Searches at the border and Otavalo in Ecuador

Hi friends! After three months of travel, I arrived in Ecuador, a country of which, at the 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, spectacular and dangerous. Rocky walls with dense vegetation, hundreds of meters high, sloped down to the river, which flowed into a strait below. There were many waterfalls, with their water sometimes crossing our narrow dirt road. The view from up there was amazing.
However, it was also scary. The wheels of the bus were constantly on the edge of the road. Looking out the window, I couldn’t see the road below, only the cliff. When we met another vehicle began complicated maneuvers, often in reverse, to pass both.
When it became dark, it was even worse. It started heavy raining, with very low visibility and the road became mud. At that moment, I also 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 it happened a few years ago at an Italian guy that I met in Santa Marta, Oscar.
However, in the end, all right, and after a day in Pasto, I arrived at the border.

I had my passport stamped for exit from Colombia, and I was already walking to Ecuador when a big rude Colombian policeman called me for a search.
This time they also checked the two main pockets of the photo-backpack, the ones that in my last post, jokingly, I said were hiding 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 it seems to me that these panties bring good luck. So I keep them always with me (not wearing, of course :D )
In many controls, a bit ‘all over the world, when found, the policemen had always been very professional. But professionalism does not seem home in Colombia… he started laughing “Ah ah ah ah ah, I didn’t think… you didn’t seem … ah ah”. No, wait, those are from a Brazilian girl… that you could just dream in the night, maybe in your lonely wanks (actually at the end I didn’t add this last part of the sentence, because I’m always careful to not saying something that might hurt).
“Mhmm … true? True?” Of course it’s the truth! Anyway, are we here to find drugs or to talk about lucky charms? And please stop enlarging them with your ugly hands for observing from all angles…
Finally, 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 on the bus and checked everybody’s documents. After that, me and some people had to go down for a search.
Again, they searched above all my photo-backpack. And again especially on the same side, the rear for the laptop.
So, an advice for any would-be drug traffickers: never put it there!
In a previous search, they had pulled out the internal parts of my bag, breaking them. This time the policeman made tiny holes inside it with a boxcutter. When I protested, he said: not worry, no break, no break … and in the meanwhile kept puncturing it with his knife. Dunno, maybe “break” has another meaning for them.
Meanwhile, he was pulling Zeus, the police dog, to sniff these tiny holes. But Zeus didn’t show any interest, he was sniffing around like crazy, except my backpack, and despite the policeman was forcefully pushing his head inside, there was no way, nothing that would attract his sniffing, not even Joyce’s panties, until a boy, a bit ‘strange, also in line for the checking, gave him a kind of pudding on which he jumped to devour it, 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. About one hour later: stoooop. Again the police on the bus, again a check of everybody’s documents, but this time I had the honor to be the only one to go down for the search. Very long, on both backpacks, with the driver protesting, “he has already been checked!” “Don’t meddle… let us do our job…”.

So, with 4 searches, I strongly advise to not bring drugs within 200 km of the border between Colombia and Ecuador. And if you really must, at least remember to always carry with you a pudding to donate to the dog. ;-)


Bird statue in San Agustin.


It is said that this sculpture represents the “Double-self”: the warrior with the spirit of the animal that guides him.




A street in San Agustin. If you happen to go there, don’t miss the Italian restaurant of Ugo, a nice Italian guy who even offered me dinner.
To reach him, ask Anibal, a local guide (if you don’t find him, he will find you). He will be happy to take you there with his motorbike, at high speed without headlights, in total darkness, and when you point it out, no problems: he will turn on the mobile phone display as a beacon. And indeed, in that context, it seemed all the light in the world.


Sugar cane.


Sugar making.




Writings on the City council wall against politicians in Pasto, Colombia. As almost everywhere in the world, they are not much loved by people.


And finally 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. Still today, it is inhabited mainly by indigenous peoples, who came here in ancient times and formed a sort of confederation with other advanced communities around. They were subdued, already 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 goat in the middle.


Fruit stall.


Woman with colored background.


Mother and daughter.


One of the few families in the world still working 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 few days.

Heading south, I crossed the “zone Cafetera”, where 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 area (located on the heel of the boot), because, for some reason, in the “zone Cafetera”, the cities took their names from places around the world. I realized it with some concern on the bus when, waking up, I saw directional signs saying: 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, happened a paradox: despite constantly drinking coffee because I always found it around, I could not stop sleeping! It did to me the opposite effect. I mean, I didn’t wake up late, but after I always had a nap after lunch, and at night, I went again to bed a couple of hours after dinner. Maybe one of the reasons was also the “April is sweet sleeping”, as we say in Italy. 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 it was also influenced by 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 striking , 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. Once, in the stretch between Armenia and Popayan, they stopped our mini-bus and searched all the people inside. Especially me, perhaps because Italian, foreigner, and friend of the nephew of Escobar.
They found 4 or 5 secret pockets in my photographic backpack, which I didn’t even know existed. However, they didn’t check the two main pockets in front, where I had 3 kilos of cocaine! Joking, of course :-)

On the coaches, and in the streets, there are posters inviting to denounce, in exchange for money, guerrillas guys or suspected. 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 saw a hundred statues, and they don’t have anything to envy other extraordinary pre-Columbian art as the Incas or the Mayans.
Their discovery is pretty recent, and many of them have come to light only in the last century. The fact that, as I said, these areas have been until recently off-limits due to the guerrilla, has probably slowed their knowledge in the rest of the world.
The sculptures sometimes represent men and women, sometimes animals, often a mixture. They were usually placed as guards in front of the tombs, covered with them under the earth.

It’s complicated to know the civilization that created them because it seems they had no much contact with other societies. Apart from these sculptures, around 500, were found just a few tools, jewelry and the usual broken pots (after many travels I come to the conclusion that the main hobby of the ancient people of all the world was making pots, breaking them and bury them inside graves :D )

As always, grave robbers did a lot of damage, destroying and taking away valuables over the years.


Coffee plantation in Salento.




Saloon with pool table.


People in Salento.


Salento street.


Pool players.


Football on tv by the street.


Big coffee machine.




Salento by night.




Cow nose.


Saint Ibrahimović, protector of all the teams eliminated in the Champions League! :D


Friday before Easter procession.


Bonfire in the night before Easter.


Strange tree.


San Agustin.




Grave by Magdalena river, maybe of a guerrilla.


San Agustin sculpture.


As I said, often they were guarding the tombs, underground with them.


Often they have traits both human and animal.


“And indeed, they care more to make and decorate the grave where they put the dead than the house in which they must live.” – From “The Chronicle of Peru”, 1550. Text 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. For all the rest, there are just assumptions.


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