A Travellerspoint blog

Barging through Argentina

Since the last entry, we moved on from a week in Paraty on to Sau Paulo, which initially left me feeling cold. Perhaps I was unfairly comparing it to Rio but the insane amount of skyscrapers and no real nature or seafront to soften the edges didn't help. After a few days actually pottering around the city and the different areas left me feeling pretty differently about it. Where Rio had an emphasis on outdoor living and the beach, Sao Paulo was about the culture, parks, cafes and more of an urban sophistication about it. It grew on me.

The metro system is pretty easy to get your head around, it's nowhere near as complex and wide reaching as London's. We spent a day in the city centre, and it has touches of New York about it, and I love that city too. We only got a better sense of the cityscape after a long wait up to their very own version of the Empire State Building and took in the immense stretch of tall buildings from ear to ear. Even if you hate cities, it's hard not to be impressed by the size of it.

We then had a day in the Avenida Paulista area, much more metropolitan. Spent hours in the MASP (Muso Artes Sao Paulo) which blew us both away with the exhibitions of Carvaggio, and then a Romanticism themed exhibition which included Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, JMW Turner, Toulouse Latrec, amongst others. I really wasn't expecting that kind of calibre there, and it was amazing. We could have spent a good few hours more taking it in.

We then moved on to the Brazilian border, as after just over a month in the country, we thought it was time to give Argentina a shot. Time's cracking on for us, and with our flight out to Sydney on the 1st October, we've got a month left in South America and want to make the most of it. We got to Foz de Iguazu at 10am after travelling overnight, got straight on a bus to the Iguassu Falls on the Brazil side ready to spend our 5th wedding anniversary there. It was a sight and a sound that was intense, I've never seen waterfalls on the scale of Iguazu. We spent a few hours pottering around there and being licked by butterflies a lot (I think they liked the sweaty overnight bus smell from us), and then we crossed over to Argentina to stay in Puerto Iguazu. We'd heard that the Argentinian side was a nicer town to stay in so we gave that a go. It was definitely the right decision, Puerto Iguazu is a lovely little place, quite charming. We spent the next day at the Iguazu Falls in Argentina, and I much preferred that to be honest, must more to do there and you're able to get much closer to the waterfalls.

Since then, we've visited the birthplace of Che Guevera, Rosario. It feels very European, the architecture is from the 1920s to 1950s, so very stylized in Art Noveau and Art Deco. It's a cross between Paris and Metropolis (the film, not where Superman lives). Rained for the whole time we were there but I loved it. Stunning place. Now, we're close to the Uruguayan border in Colon Entre Rios. It's a spa town, with a lovely riverfront. Not long here though, as we've got a flight to catch on Monday to El Calafate, as we've decided to take a trip to see the glaciers in Patagonia. After that, we're planning to go to see the mountain landscape of El Chalten before returning to Buenos Aires for a week.

Everything's starting to feel very fast, as after that week, we're flying to Santiago for a few days before heading out of South America completely. Our pace is a lot quicker here because we can't afford to dawdle around. We're the most organised we've ever been, as our accommodation is booked from now until we leave Sydney. It;s hard not to keep getting excited about Australia and South East Asia, but we still have to remind ourselves that there's so much to still enjoy in Argentina and Chile. Nearly halfway through our trip and that's making me feel sad too, but I think 5 and a half months is plenty of time in this end of the world. I'm looking forward to the contrast of Oz and Asia too.

Posted by pixies 15:23 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Her name is Rio

We planned to set off from Ouro Preto on the 10am bus, hoping that it would get us to Rio at 5pm, just before sunset so our first taste of the big city would still be in the daylight. It was 45 minutes late so that scuppered our plan, but it did mean that as we came through the meandering mountain landscape just outside the city boundaries, the sky and the hills were tinged with gorgeous pinks and purples.

We got into Rio at dusk, the city lights just beginning to make the place glow. The bus station is about 8km north of the centre, and we had rented a flat for a week in Copacabana, on the south coast. The taxi ride over was spent looking around at everything we could take in. It was too dark to see Sugarloaf Mountain, but seeing the Christ the Redeemer statue lit up on the Corcovado Mountain was amazing – we were definitely in Rio!

