Moving to Medillin?

Got to Medillin a lot earlier than planned the one time we didn’t want to! Arrived to our hostel at 4.30am with no sleep and no room to check into. Not the best start :/
We booked straight into the Pablo Escobar tour to cheer ourselves up. We booked it through our hostel ‘The Black Sheep’.Β  The tour was brilliant! Thanks to Gillians tablet we had watched most of the Narcos series before the tour so we knew exactly what it was about. The guides were really good and our driver was Pablo Escobars bodyguard!!

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The tour took up most of the day but we managed to fit in a look around the main Park area in Poblado. Lots of nice cafes and restaurants based around a small park where the locals hang out and a few stalls. We went for a half price Thai meal with happy hour cocktails to get us started before sampling the nightlife. Everyone hangs in the park and the there’s nearly too many bars and clubs to choose from. Saturday nights here are definitely popular! I managed to fit in some salsa and all! πŸ™‚

We are very proud of ourselves that with sore and tired heads the next day we still fit in a good bit. In fairness the metro makes sightseeing so easy and our hostel was just 5 minutes away from it. We had heard about the art museum while in Bogota so we headed straight for there. We were not disappointed!! The square alone infront of the museum is so unusual thanks to my new favourite artist Boreto.

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His art is so unusual and controversial at times. We really enjoyed this museum, lots of pictures taken!
Then it was back on the metro to the cable car to get a nice view of the city. Think I’m getting a bit immune to cable cars at this stage. Terrible thing to say I know! My favourite part of the city though came next. The escalators. Not many tourists know about them. They were put into a poor area of the city so people didn’t have to walk up hundreds of steps to their homes anymore. They are such a good idea!

It was here we found slides inset into the houses for the children and we were invited to join. Sure couldn’t say no!
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Easy to see now why this city was awarded Most Innovative City. A lot of cities could so with following suit!
After building up an appetite we went to a recommended local restaurant ‘Mondongos’ for the traditional feast ‘Bandeja de Paisa’. It was a lotΒ of food but ofcourse I managed it and actually really liked it! πŸ™‚

Next on the list was Guatape. A town nearly 3hours away with a huge rock with 740 steps to the top for ‘the best views in the world’.
They are probably right. The views are pretty spectacular!
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We were dreading the steps but they’re actually fine.I got to the top in 7 minutes. Fairly proud of that! πŸ™‚
To make the day even better the town of Guatape itself is gorgeous! So colourful and full of murals and pictures on walls, cute restaurants and shops all alongside a beautiful lake.
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After that long day we went for an easy crepes and waffles and chilled in the hostel for the night.
We were up early the next morning for the free walking tour of the city. We had heard great things about it and it was very good. It’s 4hours so quite long but you get a very good insight into the history of Colombia which is extremely complicated and still complex to this day. It is really evident that Colombia are so happy to have tourists back in the country though, everyone is so friendly and welcoming (once you get over the staring!)
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I think I liked Medillin so much because it is so versatile. It has a bit of everything so you can get whatever experience you want from it. So happy I got to visit here. Now it’s time for another windy road night bus to Cartagena.
P.S. My new snack I found in Colombia is their ‘arepas’. Tortillas made from corn flour. You can put anything on them.
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Serenity in Solento

As soon as the bus dropped us off in the centre of the small town of Solento I knew I was going to like it.
Colourful square full of restaurants, shops and food stalls. Local people relaxing outside in the sun with ice creams and chatting.
We hopped into a ‘Willy’ as instructed by out hostel. (Dirt jeep don’t worry it’s nothing sleezy!)

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The walk down from the gate to our hostel was a bit of a shock. It was a downhill trek through forest with our backpacks and groceries. We stayed in an amazing eco lodge in the forest that Gillian had heard about. It was well worth the trek!

