Lima, Huanchaco, Colan, Mancora, Guayaquil, Montainita, Galapagos
As I am writing this blog I’m sitting on the deck of a giant motorised sail boat, cruising around the Galapagos Islands. So as you may have guessed I have continued my travels moving north along the coast of Peru and up into Ecuador!
Now I am having a holiday on holiday and the Galapagos Islands are really amazing! All that people say they will be! But more about that later...
At the end of my last blog I was still in the hospital with Biddy in Lima, Peru. I stayed there for a further week to help Adrianne, Biddy’s Mum, get settled and to await the arrangements of Biddy’s transport back to Australia. I stayed for few more days in the hospital as Adrianne was staying at a family friend’s house in Lima nearby. But a combination of the hair raising taxi rides and having an unmarked taxi trying to pull her into his car one night outside the hospital meant that she preferred the hospital room so I happily moved out to a hostel with our friend Oliver. After a few days there I knew it was time to get on the road again. So after a very sad goodbye to Biddy, Oliver and I caught a bus to Trujillo 10 hours north. There we got a 15min taxi for $7 to Huanchaco, one of Peru’s biggest surfing towns. I think after spending a month in the hospital I was ready to expel some energy and that weekend in Huanchaco was a big one. Although the town itself was just a small surfing community they had 2 night clubs (discotheques) that had great live reggae bands both Friday and Saturday night. So both nights ended up in us walking back along the beach as the sun was rising having danced until we couldn’t dance anymore.
The crew at the Huanchaco Hostel
From the upper level in Huanchaco hostel: looking across at one of the rooms and the living room below it
Shopping at the market in Huanchaco
The hostel in Huanchaco was amazing. It was owned by Juan Carlos, a local surfer who ran a surf school and also did a lot of volunteer work with kids in the local community. It was only $3.50 a night and the hostel (all the upstairs rooms and boardwalks) were built out of bamboo. He had built it all himself. With the tiki masks, dreamcatchers, hammocks and casual wooden sitting areas it had a very relaxed Bohemian feel.
That weekend Huanchaco was hosting a national surfing competition. Some of the surfers were world champions and were staying at the hostel. Unfortunately 2 big night of partying resulted in me sleeping in for most of the day so I didn’t get to watch any of it! Meanwhile our Guardian Angel in Lima, Jaime was heading to Piura to make his way to his beach house in Colan. Before leaving Jaime had said to Biddy and I that we were welcome there anytime so I jumped on the invitation immediately. So Tuesday after the partying weekend in Huanchaco I jumped on a 3 hour bus ride up to Piura. I thought the ticket was a little expensive (45 soles or $20) but it was a top of the range Cama (bed) seat and when I got on board it was the comfiest seat I had ever been in! I slept the whole way! Talk about leather luxury! During that time I also got 2 meals, and for South American bus food it really wasn’t that bad!
When I arrived in Colan. I texted Jaime and waited for him outside the bus station. Unfortunately Piura like many busy towns doesn’t have the safest reputation. While I was waiting there at 3pm in the afternoon in broad daylight on a busy street with all my luggage a thief snuck up to me and ripped my gold necklace off my neck. He took off sprinting down the street through the crowd leaving me standing helplessly with all my luggage yelling, “Hey, HEY, STOP HIM!” (I was unable to think in Spanish in my moment of panic, ha). What surprised me most is everybody just stood by and accepted it and nobody made any attempt to stop him. It all happened very quickly and I was quite shocked. So after a few moments I made my way back round to the passenger terminal and decided to wait for Jaime inside. When Jaime arrived I suddenly was overwhelmed with the shock of what had just happened and burst into tears. He helped me to the car a blubbering mess and I took a few minutes to compose myself to explain what happened. I guess you always hear about these things happening and when you’re travelling you hear these stories first hand so in a way I was half thinking it was only a matter of time before something happened to me. Accidents always seem to find me, especially when I am travelling as many of you know well At least it was just a necklace and not something more valuable like my credit card, passport or my life. Not to say that I am not very sad for the loss of the necklace. It was a going away present from my co-workers at Mogo Zoo and was engraved.