Our flat was in a lovely quiet leafy street, one block parallel to the beachfront. Easy walking to the beach, restaurants and even over to Ipanema beach. One week in Rio wasn't enough. It's such an iconic city, the major landmarks are just as impressive as they look in photos and film. It's an exciting, interesting, lively city and the people are incredible. All we had to do was look slightly confused (pretty easy expression for us both) with our Lonely Planet guidebook out, and people would come up and ask if we needed any help.

The week flew by, days out up to Corcovado to see Mr JC up close and personal, where I messed up my pose to emulate Jesus and instead did an airplane pose instead. We went up to Sugarloaf Mountain, or as it's called here Pao do Azucar, by cable car and marvelled at the stunning views of the cityscape. You've got skyscrapers, lush green mountains, sandy beaches, beautiful blue sea all in one place, why would you want to live anywhere else? We even indulged in a helicopter ride over Rio and did a few circuits round the best bits. We definitely want to come back.

The last week we've slowed down again in Paraty, a coastal town smack in the middle of Rio and Sao Paulo. We've found somewhere lovely to just enjoy the warm weather and be more active by the beach. Kayaking, boat trips and Dave's even planning to hire a bike to go pottering round more beaches and waterfalls. We only planned to stay 3 days and we're already on Day 6. It's getting to the point where we've got some concrete dates to be in some places for, so we've got a bit of slack timewise to enjoy the places we like with more days to spend there.

Next stop is Sao Paulo for a few days, and then we'll be heading for Argentina via the Iguazu Falls in time for our 5th wedding anniversary. After that, it's the countdown to the end of our South American leg of the trip. We fly out of Santiago on the 1st October and that really doesn't seem very long to go at all. We're loving it though, and definitely making the most of this year off so far.

Posted by pixies 07:36 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Brazil by Bus

We are currently partway through travelling around Brazil. Do me a favour, look Brazil up on google maps. It is seriously HUGE. I have spent more of the time in Brazil on buses than off it so far, well that's how it feels anyway. We're conscious that we've only got until the end of Sept in South America so are trying to hurry ourselves up a bit without missing out on the gorgeous landscape you get to see on the buses. To date - we spent 16 hours on the Bolivia 'Death Train' to get to the Brazilian border, then once there, the border crossing process took 2 hours due to long queues at Corumba. We then waited around another 5 hours at Corumba bus station for a 3 hour bus to Campo Grande, stayed overnight and then got another 3 hour bus to Bonito in the morning. Very long day, but it was worth it.

DSC01507.jpg

Bonito is a gorgeous little town on the edge of the Pantanal region (swamp region in Brazil and Bolivia, famous for its wildlife), which has lots of touristy things to do. It's famous for rivers with no algae, making it incredibly clear to see everything in it, so much so that's it's called Nature's Aquarium. We also took a trip to see Gruta de Lago Azul, a turquoise lake inside an underground cave which was beautiful. The colour's caused by the presence of cobalt, and even in the dark of the cave, it was bright blue.

We then travelled another few hours by bus to Cuiaba, apparently the best place to get on a tour to the Northern Pantanal, which after a bit of dithering about costs and budget, we booked ourselves on. We spent 4 days in the Pantanal, on a boat, walking around, driving in night safari and horse-riding. We saw anteaters, capybaras, coatis, caiman, emus, macaws, hummingbirds, monkeys, snakes and toucans. The tapir was unfortunately too elusive, as was the jaguar, but the setting itself was gorgeous enough to enjoy being there.

S0014001.jpg

We returned to Cuiaba with minutes to spare to get on our 22 hour bus to the nation's capital, Brasilia. We're dab hands at this long distance travel now, so the tiredness of being on the road for so long only really hits once we're off the bus. We were unsure about going to Brasilia at first. Hotels there are incredibly expensive, the city was built in the late '60s so we were expecting something akin to Milton Keynes, plus everything is so spread out there that it's tough to see much without a car. We were pleasantly surprised.

