Day 290 - 309: Lima to Colombian border
15.09.2011 - 04.10.2011 16 °C
Weight of toffee bought in Baños = 4kg
Time spent in the hottest thermal bath = 3 hours (too long for Pauline who nearly fainted from sulphur exposure!)
No. of fruits eaten in Quito that we'd never tried before = 20
Days without rain in Ecuador = 0
Sorry it's been a week or so longer than usual, treat 'em mean and all that.
We've spanned 3 countries since our last update, moving quite quickly as always so there is plenty to share. We spent a few days in Lima and almost didn't want to leave. We enjoyed popcorn, movies and Spanish practice with Anna, the super friendly owner. We toured the Historic old town and struggled through a spanish guided tour of the Spanish Inquisition. As usual, time to move on came too quickly.
Onwards up the coast and inland a bit to the mountains. We stayed in Huaráz for a couple of nights and were happy to back in the countryside. Unfortunately our usually adept decision making let us down and instead of going it alone into the mountains, we took a tour. Big mistake, huge! Tours in South America are never quite what you sign up for, this 'trekking' tour consisted of a 45 min walk around a no doubt stunning glacial lake, then 11 hours or so being ferried from factory to shop to village and asked to buy things. Disaster. We shouldn't have caved in to fear. A friend we met in Lima had gone to the mountains alone, missed the last bus and had to sleep in the forest with nothing. That scared us a bit but in hindsight, it would have been better than the tour!
Next stop, Trujillo. Named after Conquistador Francisco Pizarro's home town in Spain, this place is brimming with history and the best croissants in the world, don't know if these things are related. We disembarked yet another night bus feeling tired and crabby, so what better thing to do than head to a chilled out beach town and take stock. Huanchaco was just what we needed. No option but to sleep for the first few hours since a power cut had rendered the whole town closed for business. The sea was still a little wild to brave here so we passed the time playing rummy and drinking cheap beer. When we left Trujillo, I finally got to taste the infamous Papa rellena. We'd read that these stuffed potatoes are popular all over south america but i'd yet to find a veggie one. Well there is a quite rotund, almost friendly lady somewhere in Trujillo with a place in my heart forever.
On to another beach-side town that would be our final stop in Peru. Mancora is well geared for the tourists and boasts one too many 'too cool for school' travellers for our liking. Here we braved a dip in the Pacific. Me for all of 20 seconds before I fell off the 'shelf' and panicked. The sight of the gigantic beached (and headless) sea lion type creature just meters down the beach leaves you wondering what else lurks beneath the surface too, not inspiring swim material.
From Mancora we bussed it over the border to Ecuador. There were pretty noticable changes within what seemed like minutes. Thousands of banana plantations and in general the landscape shifted from dusty desert to lush green mountains. The only dampner on our arrival were the incredibly winding roads and 5 or 6 hours of feeling very very sick! Cuenca was to be our first stop, we found a good hostel and shacked up in a cosy triple with our new bus buddy Selena to save cash. As soon as she told us she was heading to the Galapagos though, we ditched her out of sheer jealousy. Cuenca was nice but after a shooting incident (Pauline shot in the chest by a stray stone from a grass strimmer!) we took a bus to the local national park. We were surprised at the relative luxury in the refugio, although glad to find abandoned blankets. The area around there was really beautiful and we followed a basic route around a few lakes. Simple enough you'd think for two fairly experienced travellers, well anything can happen when I'm at the helm and we did indeed get lost. Just had to drink our coffee a bit faster and avoid the over zealous llamas to get back before dark.
In Baños we biked around the mountains to Puyó but had to cut the 60km trip short due to torrential rain and Richard running out of toffee. The bus driver was't too happy to let two drowned rats on his bus for the return journey. Baños was also home to the melcocha as mentioned and we became experts in wandering past the shops and getting free samples. After biking we spent an afternoon in the thermal baths there (hence the name) and were the only adults with a beach ball and playing dares to see who could stay in the freezing pool for longest.
Our final destination was Quito, although slightly rushed in the end, we loved it. We stayed with the lovely Espinoza family in their home-stay and were treated like family. After the first of many amazing breakfasts we found out that from the roof terrace you can see Vulcan Cotopaxi. Richard was chuffed finally getting to see it in real life having had a picture on our wall for the last two years. Whilst there we also visited the Mitad del Mundo or middle of the world where the Equator cuts through Ecuador and one of the continents largest markets in Otavalo. I had to use all my mental strength to resist packing a puppy in my backpack when a lady offered it as a present after his mam had died. The real highlights of our stay in Quito were meeting new friends, teaching them the delights of blob, getting beaten by the novices (you know who you are) and improving our Spanish with the ever patient Zoila, Jorge and Raquel. We also celebrated 10 months on the road with a Canelazo - the local sugarcane based firewater.
Another sad goodbye but onwards we go to our 19th country! Pics to follow soon ran out of time and we are lacking the creative spark to think of a title so the best suggestion will get selected!