But my time in Colan made up for it and it felt like a true tropical holiday! Jamie’s beach house is amazing and you really have to see it for yourself to believe it but I will try my best to explain it. From the dirt road you enter the backyard into a massive grass area with coconut palms, an outdoor dining setting, some deck chairs and a small swimming pool. Then you walk up the back porch into the house. It’s very spacious for a beach house with 3.5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. The living room overlooks the sand and the waves and you walk from there onto the back veranda down 2 steps onto the sand and into the waves 3m away. The first night we got there it was a full moon and the waves were washing under the house. It was the first full tide after the Japan Earthquake tsunami, which also did some damage to some of the houses neighbouring Jaime’s.
My room in Colan
Jaime's Living room. The beach is just outside but you can't really see it.
There it is!!!
The waves washing under the house!
The view of the house from the beach
So that is where I spent the next week. On top of that they have a housemaid, Marcela and a groundskeeper, Santos who was also an excellent fisherman. He would bring us fresh seafood almost everyday and give it to Marcela who would make us a delicious lunch each day. I know most of you aren’t going to believe this but I started eating seafood...AND LIKING IT! Peruvians really do know their seafood and there is one dish called ceviche that is especially good. It is small pieces of fish (or other seafood) cooked in lime acid so it is still a little raw but the sauce is a watery, white colour... I have to get the recipe!! It is served with slivers of Spanish onion, and a big wedge of cooked sweet potato.
So each day would be waking up for a big breakfast already laid out on the table, swim, lunch (usually 2-3 courses), ice cold beers, swim, reading on the deck or cards, siesta, beers, walk, swim, dinner.
After a few days Jaime’s parents and 2 of his best friends arrived then the next day my friend Yvette came. Jaime had met her at the hospital and invited her along. She was just a taken back as I was with the house and the wonderful hospitality of his family. No one would let us pay for anything so we usually snuck out during siesta time to the corner store to restock the fridge with more beer and wine, it was the very least we could do.
Lunch on the balcony in Colan
Enjoying the sunset
Playing cards on the deck with Jaime
Yvette fishing in Colan
Admiring the sunset from "the cross" lookout point. Colan village is below.
I think I could have stayed there forever but it was time to keep moving. Olly and some of the guys in Huanchaco were heading up to Mancora, one of Peru’s most northern beach towns that in recent years has become overrun with tourism. We decided to meet at the Loki Hostel in town. Loki is a chain of hostels in South America that is designed especially for young, backpacking, partying gringos (western tourists). A little pricier but as you will see in the pics below it was like a resort. The rooms were plain but very comfortable 6-8 person dorms. There was a swimming pool, hammocks, volleyball, pool table, table tennis table and the most dangerous of all a bar with bar tabs running for guests. Most people get a nasty shock when they discover their bar tab when they check out a few days later. Plus it was on the beach with some steps at the base of the hostel, behind the swimming pool leading out to the sand.
Loki Hostel, Mancora
Our room at Loki
Yvette and I at Mancora
Chilling at the beach, Mancora
It was great to hang out with the Huanchaco friends again. Olly and John Francois were very set on practicing their guitar playing and would always draw a crowd down at the beach. We also met some other people so there was always good company.
On the Friday everybody decided it was time to go and to head up to Ecuador. Olly and the boys went one way early in the morning to go and work on an organic farm in the south for a month or so while Yvette and I went straight up to Guayaquil (pronounced why-a-kil). Although it’s not the capital, Guayaquil is Ecuador’s most populated town with over 2 million people. We got a night bus at 9pm and couldn’t really settle in for a nights snooze because we had to cross the border and get immigration stamps on either side. All went smooth, they didn’t even bother checking bags or anything (which would have been horrible at 1am in the morning), jeez South America is soo funny!
