Ecuador 🇪🇨 – Guayaquil, Salinas, Montañita, Baños & Quito

After a very full on couple of weeks in Cusco we were excited to get to Ecuador to do some more exploring and also relaxing. 
The first thing I noticed about Ecuador before even setting foot off the plane was that it seemed a lot more tropical than Peru ( but part of the amazon is in Peru so it obviously does have some tropical parts ). What I mean by this is that the cities were full of greenery that seemed different to what we saw in Peru; and of course the weather was much warmer than Cusco. 

Ecuador seems to have a very heavy American influence that makes the country seem more westernised compared to some of the big cities in Bolivia and Peru for instance. 

Our first stop in Ecuador was Guayaquil which is the second largest city in Ecuador! We were fortunate enough to have a friend, Xavier who lived in Guayaquil and showed us around. It was very interesting to be shown around by a friend that lived in the city as you see it from a completely different perspective. For the first time in a couple of months I felt ‘normal’ ( by normal I mean, not a backpacker ). For those two days we did live a normal life, we went out for dinner, drove around seeing sights and stayed at a friends house. I couldn’t thank Xavier and his family enough for welcoming us both into his home and most importantly made us feel so comfortable in their home country. It meant everything to us.

We also spent two nights of our stay in Guayaquil in a hostel called Casa Serena, the reason I’m mentioning this is because its is the nicest hostel that I have ever stayed at… Why? 

This place didn’t feel like a hostel, it felt like a home. Well it was a home, the owner of the hostel and her grandson lived there. It was just a large, very secure house where they let the bedrooms out. 

Serena the owner was amazing! She was a ‘typical’ grandmother, hugging us, picking us up from the airport, looking after us and taking us for food. She went above and beyond for us and made us feel like her home was ours. 

After Guayaquil we went to Salinas which was 2 hours from Guayaquil on the coast. 

There wasn’t many tourists in Salinas as it’s more of a place that locals go for the weekend or on holiday when they want a beach break. The beach was lovely, you could get anything you wanted, like most beaches in South America! And so we spent the day on the beach, drinking beers, eating mango and me and Soki go our hair braided – in true holiday style lol.

We headed further north up the coast to the surf/party town of Montañita where we spent our couple of our last days with Xavier. 

Montañita reminded me of Thailand, like a mini Koh San road; they had pop up cocktail bars where you could enjoy a cocktail on the street and people watch (can it get any better). There was an abundance of street food and a gorgeous beach, what more did we want. We spent the first night having “a few drinks” – famous last words . The embarrassing part is that I literally only had a few drinks and still managed to get stupidly drunk. In true Lloydy style, something obviously had to happen. Yes it did indeed; while I was projectile vomiting my strawberry mojitos 🍓all over our bathroom I managed to break the sink. When I say break I don’t mean like the knob of the tap came off or something (I wish). I lent on the sink, the sink fell off the wall and smashed all over the bathroom floor.

💦G O O D O N E💦

Me still being drunk tried to fix it or try make it look slightly better by hooking the sink ( or what was left of it ) back on the wall and at the same time cutting my fingers.


*note to self and everyone else – never lean on sinks

So as you can imagine the next day was a hangover day spent at the beach where we enjoyed lots of food, the sun and sea – THE perfect cure.


We said our goodbyes and thank you’s to Xavier and made our way further north to the Baños.

Baños is known for its hiking, water falls, thermal baths, activities and extreme sport. We decided to take a day trip out to all of the main sights; in the morning we visited the beautiful waterfalls and some of the extreme sports. The beauty about the extreme sports here is that they are dirt cheap ! If you go to New Zealand or somewhere you’ll pay at least $100 to do zip lining whereas in Baños it’s only $20 – win win. The afternoon was spent going to the famous “swing at the end of the world”, taking the typical pictures and soaking up the amazing views. 

