After Baños it was back on the bus for the six hour journey north to Ibarra. Or it was sold to us as a six hour journey but obviously it was always going to take nearly eight. We got off to a bad start when the bus dropped us at a deserted petrol station in the dark in the middle of nowhere rather than at the terminal. We looked sad and pathetic and asked a lady if we could share the only cab with her to our hostel as we didn’t fancy standing around on the deserted dark streets. Luckily she agreed because as we drove down silent back streets behind the market I was getting a little worried – and these worries escalated as our chosen hostel appeared – cloaked in darkness.
Our cab driver waited whilst we rang the bell and eventually a man appeared to let us in. Climbing the tiled staircase with its stainless steel handrails we speculated why there was no indication from outside that the place was open or occupied. To be fair there was a whopping great big illuminated sign spelling out ‘hostel’ but a little lamp inside the door would have helped. I was just relieved to have M with me and the lady waiting in the cab.
The next day the Fevilamir hostel luckily redeemed itself. The gentleman who had opened the door to us the previous evening introduced himself as Geovanny and couldn’t be nicer, and we also met and chatted to Maria who cooked us some good eggs for breakfast and made us juice.
There was an airy dining room at the top of the building. Breakfast wasn’t included in the price but it was very reasonable and it was tasty and filling. We stayed two nights at the Hostal Fevilamir which was a heap of contradictions. Arriving at night it looked run down and empty. The prices were very very reasonable for a room for the night indicating that perhaps we should not expect great surroundings or service. However, once inside, the place was immaculate, nicely decorated and with real modern touches like the staircases and the decorations in the dining room. Geovanny showed me around many of the rooms and was meticulous in his presentation of them, squaring tables off and tweaking cushions in order to give a good impression.
We had stopped off at Ibarra to break our journey to the Colombian border and although we didn’t expect too much of the town it wasn’t too bad at all. We tracked down the tourist information place and picked up a good map with all the places of interest marked on it; but bizarrely the place that we found the most fascinating – the museum which contained some excellent exhibits inside the by now, expected colonial building – didn’t get a mention or a pin point on the map at all!
Whilst at the museum we happened upon a presentation of poetry by local school children and we got chatting to one of the teachers. He then introduced us to other teachers and soon we were having our photos taken by them all. We were introduced as almost-celebrities but we were more fascinated by the female teachers clothes and were dying to get our own photographs of them.
The other draw at Ibarra was the park. This new park is very much still work in progress but it was a lovely place to wander around. It is the most unusual shape resembling a tennis racquet with a large area at once end and with a very long thin ‘handle’. And it was long – stretching way off into the distance. When we arrived they were in the process of removing giant sculptures of hummingbirds from packing cases and positioning them around the string end of the tennis racquet. The birds were all decorated in different ways and were really very beautiful. It seemed that they had been sponsored and represented different things from the local area. Some unusual types of water features and fountains were dotted around, there were sports pitches, a Japanese garden (planted with cactus) and a couple of long slender footbridges. The strange shape was eventually explained when we discovered that the site was originally the airport. I would expect that the majority of local governments would have sold the land for housing and I think that it is a very progressive, socially acceptable thing to turn such a large space into parkland.
We took a bus to the nearby Laguna Yahuarcocha. The lake is also known as Blood Lake due to a massive battle which took place here centuries ago and in which the lake turned red from the number of corpses floating in it. It was a nice lake but nothing special although I suspect in high season it is crowded with tourists on the little boats. We stopped for a while to eat some fresh fish cooked in a pan outside one of the little cabins whilst trying to avoid the sinister dogs which were roaming around. Ever since we got attacked by a horrible dog in Cajabamba, me and M are very nervous around some of these street dogs.
And I can’t finish writing about Ibarra and not mention the helada de paila. This is ice-cream to die for and originated in this region. It is made by stirring fruit puree inside large bowls which sit inside even larger bowls containing ice. Gradually the fruit mixture freezes and sugar is sometimes added and egg whites but nothing else. It is an almost sorbet and an almost ice cream – but the explosion of fresh fruit flavours makes it stand out from the rest. The best places make it in front of you – not in a pretentious way, but simply because that is where and how they make it and we found what was supposed to be the cafe in which it was originally was invented, so of course, we had to try a flavour or three.
Would I recommend the Hostal Fevilair? Yes, and please don’t be put off if you arrive at night when the streets are deserted – just ask the cabbie to hang around while you gain entry. During the day the streets are a hive of activity with the overspill of the nearby market stalls. There are some suites with their own private outdoor patio areas and some family rooms as well as the usual twins and doubles. If you want some modern comfort at very reasonable almost hostel prices go along and check out the Fevilamir.
Note:- Whilst I received complimentary accommodation at the Hostal Fevilamir this did not influence my opinion or review in any way. I have portrayed an honest picture of my stay