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An Honest Review of Rio Muchacho Farm. Hint: It’s Not Good.

In my last post, I took the uncomfortable step of pledging to be more direct in reviews of certain hostels, tours etc. There’s no point in writing a review if you’re not honest! It shouldn’t have to make me feel uncomfortable if I’m being unbiased. The reason why I wrote that last post is because I need to come clean about my feelings for Rio Muchacho Farm near Canoa and would be really happy to get feedback on this because I felt like it’s not living up to it’s ethos as well as the sparkling comments it received in Lonely Planet- I also have to say that it was the last time I really took a recommendation from LP because I just feel like it’s not for me; a bit commercial, outdated and sometimes it delivers a big misrepresentation of a place which is ultimately misleading. Ok, here goes.

Arriving at Rio Muchacho Farm.

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Ready Ready Ready.

I will always be grateful that our Delica took us 17,000 kms across South America and kept us safe, warm and dry. Badass!


I will always be grateful that our Delica took us 10’560 miles/17,000 kms across South America and kept us safe, warm and dry. Badass!

Ok, first off…here I am saying sorry for having fallen off the radar again which makes me cringe a little bit because I was determined not to leave my blog neglected and feel a tiny bit like a cliché, but during the trip I realised that it’s environment-permitting whether I get to post or not. The good news is that our travels took an adventurous turn which meant we either didn’t have electricity, didn’t have time to sit down and write the posts because we were spending a night in a small town and then moving on, or the internet was just too slow where we were to keep up with the blog. Although I am behind, we’re back in a fixed place now so I have all the time I need to get back into it and get those tips down and I have quite a few after travelling over 15’000 miles last year.

Another thing: at the start of the trip I had the dilemma of staying in a hostel where the owner was lovely to us but the room just wasn’t up to scratch. I think it’s common to be in that predicament- she was a sweetheart but the bed sheets were dirty and when I asked for a clean set, those were dirty as well. I decided not to say anything and I didn’t mention anything on this but I thought to myself, it kind of defeats the purpose of passing on information if I’m not being completely honest so starting from now I will be 100% fair when I’m writing about certain experiences. Starting with the next post.

Happy new year, I hope everyone has travel plans this year and that you manage to have a little escape be it for a few days, weeks or months. Even if you’re a tourist in your own city, it’s still great to get out and see and learn. Although my parents are in a little bit of a pickle over my lifestyle, I hope to be heading to Asia and Australia with my babe later on in the year so will be working solidly for the next few months to make sure we are prepared. I’m excited and I hope we can pull it off so all tips on Asia (and I mean anywhere, we still don’t have any concrete decisions on what countries we shall be visiting) are extremely welcome.

Ok, let’s do this.


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If you’re driving from Puerto Lopez to Manta…

Showing us his good side

Have a look if you can see any tarantulas crossing the road. Apparently they go onto the tarmac on the roads in the early afternoon to warm themselves up and then carry on into the trees.

We drove past one and looked at each other like “…was that a?” and then saw the one in the photo a few minutes later. After jumping out of the van and taking a few snaps, we stood near him until he had disappeared into the trees to make sure he wasn’t run over. Unfortunately, a tarantula a few metres down the road didn’t meet the same fate- even though we stood pointing and warning the oncoming motorist, he didn’t care and ran straight over it (this was on an A road and there was no traffic so slowing down or swerving wouldn’t have caused an accident), it was such a shame.

After sending my mum the photo, she replied that when tarantulas feel threatened they can run extremely fast and flick hairs on you which itch like crazy. So there you go, this was a friendly tarantula who didn’t mind us taking his photo.


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Passing through Playa Los Frailes and Machalilla

When we were talking to locals in Puerto Lopez, a lot of people asked us if we’d been to Los Frailes and Machalilla National Park. The look on our little curious faces prompted the locals to tell us that we could not miss it and tales of crystal water and safe surf. It’s billed as one of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador and part of Machalilla National Park, a gated reserve found 12 km north of Puerto Lopez and perfect for a little day trip because it opens at 8 am and closes at 4pm.

