuring the view so we waited till the view cleared and the sun came out and walked down a little ways.  He said it was a nice opportunity for him to go there cause he has only been a few times.  Then we ride back to where we had started from and of course they try to feed me and give me some coffee or juice while I wait for the bus to pass.  He puts me in what he referred to as the “bus” which was a car or taxi.  He said it goes by every half hour or something on market days and goes pretty much to the ranger station for just  1,000 COP but only on market days and today is Thursday which is a market day.  I am not sure why the receptionist didn’t tell me this but it’s the cheapest option on market days to get to the ranger station.  They dropped me off a half block from the park and I assume that is where it leaves from.    Well I didn’t get in any hiking since the guy drove me the whole way on his bike but I wasn’t too disappointed cause it was nice to have the company and he only asked 5,000COP but I gave him 7,000 COP after he would accept 10,000.  Both he and his family were so nice and were talking about how they would like to go to US sometime cause it looks so nice and different in the movies.  But I also told him that the movies aren’t always reality, not everyone lives in a mansion.  

beautiful bird that has bright blue under its wings

Laguna verde

laguna verde

Laguna verde has an altitude of 4,000 meters

From Tuquerres to Pasto took about 2 hours and cost 5,000 COP (~$3).  Although the lake is supposed to be nice here I decided I am going to get up early to take a 6am bus to Cali since it takes 8 hours and I heard that the buses are not always safe at night in the south of Colombia.  I walked around to look at some hotels near the bus station since to get into town is almost 20 blocks away and I am leaving early.  I ended up at Hotel Poala which was recommended by my guidebook lonely planet.  Its nothing great but it is 14,000 COP (~$8) for a private room with tv and bath and its very close to the bus station for an early morning bus. It has wifi in reception but they have to plug in the wifi router when you want to use it.  Around the bus station is pretty ugly, lots of motorcycle repair shops, but it has a huge market with lots of fruits and vegetables.

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