The hotel was expensive but also really nice. We managed to find a pretty nice pizzeria within walking distance, which was a relief of 1 week of eating rice and beans for every meal, as that was pretty much the only vegetarian option in the Pantanal region. Then what blew us away was the architecture and structure of the city. It's logically set up in numerological order, so bus travel is easy as you just count down the numbers to the block you require. The Santuario de Dom Bosco doesn't look much from the outside, but inside it's covered in blue and turquoise glass, which with the sun coming through, really looks like a starry sky. The concrete museum looks like a small planet crashed into the ground, and from the inside, the domed roof really messes around with the acoustics.

S0126018.jpg

It's the Cathedral de Brasilia which really was the icing on the cake. It's Brasilia's most iconic building, from outside, it looks almost like a crown. From inside, it looks like an upside down daisy opening up, and the space between the 'petals', or concrete columns, are filled with huge stained glass. An underground ramp leads the way in, with a decadent red carpet running all the way to the altar. Simply phenomenal. We really enjoyed Brasilia and were glad we didn't leave it off our travels.

So now, we're in the colonial town of Ouro Preto. Temperature's cooler in the hills of this former goldmining district, but there's not a single 20th century building in sight. Big contrast from Brasilia. Rumbling around the town, it's full of pleasant delis, cafes and more, to the point that it reminds us of pottering around the Cotswold villages to some degree. We're here for another couple of days, and then we're heading off to Rio de Janeiro in yet another 7 hour bus journey. I can't wait though, Rio's been on my wishlist of places to go for a very long time so the next entry will definitely be talking about that in more detail...

Posted by pixies 13:16 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Slowing down in Sucre, Samaipata and Santa Cruz

Since my last entry, I think we needed a break from the constant moving around so stuck around in Sucre for a week. The Uyuni trip and the cold we've had to deal with since we've been in the higher altitude meant it was a relief to be in the relatively warmer climes of Sucre. The only warmth was in the heat of the day, in the sun. It was still chilly in the shade, and 2700 metres above sea level is still pretty high for us Brits. However, for part of our stay in Sucre, we had access to a hostel kitchen, which meant lots of cups of tea and gave us the opportunity to cook vegetarian food we actually want to eat. There were lots of visits to the nearby market for fruit, veg and other groceries, which probably didn't save us much money but it definitely made us feel more at home. It's funny that the bit of travelling that made us feel like we were on holiday, were the bits that reminded us of our life back home. It's surprising how tiring always eating out can get, particularly when there's limited veggies choices. I love eating out back in London, but there you have more choice than vegetarian lasagne or spaghetti with tomato sauce.

So we lazed our days away, and also enjoyed the festival of Alasitas, which is a Bolivian festival of abundance. There were loads of market stalls of miniatures of the things you wish for in the coming year - houses, cars, shops, fake money, passports etc.

We then moved on to Samaipata, a place we'd heard of from other travellers that is a few hours outside Santa Cruz, but is very picturesque. It's also the first place where we arrived in the early hours of the morning. We've been very careful with timings of bus travel to avoid arriving in a place at 4am with all our belongings on us, but we had no choice with Samaipata. All the buses from Sucre left around 5pm headed for Santa Cruz for 7am, and stopping in Samaipata along the way. Our bus was running early, so we were the only passengers getting off there at 4am, no taxis, so we walked to find our hostel in the dark with only cockerel noises to keep us company. It was pretty eerie!

Samaipata was great, we met a fantastic Austrian guy called Olaf, who runs a tour company called Road Runners. He was incredibly helpful about things we could do in the area and we went with him to see El Fuerte, some Inca ruins on a mountain nearby. These were the last Incan ruins we'd see, and it was a lovely way to wrap up all the Inca culture we'd been seeing in Peru and Bolivia. The clouds were pretty low on the day of the trip, but it made the whole place look more atmospheric and we were lucky that the clouds cleared up while we were up there to see the whole place properly.

Now, we're in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the most prosperous city in Bolivia, to the point that the locals want to split off from the rest of Bolivia to be completely autonomous. It would be a disaster for the rest of Bolivia, so there's a lot of resistance from the government. You can definitely tell the difference from the rest of Bolivia, both in terms of the shops here (lots of western designers and amerian high street shops), as well as the prices of food ($7 for a main course, outrageous!).