That night we went to the thermal baths, something that I was really excited about, relaxing. To my disappointment these thermal baths were unlike any of been on before and far from relaxing. Let me explain, there were two baths and people were acting strange getting in and out of them and I wondered what the big fuss was. Soki went in first and looked quite shocked and said that it was hot, ” it can’t be that bad” I thought … This thermal bath felt like one big saucepan of boiling water, it was probably about 50degrees. The idea of these baths were that you alternated between the extremely hot one and the freezing cold one, spending a couple of minutes in each bath. Eventually I got the hang of it and it didn’t hurt and shock me as much each time I got in either bath and it did actually turn out to be relaxing … eventually. 

After Baños we headed to the cooler city of Quito.

The main reason we went to Quito was so that we could do an Amazon tour from there or at least organise one while we were there. 

We managed to find an amazing travel agent who really went out of their way to help us get the dates and lodge we wanted.

We only had one proper full day in Quito before we left for our tour, so we decided to do the free walking tour (as we do everywhere) and it didn’t disappoint! It was great to learn about the history of the city and also the culture. After the walking tour we hit the local food market and had a local feed.

That night at 11pm we left Quito and head towards the jungle to begin our 4 day amazon tour. 

Overall I loved Ecuador, I much preferred the warmer cities and towns but saying that Quito had so much history and character it was a very pleasant city to be in. 

The thing that stood out for me the most in Ecuador was the absolutely AMAZING people. Everyone was so so friendly and happy to help yet we’d heard such bad things about Ecuador how it’s dangerous etc – it just didn’t make sense. 

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Machu Picchu

There are several different ways that you can experience Machu Picchu and its surrounding beauty. When most people think of Machu Picchu they think of the Inca Trail; the Inca Trail is a 4 day trek that is 40 odd kilometres and finishes in Machu Picchu. 

We wanted to make our experience as fun as possible and as we’re both not that big on hiking we decided to do the 3 night, 4 day Jungle Trek…

The trek consisted of rafting, zip lining, biking and trekking our way to Machu Picchu over the space of 4 days. I was extremely excited for this tour, Machu Picchu is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while and it all seemed a bit sureal.

Our first day was an early 6am meet up, we had breakfast and then biked around 50ks down hill and finished in the jungle where we loaded the van up with our biking equipment and made our way to our jungle lodge for lunch and to relax for the afternoon. I was nervous to bike as I hadn’t been on one since I was young; the whole experience was absolutely amazing, we rode down a winding road from the top of a 4000m high mountain straight into the jungle. The views were breathtaking, luscious greenery and beautiful skies; it was amazing to experience the climate change between highland and the jungle.


The second day was a big one, 10hrs of hiking through the jungle with stops at farmers houses where we could check out their produce. The hiking really took it out of me, but although I struggled, especially on the up hill bits! I really enjoyed the trek through the jungle, it was so amazing to get up close to all of the beautiful greenery, fruit and plants. The lovely part of this day was that the hike ended at some beautiful natural hot springs, it was very refreshing to have a beer and enjoy the gorgeous scenery from the 30degree hot springs. 


The third day we had an option of zip lining in the morning, I decided not to do it as it was pissing it down and I fancied keeping dry ready for our afternoon hike. Soki did the zip lining and he really enjoyed it, I must admit it did look amazing but I just didn’t fancy it that day.

The afternoon was spent hiking along the railway line to the base town of Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes which is a cute small town full of hostels, restaurants, markets and bars.

                   THE BIG DAY                     
It was a 3.30am wake up to be ready at the hostel reception at 4am, here we picked up our little lunch box style breakfast, met the rest of our group and walked to the check point which was at the base of the mountain what Machu Picchu is situated on. At this point I was dreading it, I was so so tired a) from waking up so early, and b) from the past 3 days; exhausted and dreading the next couple of hours I was trying to be optimistic but it was proving very difficult.

After a 30minute or so wait at the base of the mountain, we were let through the gates ( when I say we … I mean our group and many other early risers!). We walked across a bridge and there it was, the mountain we were about to climb. It’s mainly stairs going in a zig zag shape up the mountain, what I didn’t realise is how narrow and inconsistent the steps would be ( let me explain … The stairs are probably just a little larger than a foot in width and then vary from 5inches – a foot in height ). So as you can imagine … Hundreds of people trying to get up these narrow slippery steps, it was like a stampede! After about 5-10 minutes I lost all of my group, so I was in it alone! I always knew that Soki would be way quicker than me as he’s way fitter. 