A photo from the wonders of the internet. That's my kinda beach.

A photo from the wonders of the internet. That’s my kinda beach.

We passed through on our drive north to Canoa and were greeted by the friendliest security guard I’d ever met- I would have liked to buy him a beer but he was working and we were driving so it wasn’t the best idea. Once he established that smoking is not allowed in the park and all rubbish must be taken with visitors we were on our way to have a little look.

The water wasn’t as crystal as we’d hoped because the sun wasn’t out but it was still a beautiful deserted beach. If you go, bring something to eat because there is only a kiosk selling ice cream and little touristy things, and toilets.

This is a photo that I took. Not as exotic looking but sill a nice beach, there was one family there and the rest was up for grabs.

This is a photo that I took. Not as exotic looking but sill a nice beach, there was one family there and the rest was up for grabs.

Apparently the best time of year to visit is January to April when I assume photo opportunities arise such as the first photo. For the rest of the year, you’ll probably end up with the kind of photo that I took. But it was still nice! Worth a visit.

Swish photo from here.


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Recommended Reading

The Gift of Rain

When we were in Puerto Lopez and surrounding areas, I was spending my down time completely engrossed in this book. The Gift of Rain is incredible: every paragraph is full of such gorgeous description, you are transported to pre-war Malay in all it’s glory and into the life of a young half Chinese half English boy who can’t identify with society. I love books with some historical context which can teach me a little something and keep me entertained and this novel achieved that and more- we’re now planning our first trip to Asia next year having been spurred on by this book!

PS If anyone has any recommended reading, let me know!


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Humpback whales and Isla de la Plata: A Very Organised Tour and Seasickness.

Before I begin on the wonder that is the Humpback Whale tour in Puerto Lopez, I have to tell you something. From a young age I have been in love with whales and sea life. I grew up with the dream of seeing any type of whale in the wild; Blue, Humpback, Sperm…maybe not Orcas after seeing how cunning they are with their prey, anyway, you get it- I really hoped one day I’d get the chance. And then we were on our way to Puerto Lopez and I realised my dream was about to become reality and I couldn’t wait, I secretly had visions of me diving spectacularly off the side of the boat and being taken to the depths of the sea to witness what it is they do down there. I actually did think that, it looks like my childhood imagination remains with me.

The whale season in Puerto Lopez officially begins on the 22nd of June and ends in September-October and while it’s mainly Humpbacks, Orcas have also been spotted (I only just found that out now!). Depending on the time of the season, the Humpies might be travelling through the area or coming to give birth in the bay- the shape and current means that it is harder for sharks or other predators to attack the newborn calfs.

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Skipping Touristy Montañita for Beautiful Puerto Lopez and it’s Whales

We set off from Guayaquil at about 1pm for the two and a half hour drive to Montañita. From what we had been told by a few surfer friends from Arica, Montañita was the place to go- beaches and waves all in a chilled out town providing the opportunity to rest for a few days and explore the area. The reality, or at least how I perceived it was actually quite different and the sleepy surfer town that I was hoping for was actually really commercial and completely overrun with tourists. Yes, I understand that I am a tourist but when I see a huge sign for Texan Ribs and a restaurant serving both pizza and Thai food, it doesn’t really make me want to stay and sample the ‘local dishes’. I know there are lots of people who love Montañita but we decided to skip it and keep going to nearby Puerto Lopez, a small town famous for being a great location to go Humpback Whale spotting. Now that is my idea of a good time.

Puerto Lopez whales

Puerto Lopez whales

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Just before we get stuck in to Ecuador…

So, let’s get our little tour of Ecuador started but just before I begin, may I once again stress how amazing the motorways and connections between cities are in Ecuador. If you’re thinking of touring a country in South America in your own vehicle or motorbike, Ecuador would be one of my recommendations not only for the quality of the roads but also the seriously cheap petrol prices- we were paying $1.03 per gallon of diesel.

