Tag Archives: gps

Ecuador Part 4: Getting Lost on the Avenue of Volcanoes

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Kinda hard to miss

Kinda hard to miss

How do you get lost when a volcano is your navigating landmark?  Apparently, it is not as difficult as one would think.

We are big believers in seeing a country by driving a car on your own (or taking a train).  There are so many things missed when flying over, or being escorted by a tour.  We also bow down at the alter of the GPS (Costa Rica: No Signs Allowed).  However, due to my limited Spanish (yes, the GPS was all in Espanol!), the sparce map programming for Ecuador, or just (I fear) my mental capacities – the GPS rented from the car rental company in Cuenca, Ecuador was not as much help to us as expected.

Truth be told, we saw much more of the country than originally planned (much, much more)on our drive along Avenue of the Volcanoes from Cuenca to Banos to Quito.  Lucky for us, there were only a few roads that take you through those mountains (and we found them all), or we would probably still be searching for a way out…

We did manage to locate the Ingaperca Inca Ruins between Cuenca and Banos:

Ingaperca Inca Ruins

And see some colorful things along the way:

No billboards needed when there is the side of a house to paint.

Who needs billboards when there is the side of a house to paint.

We kept driving when it was raining:

I think we do this way...

I think we go this way…

And took random breaks when it wasn’t.

Anyone for a game of hoops?

Anyone for a game of hoops?

Sometimes we drove by the view,

No shortage of cows in Ecuador.

No shortage of cows in Ecuador.

And sometimes, we got out of the car to take in the view:

We will get there someday.

I think it is too far to jump.

And sometimes, we just followed the truck in front of us:

Goin' my way?

Goin’ my way?

Driving though the rural and mountainous parts of Ecuador, we came away with two impressions: Ecuador is a vastly beautiful country, and those volcanoes may be big, but they do not a navigational tool make.

In the end, we made it to all of our planned destinations…and a few unplanned ones as well.

All in a days travel…

The best days that is.

For other articles on Ecuador:

Ecuador Part 1: Forrest Gump Goes to Quito

Ecuador Part 2:  Getting Mobbed and Spit On in Cuenca

Ecuador Part 3:  Throwing My Kids Off a Bridge in Banos

For More Sweet Spot Travels: GO HERE

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Costa Rica Part 2: No Signs Allowed!

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Costa Rica

Want to get the most out of a trip to Costa Rica? Then, I have one piece of vastly important advice for you…

Rent a car!

But wait, there’s more!

Actually, as with all unsolicited advice, there is a catch.

If you are going to follow my lead and rent a car to get around Costa Rica, (preferably one with 4 wheel drive) it is absolutely essential (in that, always put on clean underwear before you leave the house kind of way) to rent (or bring) a GPS!

Our initial reaction when the rental car salesman in San Jose, Costa Rica started urging us to also rent their Garmin GPS, was something like “Sure, gouge the tourist for more cash!” However, there was something in the earnestness of his insistence (and, the fact that Costa Ricans in general tend to be vastly straight forward about things) that made us finally relent and rent the GPS for $8 per day. It didn’t take long (about two blocks) to realize the complete and utter necessity of the gadget.

You see, the Costa Ricans, while a lovely people in general who really know how to host a traveler in their beautiful country, have a cultural abhorrence for street signage…anywere! Technically the streets all have names – the maps are loaded with them – but trying to find an actual street  sign anywhere in the towns and cities is like looking for a teenager without a phone in hand. Even Costa Ricans, when queried about this phenomena, expressed their own difficulties when travelling to a town they had never been to before.

Now, don’t get me wrong. You will get enough signage to get the general sense of your place in the world,

I think I know the way to San Jose...

I think I know the way to San Jose…

But,  other directions will look like this:

We must be almost there...

We must be almost there…

Or, come from locals (and even printed in online directions) in the form of relational positioning such as “six blocks from the Church”, or “around the corner from the store”, or “over there (points to some distant corner of the town)”. Of course, success with directions of this sort is dependent on knowledge of where the actual “church”, “store”, or “there” is located.

I think he knows where we need to go...but he's not talkin'

I think he knows where we need to go…but he’s not talkin’

By the time we had completed our first drive from San Jose to La Virgen, successfully winding our way around myriads of unmarked streets as the electronic voice told us just where to turn, we were ready to get down and kiss the proverbial feet of our precious rented GPS. (just in the figurative sense, of course – we did not want to look weird). The truth is, without the GPS we would probably still be driving in circles around the mountain towns of Costa Rica (which wouldn’t be so bad, aside from the bothersome reality of work, school and pets demanding to be fed).

About now I suppose you are asking yourself why the crazy Sweet Spot chick is encouraging you to risk driving around Costa Rica at all! Perhaps some perverted plan to send travelers randomly driving in circles around the wilds of Costa Rica?

For one reason, and one reason only – really, the only one that matters.

If you don’t get in a car and drive yourself around Costa Rica, you will miss seeing things like this:

Rio La Paz. Drive from San Jose to La Virgen

Rio La Paz. Drive from San Jose to La Virgen

Farmland - drive from San Jose to La Virgen

Mountain farm – drive from San Jose to La Virgen

Drive from La Virgen to La Fortuna

Drive from La Virgen to La Fortuna

Sheep farm between Jaco and Quepo

Sheep farm between Jaco and Quepo

Beach between Hermosa and Quepo

Beach between Hermosa and Quepo

 

Driving into La Fortuna

Driving into La Fortuna

Drive from Jaco to San Jose

Drive from Jaco to San Jose

The Defense rests.

For other posts on Costa Rica:

Costa Rica Part 1: Take a Picture, It Lasts Longer

Costa Rica Part 3: The Eco Adventures

For more Sweet Spot Travels: GO HERE