It was Day 169 of the tour and it was one of the toughest days logistically. We left Popayán at 05:00 needing to get to the Colombian/Ecuadorian border before its closing time of 18:00. Unfortunately we had only been able to make running repairs to the broken suspension of the truck, so we were limited in speed, unless we made the cab rock so much to make myself and the driver sick. We had made the decision not to stay in the designated stop of border-town Ipiales for security reasons, as last year’s driver had been robbed at gunpoint. This is Colombia, after all.
Also on the itinerary was the requirement to get to Las Lajas Cathedral (in the photo above). Talk about a sight for sore eyes. I kept the group to a very military-style quick visit in order to get to the border in time. But it’s the kind of place that I could wander for hours. The drive down the valley towards the Cathedral was majestic. I shudder to think of the price of a wedding here.
It’s a pity our visit was a bit rushed, but we managed to get through the border in time. This was despite the usual delays and a small ‘processing fee’ to get the right ‘insurance’ to enter Ecuador. We arrived in Otavalo around 23:00, a long travel day even by our standards. But seeing Las Lajas Cathedral in the flesh was worth all the hassle.
I was chosen to lead the ultimate tour of South America way back in September. Everything happened very quickly, and here I am, in a Quito hotel room, anticipating the start of ‘El Circuito’ tomorrow as we begin our expedition through 9 countries in 171 days. Not a bad cricket score that, 171-9…I think. To be honest I’m more of a fan of sports that don’t include breaks for tea and crumpets.
I digress. Apologies for the lack of recent activity on this blog, as I’ve had to do a fair amount of research to prepare. At least I got to pop back home to Dublin for the last month to see family and friends – a welcome but unexpected bonus! I was also delighted that The Irish Times published my follow-up article (link below) – I had originally pitched the title of the article as ‘Slothing Around Central America’, but no dice. Oh well.
Unfortunately the region in the title of this blog is a bit of a misnomer now, but I think I’ll keep it anyway. I will understandably be a lot busier on this new tour but I’ll still post updates when I have the time! In this part of the world, there’s always a good story yet to be told. While there may not be as many sloths south of the equator, rest assured that there will be at least one Irish eejit still slothing around.
I’m currently staying with a good friend of mine down in Punta Gorda in southern Belize. This place is so laid-back that Belizeans call it by its initials, P.G., which suits its Caribbean vibe. From good food, to kayaking on the river and nights out by the sea, you can see why the locals are so chill.
It’s only a five-hour bus ride from Belmopan, the capital, but the Toledo region down here could be a part of a different country from the north of Belize. It’s a pity we don’t come here on tour to show the contrast. Ironically we actually pass by about 20km from here on tour, but just over the border in Livingston, Guatemala.
I’ve been taking advantage of my time off down here. The day I arrived we drove to the stunning Blue Creek caves, which also gave me my first experience of driving a pickup truck (and on the wrong side of the road too). I’d almost pass for a local if I wasn’t so skin-blindingly white.