We arrived in Guayaquil at 5am. We had a hostel address because Yvettes friend Jan, a Belgium guy we met in Mancora was there already. But the taxi driver read the address wrong and dropped us off in a completely different area and when I went to the villa number I woke up an elderly couple and their dog. The man walked out with a small plastic stool in his hands and when I treied to ask him if I had the right address he kept yelling “No” but in the background his wife was yelling “Yes”. Eventually I apologised and gave up thinking if it was a hostel they would have let us in by now. We walked back to our original spot and there wasn’t anybody around then suddenly a taxi drifted around the corner and dropped someone off at the next block. So I looked at Yvette and we both started running and yelling after the cab trying desperately to get his attention. He saw us and stopped. We explained our situation and that we had the wrong address and asked him if her could take us to an internet cafe. He told us her would take us to the Sheraton Hotel and we said no we have a hostel, we just need the internet and there was no way we could afford a night in the Sheraton. Eventually I realised he was saying we may be able to use the internet at the Sheraton, which was just around the corner. We were then fortunate again that the staff let us in and use there internet room. At a quick check I realised we had the right address but it was just read wrong!! MZ5 was read as M25 so when explained this to our cabbie we were off again and around 7:30 found the hostel and collapsed into bed. Jan woke us up at 11 with a cooked breakfast. I nearly cried in happiness. It turned out the hostel was really just a guys house that he was gradually converting into a hostel but as we were the only guests there at the time and the man was out most of the time we pretty much had the place to ourselves. There was a giant mall opposite us so we could buy whatever we needed for a meal, come back and cook it and usually sit in the pool with a beer or a glass of vino and eat. It was like our own house. I actually get really excited when I get a kitchen to use in a hostel because I miss cooking and I don’t get the chance to do it much. With a few people it can often work out cheaper to cook and if you have leftovers it can often span 2 meals. Anyway Jan and I had talked about doing visiting the Galapagos Islands and as he had got there a day early he said he would start trying to scope out some cheap deals. So over the weekend we tried to book something but the agency Jan found had sold their spots by the time I got there. We tried booking through an online site but first the agent couldn’t get us two spots and then when he did he couldn’t get us flights! The tours left either on a Monday or Thursday so we decided just to wait and book a tour for the end of the week. Yvette listened to us plan our trip and talk about how amazing it would be. Eventually even with her lack of funds we convinced her that this was a once in lifetime experience and that she should come. So we arranged the tour for the end of the week (after a few troubled phone calls, mis-hearing credit card numbers and emails). With a few days to kill and not much to do in Guayaquil we decided to head to Montainita on the coast 3 hours north. The buses are pretty much $1 an hour anywhere in Ecuador. Montainita is a tiny surfing town that now runs primarily on tourism, much like Mancora. We met some of Jan friends and stayed in a beachfront hostel for $4/night. So you can imagine that for this price we didn’t get anything flash. We stayed on the top floor of a 4 storey timber hostel. It was all open and around the edge of the area there were nearly 40 mattresses laid on the ground, each with a mosquito net over them. There were usually 2 mattresses separated by 2 great chests with a lock on that you could keep your stuff in. In the morning you could walk up to the front and look out over the beach below. More amazing sunsets which left me wondering... is it possible to have too many sunset pictures?
Yes, another beach sunset, in Montainita
The giant room at the hostel in Montainita
During the day we swam, ate $2 set menu lunches and $1 icecreams, laid on the beach and just relaxed. I thought about getting a surfing lesson but I chickened out, I just don’t want to admt that surfing really isn’t my thing! Haha! At night everything was very quiet. We were told Friday and Saturday nights were the big nights and we were there mid week. On the last night though the bar next to our hostel started playing music and so we started drinking and playing cards in the hostel and our group went from 5 to about 15 then we all went across to dance in the bar next door. As soon as we walked in Yvette and I got pounced on by some latin men already dancing (I am slowly getting used to this although it’s often annoying because they don’t seem to understand ‘no’). I decided to give it one dance but the guy I was dancing with turned out to be a dance teacher from Cuba and so for the next 3 hours I got a very fast paced salsa lesson, stopping only to scull bottles of water now and then. I must have looked funny- the white girl trying to shake it and salsa on the dance floor but I don’t care because I had so much fun. When I eventually left with Yvette and Jan I was soaking in sweat and so we all went for a quick dip in the sea before going to bed. Montainita is a very small town, about 4 square blocks so you can stroll around the whole town in about an hour. So after 3 days we were happy to head back to Guayaquil to prepare for our flight to Galapagos the next day.