We had a tour at the top beginning at 6.30am at first I was worried incase I missed it because I was struggling … After 20 mins or so I didn’t give a shit if I missed the tour or not, I just wanted to make it alive – lol.

I probably had about 100 breaks/sit downs ( you probably think that I’m exaggerating but I’m being very serious ), I had to stop at one point and was heaving in the bushes while people passed me looking at me weirdly, sweat was dripping off my face, the only words that came out of my mouth the whole duration were “for fuck sakes”, “shit”, “fuck me” – I’m sure you get the jist … 

I just wanted to cry

After 1.5hrs of the hardest physical activity I’d ever done, I made it and Soki was there waiting at the top, we had to rush through another check point, up MORE steps to find our guide, the rest of the group and then begin our 2 hour tour. 

Honestly… I was so exhausted, emotional and generally overwhelmed I didn’t enjoy the first part of the tour, I was trying to and yes it was amazing but I couldn’t concentrate on what the guide was saying I was so tired. In the middle of the tour, a wasp ( when I say wasp it wasn’t like a normal one, it was a big ass black one that was vicious- I googled it and it’s called a tarantula hawk wasp ) stung me and I don’t know what came over me but I just burst into tears. Yes it really hurt but I think it was the fact that I was so overwhelmed and tired I just couldn’t keep the tears in anymore lol! I felt so pathetic for crying in front of our group over a wasp sting 🙈

After the tour at Machu Picchu we had free time to have a wander, we decided to get some food in our bellies and then explore, having a pizza and coke did the trick, I was right as rain and ready to go.

So off we headed back to the beautiful wonder, and oh is it amazing. Machu Picchu for me was always something that I wanted to do but I felt as though it was always out of reach. To be standing there with this amazing ancient inca city right in front of my eyes, just like you see on photos and tele… 

Me, Lloydy Davies from Cerrigydrudion, here in Machu Picchu, the only word I can use to describe it was sureal. We had a walk around the ruins which are way bigger than what u see on photos etc, there’s also a bridge that you can walk to, the sun gate and two mountains that you can hike up for better views – Machu Picchu mountain and Huayna Picchu mountain. You have to pre book tickets for the mountains as only so many people are allowed up them per day, we had tickets for Machu Picchu mountain but after climbing all of those stairs, Machu Picchu mountain was a big no no for me ( the mountains are meant to be harder than the steps up to Machu Picchu). 

We arrived back in Aguas Calientes at roughly 2.30/3pm as we had a 6pm train and then a bus to catch back to Cusco. You can EASILY spend a whole day at Machu Picchu if you have good weather, there’s so much to explore and see and a few optional extra walks/hikes.


Overall I absolutely loved the jungle trek and I would most definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to have a fun time experiencing Machu Picchu. The food on our tour was amazing, the guide couldn’t have been better, he answered every single question I had ( I’m sure I got on his nerves ). The accommodation was great and all equipment, included transport, companies made were safe and of good quality. Our group was amazing I couldn’t have wished for a better group of people to share my experiences with. We were very lucky with the weather and only had a touch of rain, it was amazing to be able to experience and enjoy the tour with good weather, it makes such a difference. 

This experience was a big deal for me, I knew I’d struggle with the trekking and hiking but I really wanted to challenge myself and push myself to a point where I didn’t think I could go further & as cheesy as it sounds, I’m very proud of myself for walking up to Machu Picchu and not getting the bus, I’m proud I completed it.

The tour opened my eyes a lot and taught me a few very valuable lessons, it’s not all about what your seeing; it’s amazing how certain things you do, experience and learning about different cultures can spark something in your mind and change the way you feel and think about things.

Cusco

Cusco is the city where everyone goes in Peru to climb Machu Picchu; This was the only reason we came here. Little did I know how beautiful the city really is and that there would be so much more to do than JUST Machu Picchu.
The first full day we had here we did a free walking tour, most cities offer these and they are usually amazing, they’re a great way to get to know the city, know where things are and what there is to do there. 

