Searches at the border and Otavalo in Ecuador

Hi friends! After 3 months of travel I arrived in Ecuador, a country of which, at moment, I know only that, in fact, the equator passes on it.
But we’ll discover it together.

After San Agustin, I took the road from Mocoa to Pasto, which seemed as spectacular as dangerous. Rock walls with dense vegetation, hundreds of meters high, went down until the river, which ran in a narrow strait. Many waterfalls, with water passing sometimes above the dirt road, with signs of landslide and falling rocks.
It was very narrow, with the wheels of the bus touching the edge, and even looking out the window often I could not see the road below, only the cliff.
When we met another vehicle began complicated maneuvers, often in reverse, to pass both.
But the view from up there was amazing, until it became dark and the shadows made it even more scaring. Shortly after it started raining and the road became a mud and with very low visibility. And finally, only then I remembered that in those areas on the border with Ecuador it’s dangerous to travel at night for the risk of being attacked by armed bandits, as happened a few years ago at an Italian guy I met in Santa Marta, Oscar.

However all right, and after a day in Pasto, I arrived to the border.
I already had my passport stamped for exit from Colombia and I was walking to Ecuador when a Colombian policeman called me for searching.
This time they also checked the two main pockets of the photo-backpack, the ones that, jokingly, I told you containing 3 kilos of cocaine. In reality, however, they contain something perhaps even more valuable: the red panties of Joyce. Not so much for Joyce, a Brazilian girl with whom I stayed more than 10 years ago, but because these panties bring good luck and so I keep them always close to me.
Now, in many controls, a bit ‘all over the world, when found, the police were always very professional, but in Colombia… he started laughing “Ah ah ah ah ah ah, I didn’t think… you didn’t seem … ah ah”. No, wait, those are a from Brazilian girl… that you could just dream in the night, maybe in your lonely wankering, I also wanted to add but I didn’t because in the end I’m always careful to not saying things that might hurt.
“Mmm … true? True?” Of course it’s the truth! But we are here to find drugs or to talk about souvenirs? And if you stop enlarging them with your ugly hands for observing from all angles, you make me a favor.
However, shortly after, the search ended and I arrived in Ecuador.
I took a bus from the border, towards Otavalo. About 10 minutes later: stooop. The police came up and checked the documents to everybody. After that, me and another 3 or 4 people had to go down for searching.
Again, they searched especially my photo-backpack and especially on the same side, the rear, where I put the laptop.
So, an advice for would-be traffickers: never place it there! And if the other time they pulled the internal parts, breaking them, this time the policeman made little holes inside it with a boxcutter and when I protested he said: not worry, no breaks, no breaks … and meanwhile he punctured it with the little knife. Dunno, maybe “break” has another meaning in Spanish.
Meanwhile, he was pulling Zeus, the police dog, to sniff these little holes. But Zeus did not show any interest, he was sniffing around like a crazy, except my backpack and despite the policeman forcefully pushed his head inside, there was no way, nothing that would attract his sniffing, not even the Joyce’s panties, until a boy, a bit ‘strange, also in line for the checking, gave him a kind of pudding on which Zeus jumped to devour among the desperate cries of the policeman “noooo what have you done? Now he will not sniff anymore!”. And amid the general laughter, also this search finished.

I went back on the bus and we left. After an hour: stoooop. Again the police on the bus, again checking documents to everybody and this time I had the honour of being the only one having to go down for the search. Long, both backpacks and nothing served the protests of the driver telling them: but he has been already checked! “Do not you meddle, let us do it …”.
So with 4 searches, I recommend you to not have drugs within 200 km of the border between Colombia and Ecuador. And if you must, at least remember to always carry with you a pudding to donate to the dog. ;-)


Bird statue in San Agustin.


It has been said that this sculpture represents the “Double-self”, the warrior with the spirit of the animal that guide him.




San Agustin street.


Sugar cane.


Sugar making.




Writings on the City council wall against politicians in Pasto, Colombia.


And here we are in… Ecuador, in the famous Otavalo market.


Woman at market.


Otavalo is located at 2500 meters and is surrounded by three volcanoes, including the Cotacachi, 5000 meters high. Even today it is inhabited mostly by indigenous peoples, who came here in ancient times and formed a sort of confederation with other advanced communities around. They were subdued, before the arrival of the Spaniards, by the Incas, after decades of war that led to the massacre of most of the population.




No more blood for oil.


I want you… for the revolution!


Student girls.


Otavalo women.


Man with newspaper.


At the bus station.




Abstract composition with a goat in the middle.


Fruit stall.


