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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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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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A round up of Cusco Cuzco, searching for the bargains

As mentioned, we arrived in chilly Cusco on Tuesday night at about eleven pm and the streets were deserted, it was so cold! It is still is, it’s quarter past eight in the evening and I’m smothered in blankets with absolutely no intention to go outside again tonight.

So back to our arrival, I had booked a few nights in Hostal Casa del Inka which I read good comments about when I was looking it up on Tripadvisor for parking, needless to say it was selected due to their parking facilities. Those facilities don’t exist, so all in all it wasn’t that good a choice.

Here are my pros and cons for Hostal Casa del Inka;

The good

The room was spacious and had a big bed with lots of necessary blankets, because it is cold cold cold in Cuzco.

Most of the staff were extremely helpful and very polite (I’ll explain the most part in a sec)

The breakfast is included and has the standard tea, coffee, cereal, bread and PANCAKES, delish. And you can eat as many as you like, bonus.

The view of the extravagant Plaza de Armas is a great photo op and equally as impressive whilst you’re eating your breakfast or at nighttime (although you can get the same view by continuing up the steps before Calle Resbalosa)

The not so good

Heaters are advertised, but the added cost to rent them isn’t. Cheeky.

If you’re in room number eight (the one with the lovely view outside) breakfast is served outside your room, not so good if you don’t want to wake up at seven in the morning.

The shower wasn’t hot (in these temps, that is important) the bathroom was also a bit stinky. Sorry to sound like a moaner but I’m being honest.

And then there’s the mystery parking. When we contacted the owner and said that we’d received an email confirming the parking as well as it being publicised on Tripadvisor, she just denied it and got a bit defensive. All we wanted to suggest was that she could change it, but she became quite hostile so we decided to say chao for now. It’s a shame because the ladies that we had met working in the hostel were dolls, maybe the owner was having a bad day.

That view from the hostel balcony

That view from the hostel balcony

Budget accomodations in Cusco

After a little searching, we found a place to leave the van in a closed car park on Saphi where the lovely Don Juan lives with his family and is charging us 15 soles/3.60 gbp/5.47 usd per day. He let us stay a while to fix the window, it seems that it was installed in a rush and became a bit wonky, not ideal.

I scouted around the area for the best deal, I was basically going for as cheap as possible and found the following options along Saphi;

Backpackers: for 28 soles/6gbp/ 10usd per person per night for a shared dorm of eight people, breakfast, kitchen and wifi included but no lockers. It seemed quite nice. It was an option but I decided to keep looking just in case.

Hospedaje Amargura: 50 soles/12gbp/18usd per night for a private room, shower and wifi or 35 for a dingier room downstairs. No breakfast and a very simple kitchen with no pots or pans.

Hostel Conquista: Just along from the carpark,  40 soles/10gbp/15usd per night but there was a distinct smell of damp in the air so it was a no no.

Magaly: Across the road from the carpark, 30 soles/ 7gbp/ 11usd for a private room with wifi, a simple kitchen and four single beds. I tried to bargain and got away with having the room just for us. It’s simple but very budget friendly. The hot water was being a bit temperamental this morning but seems to work, the wifi signal is ok but sometimes the receptionist is a bit naughty and turns it off to save bills, although he switches it back on straightaway when asked. Everyone here is very nice, they don’t speak English but there’s nothing a bit of miming can’t solve.

Extreme internetting (yes that is a made up word) in Magaly hostel.

Extreme internetting (yes that is a made up word) in Magaly hostel.

Eating

After contracting salmonella in Bolivia nearly two years ago, I have to be a bit more careful with what and where I eat as I’m still a bit prone to a bad tummy which is annoying because I used to enjoy being able to eat like a local.

Our first meal was eaten in Govinda, a vegetarian restaurant which was a bit pricier than what I wanted to spend but we decided to treat ourselves because of the crazy drive the day before. A shared starter, a main each and a juice came to 40 soles/10gbp/15usd which I thought was a bit pricey! Maybe I’m being too vigilant with the budget, I don’t know. In the evening you can ask for the ‘menu’ which is set for 7 soles, now that’s a bargain. The food was nice but not incredible, but I’m convinced that could have something to do with the altitude.

