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Long Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia trip planning- help please!

Long Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia trip planning- help please!

Old Feb 2nd, 2013, 01:40 AM
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Long Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia trip planning- help please!

I have now booked flights for a long trip to South America, flying into Quito and out of Lima. On our last trip to South America we very much made it up as we went along. as a result, i feel we missed out a lot. i dont plan to make the same mistake this time. Our outline plan is to spend the first few months in Ecuador. We have booked a room for the first two months at the South America Explorers Club in Quito. We plan to use this as a base for exploring the northern half of the country and to take an intensive Spanish language course before exploring the south of the country.

We then plan to move on down through Peru revisiting some of the places we have been before ( e.g. Cusco and the Sacred Valley etc.) and some we have not, before crossing into Bolivia via Lake Titicaca. After exploring Bolivia, with maybe a side trip into NW Argentina, the plan is to move back up through Peru for our flight back to the UK from Lima.

I am sure I will be back seeking much advice and many opinions, but for the moment here are few initial questions;

1.Does anyone have any experience of crossing from Ecuador to Peru via the Amazon Basin? The only route I can find is from Coca to Iquitos via the Rio Napo, a trip of some 800km, mostly by riverboat. Anyone taken this route or have other suggestions?

2. If we cannot sort out the above route, any suggestions for trips into the Amazon? Is this best done from Ecuador, Peru or Bolivia.

3.How easy is it to cross into NW Argentina from Bolivia?

4. Any suggestions for routes for this type of trip, or websites where I can find some suggestions?

5. Any suggestions for highlights in each of of the three countries? Particularly out of the way or unusual experiences, The more suggestions the better!

6.Recommendations for Spanish schools in Quito.

For background, this will be a budget trip, staying in hostals, B & Bs and travelling by public transport. Any suggestions for great (cheap!) places to stay would be welcomed
Any help would be much appreciated!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2013, 05:28 AM
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First answer: cancel all that and come to Argentina!

It is getting cheaper and cheaper (if you know what you are doing).

Angie will have the answer to your: "How easy is it to cross into NW Argentina from Bolivia?"
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Old Feb 2nd, 2013, 09:36 AM
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I'm amused at you asking for advice - good grief, you're my go to guy! Can't help but certainly looking forward to the trip report!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2013, 07:22 PM
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Ditto elizabeth_s! Sounds like a great trip already! We went into the Amazon in Manu with Pantiacolla tours. We saw a lot of wildlife, giant otters, lots of caiman, 100 species of birds, monkeys, clay liks. Accommodations were rustic, food was good & an excellent guide.
Otherwise, I just followed a lot of your advice for the rest of Peru!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2013, 08:50 PM
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Like Elizabeth, I'm hoping to learn from your trip! I'm tentatively planning for the same area for this year, although going north from Santiago, but you're well ahead of me.

Do you have the Footprint guide to Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador? It suggests the same route you mention between Ecuador and Peru and gives times and prices for the boats. (But the copyright is Dec 2010 and it notes that they change often....) Probably no substitute for just going.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2013, 08:36 AM
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Congrats crellston. I also like Footprint guidebooks.

I think I've previously mentioned the possibility of going between Loja Ecuador into Jaen, Peru and then continuing on to Chachapoyas, Peru (one of my new favorite regions of Peru). From there you could continue east to Tarapotoa, there is a new road to Yurimaguas where there is a port.

You will unlikely find this in any Lonely Planet, but possibly in the most recent Footprint. You can find videos on You tube of the Carretera Tarapotoa Yurimaguas. However this is still not a route that I would want to take in wet season.

http://www.geosur.info/geosur/iirsa/pdf/es/g3_ama.jpg
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Old Feb 3rd, 2013, 09:00 AM
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Yes, Footprint says that the crossing from Loja to Piura via Macara is the "most scenic and relaxed" between Ecuador and Peru. (I was thinking about using it.) But it isn't in the Amazon basin, is it? I have the LP Ecuador on order, I'll let you know what it says when it arrives.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2013, 09:27 AM
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Not Loja to Piura, Loja to Jaen.

From there you can continue east to Tarapoto.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2013, 09:57 AM
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OK, Footprint also has that crossing, but you have to look for it under Jaen, not Loja. (LP has MUCH better indexing...) It sounds more of a hassle than the Macara one, and it still isn't VIA the Amazon basin, is it?
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Old Feb 3rd, 2013, 11:11 AM
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I think both Loja and Jaen would be considered mountain in the broad classification of climate (although mountain valleys) but it's a lower elevation so cloud forest. This crossing puts you closer to the "selva".

