A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: seth_g

The UK, side trips and the long journey home

all seasons in one day 25 °C

We arrived in London after a wonderfully exciting delay at Miami airport. After boarding the plane, moving away from the airbrigde, they had to confirm some maintenance paperwork. 3 hours sat on the tarmac without much air con was not fun! Not a good end to the South American adventure, but it was our only delay in 3 months of travelling.

A couple of days around the house in Sevenoaks with Sarah's parents was relaxing. A great highlight was the trip to Blue Water (massive shopping centre), to purchase a dress for the Fiona's wedding that weekend. Seth decided to buy a new pair of jeans and jumper as it was freezing and the options he had with him were slim (meaning not that many, not too small). Seth was then sent to the cinema to see Iron Man 2. After the film, he was very confused that the dress hadn't been bought in that time (it was only 2 hours!!), but after a few grumbles we finally got home with a dress and a pair of shoes.

The next day we flew to Edinburgh for Fiona and Strat's wedding. It was even colder in Scotland than it was in Sevenoaks! We stayed at Lucy's, and the first night went to meet the bride and groom and a couple of the Kiwi friends in a pub in town. It was good to see the happy couple before the big day. We went to the 'old man' pub next door to the original venue, because it was too noisy... geez we are getting old!

The next day we had lunch with Sarah's Aunt Moira and Great Aunt Nessie. It was lovely and Dan (Lucy's boyf) had booked us a table at the restaurant where he works, it had a great view looking over to Edinburgh Castle (and he got us the best table too) so it was idyllic. Nessie turns out to be our most avid blog-reader! and seemed to have most of the blog memorised. Moira would print it for her each time to read at home (... sorry trees). She is able to recount the whole trip and even correct us when we got things wrong!

Moira and Nessie

Moira and Nessie

We went straight from lunch to pick up Seth's tuxedo from the hire shop. Short story is that Moira had been in Oz last October, we planned ahead and she took a suit back to Scotland for the wedding. But then we got the invite in March and it was black tie. Bugger.

From town we went to visit Kirsty and Paul's and met their gorgeous daughter Ellie. We sat around the house all afternoon with Ed and Jolene, who were up from London for the weekend. The girls all went to Uni together. Afternoon turned into dinner and a great evening of recounting Uni stories by the girls and eye-rolling by the boys. We arrived back at Lucy's late with a few more beers under the belt.

Saturday was the wedding and we met more of Sarah's friends in a restaurant for lunch prior to heading to the wedding. Lunch was a good start and there was already some serious banter occurring around the table. The eight of us then got into a maxi taxi and headed off to Harburn House for the wedding.

All frocked up

All frocked up

The wedding was lovely, with Fiona looking gorgeous and Strat looking very handsome in tartan trousers showing his Kiwi/ Scottish heritage. A piper piped them in (how else would it happen) and then the simple and moving humanitarian ceremony proceeded, with readings in many languages we could not understand including Maori, Belgian, Scottish (which Seth even needed translated). It was a great ceremony, very personal and heartfelt.

The girls, bride and groom

The girls, bride and groom

One of these kids is doing his own thing- the only aussie in pants

One of these kids is doing his own thing- the only aussie in pants

The reception was held in a large marquee in the grounds of the house, the venue was gorgeous, perfect blue skies... if a bit chilly! The speeches were on prior to the meal and they were all very funny and both the bride and groom looked nervous at the right moments as stories were told about their past. But of course alongside the jokes and innuendo there were lots of wonderful things spoken about both of them. The cutting of the cake was humorous given the cake was a depiction of the meeting of the bride and groom. Strat (the Policeman) found Fiona (a friend of this brother's girlfriend), in the spa on his return from work.... erm.... nothing more to write about that meeting in this public forum.

The wedding cake says it all

The wedding cake says it all

The meal was wonderful and as everyone got to know each other as we ate it was clear the festivities to follow would be fun. The ceilidh started the dancing with a bang and continued whilst a few took up station at the bar. The photographer had set up a funny photo corner and as more booze was consumed, the photos got sillier, with wigs and hats. Some, drawn by the camera may have spent more time in the corner than anywhere else (Lucy and Dan!).

Lucy and Dan having fun with the photographer's props

Lucy and Dan having fun with the photographer's props

The girls and the brides father, Alan

The girls and the brides father, Alan

Sarah and Lucy 'get jiggy with it'

Sarah and Lucy 'get jiggy with it'

The buses back to town arrived at midnight, which seemed very early so the committed stayed on for a few more hours, drinking and dancing until the taxis arrived and the bride and groom needed to retire to the bridal suite. The taxi ride back to town was supported by a few bottles of beer and champagne grabbed from the bar on the way out. The driver joined in the singing on the way home, if not by choice, by necessity. The dancing and drinking continued at Lucy's until the early hours of the morning.

The groom in tartan, his father and brother

The groom in tartan, his father and brother

On Sunday, we ventured out to watch Dan's soccer Cup final. They won and the captain, no other than the man himself, held the trophy high to the cheering crowd. We then headed to Fiona's parents for a BBQ. It was very different to the day before where all of the girls were dressed up, drinking and fancy free, they were now carrying bags of nappies with children running around and babies needing feeding. A big change, but lovely to finally meet all the little ones that have either been born since our last trip or grown up so much since then.

Captain Dan

Captain Dan

The girls with the new babies and a couple of hang overs

The girls with the new babies and a couple of hang overs

The only negative of the whole weekend was the ash cloud that had once again closed airports around Europe and threatened to derail our flight home on the Monday. We were fine, but the bride and groom not so and their flight to Italy was cancelled, so they hopped on a train and headed the highlands! Lovely, but not quite Italy.

At 4am the next morning Sarah's father drove us 2 and Jill (Sarah's sister) to the airport for our flight to Corfu (once again lucky to be flying with ash and strikes ruining a lot of holidays). We arrived with no accommodation to a cool and rainy Corfu. We go the bus out to Paleokastritsas, a small village in the west, which was very picturesque (apart from the weather). Seth sat in a restaurant over looking the bay and had a bite to eat Jill and Sarah went searching for a place to stay. Seemingly, he was looking after the bags, not being lazy!

We (they) found a great two bedroom apartment 100m from the bay and we spent the first day, which turned out ok, with a bit of sun hanging around our little village drinking beers in the afternoon sun.

Jill and Seth on our beach

Jill and Seth on our beach

Jill, Sarah and Seth enjoying twilight beers

Jill, Sarah and Seth enjoying twilight beers

Day two found us hiring a car. Jill was the only one allowed to drive as it was only international or EU drivers licenses. The only issue was that she may have her license but has driven less than five times in her life (London lifestyle). After driving away from the hire shop nervously (the car was a manual and we were onthe wrong side of the road), she turned out to be not too bad!
After driving to first beach, which involved a few tight, twisty roads, Seth got scared by all the weeds on the side of the road whipping the passenger side of the car and swerving onto the wrong side of the road with each gear change and he decided that Sarah would be a better option as driver and we would all just pretend she was Jill. The above maybe a bit one-sided so it should be said that Jill did drive well for someone with her experience (says Seth).

From left to right, Jill, Sarah and Seth

From left to right, Jill, Sarah and Seth

The first beach turned out to be popular witht the naturalists, meaning no-one had any clothes on. Quickly moving on from there we went to another beach where readig books and sleeping on the sand was a little more comfortable. The sun was out, although the water was freezinfg and when a cloud came over once every five minutes it was almost cold enough to put your tshirt back on.