Tonight, we're catching a train to the border town of Quijarro, setting off at 4pm, arriving by 8am tomorrow. We'll then get a taxi to the Brazilian border to spend some time in the Pantanal. We'll be sad to wave goodbye to Bolivia, it's been an amazing country of contrasts. Nervous about Brazil simply because I'm much more confident in my Spanish now and no knowledge of Portuguese means starting from scratch. Definitely looking forward to some more adventures though after lazing our way for the last 2 weeks.

Posted by pixies 06:53 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Bolivia so far

That's it, I've decided I'm staying put in Bolivia. Not only is it the most cost-effective country to travel through in South America, it's also incredibly interesting and beautiful. We started off in Copacabana, not that famous one in Brazil, but the lesser known one on the banks of Lake Titicaca. No matter how you try, you can't get that damned Barry Manilow song out of your head though, but it's worth having Lola the showgirl running around as earworm for the amazing views you get as compensation.

S0767132.jpg

Ok, one thing I have to admit to was there's no getting away from the fact we're in Bolivia during the depths of winter. So the place with the highest altitudes we've ever experienced means pretty cold nights anyway, but we're here in WINTER. My mum reminded me this morning on Skype that I was talking about chasing the sun all the way around our round the world trip, and even winter in some of the places would be warm. I was wrong. It's been bloody freezing. I hate being cold, let's just say I'm not genetically suited to it (yeah, yeah, sod the Himalayas, I've got Asian genes from nearer sea level).

So Copacabana, cold, but the hotel we stayed in had a few hours use of super hot gas heaters, which helped, as well as access to Coca tea 24 hours a day, which also helped with the altitude as well as the tea. No cocaine in the leaves though, so I'm afraid there's no funny cokehead Alia anecdotes to relay. It's a mild stimulant, but no more stronger than caffeine.

We spent a day hiking on the Isla del Sol, about 2 hours boat ride from Copacabana. That's right, I hiked. We walked for 5 hours in gorgeous scenery. In altitudes of over 4000 metres above sea level. For all of you who have known me for a while, that's a Big Deal. I can definitely tell that I'm fitter than I've ever been. Must be all the fruit, veg and eggs I'm having as a result of our vegetarian diet.

We then spent a week or so in La Paz. The conversation you end up having most often whilst in Bolivia is the altitude. I've honestly never been so interested in how high places have been before. So, La Paz is around 3900m, which is important as it means it's slightly warmer than Copa was. It also has the grandest entrance to a city I've ever had. Our bus sloped in from plateau at the top of a mountain range, and sweeped around to show La Paz in a giant valley, with buildings nestled at the bottom but also almost climbing up every curve, taking up every available space across miles and miles of land. It took my breath away.

I'm a city girl. I grew up in Manchester and loved it. I've had the time of my life living in London for the past 4 or so years. It was only right that I'd love La Paz. Pretty much anything you need you'd find someone selling it in La Paz. There's great museums, incredibly friendly people and just the right amount of hustle and bustle to make it feel alive but not overwhelming. I don't blame Dave for falling for Bolivia when he was here 12 years ago. I can't believe it took him this long to come back.

S0390067.jpg

We reluctantly peeled ourselves away to have some wild west adventures in Tupiza. To go to the salt plains (Salar de Uyuni), there's the usual option of heading to Uyuni and doing a 3 day tour around the highlights of the South West circuit. We took the other option of a 4 day tour from Tupiza, ending in Uyuni, meaning we saved the Salar de Uyuni for the last day of the tour. It also meant we could spend a day in Tupiza itself, which is not far from where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their end. As our bus from La Paz rolled into Tupiza after 16 or so hours, we were really getting into the spirit of the wild west. Rich red hues in the mountains, sandy dirt track roads and the only plant life for miles were cacti. Pretty damn cool.

So we spent 4 days in a 4x4 jeep with another couple, travelling around the highlights of this amazing landscape. We saw Suris (Andean Ostriches), Vicunas, Llamas, Chinchillas and a few different species of Flamingos. We spent our nights in very cold, very basic hostals, having to go to sleep in every piece of clothing, sleeping bag and countless blankets to keep warm, but the days made it worthwhile. We saw volcanic hot springs, geysers, caves with ancient coral fossils and the most colourful sunrises and sunsets ever. The Salar de Uyuni is best saved for last - over 1200 square kilometres of salty desert. There is no comparison than witnessing it for yourself.
large_DSCF6168.jpg

So now, we've been to Potosi, a gorgeous little town, best known for its silver mines and now we're in Sucre. After being so busy recently, we've decided to take it easy and slob out for a while, soak in the relative warmness of 2500m altitude and then possibly work our way up to to Trinidad in the Amazon jungle, before heading over to Brazil via Santa Cruz. So this is me, slobbing out. Enjoy...

