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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
1,172 days a wanderin'

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Seizing the Day, Northern Ecuador

Apr 3, 2018
by John

We have been on the road for almost three years. While there are so many more beautiful places to visit, it is our friends that mean the most. Experiencing a place with others makes the experience much greater. The laughter, the sharing, the food, and the love. Hugging goodbye knowing we will meet again still doesn't make the sting any softer. There are so few of us remaining from the original group we started our journey with, most are back in their home countries. Those new friends we have made are cherrished as equally as the old, yet rejoining those from the beginning holds a very special place in our hearts. When our paths cross, no day is more wonderful.

What We Did

Papallacta, Napo

We were wanting a soak in some thermal pools, our last foray while in Colombia was mostly unsatisfactory, but we were concerned with the altitude of Papallacta. At 10,800 feet (3,300 meters), it was close in height to where Mandi started feeling horrible at El Cocuy. We decided to take a chance and visit the thermal pools of Papallacta anyway, surprisingly both of us felt normal. Possibly our long stay in Villa de Leyva, at 7,100 feet (2,165 meters), might have done us some good... besides all of the great food and friends. Termas de Papallacta, $8.50 per person to access the thermal pools and $6 per person to camp, was well worth the total of $29 it cost for the two of us for the one night we spent there. We liked it so much, we returned after visiting Otavalo for two more nights.

Papallacta, Napo, Ecuador

Doesn't look hot to us

Papallacta, Napo, Ecuador

Happy place

Quito, Pichincha

We had been messaging Joe & Josee more than usual since we were fairly close. They were in Quito getting some dental and truck maintenance performed, giving us the chance to catch them after 18 months apart, we last saw them in Guatemala (August of 2016). Josee and I also have the same birthday so it was really great to spend it together eating and drinking like no time had separated us at all. Adding that extra icing, two other overland couples joined us for the occasion, Chris & Nicole and Ioannis (Yianni) & Rochelle (Overland Diaries).

Our four days spent together camping at the Circulo Militar parking lot, $8 per 24 hours, was absolutely wonderful. We mostly drank coffee, chatted, and had big meals together. We did visit a fantastic gear store recommended by Chris & Nicole, Tatoo, spending way too much money on replacement backpacks and a new rain jacket for myself...happy birthday! We also ventured to the old city with Joe & Josee, Josee and I toured an old opulent church (La Compania de Jesus) complete with a gold plated interior for $6 each including tip. Photographs weren't allowed, it was really over the top since almost everything was covered in gold. **Note - After attempting to stay at the parking lot again when we returned from the Galapagos we were told they no longer allowed foreigners to stay there, boo.

Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador

Freaking vagrants

Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador

Party people

Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador

All dressed in black, black, black

Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador

Ministry of magnificence

Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador

A church on every corner

Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador

You should see the inside

Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador

Cherub rock

Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador

Saint huff and puff

Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi

Our plan was to head north but we just couldn't leave all of our friends so we followed them south to Cotopaxi. Entrance to the park, as well as camping, is free so it was a great offset to our spending spree in Quito and camping practically all alone with friends in nature cannot be beat. At 12,600 feet (3,845 meters), it was the highest place we had stayed overnight, but we both felt fine and drank lots of coca tea just in case. Again lots of coffee (tea), conversations and big meals were shared. After three nights we left the group to venture north and to get ready for our upcoming visit to the Galapagos. It was a hard goodbye, now only a month separates us from Joe & Josee, we will catch them sooner next time!

Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Friends, free, and fabulous

Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Yes, deer

Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

It's somewhere out there

Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

We don't think that's sugar

Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

A couple of pin heads

Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Didn't know how rare this was

Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Who's a foxy lady

Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Check out that flex

Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Definately takes no bull

Mindo, Pichincha

Trying our luck at a rain forest, it living up to its designation, we decided to visit Mindo for slightly warmer temperatures and a much lower altitude. We camped at La Bicok, $7 per person per night if you stay more than 1 night - $9 per person normally, for four nights. It rained almost the entire time so my new rain jacket proved useful and we mostly only visited El Quetzal for breakfast and one really fantastic dinner. All of the famed birds were hunkered down just as we were so insects proved to be majority of the active wildlife. We did happen upon a really nice craft brewery, Pileus Brewery, after meeting the owner while wandering town. Mandi had a flight of the 6 available brews for $12 (Mango Habanero IPA, Smoked Pumpkin Ale, Hoppy Ale, IPA, Organic Cacao Vanilla Stout, Organic Cacao Stout), choosing the Mango Habanero IPA as her favorite.

Mindo, Pichincha, Ecuador

Aren't you fancy

Mindo, Pichincha, Ecuador

You eat slugs

Pileus Brewery, Mindo, Pichincha, Ecuador

Not as small as they appear

Mindo, Pichincha, Ecuador

Something is stuck on your plant

Mindo, Pichincha, Ecuador

There are birds here!

Otavalo, Imbabura

Many had told us to check out the Condor Park in Otavalo, $4.75 per person, so we left Mindo earlier than we had originally planned to give it a try. We camped at Hostal Curinan, $5 per person per night, since we arrived on a day the park was closed. Visiting the park the next day was well worth it. The weather wasn't the best but wandering around the grounds reading about the different species onsite then catching the 11:30 flight show was fantastic. Otavalo is famous for its Saturday market, we visited during the week and have been to many markets during our trip, so we again changed our plan and drove back to the hot springs of Papallacta before parking just outside Quito and flying to the Galapagos.

Condor Park, Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador

This conversation is not over

Condor Park, Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador

You'd think they'd keep their home much cleaner

Condor Park, Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador

Hedwig has never fully recovered

Condor Park, Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador

They also live in the ground!

Condor Park, Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador

What you squaking about?

Condor Park, Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador

Pierce Hawkeye

Condor Park, Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador

And that's why we don't try to touch them

Condor Park, Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador

Just move and see what happens

Condor Park, Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador

Dude, I didn't touch your Cheetos

Condor Park, Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador

You're not from here, are ya boy?


Say what? (5)
george penick
Apr 3, 2018 at 02:08 PM
3 yrs stood out. This is so rare in my world- know one I know has EVER done what you guys are. Cheers.
Apr 3, 2018 at 02:35 PM
Hey George,

It's surreal to us sometimes. We have met others who have been on the road for 16+ years, that is almost unimaginable.
Angie Norris
Apr 3, 2018 at 06:46 PM
I always love the updates. I remember when you all were planning for the journey and am so glad you took the leap. I see such happiness and peace in your faces, its a beautiful thing! Keep enjoying the journey! Sending our love from Florida!
Randall
Apr 8, 2018 at 05:33 PM
3 years. Wow! You keep going, guys!
Apr 14, 2018 at 05:23 PM
Thanks Angie and Randall!

You guys have a great spring and summer! We too are so glad we took the leap and expect this last year to be just as wonderful as the last three. Much love!
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