A very 'natural' coastline

A very 'natural' coastline

From that beach we went to a little village on the top of the hill for lunch and then to a lovely little beach which we had all to ourselves. Sarah hired a surf ski which both Jill and I had a little go on, the water was chilly, but was 'refreshing' and beautifully clear. Jill was the only one not to get in the water and have a proper swim (turned out this was the case for the whole time in Corfu).

Sarah the iron woman

Sarah the iron woman

Every afternoon was filled with beers and discusson about where dinner should be.

The more relaxed way to enjoy a sunny day

The more relaxed way to enjoy a sunny day

Day three found the weather really set in. It was raining pretty constantly but we headed out for a walk up to the monastry at the top of the hill. It was very pretty but we did have to have a beer in the cafe as a proper rain storm blew in whilst we were up there. We headed down the hill in what we thought was a break in the downpour, only to get soaked! The spot of rain, turned into hail stones the size of marbles and we found oursleves confined to reading books on the balcony for the rest of the afternoon.

The monastry and submarine boat for underwater viewing in the background

The monastry and submarine boat for underwater viewing in the background

The cannon at the monastry

The cannon at the monastry

Hail stones the size of marbles

Hail stones the size of marbles

The next day we got the bus into Corfu town as there was a parade on - for a Name Day (Helen and Konstantinos). There were marching bands and every school on the island must have had kids in the parade as it was a never ending stream of groups marching with their banners. We walked around town, looking at the old fort, lunching in the main square and having a drink at the port, before heading back to our apartment, (we had the whold little resort to ourselves the whole time!).

The parade in Corfu town

The parade in Corfu town

The old fort and young ladies

The old fort and young ladies

We awoke on the final day to probably the sunniest of the four we were there. We had just enough time to get photo and get on a bus back to the airport to fly out back to London. True to form Sarah's Dad picked us up from the airport. This being his 5th trip to either Heathrow or Gatwick to pick up or drop us off in the two weeks we had been here, very considerate and committed! The headlines in the English papers were not very comforting given they had just had a few very unseasonably warm days.

Not good news!

Not good news!

We stayed in Sevenoaks on Saturday night and had a family meal at home and then on Sunday we headed to London with Jill. We met up with Lucy and Sara (another Sara) who were friends of Sarah's from Sydney. We walked around Greenwich Park with their two dogs and then got sushi from the markets and ate it by the Thames.

Sara, Lucy and Sarah in Greenwich

Sara, Lucy and Sarah in Greenwich

We then went onto Sara (yet another other Sara) and Jason's for a BBQ. Shona joined us and later Pablo (one of Sara's Uni mates) came along as well. We sat in the garden enjoying the sun and ate, drank and laughed for about 12 hours. Time flies when you're having fun, drinks and food!

Jason smiling!

Jason smiling!

Jason, Sara, Seth, Shona and Pablo

Jason, Sara, Seth, Shona and Pablo

On Monday we set off with Neil and Helen (Sarah's Dad and Mum) to Oxfordshire for a few days. We stopped at a great little village pub and had a lovely meal and then headed onto Heythrop Park which was a great old manor house with grounds that have been turned into a championship golf course. Sarah's Dad was having a little trip down memory lane as the estate used to be owned by NatWest as a training venue and he had frequented it in the 80s and 90s, in the good old days when the bank had money to own these kinds of things!

Neil (with his Galapagos tshirt on) and Helen at Heythrop Park with the main house in the background

Neil (with his Galapagos tshirt on) and Helen at Heythrop Park with the main house in the background

The main house was amazing with huge rooms, stately staircases and idyllic garden outlooks from large windows. The 'wings' which had the bulk of the accommodation in them were a litttle less stately, but had everything for a comfortable stay. Along with the golf course, a new gym and leisure centre had been built which we enjoyed. A bit of cardio followed by a swim and steam. All very nice. By dinner it was time to set out looking for a pub in the woods that Neil remmbered. Although we found a great place for dinner it was not the pub in question.

The next day we went out to check out the small country villages in the Cotswolds. After stopping off at the Rollright Stones (a very poor cousin to Stonehenge!) we went to a few villages but decided the winner was Lower Slaughter with a lovely little stream and mill. We had lunch in Broughton on the Water which was claimed to be the best by all the locals but although it was pretty it was overflowing with the midweek senior citizens crowd. There was not one spot of vacant lawn that had not been tainted by a wheelchair, walking frame or shuffling footsteps.

Rollright Stones- like Stonehenge but not as impressive

Rollright Stones- like Stonehenge but not as impressive

Lower Slaughter- the prettiest village in the Cotswolds

Lower Slaughter- the prettiest village in the Cotswolds

We headed back to Heythrop for a twighlight 3pm tee off. The golf pro came out to the first tee with us to ensure that we weren't hacks and proceeded to add greater pressure to the first hit of the day. The course was very nice but being new it was designed for buggies, which Neil and Helen do not approve of. So we found long walks between holes but it was a fun first nine holes with Helen and Seth versus Sarah and Neil, which resulted in a tie.

One of us got across the water... maybe two

One of us got across the water... maybe two

Neil and Seth played the last nine alone with Helen being caddie and Sarah ducking off to the gym. Neil easily won the last nine holes with Seth losing 2 balls on the last hole alone! We finished at 8pm (of course in England it is light until 10pm). We rushed out to dinner knowing that most village pub kitchens closed early. The exciting news was that we found the little pub (that Neil had been looking for, although it wasn't really 'in the woods', or 'walking distance from Heythrop', which had been our only 2 clues), but the kitchen closed 15 minutes earlier!- and it looked like a lovely pub too! We were then forced to head into Chipping Norton to find a pub kitchen open a bit later, which we did by just 10 minutes.

The next day we headed back to London but first via LegoLand. Sarah had been dreaming about going there since she was ten. Unfortunately on arrival and checking the cost of entry (38 pounds each) it was decided by Neil, Helen and Seth that even the two for one vouchers did not justify a visit. We were also aware that we did not have a child under 10 which every other person entering appeared to be escorting. Sarah managed to hold back her tears and we headed off to Windsor Castle instead, promising her we would return.

Legoland- Sarah getting the bad news!

Legoland- Sarah getting the bad news!

Windsor was a pretty town and we had lunch on the Long Lawn, in front of Windsor Castle, we weren't sure if the Queen was home, but didn't see her. We just wandered aroudn the outside of the Castle, rather than joining the oldies inside.

Windsor Castle- Neil and Seth

Windsor Castle- Neil and Seth

We then purchased some bird food and Sarah and Neil were feeding the swans on the river, with Helen and I taking photos but not too interested in the nasty, greedy creatures.

Feeeding the Swans, Windsor

Feeeding the Swans, Windsor

Two days back in Sevenoaks gave Seth the enough time to watch some movies and Sarah enough time to get frustrated with him. We went to he driving range and hit a few golf balls and also visitied Helen at her new offices. Luckily Neil had put Sarah on the insurance for the MG (Seth was upset that he is obviously trusted with the daughter, but not to with the car!) but we cruised around with the roof down and our jumpers on. On friday night Sarah's cousin Laura came down with her new fiance Ali (our first time seeing them since their engagement). It was great to catch up with them and as we will unfortunatley not get back for their wedding in August it was great to here about the extravegant plans for a cathedral ceremony and castle reception in Scotland!

Seth, Laura, Neil, Helen and Ali

Seth, Laura, Neil, Helen and Ali

Good to see people appreciating their gifts from Bolivia!

Saturday found us returning to London for round two. We went to the Bok Bar in Covent Garden to watch the Super 14 final where Jason found us once he had finished some work at the 'Pokemon World Championship' - loser. We then went to Jason's and had a quiet night chatting with Lucy who was down from Edinburgh and ordering pizza to eat in. Maybe another indication that we are getting old as none of us were that interested in venturing out.

