October 31, 2010

Peru: Loki Cusco

Thursday night we got on a Cruz del Sur bus heading to Lima, 20 hours away. Cruz del Sur cama is like flying first class on an airplane. We had huge lazy boy seats, dinner was served to us as well as breakfast and we even watched movies (in Spanish). We were well rested when we arrived in Lima at 1pm the next day where we stayed at another Loki.

Lima was big and gross. We left two days later and flew to Cusco.

We arrived at Loki Cusco this morning where we plan on staying for the next month while working behind the bar. So far we are loving Cusco.

{ View from our Loki Cusco dorm room }
{ Cusco, Peru }

October 27, 2010

Peru: Loki love´s you, Mancora

{ Loki Mancora }
Loki Mancora was our first Loki hostel experience. Loki's are a chain hostel that were started by backpackers in Peru and are spreading to Bolivia (update: there is now a Loki in Salta, Argentina). Loki's seem to have everything a backpacker needs - great food, Loki t shirts, hot water, comfortable beds and fun activities. 

Lonely Planet described Loki: "If you haven't heard of it you probably shouldn't stay there."

We walked into Loki at 6am through this grand entrance and down a sandy path to come across what looks like a resort - a pool, a bar, and a tall very long white building (the rooms). It was amazing! I could not believe we were in a hostel. We stayed at the beach town of Mancora (2.5 hours south of the Ecuador/ Peru boarder crossing) for two days enjoying the sun, meeting people, getting a hair wrap and eating at a very good restaurant down the beach. We had a 20 hour bus ride to Lima to prepare for. I wish we could at stayed here longer... I'll have to come back.

{ Mancora beach at sunset }

October 26, 2010

Ecuador: Chasing our own tails

Cuenca was a great city, a small town feel but one of Ecuador's largest cities. Unfortunately, we did not take much time to enjoy it. We arrived Saturday night and after feeling our beds we decided it was going to be a short stay.  Laura and I laid on our very springy beds and read about our next couple of travel days. We quickly discovered that Lima is really far from Ecuador. Turns out South America is massive. At that point we decided to throw in the towel and fly from Quito to Lima (we are hurrying to Cusco to start our bar jobs at Loki Hostel at the end of October). The next day we worked our way back up to Quito stopping in Baños to break up the trip and thank god we did. We also ran into Sarah at our Hostel Plantos y Blanco. Small world.

That night in Baños Laura and I looked up flights to Lima for the first time... whoa, the costs of a plane ticket is outrageous. We can't just jet set around South America like we did in South East Asia. Back to buses.

The next day Laura, Sarah and I took the bus back to Guayaquil (seven hours) and then a night bus to Mancora, Peru. We reached the boarder crossing at 1am to find that the Ecuadorian boarder closes between 1am and 3am. So we waited for two hours in the middle of the night at the boarder (at this point Laura and I are convinced that the Gods are against us leaving Ecuador and that all buses hate us).

We arrived in Mancora the next morning at 6am and are staying at Loki Mancora! Resort living at hostel prices.

October 21, 2010

Ecuador: Montañita, the hippies

{ natures heart }
Montañita started off great but then we realized it is just a town of dirty foreign hippies. They were not just hippies... extreme hippies. Laura and I working on a the definition of "hippy."

Laura and I spent five days at Tiki Limbo Surf Hostel. Our private room was fantastic, maybe our standards are lowering but it felt like luxury. On our second day we met Sarah (Ireland) and we spent the next couple of days bumming around and doing nothing, our "inner backpacker."

Everything was going smoothly until our second to last night I got a stomach bug (we think from the glass water I had at dinner) that knocked the life out of me for about 24 hours. I slept all night, all day and all night. It was awful and was loathing the 24/7 party scene outside our window. By the fifth day nothing was going to stop us from leaving. Still sick we said our goodbyes to Sarah and took a bus to Guayaquil and then on to Cuenca. This was our first bus ride with other backpackers (except for the Swedes). Previously we had been the only foreigners on all of our buses.

{ Montanita hippies selling their stuff }
{ On the beach of Montanita, you can't tell but it is sunny }

October 18, 2010

Ecuador: ¿Donde esta la gringa?

We said our goodbyes to Max and Wiktor and at 6am the next morning we were at the Baños bus station to catch a bus to Guayaquil and then to Montañita. The bus to Guayaquil came but didn't come at the same time. While we were at the bus stop a bus arrived so we ran over to it, there was no Guayaquil sign in the front window (red flag number one) but it had to be our bus. The ticket guy didn't even know if the bus stopped in Guayaquil (the second largest city in Ecuador, red flag number two). The bus driver got on his phone and started calling people (red flag number three). As we got on the bus with our backpacks on the whole bus was full of Ecuadorian people sleeping. Our seats were filled with a sleeping family (red flag number four). As the bus took off and Laura and I started to panic as we didn't want to stand in the aisle for the next seven hours. I started yelling "pare pare" to the bus driver. I think this means stop - it is on all the stop signs. We got off the bus and walked back to Baños. 