Posted by pixies 07:57 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Perusing in Peru

12 °C

Imagen_315.jpg

I've got to admit that I've fallen hard for Peru. We've been here for around 3 weeks now and it's completely bowled me over. Dave came here 12 years ago so we didnt want to repeat the same holiday and I really don't think we have. Where Ecuador was all about the nature, wildlife and landscapes, Peru has mainly been about the amazing history and the people.

Starting off in Trujillo, we went to the Huacas de la Sol y Luz, and saw extraordinary examples of (recently excavated) Moche civilisation. This culture came before the Inca, and were responsible for remarkable pottery and artwork in the temples that looked incredibly lifelike.

We then fast-forwarded to Cusco via Lima on some luxurious and not so luxurious long long bus journeys. It was definitely worth it as we saw the sunrise on a mountain plateau a few hours before descending into valley of Cusco, residing at just over 3300 metres above sea level. It wouldn't be exaggerating to say it took my breath away (perhaps it was the altitude and the steep stairs up to our hostel!).

Imagen_006.jpg

We spent a few days in Cusco acclimatising to the altitude and the very cold nights. We bought the obligatory gringo alpaca headgear, they certainly are toasty! Then we spent a week roaming in the Sacred Valley in the build up to Machu Picchu. Every remnant of Inca life we saw in each place (Pisac, Moray, Salinas, Ollantaytambo) showed just how intelligent, scientific, and awe-inspiring these people were. Moray for instance is thought to be an experimental greenhouse with rings of ledges circling downwards into a perfect circle at the bottom of a valley. From top to bottom, there's a temperature difference of 15 degrees. This enabled them (hypothetically) to introduce potatoes from warmer jungle areas and slowly bring them down ledge in order to acclimatise these plants to colder mountain areas. Very cool.

S0922152.jpg

Then we went to Machu Picchu. We started off rushing through the area to get up onto Huayna Picchu, which is the big mountain you normally seein the pictures. Going up was very hard, coming down nearly killed me. Totally worth it though. It's the sense of scale and the mountain backdrop that makes it so impressive.

Now, we're back in Cusco, heading off to Puno tomorrow to make the most of our last few days in Peru before we cross over to Bolivia. We were lucky enough to be aroundfor the run up to and the day itself of Inti Raymi - the biggest Inca festival of the year. We've seen numerous parades, fireworks, costumes and dances. We've also had a taste of the modern day culture and people, and it's already on my list of places I'd love to return to.

Posted by pixies 17:09 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Bye bye Ecuador, Hello Peru

20 °C

So, last time I wrote, we were about to spend a week in the Galapagos islands on a boat. I'm pleased to report we had an amazing time. I went ready armed with sea sickness pills, as late May/June can be the start of choppier sea conditions. We had arranged a last minute deal on the cheapest boat we could find, splurging a little by doing a 8 day/7 night cruise rather than the 5 day option.

Imagen_1141.jpg

We were the only people in the group of 10 staying for a whole week, but it was well worth it. The weather was gorgeous, scenery was spectacular and we were lucky enough to get very up close to the wildlife in its natural surroundings. Pretty much every day was at a different island. I don't swim so missed out on the (sometimes twice) daily snorkelling sessions in the beautifully clear water, but Dave partook and saw many tropical fishes, turtles, manta rays, sting rays and sharks. On one occasion, he noticed all the small fish had suddenly vanished, only to see an 18 foot shark swimming past - scary!

We also saw many seals, blue footed, red footed and Nazca Boobies, frigate birds, pelicans, herons, tortoises, iguanas and lizards. The one thing I was disappointed in was the behaviour of some tourists and guides. It's a huge responsibility to be somewhere as special and protected as the Galapagos, but I saw some groups of people who only cared about the photo opportunity of them with the wildlife, at the expense of stressing out the animals by getting too close. Tourism shouldn't be encouraged at the expense of the wildlife. Rant over.