On Sunday we went to Streatham Hill to see the newly renovated house of Ed and Jolene and catch up with more of Sarah's Uni friends. The house was lovely, the BBQ was excellent and Ed only lost points on the weather! It wasn't that bad as the girls, led by the Shona, chased the sun down the backyard as it retreated behind the neighbours wall. A late arrival by Buzz and Jon, meant a second round of the BBQ and drinking and chatting until the wee small hours. Another night spent in someone's house and not in a pub reinforces the mature choices displayed by the group present.

Jill, Sarah, Buzz, Shona and Jolene

Jill, Sarah, Buzz, Shona and Jolene

Ed to the left of Seth and Jon with his eyes closed added to the group photo

Ed to the left of Seth and Jon with his eyes closed added to the group photo

Monday was the bank holiday and we got up late. Ed, Jolene and us then met Jill at the movies in Brixton. We had decided on 'The Bad Lieutenant' which, lets just say was odd! We then went for Turkish dinner and as the public servants (Jill and Ed) had Tuesday off also we went to the bowls club for a few beers. The final destination was Jill's new house where she lives with two friends before we headed back to Sevenoaks for the last two days of our stay in the UK.

Drinks at the Brixton Bowling Club on the last night in London

Drinks at the Brixton Bowling Club on the last night in London

A final family dinner with Jill, Neil and Helen at a local pub on Tuesday, and then packing on Wednesday rounded off a wonderful stay with the family and some great catch ups with the UK friends. On Wednesday we headed to Heathrow for the last time on this journey (to Neil's relief) and got on the flight to Singapore!

The last supper in Sevenoaks

The last supper in Sevenoaks

We arrived in Singapore to some hot, but not too hot weather, which was nice. We were staying with friends, Dougie and Caroline and their kids (again! but this time Seth didn't bring swine flu). They have moved house to a beautiful place with a huge pool and it was lovely to sit outside in the warm evening and have a BBQ, it was as if we were back in Brisbane on a summers evening (but without the maid!).

The next day was pretty chilled out, just hanging in the pool with Lulu and Bella, reading stories and brushing up on our colouring-in skills and having a litlte look in the shops of Orchard Road.

Lulu and Bella Scootering

Lulu and Bella Scootering

Seth and the girls off for a leisurely walk

Seth and the girls off for a leisurely walk

On the Friday night we went out for dinner and had a fab Chinese meal at Boat Quay, it was a perfect spot overlooking the river, the food was great and not too expensive (as much of Singapore can be). The Quay was alive and bustling with restaurants and bars. After dinner we headed off to the BQ bar, where beers were about $15 each, not the best place to have too many, but we did anyway!

Dougie and Seth at Boat Quay

Dougie and Seth at Boat Quay

Caz and Sarah at Boat Quay

Caz and Sarah at Boat Quay

We were the last people to leave the bar and infact the whole street, the bar staff were pleading with us to leave, but we weren't going to leave a half-drunk-$15 beer! But after the obligatory stop at McDonalds we headed home and to bed (at 4am). The next day the Isles family headed to see 'the Gruffalos' - a kids show, but they only just made it there, with Dougie having to have a little stop on the way, because "daddy had a sore tummy!". oops.

While they entertained the kids we headed out for breakfast in a very Sydney-like cafe tucked out of the way in Robertson Quay and met a friend from Sydney Rachael, who had exciting news that she was pregnant, which was great to hear.

The afternoon was spent snoozing, playing the pool and going for a walk in the Botanical Gardens, which was a nice relaxing way to spend the last hours of our adventure! At 7pm we headed to the airport and back to Brisbane. Boo!

The gang at the Botanical Gardens

The gang at the Botanical Gardens

We arrived back into Brisbane after a horrendous, kid-screaming flight (- the worst of the whole trip!) to a beautiful sunny, winters day. Our renters had left the house in great shape and we started to unload some of our belongings, but not too many, as we are so used to having only a few clothes to choose from that it seemed a little overwhelming to fill up the wardrobes!

Since we have been back people keep asking us what our best bits were, but we can't compare them as we did so many different things, so we have made a Top 8! (in no particular order):

Rio Carnival
Iguacu Falls
Antarctica
Torres Del Paine National Park
Atacama Desert
Bolivian Salt Flats
Galapagos Islands
Inca Trail and Macchu Pichu

Posted by seth_g 04:04 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Ecuador - the end of South America

Quito and Banos

semi-overcast 20 °C

After arriving back in Quito from the Galapagos Islands we decided to spend the our last five days in South America in Ecuador rather than travelling further a field. We were going to head to the coast, or a journey south to Guayaquil, but settled on exploring Quito and a couple of nearby towns.

The next day we went to the Equator which is 20km outside of Quito. Instead of getting on the tour bus at USD26 we decided to take public transport. It was a simple journey, but involved changing buses at the other end of town. When we got off the first bus we were surprised to find a burning rubber smell and the air burnt the back of our throats. We then walked up a few blocks, finding people along the way covering their mouths and noses. As we turned a corner we were confronted by at least 60 motorcycle policemen with tear gas canister launchers. At this point we realised that we had walked into the middle of a riot, which had obviously cleared only 10 minutes before. Whoops. We weren't sure what the students were complaining about - as it was a all in Spanish.

Unfortunately the riot had resulted in the re-routing of all the buses from the area of the city that had been shut down. After half an hour of walking we finally made our way onto the bus that we needed to get to the Equator. On the bus the guy came around to sell the tickets. He only spoke Spanish and when he told us how much it was we thought he said $8, which was not that bad. When trying to hand him a $10 note he looked pained, and repeated what he had said and reached for one of the $1 coins I also had in my other hand. It turned out it was 80c not $8. As Ecuador uses USD some things are incredibly cheap, like public buses.

Arriving at the Equator we found a large monument and tourist village that had been built on the equator line. It was obviously built in the 70s or 80s and had not had much work done on it since. The whole place was a bit tired and given the number of people there it was clear that the Equator had lost its tourist pulling power some years before.

The original Equator

The original Equator

After walking around for a while and looking at the shops we starting asking about the museum that had fun experiments you could do on the equatorial line. We assumed it had to be on the line of the equator so walked around the village, on the line trying to find it, with no luck. A few explanations later we discovered it was outside the walls of the Equator Fun Park. It turns out that they had built the monument on what they thought was the Equator, but after checking it with a GPS system (only 20 years ago) the equator was actually 200m down the road! So a new museum and landmark was developed.

The actual Equator

The actual Equator

This museum was much more fun, it had lots of experiments you can do on the Equator, like balancing an egg on the head of a nail, which Seth managed. There was also a sink of water that showed the water going down clockwise and anti-clockwise on either side of the Equator and straight down when right on it. You are also lighter and stronger on the Equator too! It was actually quite amazing that you didn’t have to be too far off the Equator to notice the differences in the gravitational pull. After the obligatory handicrafts market we headed back to Quito on our 80c bus ride.

Strange strengths on the Equator

Strange strengths on the Equator

Easy to balance an egg on a nail on the Equator... seemingly.

Easy to balance an egg on a nail on the Equator... seemingly.

Easy for some!

Easy for some!

Equator games

Equator games

The few days we spent in Quito weren’t too exciting as the weather was quite miserable and made the city look quite dull, but the view from the panoramic restaurant was quite spectacular during the day or night.
We then headed South from Quito, with our plan to head to Banos and then Riobamba, where we would get the Devils Nose train, as the last of our adventures. But, we found out the train wasn’t running and decided to just spend our last days in Banos, which had lovely weather compared to Quito and has an active volcano, Tungurahua. The volcano isn‘t spewing out lava at the moment, only a little bit of smoke, which was a little disppointing. We quickly planned 3 days of adventure; quad-biking, mountain biking and volcano walking.