We quickly found out on the walking tour that Cusco is very similar to La Paz in the sense that there’s loads of bloody hills – 😐

To the eye, Cusco is a very pretty city with a heavy Spanish influence in the architecture, sometimes it feels like your in a European Country. 

We booked a day trip to the Sacred Valley which is a valley near Machu Picchu with some more Inca ruins. I didn’t expect much from this as we had seen some ruins in La Paz which… well they just looked like stones to me.

Off we went on our second day to the Sacred Valley where we visited ruins in Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. All of the Inca ruins were breathtaking and I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Our guide was truly amazing, he was clearly passionate about his culture and knew everything. There’s so much to be learnt about the Inca culture and it’s all fascinating. Not only was our guide knowledgable about the Incas but he knew so much about the area, plants and flowers, food, buildings … the list goes on! 

We didn’t just visit ruins,  the tour also consisted of some other cool stuff,  we visited a silver factory, local market and had a buffet lunch. All in all the Sacred Valley tour was an amazing experience where we saw and learnt loads, I 100% recommend this tour to anyone who is visiting Cusco. 


On our third day we decided to visit the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary. We had heard about this place from friends and also passed it on our tour the day before.

This place is a hidden gem and I don’t know why more people don’t know about it! 

It’s located around 20 mins outside of the city towards Pisac, you can easily pick up a taxi or bus that’s heading that way.

The Sanctuary helps rescue animals that have been stolen from the jungle, kept as pets and been injured. Their main priority is to Rescue, Rehabilitate and Release. They have many different types of animals such as turtles, alpacas, llamas , vicunias, bears, tucans, many different types of falcons, pumas & other wild cats, foxes, condors, monkeys, parrots and guinea pigs. This place may just sound like a zoo to you, but it’s somewhere very special! The entry fee to this place is 10 Peruvian Sol, which is £2.50! Upon entry your greeted by a volunteer and they take you for a tour around the Sanctuary, they tell you all about the Sanctuary, what they do, the animals and their story; for instance the South American bear is there because it’s mother was killed by a farmer as the bears are a nuisance to farmers and their fur very valuable, he’s only a year or so old and has been there since he was a baby.

 The Condors are there because people try to poison them to get hold of their feathers as one feather is worth $100 USD. 

 The special and unusual thing about this place is you actually get to go in some of the enclosures with the animals or get up close to them. The scariest part for me was going inside the Condor enclosure with seven Condors. I didn’t know this but they’re the second largest bird IN THE WORLD and I was just chilling in their cage! Luckily they’re vultures so they didn’t try eat us. 

We got to get very close to the amazing birds, take pictures and also watch them fly over us. 


I loved every minute of our time at the Sanctuary and I urge anyone and everyone who is planning on going to Cusco to give this place a visit! They get their funding from the tickets, £2.50 per person is nothing and they need all of the help they can get! They are doing an amazing job, all of the volunteers there know their shit and clearly have a special bond with all of the animals. 

We were also told that when they release the Condors into the wild, they come back for a visit sometimes and fly over the Sanctuary – how cute!

The food here is lovely! I find it much tastier than Bolivian food as there is a heavy Asian influence in Peruvian food. Everything they do they seem to do well and all is freshly cooked. The street food is very very cheap and you get plenty for your money! Even if you go to a restaurant you can pick yourself up a set menu ( soup, main, desert and drink ) for dirt cheap!

Like Bolivia the food is very carby, they love their potatoes, rice, pasta and bread here.

Guinea pig is a delicacy here, it would be rude not to try it right ? 


It’s not very nice to look at when it’s cooked! I only had the smallest piece because I was put off by the look of it but I’m not sure what it tastes like … apparently it’s like rabbit?
Nightlife in Cusco is really good, there’s plenty of bars, cheap and fancy and also plenty of clubs ( or bars with dance floors ). We have only been out one night but it was lots of fun, we went to a bar that had free salsa lessons 9-11pm and we got a free drink upon arrival. Most bars offer some free drink or 2 for 1 on drinks so you don’t spend much!
Finally … the beautiful Peruvian people. Just like La Paz there are a lot of indigenous people here, most of them selling their goods on the streets whether it be crafts or food. One thing is that the children here are BEAUTIFUL, they are so so cute!