We came back to Cuenca, to spend more time there before we finally left Ecuador. It's definitely one of my favourite cities. We also managed to find yet another local vegetarian restaurant where local dishes are cooked at low everyday prices, replacing the meat with soya meat. I was prepared to not eat that well in South America, but we've found these gems in many places, populated with locals rather than tourists. A great surprise for us, but it means we get to eat proper south American fare cheaply. We think it's a health kick for people here, and have found similar places in Peru too.

That's right, we're now in Peru after an impressive and unintended 48 days in Ecuador. Much longer than the original 5 weeks we had planned, partially due to the Galapagos week, but also because there was so much to see and do in Ecuador. We're aiming to spend less time in Peru, so are currently in sunny and warm Trujillo, and will be fast tracking to Cuzco via Lima (on luxury VIP class buses that take 20 hours) for the start of this week. We've booked our Machu Picchu permits, and train tickets, accommodation etc, so will be in Cuzco for the biggest Incan festival of the year - Inti Raymi - very excited! Loving Peru so far and getting my head around slightly different Spanish here, but it's nice to see the beauty here for a change.

Posted by pixies 05:28 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

On the move

We've been in Ecuador just over a month now, and we've certainly been busy. After heading straight to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, we got a sense of city living and got unnerved by the amount of heavy handed security everywhere and the reason for it. The city itself is an insane mix of classic colonial architecture on a backdrop of rolling, alpine mountains. It's 2800m altitude, and my head and lungs could tell on the first day there, but we got used to it.

Imagen_417.jpg

We then spent a few days in Mindo, in the Cloud Forest Reserve, which was just incredibly stunning. So different from the coastal areas we'd spent time in before. We came back to Quito and arranged a week in the Amazon basin in the Cuyobeno National Park. Making friends with a tame Pygmy Marmoset (the smallest monkey in the world) was the highlight of that trip. Since then, we've been working our way south, through Banos, Riobamba, Alausi and finally to Cuenca where we are now.

So, we've decided to stop dithering and just go to the Galapagos islands while we're here. We're flying off on Friday from Guayaquil, where we began our Ecuadorian adventure. After a week of cruising and wildlifing, we'll be heading to the Peruvian border to start exploring there.

The travelling is amazing but still hard going as we're always trying to stay one step ahead with planning the route and organising transport and accommodation. No cracks in the marriage yet either! My Spanish is rapidly improving after a number of mistakes along the way. Please note, the word for soap is Jabon, not Sopa. Asking for liquid soup at a pharmacy only makes the locals think you've mistaken it for a restaurant.

Posted by pixies 20:53 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Sun, Sea and Serenity

sunny 30 °C

The cure for the dog tiredness we've had seems to be Puerto Lopez. We're finally at a point where we feel refreshed and ready to challenge ourselves once more. 

Imagen_068.jpg

It didn't start out like that though. We got to Puerto Lopez on April 20th, finding it less of a sleepy fishing village and more of a small town, despite the fact this is the low season for tourists. The coach ride from Guayaquil went through slums and shanty towns, dentist signs offering free extractions (if only I'd waited til we got here!), and then through the most gorgeous, lush forests that wouldn't look out of place as the background to a King Kong remake. Of course, I mean the first half, not the NY skyscraper bit...

After hours of awe-inspiring jungle panoramas, we finally got to the coast and saw the beautiful sea and sandy beaches beckoning. The hostal was a short walk from the bus stop, and looked the part. Cabin with own balcony and hammock, check. Sea view, if you stood on your tip toes at a certain angle, check. The traffic noise was bad though, wifi wasn't working and although the cockerel crowing seemed romantic at first, after being woken up by the damn thing every hour from 3am onwards meant we weren't seeing the benefit. Plus the room was pretty steep price wise for the area, so we moved on after a couple nights to a more competitive place across the road. 

That solved the price side, as wells as the issue with insects dropping from the ceiling that the previous place had but not the serenity. We were about to give up on Puerto Lopez, when after a sunset walk to the quieter end of the bay, away from the main strip of bars and restaurants, we found a hidden gem. Hostal Monte Libano had wonderful rooms, kitchen and fridge for guests to use, a beautiful terrace with hammocks directly in front of the sea, where the sound of the tide gently soothed you, but most importantly, it's run by the wonderful and incredibly hospitable Maria and her family. 