Tarapoto is also cloud forest but a jumping off point to the Amazon basin. With the new road Yurimaguas port is now about 2 to 21/2 hours, you can tour to Pacaya Samiria from that direction

Sample itinerary
http://www.nature-mystictravel.com/p...3&&language=en

Some excerpts from this blog that covers the northern cloud forest area and Tarapoto

http://kojin.wordpress.com/tag/tarapoto/
http://kojin.wordpress.com/2008/08/0...rapoto-14-may/
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Old Feb 4th, 2013, 03:55 AM
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Many many thanks for your kind comments and suggestions. Mlgb, the links are great, just the sort of thing I am looking for.

The route from Ecuador to Peru via the Rio Napo/ Amazon is proving difficult to research as the links to both operators suggested by my Rough Guide do not seem to work. In fact few of the links suggested by Rough Guides do! I bought this book in a hurry before we left for Spain so I am stuck with it for the time being. Intersted to learn that both mlgb and Thursdaysd have the Footprint and I may buy this one when I return briefly to the UK.. The RG is ok but I find that whilst it has a lot of info, it lacks any logical progression and stuff is hard to find. I also have the Fodors South America guide which They kindly gave me for being quoted . It is very well written, but being a multi- country guide, lacks the sort of detail I need for this sort of trip. Is the Footprint Ecuador, Peru Bolivia guide detailed enough do you think?

If route via the amazon is a proves to difficult then I may well revert to another alternative, Loja to Jaen seems a great alternative and bizarrely Loja is the next town to where we are currently staying in Andalucia - maybe it's a sign?? However, the Rio Napo trip did sound really interesting. However, I haven't yet told my wife that a fair proportion of the 800km, week long trip may involve sleeping in a hammock on an open deck!!

Keep the suggestions coming, they are much appreciated
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Old Feb 4th, 2013, 07:37 AM
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When you're around Ecuador go to: http://andestransit.com/ and there you can find a lot of information about buses, routes, companies, times, schedules, everything!
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Old Feb 4th, 2013, 09:31 AM
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Sorry CamiloAOL and maybe it's just me but this is the worst site I have seen in a long while! Just doesn't seem to work..
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Old Feb 4th, 2013, 02:30 PM
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Well, I can't recommend the Footprint book
- There is NO index listing for border crossings - this in a book that covers three contiguous countries!
- There is no section summarizing border crossings for the whole book
- There is no section summarizing border crossings for each country
-- So you either stumble on the border crossing info while reading the book, or you have to know the endpoints or crossing points. Even this doesn't always help - the Ecuador entry for Loja has information on the crossing via Macara to Piura, but if you want to know about Loja to Jaen you have to go look under Jaen in the Peru chapter.
- The book is hardcover, weighs 1 lb and would be very difficult to cut up. Perhaps to keep the weight down the type is tiny and hard to read even in a good light. There are few maps.
- The information on a given town isn't all together - a set of towns will be described, then hotels for all of them, food for all of them, and finally transport.

I also have Fodors South America and Peru (both freebies). The SA book tells you how to get from Peru to Bolivia, but not to Ecuador. The Peru book only mentions the Aguas Verdes crossing, and gives no details.

So I spent an hour or so at Barnes & Noble this afternoon, with Lonely Planet SA on a Shoestring, and Lonely Planet and Moon Ecuador and Peru guides. (Forget LP Discover Peru - it doesn't think there are any borders.)

All five books include the Aguas Verdes, Loja to Piura and Loja to Jaen crossings. (Yes, mlgb, LP does know about the Loja to Jaen route, and gives plenty of detail on how to use it.) I though that both Ecuador books covered the Amazon Basin crossing but from my notes it looks like just LP Shoestring and LP Ecuador. crellston - looks like there's only one usable Amazon route, LP Ecuador says:

"It is also geographically possible to travel down the Rio Putumayo into Colombia and Peru, but this is a dangerous region because of drug smuggling and terrorism, and is not recommended."

Also, while the Rio Napo route is doable, it is only for the "most intrepid" travelers. "Basic infrastructure such as regular boats and simple hotels are lacking." Looks like the Ecuador boats, from Coca to Nuevo Rocafuerte (8-10 hours) are more regular, but you could be stuck in a basic border town waiting for onward transport as it is on cargo boats that only leave when full. Four to six days from NR to Iquitos, try to do border formalities in Pantoja. Take water purification tablets, insect repellent and food. Ask at Coop de Transportes Diuciales Orellano in Coca about connections in NR.

I am skipping the Amazon - I have more than enough exposure to heat and humidity where I live, but if I was doing it I'd opt to detour on the Loja-Jaen route. I'll be going north and LP Peru says that if you leave Jaen at dawn you can make Vilcabamba in one day. Summary for this route going south:
Buses to Vilcabamba to Zumba, ranchero (8:00, 10:30, 17:30, two hours +/-) to La Bamba, road depends on recent weather, cross the river, taxi colectivo to San Ignacio (90 min), minibus to Jaen (three hours), taxi to colectivo stop, colectivo to Bagua Grande (one hour), bus to Chachapoyas (three hours).