This day turned into a 15 hour travel day. We took a three hour bus back up to Quito and then a ten hour bus to Manta. Lonely Plant described Manta as a fishing village. Laura and I thought that meant cute fishing boats bobbing in the ocean and quaint bistros with the catch of the day.

We arrived in Manta at 10pm. The hostel was disgusting and the city was gross. Small fishing village by Lonely Plants standards is code for don't go there, we are learning. After propping a chair under the door knob we left the next morning and took a bus to Puerto Lopez. The hostels there were empty and after last nights experience we wanted some fellow backpacking company. We ran back to the bus station and got on the same bus to Montañita. People, finally! We are staying at Tiki Limbo Surf Hostel. The beds are comfortable and the showers are hot.

{ Our backpacks up the driver, off to Montanita! }
* The title of this blog came from a bus stop on route to Manta. At one of the stops along the way I got off the bus to use the restroom. As I got back on the bus Laura had a worried look on her face. The driver was saying, "¿Donde esta la gringa?" (where is the white girl?). The bus was going to leave without me!

October 17, 2010

Ecuador: Baños, not the bathroom

{ Outside the Secret Garden filming a tv commercial }
The night before we were going to leave for the coast we talked to a fellow dormmate at The Secret Garden and she mentioned Baños. The next day Laura, two Swedish guys and I went to Baños. Before we hopped in a taxi to the South bus terminal we watched the filming of a tv commercial that was outside our hostel door- got to see a local celebrity :). After we were board out of our minds watching Ecuadorian acting we headed off to the bus.

{ On the bus with the Swedes and off to Banos }
{ Banos, Ecuador }
Baños is about three hours south of Quito, an outdoor activity town that has the look/feel of being in the Swiss Alpes. There were Italian restaurants on every street and mountains every direction. We stayed at Hostel Plantas y Blanco and their was an avocado tree outside our window so with a little team work we were able to pick one! Baños also offers an eating adventure... ginny pig (cuy). Tastes like chicken. The Swedish guys ordered one, Laura and I just had a bite.

{ ginny pig or cuy in Spanish }
The following day the four of us rented ATV's and took off to drive the roads of Ecuador  but it wasn't that easy. Laura and I shared an ATV and thank god we did. We plan was to switch drivers so one could photograph while the other drove. Laura was first to drive and it ended quickly as she almost ran over a dog and drove up on the curb as the locals started yelling "dangerous, dangerous." The polica had to come over and pull us off the curb. At this point I took over and Laura became the photographer. As the four of us headed up the mountain we quickly learned that our ATV was much slower with the two us on it. Within thirty minutes we had lost the Swedes and were on our own for a major adventure- we went through a tunnel with no lights and a huge truck behind us, Laura pulled us  to reverse when we hit a dead end, and we stopped for fresh squeezed orange juice in a little town. It was awesome. That afternoon the Swedes brought us fruit for ditching us. That same evening we sat on the roof top terrace and played cards as this was our last night with Max and Wiktor (pronounced Victor).

{ Max and the forgiveness fruit }
{ Hostel Plantas y Blanco }

October 15, 2010

Ecuador: We have Landed

{ La Basilica }
Laura and I landed Tuesday night and we were picked up at the airport by Clemencia´s sister (Laura´s family friend). Clemencia´s house was wonderful, however, we learned quickly that without Clemencia around being so far out of town was not all that it was cracked up to be. Our second night we spent the evening at Clemencia´s (evening started at 6pm) watching the Blind Side and thinking about dinner, which we never had.

Quito has such a picturesque landscape. The mountains come right to the city and city grows up the mountains. It is beautiful!

{ The street near Clemencia's house }
{ This city is gorgeous }
On our third day we moved to a hostel in Old Town, The Secret Garden. They serve dinner every night and everyone from the hostel gathers in the common area for a family style meal. The views of the city at night on the roof are amazing. Our dorm mates consist of two Swedish guys, an Australian, another American, a Frenchman and a random guy who no one has talked to but his alarm clock goes off for about ten times every morning- so he has made himself known. Last night one of the Swedish guys, Wiktor, rolled off his top bunk in the middle of the night and hit the wooden floor hard - from now I be requesting the bottom bunk.

{ hostel life }
Food: I would not say Ecuador is famous for food, as the first couple days we couldn't find anything except for gross looking hamburgers with way to much mayo.

P.S. Everything that goes wrong we blame on the altitude.