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It was a gorgeous house built into the forest. We felt instantly at home. Hammocks to chill out, a huge kitchen, bamboo beds and everything spotlessly clean and well thought out. They can only have 6 at a time. We were staying with 2 lovely German girls who settled in just as fast as we did. Carlos and Nicholas are the hosts and they spoiled us! So attentive and nothing was a problem.
After cooking dinner and polishing off a bottle of vino we slept like babies in our comfy beds.

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The next morning Carlos made us a fresh breakfast and after we did the tour of the reserve with Carlos himself. Carlos was very good and kept us entertained but I have to admit trees, plants and the likes wouldn’t be my thing so some of it was a bit of lost on me.

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After this we walked down the road to a coffee plantation. We did a tour of the whole plantation and pretended to be coffee pickers.

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It was really good and the coffee at the end was delicious! By this time we were starving so we got a Willy back into town and went to a cafe called Brunch that sold homemade granola and peanut butter! So I stocked up! πŸ™‚
We were very happy to go back to our little eco paradise and chill out and cook dinner for the night.

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Up for more homemade breakfast before heading off to the Cocora Valley for a mini hike. We walked through amazing landscape for 3 hours. The tall wax palm trees were unbelievable to see.

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Spot the Gringo!

Then it was time to explore Solento a bit which takes very little time as it’s so small. Lots of cute boutique shops and restaurants and cafes, nice to stroll around. Bit touristy but everyone is so friendly and it still has a slow pace vibe.

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We strolled around, picked up our bags and said our goodbyes to Kasaguadua ecolodge. We went for a local meal in a traditional restaurant before getting a night bus to Medillin. We were very sad to leave Solento.

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Pineapple trout with plantain.

Surprised by Bogota

Was really excited to get into Bogota for two reasons. I am sick of people telling me how amazing Columbia is so Im dying to see it for myself! 2nd I’m meeting my friend Gillian there and wer going to travel Columbia together πŸ™‚
I flew into Bogota to save time and I got a cheap flight with Viva Columbia after sitting at the laptop for a few painful hours! :/
Gillian had booked us a nice hostel 12:12 in a lovely area of Bogota. After a quick settle into our spacious, clean dorm we headed to the nearby Zona Rosa for dinner and a few glasses of vino to help catch up.

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Next morning we stocked up on groceries and made out a Columbia plan. Then it was time for another walking tour, love them!! This one didn’t disappoint either. Only 3 of us on the tour with a really good guide. It was a special ‘no car’ day in Bogota so the city was a bit chaotic with parades and entertainment on the streets.

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I fell in love with our very 1st stop on the tour; La Candelaria. A cool, funky area loaded with students drinking ‘chicha’ out of bottles in paper bags and playing music out in the open square.
We saw the smallest library, narrow streets with colourful cafes and amazing graffiti.

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We got to taste unusual fruit in the local market and hear all about the history of this interesting city. I loved the differences in the buildings in such a short distance between colourful graffiti covered houses to huge elegant government buildings.

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After a coffee pitstop in a cafe/clothes shop/hairdressers we went back to the hostel to cook dinner take advantage of the great hostel kitchen. I was so surprised by Bogota, so many people say to skip it I don’t agree. I could have stayed longer so many good museums and art exhibitions, free concerts etc. Something for everybody.

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We were up early the next morning for a 7 hour bus to Solento.

Amazon Antics

Leaving from Secret Garden hostel on a private night bus I was really excited for an organised tour in the jungle. I booked my tour with Secret Garden because they were so honest and helpful and I met a few people.who went with them recently. For 250dollars I wanted to be sure about who I went with. Ecuador is not cheap!
The private bus was ridiculously uncomfortable so I’m glad I have the public bus home more comfortable and cheaper! Arrived to a guesthouse at 5.30am with 2 others for a quick snooze in a hammock before our 3 dollar eggs and bread breakfast.
We joined a full 30 seater bus for the 2 hour journey to the river. We had lunch here and this is where we met our group. There was 7 of us. 4 from Germany, 2 from Netherlands and me.
Straight away the food was amazing so I knew I was going to be well fed. These trips really like to feed you!!