Heading to the forest after a few days in Quito

Heading to the forest after a few days in Quito

 I ask myself why I had never been tempted to go to Ecuador before, and I still haven’t come up with a decent reason. I think since the first time that I visited Brazil I became very partial to going back, which bode well with the fact that I studied Brazilian Portuguese. In more recent years (before visiting Arica) I thought of going to Peru, possibly tempted by the recent food boom in London amongst other cities. Then came Colombia when friends began to go and came back declaring their love for it which led to me googling images of ‘Colombia beach’, yes I google beaches I am not ashamed to say, it has led to me creating many dream destinations lists. But Ecuador…it had just never occurred to me. We travelled very nearly the entire coast of the country and I absolutely fell in love with it. In certain areas there were a lot of North American tourists because of the dollar, in others there were also Europeans and in other places I didn’t see many foreigners at all. If you are thinking of or have thought of going to Ecuador, now is the time. It is cheap, a lot of attention is being paid to Colombia and Peru these days so it isn’t over run with tourists and last but certainly not least, the locals are being well educated on recycling and the environment. I was a little sad to leave but I know I shall be back.
PS One very important thing! If you go to Ecuador in dry season, be prepared to very nearly not see the sun along the coast. I didn’t know that until we got there!


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Our round up of gorgeous Peru

Here is a little post on our personal tips on things not to miss in the beautiful country of Peru, which is mainly food. I can’t help it, I like to eat.

Food and Drink

In recent years, Peruvian food has experienced a big boom over here as well as in the USA, or so I have read. I have never tried it over here but if you know of a decent Peruvian restaurant, try it out. The food is amazing.

The absolutely not to be missed no way can you go to Peru and not eat it is: ceviche. Be it seafood or just fish, everyone must try a good ceviche when they’re in the country mainly because it’s Peru’s national dish and you will not find better/cheaper anywhere else. Obviously, the closer to the coast, the fresher the plate. From the market to the swishest restaurant in town, you’ll find it being ordered by locals who know their stuff which is always a good sign. Ceviche is raw fish cubed and served in a mixture of fresh lemon and lime juice, very thinly sliced red onion, sometimes cream of yellow chilli and the juice that runs off of the fish when it is being sliced.

Leche de tigre is the marinade of ceviche (as described above) which is also served alone and sworn to be a great hangover cure as well as an aphrodisiac. Some people order it with a shot of vodka for an added kick.

Tamales or Humitas are a great and cheap option for a cheap snack on the go. Both are made of corn and the former is steamed whereas the latter is boiled sometimes with pieces of cheese or meat or else sweetened with sugar and served wrapped in corn leaf. They are amazing and different to anything we have in England so definitely worth a try- if you’re in Cusco apparently there’s a little lady in the main square that sells them and I heard that they are de-lish.

Our pick of where to eat (but not necessarily the healthiest or most traditional option) is Campeón in Lima for the atmosphere and the simple fact that we would never have stumbled upon it by chance. I can imagine the sandwiches served there would be a perfect hangover cure.

Drinks

Pisco Sour: Chileans and Peruvians will forever disagree on who invented Pisco (and in the airport in Tacna, Peru which is about forty minutes from Chile it is prohibited to take an international flight with Chilean Pisco which I find hilarious, sorry, I digress) which is potentially a good conversation starter between you and a local barman whilst you enjoy the mix of lemon, sugar, egg whites and Pisco all whizzed with ice to make an incredible cocktail with a serious punch. If like me and your stomach just can’t take raw egg, just ask for it without. It’ll be less frothy but equally as delicious.

Chicha morada is a juice made from purple maize with a sweet berry like taste which is native to Peru. Apparently it used to be produced by the natives chewing on the kernel and spitting it out, but now it’s mixed with water.