On our first evening in Banos, Sarah headed to the thermal baths, which is obviously the most popular evening activity in Banos, as it was packed! There would have been about 200 people in 2 large pools; locals, Ecuadorian holiday makers, backpackers - all out for a very social chat and bathe. It was a very nice way to spend the evening, chatting to locals and trying to withstand the heat of the hottest pool.

The next day we headed up one of the hills on the outskirts of Banos on quad bikes, it was very luscious and green and we had been promised views over the volcano from the top. We rumbled up to the Casa Del Arbol (tree house), which is a tree house built on the edge of the hill, hanging over the valley. As we pulled up a local man came running out and told us where to park and promised to ‘look after’ our quad bikes, we told him it wasn’t necessary, but agreed when we saw the large machete he was holding - unsure whether it was to be used as a deterrent to thieves or to make sure we paid for his services when we returned.

Quad biking

Casa Del Arbol

Casa Del Arbol

The view from the Casa Del Arbol was nice, but not too dramatic, as the cloud had closed in and we couldn’t see the volcano at all. But even in the closed-in weather the rope swing which swung out over the valley was still too scary for Sarah.

View of Banos from the Casa Del Arbol

View of Banos from the Casa Del Arbol

After pulling up to the 4 star resort on the hillside on our quad bikes for a spot of lunch, we headed back to town, as the weather seemed to be getting worse.

Lunch with a view (and some cloud)

Lunch with a view (and some cloud)

The next day we picked up our mountain bikes and headed out on the Ruta de las Cascadas - which is a road that wiggles through the valley and has a load of nice waterfalls along the way. The route follows the ‘old road’ which is reserved in parts for bikes only, tunnels have been built through the mountain side for cars etc. It was very picturesque, but quite touristy, all along the road people had set up cable cars that swung out over the valley, they were pretty ricketty looking things, with old tractor engines pulling the cars, but we paid our dollar and ventured out on one.

Mountain biking Ruta des Cascadas

Mountain biking Ruta des Cascadas

Cable car down the side of the valley

Cable car down the side of the valley

There was also the opportunity to do some weird bungy-jumping type thing off one of the bridges, but it looked crazy! We stopped to watch one tour group jump, and it looked awful - especially as it was the biggest guy in the group, jumping in a tandem with the biggest girl… at least the rope looked strong!

There were some nice little walks out to waterfall lookout spots and the most famous is the Pailon del Diablo, Devils cauldron. There were loads of signs to it, and we had to do a couple of walks until you actually got the correct one - it was a bit sneaky really, people just sticking up a sign and then charging you a dollar to enter a viewpoint where you can’t really see anything. When we finally got to the correct viewpoint, it was great as it was tucked right into waterfall and you got quite wet (nothing on Iguazu falls, but impressive none-the-less). They had also built a cave, which you had to crawl through, but it went up the side of the waterfall and you came out right under the falls, it was cool to be so close to such a large body of water, Seth didn’t make it up there, as he was worried he would get stuck in the cave!

Pailon del Diablo waterfall

Pailon del Diablo waterfall

After crawling through the cave to right under the waterfall

After crawling through the cave to right under the waterfall

If the weather was better we could have stopped to swim in the rivers and natural pools, but it was a bit chilly for that. So we just had lunch and then waited for the bus back into Banos, which never materialised, but a ute stopped and the guy chucked our bikes in the back and took us into town (for $3 each), he picked up others on the way, so obviously the bus quite often doesn’t really run.

That night we had booked a steam bath in the hostel that we were staying in. They had been built by the owner and with eucalyptus leaves in them and steam pouring in from a water heater in the next room. We had a relaxing steam which involved getting hot, then cold by wiping yourself with cold water flannels in the direction of blood flow and then getting back in the steam - over and over again.

Steam boxes in the hostel

Steam boxes in the hostel

Steam room

Steam room

Our third adventure was the volcano trek, but we awoke to solid rain, so we arranged to postpone the trip for a day and just hung out in the town. But unfortunately the rain was even worse the next day, so we abandoned our volcano trek and headed back to Quito. Weather runined our volcano walking in Chile and now here too! Bummer.

Sarah did go on a walk up the hill to the Virgin lookout, which is seen as a pilgrimage to a lot of people, with many religous carvings and pictures along the way... after looking at the photo of the 500 stairs Seth was glad he hadn't bothered.
Pilgrimage to the Virgin

Pilgrimage to the Virgin

the best view of the Volcano - you can just see the edge of it through the clouds

the best view of the Volcano - you can just see the edge of it through the clouds

Back in Quito, Seth decided to get a haircut before we headed to the UK and we had seen a whole road of hairdressers - all advertising haircuts for $1, so we ventured in and pointed to a style on the wall and off she went. Unfortunately Seth also decided to get a cut-throat razor shave, which ended up being a little more ‘cut-throat’ than it should have been. Not sure that the woman is used to dealing with that much hair and she seemed a little reluctant to use too many blades! Ouch.

$1 haircut

$1 haircut

In Quito that day, the weather was lovely, so after patching up Seth’s razor wounds, we headed to the new part of town and wandered through some markets, it was a public holiday, so the parks were busy with families and Quito looked like a different place to the dreary city we had seen before. We had a pleasant last afternoon in Ecuador, as the next day we headed to the UK.

La Ronda part of Quito

La Ronda part of Quito

View from the hotel of Quito

View from the hotel of Quito

Posted by seth_g 16:20 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Galapagos Islands

sunny 26 °C

Day one started with an early flight from Quito to Guayquil to Galapagos. We were meeting up with some friends we had made on our Antarctica trip, Adam and Nelle. After paying our $100 park fees and getting through quarantine we were off to the boat, the Angelique, a 16-berth sailing ship. The ship was a bit rough on the outside but much nicer inside, made with wood from the Ecuador Jungle. The room was nice with large bunks, small porthole and an ensuite, and there is a lounge, dining area, front and top deck on the boat.

The Angelique

The Angelique

The Angelique crew - Seth, Sarah, Nelle and Adam

The Angelique crew - Seth, Sarah, Nelle and Adam

Cabin Bunks

Cabin Bunks

After lunch and meeting the rest of our boat-mates we headed straight to Baches Beach, which is on Santa Cruz Island (the main island in Galapagos), not far from where we were picked up. We walked along the beach and met our first Galapagos wildlife… marine iguanas, flamingos and sally-lightfoot crabs. The beach was nice - white sand, turquoise water and black lava rock.

baches beach sally lightfoot crab

baches beach sally lightfoot crab

baches beach marine iguana

baches beach marine iguana



We wandered around before hopping into to the water for a cool-off swim and snorkel, the guide told us the snorkelling wasn’t going to be that great, but we had a fabulous time and ticked a couple of our ‘Galapagos boxes’ with a Galapagos shark (1.5- 2m), a big turtle, stingrays and a few fish - most were too fast for our camera (or us taking the pics!).

baches beach galapagos shark

baches beach galapagos shark

baches beach string ray

baches beach string ray

Just as we were leaving the beach a baby sea turtle decided to pop his head out of the sand, big mistake, he was gobbled up by a frigate bird hovering overhead. We all rushed to the nest to see if there were more turtles, and a girl from another boat was working with them, so she held one up for us all to see - very cute, but only about 5% survive the walk to the water!