Making new butterfly friends before I’m even on the boat! The boat initially was such a novelty and I think we all had high expectations straight away. After 2 hours of just powering through the river seeing just a few birds we were all feeling a bit deflated. Looking back it’s not meant to be an animal watch really and every trip through the jungle is about luck, whatever happens happens.

We stayed in Caiman lodge Which was beautiful. Right in the centre of the jungle with a chill out area of hammocks and spotless comfy wooden huts.

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After settling in we went to the lake which was dried up due to lack of rain. We walked around and watched the sunset then back for another delicious 3 course meal and a few beers before the electricity went out at 10.
8am breakfast of eggs and pancakes before a boat trip down the river followed by a 3 hour jungle walk. All the while spotting colourful birds,insects and spiders and we were lucky enough to find 2 snakes

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The walk did get a bit boring and sweaty after a while but I think that’s was because I’m so used to fast paced tours. My time in the jungle definitely helped me to slow down and go at a slower p

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ace.

We had some hammock time after the walk and huge lunch again! So nice to to relax without any WiFi or distractions just the sounds of the jungle. When siesta time was over it was back to the boat to see the sunset and then go Caiman searching in th

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e dark.

The Amazon yet again reminded me.of 2 things I regret not bringing; a kindle and a good camera. My camera was useless here to catch the amazing colours of birds and animals in the trees or Caiman peeking out of

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the water.

We saw quite a few Caiman another snake and one of the lads got hit with a fish flying out of the water! #totesnormal πŸ˜‰
Back for another feed and few beers. Loving the early nights finally catching up on

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Fed so well!

a few winks.

Woken up by the heavy amazonian rains during the night so cool to hear. This meant that the river rose a bit so boating was easier. It also meant that on the way to the community was got to see pink river dolphins. They weren’t exactly pink but still so cool to see!!
I was kinda dreading the community ‘touristy’ part but it was actually one of my favourite parts of the whole trip. We all got stuck in and got to help two local children make yuka bread from scratch which is made from just 1 ingredient-

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yuka or melioc.

It was delicious we all made a tuna salad and ate it in the yuka. I even got to bring some of the extra back with me. Definitely goi

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ng to try make it myself!

The Shaman arrived next and this was the chappy touristy part I was expecting, performing a ritual with leaves and smoke and that, but it didn’t last very long so it was bearable.
More animal watching on the way back, we saw a sloth! Then ofcourse more grub and chats before a night walk of the nearby forest.
This was much better than I expected we saw really unusual tree frogs, huge spiders and different types of crickets. Our guide was great for spotting things even in the dark.
Our last morning we got up at 6 for some early bird watching. We saw colourful parrots and a bird that l

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Spot the bird!

ooked scarily like a branch.

Fed again and back on the boat for the 2 hours back to our bus stop. We were all very sad to be leaving,you really settle into the way of life here very fast. Not looking forward to going back to ‘real life’ again 😦 2 hour bus and then a 7 hour bus to Quito. Not fun! But has to

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Jungle life in a rain poncho and wellies πŸ™‚

be done. Next stop Columbia πŸ™‚

A look at the capital- Quito

It was only a 3 hour bus from Banos to Quito so I got here about 2 and then got an expensive taxi across to old town Quito.
The hostel ‘Community’ were so welcoming and friendly and the room was so clean and spacious. I was even more delighted when I found out the Mercado central was right beside the hostel along with loads of fresh fruit and veg shops and stalls. My Heaven!! Sad I know!!
I went straight there for some cheap lunch. Ofcourse because I am a complete saddo I already have a list of Ecuadorian specialities I have to try so goat stew was next on the list and it was available for 2 dollars. Happy days πŸ™‚

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After that fuel which was actually really good, I went on a mission to book my jungle tour. I decided to book with Secret Garden as they were so nice and knew some people who went with them. Unfortunately the next tour wasn’t for another few days because they don’t go everyday.
With that booked I went for a bit of a wander around but by the time it got to about 6pm people were very uneasy and clutching their handbags and it didn’t feel at all comfortable so I headed back to the hostel to book flights to Columbia and cook dinner.
Next morning I had the famous hostel breakfast before going on the free walking tour with the hostel. It was really good and thankfully showed me a lot nicer sides to the city. Nice plazas, Spanish colourful buildings, churches and cute sweet shops. They love their sugar here!!