Woman with colored background.


Mother and daughter.


One of the few families in the world that still makes the wool by hand, without machinery. I bought a hat from them, $2.


I reply to the comment:
Hi Yannick! My plan is to go also in all the little Central America countries (Nicaragua, Costarica, Guatemala, etc…). Not sure if I can make it, because of the money, but I think I will. :-)

Salento in the “zona cafetera” and the sculptures of San Agustin

Hello my dear friends! I’m in San Agustin, almost on the border with Ecuador, where I should arrive in the next days. Heading south I crossed the “zone Cafetera” , where the coffee is grown. In fact, Colombia is the third world coffee producer after Brazil and Vietnam, the very famous Vietnamese coffee.
There I stayed 5 days in Salento, the name comes from a southern Italian zone (located on the heel of the boot) because for some reason in the “zone Cafetera” the cities took the names from around the world, as I realized with some fear on the bus when, after waking up, I saw signs as: Jerico … Damascus … Palestine and I thought fuck, I must have missed some stops!

Salento is a small town between the mountains and in those days there was a paradox: despite drinking constantly coffee because I always found it around, I could not stop sleeping! It did the opposite effect. I mean, I didn’t wake up late, but after there was always a nap after lunch and at night, a couple of hours after dinner, I went again to bed. Maybe one of the reasons was also the “April sweet sleeping” as we say in Italy, but anyway those mountains made me lazy. To be precise: it is not that elsewhere I grab a pickaxe to run down in the mines to dig, but there I was feeling particularly lazy. Maybe I needed a little ‘rest, and probably also influenced the change in temperature and climate in general. It’s only been a few days, but it seems so far the warm sun of the Caribbean coast. Salento and St. Agustine are at almost 2000 meters. They are chilly, humid and it is raining a lot.

The mountains and valleys around here are particularly spectacular , with canyons and waterfalls. Until a few years ago, the tourists could not come because of the high risk of being kidnapped by guerrillas.
Perhaps for this reason there are many roadblocks of the police and once in the stretch between Armenia and Popayan, they stopped and searched all the people on the mini-bus where I was, and especially me, perhaps because foreigner, Italian and friend of the nephew of Escobar.
They found 4 or 5 secret pockets in my photographic backpack which I didn’t know existed but they didn’t check the two main pockets, those in front, where I had 3 kilos of cocaine! Joke of course :-)

On the coaches and in the streets there are posters that invite to denounce, in exchange of money, guerrillas guys or suspected and some of these posters are, rightly, riddled with bullets.

Now I’m in San Agustin , where there are beautiful and mysterious stone carvings of a civilization of which we ignore almost everything. We know that they lived in these parts since at least 3300 BC, and then vanished a little before the arrival of the Spaniards.
I’ve seen a hundred of statues and they don’t have anything to envy to other extraordinary pre-Columbian most famous art as the Incas or the Mayans.
Their discovery is fairly recent, and many of them have come to light only in the last century. Even the fact that, as I said, these areas have been until recently off-limit due the guerrilla, it has probably slowed down their knowledge in the rest of the world.
The sculptures represent sometimes men and women, sometimes animals, and often a mixture. They were usually in front of the tombs, as a guard, and were covered with them under the earth.
It ‘s really difficult know the society that created them because it seems as they had no contacts with other civilizations and apart from these sculptures, around 500, were found just a few tools, jewelry and the usual broken pots (after many travels I have come to the conclusion that the main hobby of the ancient people of all the world was doing pots, breaking them and inserting them in graves :-) )
As always, the grave robbers over the years have done a lot of damage, destroying and taking away valuables.


Coffee plantation in Salento.




Pool table saloon.


People in Salento.


Salento street.


Pool players.


Football in tv on the street.


Big coffee machine.




Salento by night.




Cow nose.


San Ibrahimovic, the patron of all the Champions League eliminated teams! :-)


Friday before Easter procession.


Night before Easter fire.


Strange tree.


San Agustin.




Grave near the Magdalena river, maybe of a guerrilla.


San Agustin sculpture.


As I said, often they were as guarding the tombs, covered with them under the ground.


And often have traits both human and animal….


“And indeed, they care more to make and decorate the grave where they put the dead then the house in which they must live.” – From “The Chronicle of Peru”, 1550. Text written at the entrance of the museum of the archaeological park of San Agustin.


From the images on the sculptures it has been possible to trace some of their characteristics: clothes, ornaments, weapons and some food, but for all the rest, there are just guesses.


Ok, that’s all for now! And please put some comment, don’t be shy. Shyness is not good. :-)