baches beach baby sea turtle

baches beach baby sea turtle

Night one was a bit rough as we headed up 8 hours to the north of the archipelago, but Sarah was fine, must have her sea-legs from the Antarctic horrendous boat! Day two had us at Genovesa Island, in Darwin Bay. We landed on the beach and got straight into snorkelling. Lots and lots of tropical fish, white tip sharks, eagle sting rays (polka dot) and cornet fish. There was a sea lion on the beach and we got pretty close, that was the first time we realised the tame-ness and how unafraid of people all the Galapagos animals were, it was really quite amazing.

genovesa sea lion and seth

genovesa sea lion and seth

genovesa sealions mum and bub

genovesa sealions mum and bub

genovesa white tipped reef shark

genovesa white tipped reef shark

genovesa pufferfish

genovesa pufferfish

genovesa golden cowray

genovesa golden cowray

Genovesa moorish idol

Genovesa moorish idol

genovesa king angelfish

genovesa king angelfish

After our snorkel we followed the beach trail and met two of the main species of Galapagos birds, the Boobie and the Frigate bird. Everywhere in Galapagos is well-organised and trails are marked out on each island to prevent destruction of the area, there are only a few trails at each landing spot, so there does tend to be a few other tourist boats everywhere you go. As the animals are not scared of humans they do not move when you walk past, and this was even true of the nesting birds, we were 2m from them everywhere. The frigate birds were pretty amazing as the males have a great mating ritual of blowing up their chests, like large red balloons, up to the size of a soccer ball. Some of the girls thought it looked like a large red heart, aaawww.

genovesa frigate group

genovesa frigate group

genovesa Frigate bird

genovesa Frigate bird

genovesa nasca boobie

genovesa nasca boobie

genovesa red footed boobie

genovesa red footed boobie

It is the most amazing opportunity to look at wildlife and we have never experienced the opportunity anywhere else in the world where you can get so close. In the afternoon we went to the far side of Darwin Bay to Prince Phillip’s Steps (PPS). We snorkelled along the long cliff face and played with sea lions.

genovesa PPS sealion and seth

genovesa PPS sealion and seth

genovesa PPS sealion

genovesa PPS sealion

genovesa PPS Giant Damselfish

genovesa PPS Giant Damselfish

In the early evening we went on the hunt for a short eared owl. They are one of only 3 predators of the birds along with another owl and the Galapagos Hawk. The owl sits on the lava rocks and waits for the storm petrels that nest in the cracks of the lava rocks to come out, then they jump on them and eat them. It is very rare but we were lucky enough to find 3 owls and then see one attack and catch a petrel and rip it apart, right in front of us!

genovesa PPS short eared owl - attacking

genovesa PPS short eared owl - attacking

genovesa PPS seth and pair of boobies

genovesa PPS seth and pair of boobies

genovesa PPS nasca boobie

genovesa PPS nasca boobie

Day three started at 6am with a walk on the lava flats of Santiago Island. The lava was amazing and had great patterns which looked like ropes or cables wrapped in circles. There were cracks and hills that were a different colour due to the different cooling temperatures and subsequent oxidization. The last eruption was 100 years ago, but the Galapagos is the most active volcanic area in the world. Adam was in Galapagos for the wildlife and wasn’t too impressed with this lava-only-no-wildlife island, but we liked it!

santiago sunrise

santiago sunrise

santiago crack in the lava

santiago crack in the lava

santiago lava flow crack

santiago lava flow crack

santiago lava wiggles

santiago lava wiggles

After breakfast we walked up Bartolome Island and saw a great view from the top, supposedly the best view in Galapagos. We could also see the beach that we were going to snorkel at later, around the pinnacle. On the landing the guide slipped on the concrete slab and went down on his chest, smacking his chin. This resulted in 2 internal and 4 external stitches from the doctor on a fancy boat anchored near us.

bartolome sealion drive

bartolome sealion drive

bartolome sea lion

bartolome sea lion

bartolome s and s

bartolome s and s

bartolome view

bartolome view

bartolome dancing hot lava lizard

bartolome dancing hot lava lizard

Before lunch we snorkelled and once again saw sea lions, white tip sharks, and lots of fish. We did see some starfish which was something new. On the swim back to the boat from the beach we saw a Galapagos Penguin. Only one - but that is enough (box ticked!). Swimming back to the boat for a bit of exercise is becoming a bit of a habit, and not a bad thing given the amount of food served at breakfast lunch and dinner.

Bartolome penguin

Bartolome penguin

Bartolome Razor Surgeon fish

Bartolome Razor Surgeon fish

bartolome marzipan starfish

bartolome marzipan starfish

Bartolome parrotfish

Bartolome parrotfish

After returning to the boat we decided to ask if we could jump off the deck. Unlike our Antarctica cruise, which was very military in its organization and execution, the guide just smiled and said, ‘yep’. He may well still have been a bit concussed from the fall. So we climbed to the highest point on the bow and off we went, apart from Sarah, but she went off the side.

I can't believe everyone missed my jump!

I can't believe everyone missed my jump!

Seth jumping

Seth jumping

The afternoon was spent on-board, which was a little disappointing (as we had been told all the navigations would be at night) as we motored back to the main island, Santa Cruz. Sarah found a good perch on bow and sat up there looking at passing hammerhead sharks and dolphins.

Brown Pelican on board

Brown Pelican on board

We anchored in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz which is the main town and spent the night there.
In the morning we went to the Darwin Centre where there is a tortoise breeding program. We saw lots of large land tortoises and even saw ‘Lonesome George’ who is the last of his species, in order to save the species, they have placed two female tortoises from another island which are his closest relatives (60-70% DNA match) but to date there has been no success. They have recovered one species of tortoise from only 14 tortoises remaining back up to 1600, which is pretty successful!

Darwin centre tortoises

Darwin centre tortoises

Darwin centre tortoise

Darwin centre tortoise

Darwin centre lonesome george hiding

Darwin centre lonesome george hiding

Because it was change-over day (some people leaving the boat and new arrivals) we sort of got dumped in town with no guide. So the four of us walked to Las Grietas, which is a canyon with rock pools at the base. It was a huge lava gorge which was filled with perfectly clear brackish water. We swam in the first pool (about 60m long) and then some local kids showed us a tunnel that went under a rock and into another pool which was about 100m long. It was a hot day, so the cold water was delightful to play in!

Las Grietas

Las Grietas

Swimming under the rock to discover new pools

Puerto Ayora Fish shop - sealion on right counter

Puerto Ayora Fish shop - sealion on right counter

In the afternoon we had an excursion with our new shipmates to a private Tortoise Ranch in the highlands of Santa Cruz. Here we saw more giant tortoise in the wild (sort of, they wandered around the ranch).
We then went to an underground lava tube which was pretty cool. They run from the highlands all the way to the ocean. It is where the pirates hid their treasure. There is currently one tour boat in the bay that was purchased with money from a treasure find! Unfortunately, we didn’t find any.

Los Ranchos - giant tortoise

Los Ranchos - giant tortoise

Los Ranchos - Seth the tortoise

Los Ranchos - Seth the tortoise

The next morning we went to Post Office Bay on Floreana Island, which is named due to the barrel that is just behind the beach where postcards are placed. It dates back to the 1700s, when the pirates would leave letters and then other pirates would check the barrel and if there was a letter addressed to somewhere they were going and they would deliver it. We searched through the postcards in the barrel but found none for Brisbane. There were a couple of Sydney but you have to deliver by hand. We left a couple of cards and will see if they are picked up… some looked very old!

Post office bay - Pirates mailbox

Post office bay - Pirates mailbox

Posting a postcard, Post Office Bay

Posting a postcard, Post Office Bay

We then snorkelled in the bay and saw amazing turtles. None of them swam away but just swam around us. We got some great photos and video and had a great time just enjoying the time in the water with them, Again it was incredible that they would swim at you and be within a metre.