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After the tour we all went for a cheap almuerzo lunch and then me and a girl I met in the hostel headed for the equator line. It took 2 public buses and nearly 2 hours! Don’t know if it was worth that bit it was good craic. Good experiments and the guides are good.

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We got back late enough from that so just back to cook more dinner and relax in the hostel.
Up early the next morning to go to the Mercado central to try the local 1dollar breakfast. Smashed corn tortillas with a fried egg and ‘agua romantica’ (sugary water!)

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It wasnt bad and was so filling. We loaded up on some fresh fruit upstairs  before heading to the cable car. Worth the trip the view was really nice and we went at the right time because it was nice and quiet.

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After munching our fruit at the top we returned to go the famous church Inglesia de Jesus (I think!) It was 1st on trip advisor so we said we’d have a look. We were glad we did! Unfortunately you can’t take pictures inside but it was amazing!! Everything is made with gold leaf it’s unreal to see. We got a Spanish guide and I actually did well understanding. I must be improving!

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After a wander we went for lunch where else but in the Mercado, it’s just so cheap! We got a seafood stew called Encebollada (another. dish I had to tick off) thats served with popcorn and plantain. It was really nice.

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Spotted a 1.50 manicure on the way back so we said why not. Such a lovely lady in a clothes alteration shop lashed out the varnishes.

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No comment :/ Got to practice my Spanish though. Back to the hostel to get ready for the jungle πŸ™‚

Refreshed after Banos

Arrived into Banos sleep deprived and in the worst form after a horrible night bus experience and missing my stop so it added 6 hours to my journey.
Luckily the receptionist at the hostel Great backpackers was lovely and helped me organise canyoning for later that day so my whole day wasn’t a waste!

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Hostel was in a great location 2 minutes walk from the town so not too loud and near the waterfalls and gorgeous view of the mountains.
I couldn’t check in yet so I went to the supermarket for some supplies as the hostel had a kitchen, so il be able to cook again! πŸ™‚
Banos is a really nice little town with a pretty church and stalls and shops selling their famous sugar cane juice and tafe everywhere! They make it all fresh and in the shops really cool to see.

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They’re also very friendly here and give you free tastings of the tafe as you pass.
I was picked up at the hostel at 2pm to do the canyoning. I had no idea what it was I had just been told it was the place to do it! Turns out it’s abseiling down waterfalls! I went with 4 others and it was some laugh and definitely an adrenaline rush. It only takes 3 hours and the company takes all the photos and give them on a c.d. at the end.
Back to the hostel to cook dinner, lots of us had the same idea, so a lot of us ate together. The canyoning instructor had told me about a big salsa night on that night in the local club called Leprechaun so ofcourse I had to go for a look! I dragged a few along with me and I’m so happy I did. I danced all night, everyone was so friendly and they couldn’t believe I had learned in Ireland! Hopefully I showed them, Gringos can dance too! πŸ˜‰ The manager came out to dance with me and all. Great Craic!

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At breakfast the next morning a few of us decided to get the local bus up to the famous swing ‘on the edge of the world’. It was a beautiful sunny day we were very lucky we could see the view of the bubbling volcano perfectly.

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We decided to be active (for once!) and do the walk back down. Not as easy as we thought! Took 2 hours of skidding, slidding and sweating but good laugh all the same.

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We walked down that!!
Back to the hostel which we found out had no water so baby wipe shower it was! :/
We watched a bit of tennis and I booked my next hostel, cooked some lunch and had caught up with some friends on WiFi. Banos has such a chilled vibe, I needed it!