I used Moon (Patagonia) for my last trip and wasn't too pleased. I thought the accommodation listings were a bit lacking and the maps didn't have grid references. I'm switching back to Lonely Planet.

crellston - I haven't looked at crossings from NW Argentina yet, but I'll be starting there, so will do so soon.
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Old Feb 4th, 2013, 06:00 PM
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I guess I have figured out how to use Footprint, thursday. Basically under each major town, it says how to get in and how to get out.

I will have a look in my Peru Footprint later on...busy now.

BTW while traveling I have often compared my Footprint against companions LP books...quite often the LPs are sadly out of date, even when new.
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Old Feb 4th, 2013, 06:34 PM
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I agree with Elizabeth and others .. I can't wait to read your trip reports for this fabulous upcoming trip . I can only offer one tiny bit of advice . When crossing from Bolivia to NW Argentina, it can be very crowded . The day we crossed it was crowded and everyone was just waved through . We did not think anything of it, but later found ourselves in a bit of a pickle because our passport had not been stamped . So make sure youndomget yours stamped .

Have fun planning, and have a great trip .
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Old Feb 4th, 2013, 08:14 PM
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5. Any suggestions for highlights in each of of the three countries? Particularly out of the way or unusual experiences, The more suggestions the better!

Peru:

Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve north of Iquitos for a great jungle experience. I went on the Ayapua boat.

Heath River Wildlife Center for flocks of macaws on the river banks.

If I return to Peru I am looking at Manu, another wildlife destination and doing the Lares Valley trek for more of a cultural experience.

Have a great time.
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Old Feb 5th, 2013, 09:47 AM
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Thanks for the tips kodi and atravelynn, added to the list! Just read your TR attravelyn very colourful TR lots of great info and you certainly saw a lot of birds!!!

Interesting debate on the subject of guides, Thursdaysd and mlgb, I guess no single guide is perfect. Looking at my Rough Guide, I checked out the section on crossing from Loja which mentions all the crossing points you did Thursdaysd but lacked any real info, then I notice three words at the end of the section " see travel details" on page ... Which then just lists the frequency, duration and destination of buses and flights in that region, why they can't put it in the text. There just seem like there is any logical progression in the book. The one thing I like about Fodors books is that although they are often not as detailed for this sort of trip as some, they are very well written and thought out. Another grip is that some, like the Footprint it seems, have type that is just too small and lacks clarity in that it is grey rather than black. 20 years ago it would not have been a problem but now if find it difficult to read in anything other than bright light - I am sure this is deliberate to make photocopying difficult ?

I was tempted to buy downloads for my iPad but ther are not that many available, plus, I am not sure reading a guidebook on a shiny new iPad on a bus in South America is a great idea!
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Old Feb 5th, 2013, 09:55 AM
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Kodi, I forgot to mention that we had a very similar experience to yours in SE Asia. We entered Laos from Thailand across the Mekong thought we had all the stamps we needed in our passports. We saided down the mekong for two days and spent some time in Luang Prabang. When we tried to leave the country weeks later the police at the airport took us to side room an informed us that we were missing a customs stamp ( seemingly the other three stamps in our passports weren't enough!) after much discussion using my limited Lao, I managed to negotiate the fine they were demanding from $200 p.p to a flat $50. It really maddened me because I knew it was going into the policemans back pocket., but his alternative suggestion of going back up river to get the right stamp did not appeal! Now I never leave any border crossing without double checking the stamps!
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Old Feb 5th, 2013, 02:04 PM
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Here are some of the excerpts from the 7th edition Footprint Peru (the most recent edition is 8th, published in early 2011). The entire South American Handbook is from early 2013. It is possible to purchase individual chapters of any of these books, by the way.

From the intro to the Northern Highlands chapter.
"you can head north to Ecuador on a new route via Jaén and San Ignacio for the crossing to Zumba and Vilcabamba."

Border Essentials: Peru-Ecuador (in a gray box top of p. 524.

The border is at La Balsa, where a few shops sell..basic items..money changers, no lodgings. To leave Peru head direct to immigration (8-1300, 1500-2000). When entering Peru, stop at the PNP after immigration. The Ecuadorean immigration is supposedly open 24 hrs, knock..

Transport: From Jaen to .. La Balsa, cars leave from Jr Santa Rosa corner Progreso,.. 2 hours
If it has not been raining, there is one bus (Transportes Nambija) that goes from La Balsa directly to Loja at 2030, 8-9 hours. To get to Vilcabamba in one day, you need to leave Jaen at 0700, a tiring journey but the Jaen-Loja rad is being improved with paving in progress in each country. You may have to stay in Zumba. There are military controls at Pucapampa, 20 minutes north of La Balsa and just north of Zumba.

BTW crellston being that you will be at the SA Explorers in Ecuador, I am sure you can get better details than can any of us using old guidebooks!

I noticed that in Chachapoyas and presumably throughout this part of Peru, they call the long distance shared taxis "carros" and not colectivo.
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