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Rambling Ecuador

TULCAN
Since the computer system that distributes SOAT, the vehicle insurance that is required in Ecuador, we were committed to spending the night in Tulcan, Ecuador’s northernmost town.  While there is little to do in Tulcan, we did find the most unique cemetery that I have ever seen.

Cemetario Tulcan holds rows and rows of graves resting above the ground and adorned with flowers, pictures of saints, and notes from loved ones.  But the main attraction is this cemetery’s topiaries that line grassy plains and maze-like paths.  Cyprus trees trimmed into animals, ancient god-like images, faces, and various shapes create a landscape that seems like a dream from Alice in Wonderland.

If you are passing through Tulcan, I highly recommend a brief rest in Cemeterio Tulcan.  If you need to camp in Tulcan, I recommend pirate camping in a parking spaces of the main plaza.  This location was recommended by numerous locals, for there is a police station on the side of the plaza.

SANTO DOMINGO DE LOS COLORADOS
The central region of Santo Domingo de los Colorados is crowded, traffic-jammed, and lined with countless unmemorable shops.  We used Santo Domingo de los Colorados as a stop along our route, and found a quiet place to sleep across the street from the Fire Department (located across the street from the mall).

While making breakfast on the tailgate in the morning, we met the owners of Cevicheria Alcatraz, a seafood restaurant located on the same street as our truck.  They invited us in and treated us to a wonderful meal of sauted shrimp and peppers.  If you are looking to treat yourself to a seafood or ceviche dinner, stop by and tell them we sent you!

THE SUAREZ FAMILY FARM
Our friend Javi, who now lives in North Carolina, just happened to be visiting his family during our rambles in Ecuador.  Fortunately for us, we were able to stay on the Suarez dairy farm, located outside of La Conchordia.

Camping at the farm was a great experience for us not only to see the farm, but to learn a thing or two about Ecuadorian cuisine and culture.  We rode mules down to the river to bathe, Nick killed and de-furred two cuy (guinea pig) for a special dinner, I milked a cow for the first time, and we attended a local cockfight.

SAN MATEO
San Mateo, a tiny fishing village on the coast, was just a one-night stop on our route.  We camped by the beach, parked by lines of blue and yellow fishing boats.  The local fishermen, who congregated close by and drank long after the sun set, found it prudent to begin with a fresh bottle the next morning as well.  So if you visit San Mateo, I’m sure you won’t have a hard time finding liquor.

MONTANITA
Although Montanita is a stereotypical, hippie surf town with an overabundance of handmade stone jewelry, dingy hostels, and signs written in English, it is a fun town to visit, and especially interesting if you bring along your surfboard.

To get away from the late-night loud music and partying, we stayed a short distance out from the center of town in a quiet palm-thatched cottage.  There are several of these white cottages lined in two rows by the beach, and they are owned by the town of Montanita.  Lodging is $50 for 4 people, but since we had only two people, we were able to get the price down to $20 (and we skipped the included breakfast, which is a croissant, eggs, and coffee).

After one night of treating ourselves, we then camped bedside the cottages.  This is a perfect camp site – it’s right on the beach, there are outdoor showers by the cottages, the center of town is a short walk down the beach, and the surf break is right by the cottages.  HOWEVER, there are sandflies on this beach, so, if you do not have a mosquito net that blocks those pesky sandflies as well, you may want to camp more inland.

CUENCA
Cuenca is a beautiful, modern town with stunning colonial architecture and a young, creative energy.  While Cuenca is known for it’s museums, countless churches with intricate adornments, and a fairly happening nightlife, Nick and I, while we found the city to be beautiful, grew bored of the town quite quickly.

We did, however, find a lovely camping site next to the river, which is a short walk to the center of town.  The river, which has rolling hills of green grass, is well-lit and has numerous parking spaces.

TIP: Cuenca has a few leather stores that have handmade leather jackets at affordable prices.  If you are in the market for a leather jacket, purse, or wallet, keep an eye out for these stores!

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