Places

Our pick of places in Peru was Mancora. Perhaps this would not be the case if we had gone to Peru in the summer time, or if I wasn’t so fickle and so easily pleased by a nice beach and good cheap food…but I am so I loved Mancora. It is also for the fact that we had great company in the lovely hostel that we stayed in and we asked locals what beach and food they recommended, so all worked out in our favour.

Among the many activities that Peru’s varied climate allows for, surfing is very popular amongst locals and tourists. We didn’t stop off along the entire coast but we did drive it and the most popular spots were Lobitos, Máncora and Lima from what I could see, although we were not there in surf season so others may disagree.

Driving

Driving in Peru was great and we didn’t have any issues with police or feeling unsafe but that was partly to do with us always putting our van into a car park and not taking any risks at all. Drivers, on the other hand are not always very safe and we had a few episodes on mountain roads of shouting ‘woaaaah’ whilst we watched other drivers overtaking each other around corners and the like. Petrol isn’t cheap and neither are the tolls but food and accommodation make up for it.

So there you go, Peru. Definitely worth a trip- as soon as you’re over the border from Chile you feel like you’re in a different world and there is so much to eat, see, listen to…we love Peru.

If anyone else has been, please feel free to chip in with your own comments or opinions on what to see and do.

A deserted beach in Mancora. Love it.

A deserted beach in Mancora. Love it.


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Oopsie, it’s been a while (back in London)

Oh wow, I am fully aware of the extent to which I have been slacking for the last few weeks. Well, I have and I haven’t, I can explain.

In the last few weeks we left Mancora to move in to Ecuador (which we loved, there is a lot to tell about our time there) and then we moved in to Colombia where we spent two days before getting our flight to London. Colombia was very eventful! I also need to pass on the details of border crossings, bureaucracy, a bit of bad luck and an incredible hostel in Bogota with equally as incredible owners. But, all in good time.

I guess I could give quite a few excuses for not being up to date and some of them include; the internet not being too great, there wasn’t enough time to go exploring and be on the internet so I chose the former and then lastly, getting back to London for some serious R&R at my parent’s house with weather that we could not have even imagined that we would be blessed with, selling the majority of my belongings on ebay (due to a mishap in Madrid airport that left us with a lot less cash). And this little one:

There he is, Bo the Brave.

There he is, Bo the Brave. I love his paws. 

who is the best company ever and has formed some sort of bromance with Rulo.

And now we’re currently in Belfast, Ireland where my Dad is from so we’ve been seeing family and exploring up to Giant’s Causeway and the Bushmills Distillery (the oldest whisky distillery in the world) and today we shall head down south and over to Wales tomorrow.

So here is a bit of what is to come:

  • Driving up to the border crossing in our vehicle to Ecuador with a hassle free cross
  • The amazing motorways all over Ecuador/ environmental awareness all over the country which we were very impressed with
  • Humpback whales and blue footed boobies in Puerto Lopez
  • Mompiche, a surfer town which sounded amazing but turned out to have a bit of a weird story
  • Altitude sickness and a great hostel in Quito
  • Mindo, our favourite place in our entire trip. Sorry Mancora, but it really was amazing
  • Our crossing into Colombia featuring pretty bad road standards (especially in comparison to Ecuador)
  • Momentous times in Colombia featuring breaking down 3000 metres up and being shafted by a 15 year old mechanic
  • A bit of Bogota
  • London, the sunniest place ever and that is not at all an exaggeration. Ok maybe a bit.
  • Ireland

I haven’t mentioned previously but I will also start to put up info on a trip we were lucky enough to do last year which involved buses, planes and boats from Chile up to and across Bolivia, across and down through Brazil (including the Amazon river and rainforest) and up through Argentina back to Chile. Now that was a trip! Amazing.

Have a good day everyone and I will be back soon!