2 Turtles

Floreana - Turtle

Floreana - Turtle

We then went to Devil’s Crown, for the best snorkelling of the trip, which is a rock island 1km off the coast. We jumped off the zodiacs and snorkelled down the open sea side of the rock. The current was really strong so we just floated along. We saw turtles, black tip sharks and lots of fish. We then swam under a tunnel into the centre of the rock formation (sort of a culdera). The water there was streaming through between the rocks and we swam with sea lions and lots of tropical fish. The sea lions actually swam so close and the bay ones played with us for ages, just swimming round and round us and coming within cm of our goggles.

Playing with the Sealions

sarah adam and nelle snorkel

sarah adam and nelle snorkel

Devils Crown - 2 sharks sleeping

Devils Crown - 2 sharks sleeping

Devils Crown - Sarah Snorkel

Devils Crown - Sarah Snorkel

Devils Crown - Seth Snorkel

Devils Crown - Seth Snorkel

Devils Crown - excited after great snorkelling

Devils Crown - excited after great snorkelling

Late in the afternoon we went for a walk at Cormorant Point where we saw flamingos which were very pink, much nicer than we had seen previously. We walked over the hill to a beach on the ocean side of the island which you are not allowed swim at because it is a Green Sea Turtle nesting area. We walked along the beach and saw large schools of sting rays swimming just off shore, and sharks and turtles. There were birds circling waiting for baby turtles to come out of the sand but none did while we were there.

Cormorant Point - Flamingo

Cormorant Point - Flamingo

The next day (Day 5) we landed at Espanola Island which had a long white beach, Gardner Bay, with 100+ sea lions lazing around on it. We walked among them and looked at all the poses they were in. Lots of pups suckling and sea lions playing in the water. Great photos up close. On the rocks we watched Marine Iguanas eat the algae off the rocks and swim around. They are truly prehistoric and a little bit punk-rocker.

Gardner Bay Seth the Sealion

Gardner Bay Seth the Sealion

Gardner Bay Punkrocker Marine Iguana

Gardner Bay Punkrocker Marine Iguana

Gardner Bay Marine Iguana

Gardner Bay Marine Iguana

Gardner Bay Storm brewing

Gardner Bay Storm brewing

We then snorkeled at Suarez Point and saw a huge school of fish that you could swim under and up back through. The video does not show it that well but when you are under the fish you cannot see through them. As you come back up through they part and there is a donut void which you swim through. We did this a few times and then continued around the rock and saw more sea lions, a turtle and a lobster in a cave.

Seth swimming under the school of fish

In the afternoon we walked at Suarez Point and saw some Albatros and Boobies. The Albatros were huge and amazing. They were nesting so close and just walked past us to the cliff to take off.

Suarez Point Albatross

Suarez Point Albatross

Suarez point - No boobies past this point

Suarez point - No boobies past this point

On the 7th day of the cruise we started with a walk on Santa Fe Island to find the land Iguana. After a long walk and no action we stumbled across a small one and then a large one and then there were iguanas everywhere. They were not worried by our presence and would walk along the path and get within a metre of you waiting for you to get out of the way, you would, and they continue on their way. The Land Iguanas were much bigger than their marine counterpart and a yellowy colour.

Santa Fe Land Iguana

Santa Fe Land Iguana

We then went snorkelling in the bay and saw sting rays and even bigger schools of fish than the day before. There would have been tens of thousands of fish in a 50m long school just swaying in the current. There was also a sea snake that swam around and of course sea lions that played in the rocks and with us.

Angelique and Seth

Angelique and Seth

In the afternoon we navigated to South Plazas Island one of two islands that make up the Plaza Islands, named for the channel that runs between them. This island is has the highest density of wildlife in the archipelago. The land Iguanas which are different to the species on the previous mentioned island. These ones have mated with the Marine Iguanas but the offspring cannot breed and do not live as long.

South Plazas - Gull

South Plazas - Gull

On return to the boat we had another jumping off the boat session to cool off as it was sunny and hot. We spent the afternoon on the bow of the boat having a beer and watching for dolphins. We did see a Manta Ray and a suspected whale (not confirmed).

sarah side jumping

sarah side jumping

Seth Jumping

Seth Jumping

Our last night was spent at-anchor, so a good night’s sleep. In the morning we went for a quick walk around North Seymour Island before breakfast. This was our chance to get really close to the blue-footed boobie, which is the unofficial mascot of the islands… lots of ‘bobbies’ jokes etc.

North Seymour - a pair of boobies

North Seymour - a pair of boobies

North Seymour - Blue Footed Booby

North Seymour - Blue Footed Booby

Big Fat Lizard, North Seymour

Big Fat Lizard, North Seymour

After breaky we were off-loaded and back to the airport and Quito. Our 8 days in Galapagos were great and April is obviously a good time to go and see all the birds in their mating-glory! All the pictures were taken with our tiny, little x3 zoom camera, that’s how close they all were!

Posted by seth_g 01:33 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Amazon Jungle- Iquitos, Peru

sunny 26 °C

We got up at 420am to get the taxi to the airport and caught the flight from Lima to Iquitos. On arrival we were greeted by the tour company, got our bags and headed off to downtown Iquitos, (we were slightly surprised by the size of the river town, 500 000 people) we hopped on a bus and headed to the ferry wharf. Here we got on a long boat with a sizable outboard motor for our 1 hour trip up the river to our lodge. First we did a lap around the city area, Belen, on the river and looked at the floating houses that people live in as it is cheap and they do not pay tax.

Belen - River houses

Belen - River houses

5 minutes up the little river we came to the Rio Amazonas and the water changed colour dramatically from an oxygen-depleted black to a oxygen-rich brown, the typical Amazon colour. There were dolphins around the river mouth and we stopped and watched them for a while.

Mirror-like Amazon

Mirror-like Amazon

On arrival at the lodge we had a welcome drink of juice and settled into our room. We then went for a walk in the jungle and saw a birds nest with small eggs and many other interesting flora and fauna (and a million mosquitoes - we were very grateful for our Aussie 80% deet repellent, as these were tough customers and others were being bitten). And came back to relax in the hammocks.

Hammock Hut

Hammock Hut

Lunch as usual on tours was basic but plentiful. After a siesta in the hammocks, we set off for a river cruise to the animal rescue centre. Here we saw monkeys, a sloth, turtle, tortoise, toucan and snakes. The animals had been brought there by locals when they were injured etc, our tour guide had even brought a monkey he had found at a market in the city, they were totally domesticated and were happy to jump all over you. We also got a little briefing on natural medicines, including cat’s claw which they believe cures cancer. We all had to drink some sugar cane liquor, which was surprisingly ok!

Tame toucan

Tame toucan

Sarah and pocket monkey

Sarah and pocket monkey

2 Sloths

2 Sloths

We then went in search of dolphins but didn’t find any! Instead, we went for a swim in the river… bit scary after just holding a snake who’s mother or father might live in the river, but it was refreshing. We then spent the next hour or so watching the sun set over the river.

Sunset on Amazon

Sunset on Amazon

Seth enjoying the Sunset

Seth enjoying the Sunset

After dinner we headed out for a night canoe in the lagoon. The guide claimed that he had only seen 6m anacondas in there. We spent an hour on the lagoon and in amongst the flooded rain forest where trees covered us over. It was a bit scary and we saw some big spiders and frogs but nothing capable of eating us in one mouthful.