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With no water we couldn’t cook that night so a few of us went out for dinner in one of the few places open because of the water situation.

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Ecuador is dollars so it’s actually fairly expensive especially compared to Peru but supposedly Colombia is cheaper, thank God! As of now I’m officially off the pay roll so might be time to start budgeting :/
Had an early night and thankfully water was back the next morning! πŸ™‚ So after a very long shower and breakfast I packed up and got a 10.30 bus to Quito which takes about 4 hours.

Montanita- worth the trip?

The crossing into Ecuador from Peru was non eventful. Woken up at 2am on the night bus to queue for half an hour to get stamped and back on the bus to continue to Guayaquil.
Guayaquil is a huge bus station but they are all very friendly and I was shown where to go to get my ticket to Montanita. I had an hours wait so I got some dollars out and took advantage of the huge foodcourt and free wifi in the station. I didn’t think Ecuador would be so developed.
3 hour bus to Montanita was easy with a Spanish film and free WiFi!! Arrived to Montanita about 12 and there were people waiting from local hostels but we’re very relaxed and friendly unlike in Mancora!
I was walked to Iguana Backpacker hostel which is very small but a nice chilled vibe and has a kitchen! πŸ™‚

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My bed wasn’t ready yet so I made a cup of tea and chatted to a few that were hanging in the common area. My bed was on the top floor with no roof with a mosquito net it was really cool and actually comfortable!

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After a quick change I went to explore the town. Unfortunately the weather didn’t do the place any favours. It was cloudy and drizzly and for a beach town that never helps. It’s a cool looking town though lots of bamboo filled restaurants, stalls, Jamaican style shops and a nice beach at the end.
They’re were lots of cebiche stalls that looked so fresh and we’re very busy so I decided to give it a go. 5dollars for a bowl of mixed seafood, shrimp, octopus,muscles,cod etc with onion,tomatoes and lime.

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I ended up chatting to a Brazilian traveller for a while over cebiche before I went on the hunt for some fruit and veg for dinner. I was so excited to cook again, the veg wasn’t good quality but it was cheap. No meat though so tuna it is again! πŸ™‚
I met a girl from the hostel and we decided to get a cocktail on cocktail alley. For 3dollars it was well worth it! I got a passion fruit mojito and it was delicious!

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Pity we had to drink them in the cold though, I could imagine how pretty this place would be in the sunshine.
Back to the hostel to shower and cook dinner. Lots of us were cooking so we got the tunes going to get us ready for happy hour πŸ™‚ So good to have some fresh vegetables again!!
After a few happy hour mojitos a few of us went down the town for some snacks for the whale watching and the town really comes alive at night. It wasnt even 9pm and the restaurants were heaving and the street were lined with fast food stalls.
Back to the hostel for some drinking games (has to be done!)

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But unfortunately I didn’t make it to the club as I suddenly came down with a serious dose of food poisoning, so maybe that seafood wasn’t so fresh :/ It was a very long night, no sleep was had 😦
My main reason for coming to Montanita was for the whale watching because I had heard it was amazing here and it’s the perfect time of year. It’s a major bucket list for me.
With minus energy and stocked up with immodium and motilium I made my way with a few others to the tour company. They put us in a taxi to Puerto Lopez and from there we got on a boat with about 10 others.
Our guide had no English and was a bit of a lunatic but very nice. We went straight on the search. Overall it was a little disappointing but we did see plenty of whales just a bit more in the distance than I was expecting. In saying that when you saw them it was magical and we saw them jump out of the water, slap the tail, swim side by side we also saw a baby waving at us quite a few times. Maybe my expectations were a little too high. I didn’t manage to catch the good stuff on camera but il never forget it.
We stopped for some snorkeling and got a snack of melon and bananabread, quick bird stop on the way back and home by 4pm. πŸ™‚
I decided, still not feeling 100% to get the bus out of Montanita as it’s meant to be a crazy party town at the weekends and I wasn’t going to be able to drink or join in 😦 Plus I’d never get a good sleep in the hostel either with the noise. So I’m writing this on the 3 hour bus to Guayaquil and hoping to catch a night bus to Banos from there. No rest for the wicked!! πŸ˜‰