For a while, we were the only guests, and we got a chance to share a meal with the family and get to know Ecuador better. It was brilliant. We're still here for a couple more nights, and the hostal is now full of people but it's still far and away the best place to stay in Puerto Lopez. I don't think I'll ever forget the place and the generosity and friendliness of the people. 

Posted by pixies 13:58 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

We're here!

Since the last entry, we've been pretty busy. The list includes making the house rental-ready, moving out, driving up north to see my family and return my brother's car, and having a problem tooth extracted and then dealing with the fall out of said tooth extraction with super antibiotics. Truth is that the week before going away sucked. We got to Lima absolutely shattered, and then it all changed.

Everything became easy. After a gruelling 14 hours of travel, we were picked up at the airport and taken to the wonderful Cirque Hotel in Miraflores, just around 7.30pm. Too tired to venture out to eat, the fabulous and friendly hotel manager offered us some of her own food to share. After ba very yummy meal of rice and veg, we went straight to bed.

Lima is great, amazing architecture and friendly people. Reports of it being a dangerous place to be are silly. As long as you're sensible, you should be fine. We were honestly too tired to enjoy it to the max though, but we might be back. Now though, we're in Guayaquil in Ecuador, another under rated place, as it also has it's highlights. One day is enough though' tomorrow we head to Puerto Lopez for our proper holiday on the beach. Can't wait...

Posted by pixies 13:59 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Two week countdown

London, UK

The days seem to be slipping away, but thankfully the list of things to do also seems to be getting a tiny bit shorter. Work is over for me, so I can properly focus on the trip and finishing off the house/finance side of stuff before we go. It's starting to feel more real.

We booked the flights and worked out a rough itinerary a few months ago, but back then the route just consisted of random place names. We've got accomodation booked for the first few days in Lima, and then our first night in Ecuador. Logic was that we'd be so wound up with the preparations that we'd need a couple of weeks of proper holiday. Heading for the nearest beach to Guayaquil seemed like the answer. We're trying to keep our travelling pretty flexible so the specific beach/coastal town is still to be determined. I'm leaning towards Puerto Lopez, sleepy little fishing village with waffles and crepes for breakfast. Hell yes.

We're still keeping our minds open about the Galapagos islands, we don't want to spend big bucks as soon as we get to Ecuador, but if we can do the islands more on the cheap, then perhaps that's an option. Otherwise, there's the Poor Man's Galapagos which sounds pretty good. I'm starting to fall in love with the thought of travelling again, rather than feeling daunted by all the things we have to do in order to get there. It's going to be worth it.

Posted by pixies 13:39 Comments (0)

We've all got to start somewhere

London, UK

So, it's 4 weeks before we fly off on our grand adventure and the nerves are kicking in. Don't get me wrong, we have planned our arses off to get to this point but there's still so much to do and the thought of being dazed, confused and thoroughly jetlagged in Lima is pretty damn scary when I'm feeling very green to the whole backpacking thing.

Things that makes me feel better:

1. In a month, I'll be sitting on a beach in Ecuador, watching the sunset and letting all the stress of the last 2 years planning, saving and working insanely hard for drift away with the tide.

2. The biggest worry was letting the house out so we have relatively nice tenants that will look after the house while we're away. That is sorted.

3. I'll book a hostel for the first few nights in Lima, so we don't have to be wandering around with a lonely planet and backpacks trying to find a semi-reasonable place to lay our heads when all the Spanish we've learned has all been forgotten.

4. I'm going with my very lovely husband, Mr. Pixie on the most amazing year I've ever had.

5. I don't have to work for a WHOLE YEAR. \o/

We're spending the next couple of weeks winding down at work, catching up with friends and sorting last minute practicalities like money stuff, landlord stuff and finishing off all the food in the freezer so we don't have to chuck it in the bin on our last day. Egg fried rice and Chicago town pizza anyone? No?

Posted by pixies 15:16 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (2)

(Entries 16 - 27 of 27) « Page 1 [2]