Cruising through the flooded rainforest

Cruising through the flooded rainforest

Day two found us up and off to a local village. We had refused to pay the 10 soles for gumboots as we purchased waterproof shoes and they needed a workout. The walk was not that bad but there were some wet and muddy patches. We saw a very big 250 year old tree, which is quite a rare sight so close to the river, as most have been felled for wood products, mining or farming (the residents protested and saved it from the chop) and had a great deal of jungle medicine explained to us… Never to have a sore tummy in the jungle again. We visited a family’s house in the middle of the jungle and chatted about life in the jungle, they don’t live a life of luxury, by our standards, but they have plentiful water and food and a great life by the river. The guides parents had grown up in the river and he explained that his grandparents struggled when they came to the ’city’ of Iquitos and missed their fresh fruit and fish.

Huuuge tree 250 years old

Huuuge tree 250 years old

Walking tree - it walks to water - trunk doesn't touch the ground

Walking tree - it walks to water - trunk doesn't touch the ground

The local villagers put on a bit of a show for us and we danced (well, walked around in a circle) - it was all a bit strange, they wore their traditional outfits, but normally wore Western clothes. They just wanted to trade everything we were wearing from our watches to our shoes for the jewellery they made. We did get to use the blow gun and shoot darts at a target. We both missed. We bought a few bits of jewellery from the locals… but they were more interested in trading than money. It was quite interesting stuff, lots of anaconda vertebrae and piranha jaws in the jewellery.

Blow-gun - Seth is really that much bigger than the chief!!

Blow-gun - Seth is really that much bigger than the chief!!

Sarah refusing to barter her watch

Sarah refusing to barter her watch

In the afternoon we went on a canoe ride through the flooded forest that we had been in the night before and to another river. We stopped at the local swimming pool, which was just fork in the river, but we played with the local kids and had lots of fun throwing them in the water, the little kids were great swimmers, but then they do live and play in the river everyday.

A visit to the local swimming pool

A visit to the local swimming pool

River Queens - playing with the local kids

River Queens - playing with the local kids

That night we went for a night walk in the jungle. We were about 15 minutes into the walk, just getting out of earshot of the camp music and the guide jumped back into the girl behind him. He had been talking to us about the only poisonous (deadly) snake in the Amazon and sure enough he had just avoided stepping on one that was about 2m long. Very big. His friend had died after being bitten by one 30cm long only 6 months ago. She was a long way in to the jungle and did not get any medical assistance. Fair to say that was the end of our jungle night walk and we had a well-shaken-up guide for a while.

The third day we went piranha fishing. We fished off the side of the canoe and used rotten fish as bait. We got lots of bites and pulled a few clear of the water before they fell off the hooks. The Canadian in the boat managed to catch one and he had it cooked for her lunch, it was only about 10cm long, not much meat, but a good set of teeth! The guide caught an electric eel, which was the only other excitement. Typical fishing trip.

Having fun piranha fishing

Having fun piranha fishing

In the afternoon we went to the ‘aquarium’. Here they had caiman (small freshwater-looking crocs) and the largest fresh water fish in the world, that live in the Amazon. We walked out on a walkway to a rotunda and on the way these very, very large shadows passed beneath us. We got out to the rotunda and the guide had some ‘fish food’ which these fish almost jumped out of the water to get at. They were massive, beyond what any of us imagined… about 1m, with huge mouth and jaws and they definitely snapped at the food!

The next morning we went to the monkey island. It was a rescue centre for monkeys and there were 7 different types of monkeys, from little tiny ones that could fit in your hand to larger ones. Some of them had returned to the jungle around the house and others were still living in the refuge area. It was great fun seeing all the monkeys up close and we fed them biscuits, made from egg shells mainly, so they got plenty calcium… not bananas, which seemed strange!

Monkey tree

Monkey tree

Monkeying around

Monkeying around

More monkey

More monkey

In the afternoon we headed back to Iquitos and then flew out to Lima, for a night, then to Quito, Ecuador for another night and then another early morning flight to Galapagos.

Posted by seth_g 11:13 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Peru- Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Nasca and Lima

semi-overcast 18 °C

After recovering from our Inca Trail in Cusco for a day, we headed to Arequipa on an overnight bus. We had originally planned to head straight out on a day tour for Colca Canyon, but decided that was pushing it a little bit.
Arequipa was a nice town, the second biggest after Lima, with a load of white stone colonial buildings. We spent the day wandering around and exploring, there were a fair few churches, but we didn’t really venture into any. We decided not to do an organized tour to Colca, as a lot of them seemed to involve a lot of bussing and not a lot of walking (unless you got on a tour starting at 3am).

Arequipa main square - colonial buildings and thousands of taxis

Arequipa main square - colonial buildings and thousands of taxis

Arequipa town centre

Arequipa town centre

So we set off the next day on the public bus, which was interesting, the first hour or so involved guys walking up and down the bus trying to sell things, at first we weren’t sure what was going on… a guy gave out a handful for sweets to everyone and then came around asking for money for them! The second one seemed to be selling some kind of tea with great medicinal powers. The bus journey took a lot longer than we thought and after 4 hours we reached Chivay, the main touristy town of the canyon, the views were great, but the journey seemed to go on and on. We had decided not to stay in Chivay and stayed on the bus for the next 76km to Cabanaconde, a smaller village in the middle of the canyon. The previous bus to arrive in Chivay, terminated there so about 50 people tried to cram onto our bus. Sarah had made the mistake of trying to nip to the toilet and had to battle her way back on board, it was a little easier as she was about 6 inches taller than most of the people.

Chivay

Chivay

So we set off on the last part of the journey to Cabanaconde (76km) on the bumpiest, slowest road, ever. It took 2 ½ hours, stopping at each little town along the way. Painful. We even had a guy on the bus trying to get everyone to stay at his hostel, seemingly he rides the bus everyday to get clients. Annoying.

We had booked to stay at a great little family-run hostel, Pachamama, where the son spoke perfect English (handy) and his mum did all the cooking (tasty)! He was really helpful about routes to take through the Canyon for the next day, although we told him we wanted to do a big walk, he was a little worried about our plan. Oh well.

Cabanaconde village square

Cabanaconde village square

After a great dinner of wood-fired pizza and a hearty breakfast of crepes, we set off for our trek at 6.30am. We walked out of town for about 15 minutes to the viewpoint, which was pretty spectacular. The Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon, and as we had arrived at night it was cool to see it in the daylight. The path (yet again un-signposted) was supposed to start at the viewpoint, so we set off down in the canyon on the small path leading from the centre of the viewpoint. After about 30 minutes of scrambling across the canyon, the path really started to get very small, and after about 45 minutes we decided to turn back… a long way up the canyon, we think we must have walk about 1/3 of the way down the canyon. Back at the top we decided to follow the path all the way along the viewpoint and after about 5 minutes could see the metre-wide path winding its way slowly down through the canyon.

Heading down the path that wasn't

Heading down the path that wasn't

It was now 8.20am and we were about 1.5 hours behind schedule, with 9 hours of walking ahead of us! We decided we would keep going and just not take very long breaks. The walk down to the first town involved walking down 1200m in altitude, crossing the river at the bottom and then up 200m (altitude) to San Juan de Chuccho. The map we had said 3.5 hours, we walked non-stop and did it in about 2.5 hours. The walk down was nice, but it was good to reach the bottom and then the sleepy town on San Juan. We didn’t see many people and in fact only passed 2 men and a donkey coming the other way. There wasn’t much action in San Juan, just one man and his sheep, but there were a few hostels and campsites, so it is obviously used a bit.

