A Delayed Post Is Eventually Good, But a Rushed Post Is Forever Bad
Hey guys, how u doing? It's been a while since I've posted something and I'm sincerely sorry for that. I haven't had that much time lately and strange things have happened! No worries, I've got many great things to share with you! Why don't we start off with the second highest mountain range in the world?
Huaraz (Peru) is the perfect starting point for amazing hikes. From there you can easily reach the "Cordillera Blanca" or the "Cordillera Negra". There are plenty of treks one can do, but I believe the most famous one is the Santa Cruz trek. The hikes in this area are high up, so don't expect anything easy. In fact, I've experienced the toughest trek of my travels here.
I met up with Chris, an Englishman who I had met in Sucre, Bolivia when I was working my way back up to Peru again. Who would have thought that this encounter would lead to several weeks of travelling together!
First, we took on the Pastoruri glacier located at an altitude of 5.250 meters and that's the highest I've ever been. You will be taken by a bus and you will get dropped off at the foot of the glacier. Therefore, you won't hike that much here. But don't get too confident; hiking at such an altitude is tough! We hiked for less than an hour and when we got back to the bus we were completely shattered. Once we went down again we started to feel better. The glacier, however, was great!
During the second hike we had to find the "Laguna 69". It's a crystal clear lake somewhere hidden between the mountains. This trek gradually gets harder as you ascend to higher altitude. This must have been the toughest hike so far in South America. At the end I was feeling dizzy and weak, ran out of breath quickly and had to take a break every 15 seconds more or less. This is different from back home where we live below sea level. It won't surprise you when I say that I got accompanied by another Dutch girl who also appeared to have a hard time reaching the lake. We went up slowly, but we kept on going until we reached Laguna 69 and there was such of feeling of relief and excitement when we got there. The lake is definitely worth the hike, it was simply stunning. The best thing about us being so slow is that we arrived here last. It was just us, the lake and the mountains! Wonderful!
There were more treks we could do after these two, but Chris and I decided we wanted to see the beach again. Personally, I was done with altitude! Bolivia and Peru have really tested my body and mind.
And so we arrived in Máncora, a beach town in Northern Peru, close to the Peruvian-Ecuadorian border. This is one of the few places in Peru that receives sun and where there's no fog constantly covering the town. It's a tiny beach town and for us it was great as it was the perfect place to rest after a few hikes. It was nice seeing the sun again and not being so high up anymore. Chris and I met some great people in the Kokopelli Hostel and we had a good time. We stayed here for a several days and then we proceeded to Ecuador. During my travels I had heard mixed things about Máncora, some people love it and some people say it's not worth it. My verdict? Whether you want to go to Máncora or not depends on what you're looking for. There is not much to do here, but it's a cool place to kick it for a couple of days. If you're not a beach person, then skip this place. And if you have your doubts, just go there; if you don't like it you can leave the day after… ;)
So we made our way to Cuenca, our first Ecuadorian city! It took us two buses to get there. We took one bus from Máncora to the border, and then we switched to another bus after border control. It takes about 8 hours to get from Máncora to Cuenca.
Cuenca is a nice colonial town positioned at 2500 meters above sea level, it's Ecuador's third largest city. There is nothing much to do here, but Cuenca has an amazingly good vibe and walking through the streets of Cuenca never gets boring. It's absolutely a gorgeous city. Too bad my travel buddy Chris got food poisoning the day after we had arrived. Food poisoning is one of the most horrible things you can get when travelling. Chris was basically lying in bed the whole day and that forced me to get him some electrolytes and tablets. He felt slightly better after a few days…
There's this national park called Cajas and it's near Cuenca. Chris en I never made it to this place, but several travellers have told us it's worth a visit. So if you're planning to go to Cuenca, try going to this park.
Riobamba, Alausi & the Devil's Nose-
We went further up north to Riobamba. We went to this place, because we had heard about this famous train ride called "the Devil's Nose". Riobamba would be the place where we could get our train tickets. Chris and I wandered around and there is not much to do here. Still, it's not a bad place to be stuck at for one or two days. If you decide to stay, go to the Oasis hostel. It's good value for money and the people at the hostel are amazingly friendly. Might be a bit tough if you don't speak Spanish, but you'll be just fine.
So we booked our tickets for the Devil's Nose ($25) and we caught a bus to Alausi, because that would be the place where the train should depart. The bus ride takes about 2 hours.
The Devil's Nose used to be a more exciting activity. The ride used to be a lot longer and it was allowed to sit on the roof. Nowadays sitting on a roof is prohibited and the train ride doesn't last very long. Still, the train ride is quite enjoyable and the view is pretty good (I wouldn't say stunning). However, in terms of engineering it's an amazing piece of work. This railroad goes through the mountains over a series of switchbacks, which means that the train is basically zigzagging down the mountain. Before you go up again, there's the possibility to enter a museum and see some traditional Ecuadorian women dancing. And of course, I had to participate in that…
After Alausi we caught a bus to Baños. It's a cool little town with a great vibe. There's not much to do in the town itself (unless you love graffiti and art), but Baños is the starting point for all your outdoor activities. There are plenty of booking agencies and hostels that offer canyoning, rafting, paragliding, kayaking, biking and many more. Chris and I decided to rent a quad for a couple of hours to explore the area. It was an amazing experience and the surroundings are just stunning. It's probably the first country where I've seen that much green, and it's beautiful.
There are plenty of hostels in this town as there are many tourists going to this place. La Casa del Molino Blanco is where I stayed at and it's a great hostel. It's not that big, but that's what makes this place so intimate. The people that work here are among one of the friendliest people I have ever met. It's clean, it has hot showers, and the beds are amazing. What more do you want? Definitely a place that I would recommend.
And we arrived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. I've heard many things about this city. Just like all other humongous cities I had been told that it's dangerous and that I should be alert. These stories obviously didn't frighten me as I had been to many similar cities before. Nothing happened in Lima, Buenos Aires, Santiago, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Why would this city be any different?
Though Quito may be the capital, it's the second city in terms of size. Guayaquil would be Ecuador's largest city. Quito is also a city that is quite high up again; average altitude is 2850 meters above sea level.
Quito can be roughly divided into two parts: the old historic centre and the new town. I don't know much about new town, I've experienced it as the part with lots of activities and movement and this is also the part where you go to when you feel like having a good party. The historic centre, however, has a different story. After Havana in Cuba, it's the biggest historic centre of Latin-America. In 1978 it was declared a World Heritage Site. At the end of the 20th century this part of the city was decaying and it experienced a lot of criminality and this part of Quito was about to lose its World Heritage Site title. Due to this fear of losing it things started to change for the better, a lot of money was being invested in this part of the city and it improved enormously.
It was in the Quito where we booked our tour to the Galapagos Islands. Also, something crazy happened in Quito when I got back from Galapagos. You will read more about that in my next post. Stay tuned my friends!