Generally the people are so kind and helpful, especially when you need advice or help with something. They seem to speak English more here in Cusco too, we were told that there’s less chance of English in Peru !

I have fallen in love with this place, I would come back in a heart beat and think that everyone should visit Peru/Cusco at least once 🇵🇪❤️


You might be thinking … hmmm she’s not mentioned Machu Picchu … well that is because tomorrrow we are embarking on our 3nt/4day jungle trek to Machu Picchu where we will be hiking, bike ridding and zip lining our way through the jungle to the ruins ! Wish me luck, I’m definitely going to need it 🚴🏼‍♀️⛰🍀

Bolivia – La Paz

I hadn’t done much research so all as I expected was … a city! We took an over night bus from Uyuni which got us to La Paz at 5.30am, it was dark so I couldn’t make out much of the city at that point. 
La Paz is a city built on mountains and hills, it’s amazing but my God do I feel sorry for the people that live up these hills. The city is a layer of terracotta coloured brick houses almost looking as though they’ve been built on top of each other. 

Luckily there’s a few teleferico (cable cars) lines running through the city which can take you up or down these daunting hills in a flash.


On the morning of our arrival, after we’d had a nap and collected ourselves we decided to head to the largest market in the whole of South America – cool right ? 

Now you could find ANYTHING in this market! Toilets, food, phones, clothes, car bumpers and front doors, you name it they had it ! 

Although the market was cool we didn’t spend much time there as it just went on forever and pick pocketers were everywhere and had a go at us a couple of times. 

We also visited another market… the Witch Market, yes there were many ‘different‘ items from dried lama fetus, other dead animals and potions. There were also lots of lovely hand made crafts, clothes and jewellery and all VERY cheap.


There is a lot of culture to be learnt about in La Paz, there are many indigenous people here and it’s amazing to be able to learn about their culture, beliefs and ways from the locals. The people here can sometimes come across as rude and not very friendly but they’re just quite shy, once you get talking to the locals they are very happy to offer their help and recommendations.

You won’t find many supermarkets in La Paz, all food mainly comes from street vendors, whether you want a meal or a chocolate bar you’ll find it on the street. Bolivians have impressed me with their culinary skills, they’re great at their own food and western food, so there’s something for everyone. Bolivian food is very delicious, but naughty as most of it is fried or is somewhat unhealthy, they love their carbs and tend not to use that much veggies. Having said that, EVERYTHING is fresh, the bread, vegetables, fruit and meat. 

For three of the four days that we have spent in La Paz there have been demonstrations and protests, first it was regarding farmers and their land and then it changed to politics which seems to be a touchy subject over here. 

The protesters tend to stick to the main square in La Paz so we were out of it most of the time, until one night we were walking to our hostel and all of a sudden my mouth, nose and eyes started stinging and watering and people started coming gushing towards us with clothes covering their faces. It was tear gas! We rushed our way through the crowds and eventually came out of it. 

Even though the past three days have consisted of bangs which could be gun shots, fire crackers or small bombs I’m not sure, I didn’t feel unsafe or scared once. 

There was a point where we passed the protesters up close and at that point they were quite peaceful and police presence is high around the main square. 

Overall a HUGE thumbs up for this place, I absolutely love the city, the food the culture and the shy but very nice people. 

Peace out La Paz ✌🏽 

Landing

35 mins until we arrive in Santiago, when I look to my right, past a few people and through the window, I see the sea, greenery and mountains, possibly the Andes?

 I’ve not been able to sleep at all on this journey because of excitement. I’ve been up since 5am Aussie time, our flight was at 10am from Melbs and we’ll be touching down in Santiago at 11.20am – the same day; sometimes I like time differences.
Whilst I was trying to get a glimpse of what was beyond the window I had a little moment of sheer excitement, this is MY DREAM, I’ve been wanting, wondering and longing for this continent for a very long time. And it’s here, at my finger tips, just beyond that window and in 27minutes time I’ll be setting foot there, exploring, wandering, exposing myself to the culture and soaking up everything I possibly can.

I just feel on top of the world, I’m doing it, doing me, my dream, my life and I actually want to cry.