Making our way down from the top

Making our way down from the top

Going down, way down

Going down, way down

Looking down to the bridge over to San Juan

Looking down to the bridge over to San Juan

We wiggled our way from San Juan in the vague direction (we thought) of the next village, Coshnirwa. Again, no signs and only a hand-drawn map to follow. After going the wrong way for 20 minutes and getting corrected by a guy, we were back on track and crossed a little tributary of the main river and then walked solidly uphill for about 30 minutes, it was also boiling hot! The next 2 villages were dead, we didn’t see anyone and the places looked abandoned, the only sign of life were the beer bottle tops strewn across the main square in Malata.

Malata and Cosnirhua aross the canyon and 200m above the river

Malata and Cosnirhua aross the canyon and 200m above the river

We started to get a little worried about the lack of people and shops as we had pretty much drunk our 2 litres of water each, but just at the end of the village we found a hostel with a little shop (still no people!), but it did have an Inca Museum, but we made our apologies (no time on our busy schedule for museum visiting!) and moved on.
We headed downhill to the ’oasis’ past some farming terraces and a long winding path to the bottom of the Canyon and the river again. The Oasis is an area of greenery and palm trees with a few swimming pools and hostels set up purely for tourists. We headed for one of the set-ups with a restaurant and really looked forward to a swim and some lunch. We had covered what was supposed to take 7 hours in 5 ½ hours (even bumped into 2 girls who said it had taken them 10 hours the day before! Oh dear!).

Rough Colca River near the oasis

Rough Colca River near the oasis

Oasis

Oasis

Looking down on the oasis and the zig zag up the other side

Looking down on the oasis and the zig zag up the other side

After some confusion (as to where our guide was) we managed to get some lunch and have a swim, we lounged around for an 1 ½ hours and then set off UP! It was a horrible thought that we had 3 hours of uphill (1200m altitude) - yuk! We marched on up and settled into 20 minutes walking, 3 minutes resting, passing a few tour groups on the way, some of them really struggling. The walk took us 2 hours and then frustratingly the path from the top of the canyon into Cabanaconde wasn’t marked (again) and we ended up clambering over some farming terraces and getting annoyed with each other! But we finally made it back to the village and our hostel… much to the surprise of our landlord! We left the hostel at 6.30am and returned by 5.30pm - not a bad day’s walking!

Great rock formation, on the way up Colca Canyon

Great rock formation, on the way up Colca Canyon

Terraces that we got lost on after two hours of up

Terraces that we got lost on after two hours of up

We made it back!

We made it back!

The next day we headed off to the Cruz del Condor - which is a popular viewpoint for large condors cruising the canyon. We had to get the 6.30am public bus to the viewpoint (but had booked onto a tourist bus from there back to Arequipa, with a visit to the thermal pools and lunch). We turned up at 6.15am to the village square to get the public bus, but no bus turned up and only a truck, people started to climb onboard, so we figured no bus was coming and we hopped on too! It was hilarious, we had a 40 minute ride, standing in a crowded open-top truck, squished in with 30 other people and all their luggage.

The 'bus'

The 'bus'

The Condors were pretty amazing and we got quite a few cruising past. They were huge, but came quite close.
Condor pics.

Condor

Condor

Onboard the tourist bus, we headed back to Chivay and visited the thermal baths, which was nice on our legs after the trek of the last day and then wandered off on our own for lunch. Seth found another DVD shop and bought a few movies for $1 each. The journey back to Arequipa still seemed pretty long, especially as we were getting straight onto another night bus to Nasca that evening.

We didn’t sleep too well on this bus, as it was the only overnighter that we have caught where we weren’t getting off at the last stop, so we were worried that we would miss it!

We arrived into Nasca at 7am and were swamped by people trying to sell us ’deals’ for flights over the Nasca lines. Basically, there are a collection of ’lines’ and diagrams in the desert outside Nasca, which were drawn in the land by ancient people and the best way to see them is from the air. After a lot of messing around we got ourselves to the airport and booked onto a little 4 seater (pilot, co-pilot and us) plane. The flight was 30 minutes long and we saw all 14 of the Nasca symbols, they were cool; hummingbird, monkey, alien, shapes etc. The flight started out ok, but when we started viewing the symbols the pilot would turn the plane so much that it was nearly side-on and fly around the symbol, then turn the plane side-on for the other passenger and fly around it the other way. After a few turns Sarah started to feel a little wobbly and at the monkey (number 8) the orange juice she drank an hour before the flight came up! Not good. The flight was good and it was great to see the strange symbols… but it was nice to be back on dry land again!

Arriving in Nasca

Arriving in Nasca

Just a little plane

Just a little plane

Alien, Nasca Lines

Alien, Nasca Lines

Monkey, Nasca Lines

Monkey, Nasca Lines

Humming Bird, Nasca Lines

Humming Bird, Nasca Lines

Hands, Nasca Lines

Hands, Nasca Lines

We headed back to the bus station and managed to catch the late-running 10.30am bus to Lima. And 7 hours later we arrived in the capital, and the whole Nasca flight seemed like a little bit of a blur! Lima is a big city with 9 million living in it. We stayed in Miraflores, which is by the beach as the city centre has become a bit dangeroous. We were able to walk down to the shopping centre which overlooked the water and have a nice dinner. Ceviche is the main seafood dish, mixed seafood 'cooked' with lime juice served with a light salad, corn and sweet potato to balance the citrus... it was great. Lima has a reputation for being the gastronomic centre of South America.

Miraflores Coast, from the shopping centre

Miraflores Coast, from the shopping centre

We got on the tourist bus to check out the city and enjoyed a sunny afternoon driving around the city in a double decker, open top bus. We went past an adobe pyramid, Huallamarca, and then headed into the city centre. The buildings were a mixture of styles because of the earthquakes that have damaged the city over the years. Even buildings can have two distinct styles where sections have been rebuilt. In the square we found a Peruvian Hairless dog. They have a very high body temperature and are called 'Hotdogs'. They look a lttle like pigs due to the no hair thing.

Adobe Pyramid

Adobe Pyramid

City square, Lima

City square, Lima

Lima Town Square

Lima Town Square

Peruvian Hairless Dog, 'Hotdog'

Peruvian Hairless Dog, 'Hotdog'

We then went to a famous bar and then San Francisco Church which had amazing alfrescos and paintings dating back 100s of years. The tile work was Moorish and quite exquisite. We went into the Catacombes, which was the only place we could take a photo. When they sorted through all the bones they found over 20 000 femurs, proving over 10 000 people had been buried in it. A bit spooky.

San Francisco Crypt

San Francisco Crypt

Sarah picked out her favourite building which was Lima's first apartment block and is now abandoned, which is a shame. The building had large chess pieces in place of gargoyles along its rooftop. As we left the city we got a view of San Cristobal mountain which has colourful houses on it and a large cross at the top. A relic of the Spanish religious influence. Although colourful the houses are the slums of the city.

The first apartment block, now empty

The first apartment block, now empty

San Cristobal

San Cristobal

After the bus we went for a walk in Miraflores to Parque del Amor. Here there was a large sculpture of a Peruvian couple in a 'Peruvian kissing embrace'. They have a competition once a year at the park to see who can hold a kiss for the longest, but you have to be in position of the sculpture. It is said that they practice long and hard.

Peruvian Kiss

Peruvian Kiss

We also went to some amazing markets in Lima which were in a big warehouse and had everything that could possibly be copied in there. From DVDs to clothing to bags to electronics. We walked around for an hour or so just looking at all the stuff.

After a good time in Miraflores we headed to a hotel close to the airport in preparation for an early flight to the Amazon. We ducked out for dinner in a bit of a dodgy area and were rewarded with a great Chifa, chinese restaurant (huge amount of Chinese people in Lima), and the best lemon meringue pie of the trip. And there has been a few tastings to compare it to.

Posted by seth_g 16:54 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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