We had to be at the airport around 8:30 and wait around nearly 3 hours for our flight. We had booked a 5 day cruise on a 16 passenger motorised sailing yacht. It included the flights there and cost $1265 each. Upon arrival in the Galapagos we had to pay an additional $100 national park tax and then we met up with our guide. Unfortunately there were 2 other tourists on our boat that had been put on the earlier flight and had to sit around for half the first day waiting for us to arrive. We got a bus then a boat then a car to an area where they had some of the giant tortoises. We wrer told that the less rings they have on their shells the older they are. Our feet were getting eaten by ants everywhere so I told the guide that I would have put proper shoes on had I known we were going walking straight away but he said it was okay because we were going back to the cars anyway. But then we got another surprise stop at an underground cave tunnel that was constructed by lava from a volcanic eruption. It was extremely slippery in here and in my head I cursed the guide again for not telling that we would need proper footwear. Of course I was the only one that slipped and fell onto the muddy floor, but we all got a good laugh out of it. We had lunch and dinner on the local Isnad and then went onto our boat. I ended up sharing a little twin bunk bed cabin with an Israeli guy named Yadeen. It was very cute and cosy. All rooms also have A/C and a small ensuite.
Inside the boat
A Galapagos Tortise
The new species of Galapagos Tortise...what do you make of that Darwin?
So the second day we went to Post Office Bay where we saw an unusual postal service. In the old days ships visting the Galapagos wouldput their mail home in a postbox on this Island. The mail would stay there until someone about to depart came along and checked the mail and if they were headin back to anywhere close to where the mail was addressed they would take what they could and hand deliver it when they got there. The post box is still used today. I wanted to put a postcard in btu I hadn’t any on me. I wonder how long it would have stayed there until someone from Perth who was nearing the end of their trip decided to take it back for me. We then went snorkelling in the bay. The snorkel equipment wasn’t included in the price but we were able to hire some for the 5 days for $15. I was very happy to properly try out my underwater camera. I took many photos but only a few turned out. The highlight was seeing a sea turtle and getting to swim along with it for a while. We went back on board for a tasty buffet lunch (all the meals were delicious buffets!!) then in the afternoon we went to another bay for some more snorkelling. The water was amazingly clear and I saw so many creatures it was just incredible. I had a playful young sea lion swim around me, sea turtles swim by me and sharks and eagle rays and a wide assortment of fish underneath me. I was totally awed and was completely happy fpor the rest of the afternoon until we hit some rough seas moving to our next location and I got seasick. That was a rough night trying to sleep
Swimming with a sea turtle, simply unreal!
A Parrot Fish
A School of fish
The third day we went to another bay to visit a Sea Lion colony. There were pups and mothers everywhere. Lots of pups were flopping crying out for their mothers who must have been away fishing. If they came too close to or tried to suckle on another mother they got a nasty telling off from the mother and sometimes from her infant who wasn’t happy to share. We had to be wary about the mothers because they were quite protective and could get quite upset if they felt we were too close. I got quite a shock when a very small pup came silently and sniffed my leg from behind hoping to find it’s mother! We also saw many marine iguanas. They have colourations around their necks often spreading down their body. The colour is usually red from the red algae they eat out at sea. Some eat other coloured algaes and are therefore different colours. They can’t stay out in the sea for too long because being cold blooded reptiles they get cold quickly and after 15-20min they have to spend a couple of hours warming up again on the rocks on the shore. To complete the day we did another round of snorkelling!
Spot the odd one out!
Marine Iguana swimming
Jumping off the Boat!
The fourth day we went to went for another walk on another island to see Land Iguanas, Lava Lizards, Blue Footed Boobies and many other birds including Albatross’s soaring in the skies. They were huge!! Apparently they were all male. They arrive in the area for the mating season a few weeks before the females. When the females do arrive they find their mate (they bond for life) and begin a reunion/courtship ritual. Wish I could have seen that, but still a spectacular day. More snorkelling in the afternoon.
Watching the Albatross from the cliff
Land Iguana, yellow colouration from the yellow cactus flowers they eat
Male Frigate Bird
On our fifth and last day we popped out to another Island to see the Frigate Birds. The males try to attract the females with their large red inflatable throat pouches. Now I am back on the yatch, sadly no snorkelling this afternoon as we are making out way down back to the Island with the airport to fly back to mainland Ecuador. From there I plan to head with Yvette and Jan to Banos, a small town set at 1800m above sea level. It’s an adventure town so I will probably be doing more trekking, water sports, cycling and anything else I can find. After that I will look into doing some more volunteering, hopefully in the jungle! But I will keep you posted!
Ciao for now! xox