San Pedro Market: A typical South American market where you can always find a good bargain, we had a plate of fried fish, lentils, rice and a mini salad for 3.50 soles each which is more my kind of price. We don’t eat meat so were a little bit more limited than others, soups, mashed potato with steak, pasta and cebiche (although I wouldn’t go for it because we’re not close to the sea) were also available as well as juices and deserts. We also did some food shopping and bought a big bag of vegetables for 20 soles/5gb/8usd. The market and it’s surrounding area is great for anything you may want to buy, from hats to rope.

Market yummies

Our lentils, fish and rice

Valeriana is a beautiful coffee shop across from the grass on Avenida el Sol where we spent all of yesterday working. A yummy hot chocolate, a latte, two croissants and two vegetable lasagnes came to the grand total of 53soles/13gbp. Probably a little bit more than I was hoping to spend but we spend the best part of a day there. Fans of Amy Winehouse and Adele will especially like the limited musical repertoire (i.e. about five hours on a loop).

Relaxing in a little corner in Valeriana

Orion supermarket across from San Pedro market is great for a few things to cook which totalled another 20soles.

Street food: last night we crept out for a late snack and bought a fried cheese and salad sandwich and another with extra egg for 5.50 soles/1.30gbp on the corner of Saphi and Amargura.

Tamales: a delicious snack made with dried corn and served either sweet or savoury either boiled or steamed in a corn leaf for 1sole/24pence each. There’s usually someone in the Plaza de Armas selling them. If you can, try humitas which are a heavier version made with fresh corn.

Coincidentally, we arrived here just in time for the Corpus Christi festival which means there has been a lot of music and dancing around the city for the past few days. Whenever there’s a religious festival in South America, it’s ok to have a beer in the main square, so we decided to have a little sit down in the Plaza de Armas with two large bottles of Cusqueña and a giant bag of crisps for 12soles/2.90gbp until the cold was too much, and then we skipped home.

15 effigies of saints are carried to the Plaza de Armas

15 effigies of saints are carried to the Plaza de Armas

The effigies were accompanied by lots of singing and dancing and a bright blue sky

The effigies were accompanied by lots of singing and dancing and a bright blue sky

There was food and beer galore which was even more glorious in the sunshine

There was food and beer galore which was even more glorious in the sunshine

The two nights out that we had in Cusco were spent in Mushrooms which overlooks the previously mentioned Plaza de Armas. Luckily our drinks were free because Rulo was expertly spinning his vinyl (as usual), but looking at the prices the drinks weren’t too expensive (I wouldn’t recommend eating there) and it was nice and warm. Local DJ Jon Aragon is joined once in a while by guest DJs such as Rulo and Jaime Cuadra, who is the ambassador for Peruvian culture.

Pricier than we originally thought, Cusco can be done on a budget if you are wise.

Next up: Finally heading out of the cold and down to see the Nazca lines.


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The travels have begun: Driving Chile to Colombia

After a year of planning (mostly looking at photos of beaches), saving and moving to Chile to be with my babe, we have finally set off for our drive to Colombia, yesh.

The idea is to drive up through Cusco/Cuzco/Qusqu/Qosco to finally go to Machu Picchu after many years of waiting, and then head down to the coast and drive the whole way up to Ecuador before going northeast to Bogota. Along the way, Rulo will play a few nights here and there and from Colombia we shall fly to London and spend three months hopefully enjoying a scorchio summer, travelling around and eating…I am not being ungrateful about Chilean/Peruvian food at all, but sometimes I would just love beans on toast with melted cheese on top and a Dairy Milk bar on a Tuesday evening when I’m feeling lazy, yummy.

However, if this happened:

Llamas and Machu Picchu

I will stop thinking about food, because really, there is nothing better than a llama photobombing your picture of Machu Picchu is there? He looks like he’s smiling and I absolutely love his ears. Llamas are just too cute for their own good.

So off we go….

Ps due to lack of internet and a lot of unforeseen circumstances, I have actually had to write this post after we set off, we’re actually already in Cuzco. There is a reason for that, and you shall soon find out why.

PPS Check out how gorgeous he is on the flyer for his night in Cuzco at Mushrooms in the Plaza de Armas, I find the spelling mistakes…charming

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