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Goodbye Montanita πŸ™‚

Pitstop in Mancora

Mancora is a place I’m happy I got to see as I thought I would have to skip it and I had heard great things about it. So I knew I would have major FOMO (fear of missing out).
In saying that I wouldn’t have missed much. I was greeted off my overnight bus by a swarm of tuc tuc drivers and taxi men literally standing at the door of the bus! At 6am I wasn’t in the mood!
I straight away went to some bus companies to see when I could get to Ecuador, some companies wernt going that day but I found a decent enough company CIVA that did a night bus that night so I went with that. So happy I researched the companies I nearly booked one that has a history of robberies, border scams etc!
I got a tuc tuc to Loki hostel as I had heard about it. They were so nice and said I could use their facilities and storage all day until my bus with no charge!

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Loki Hostel

The hostel was lovely and relaxed with a big pool and hammocks. I got changed and went for breakfast in a cute little cafe across the road. Finally found real granola!!
The town is very small and a nice stroll.

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The constant pleading and selling from all the street sellers and tuc tuc drivers ruins the chilled out vibe or maybe I was just tired ha!
I took a stroll down to the beach which is small but nice. I was able to sit and watch the kite surfers do their thing.

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On the way back I sat down for a detox juice which are very popular here and enjoyed the good WiFi before heading back to the hostel.
Got chatting to some Ozzys as usual! (Is there any Ozzys left in Australia?!) We chilled by the pool for a few hours and enjoyed the hostels good music.
I showered and used up my last soles on a tuna steak dinner in a Trip Advisor recommended restaurant. Tuna is the dish of Mancora. It was nice not amazing!

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Disappointing for my last Peruvian meal as iv really liked the food here. Back to the hostel for some happy hour and giant Jenga before catching my 11pm bus to Ecuador πŸ™‚

Lazy in Lima

I was delighted Peru hop were able to bring me for the 4 hour trip to Lima from Huacachina as I was in pain and covered in sand. They picked me up at the hostel and dropped me straight to my hostel which is always good when you arrive somewhere at 12.30am.
I stayed in Parawana hostel in Miraflores because I knew it was central and a good hostel chain.
Straight away when I arrived I noticed the McDonald’s across the road,Burger King right next door and Dunkin Doughnuts around the corner! So I was very aware I was in the capital!

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After a quick walk to the all night chemist for some much needed painkillers I went straight to bed, which was comfy and far from the bar thankfully!
Next morning I went on the free walking tour which left from the park right outsideΒ  the hostel. The tour brought us on 2 buses to downtown Lima which was nice to see, more colonial than Miraflores. Unfortunately the tour was extremely boring waaaaaaay to much talking about unimportant markets and alpaca stories so me and a few American girls left early. First time I left a tour early but I only had 1 day in Lima so I wasn’t going to waste it talking about alpacas!

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Lucky for me I arrived to Lima for the biggest food festival in South America ‘Mistura’. Cost about 5euro entry and then you buy fake money to use in there. I was in my element!! That’s my idea of heaven. Endless food stalls of anything you could want. I stuck to traditional Peruvian as I had heard the food in Lima was really good.
I tried the famous cebiche, Tiger milk, bull hearts and quinoa chicken salad.

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The market was the main event. An enormous marquee filled with stalls giving free samples of everything and anything. Honey, chocolate, fruit, jams, ice cream you name it! For dessert I tried picarones, pumpkin rice with raisins, rice pudding and jam, quinoa ice cream.

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I arrived back to the hostel ready for bed and in a major food coma. Hostel was bopping but I couldn’t even think about drink! I was so full! I picked up some snacks for my long bus journey the next day and rolled into bed.
P.S. Iv found yet another favourite fruit called aguamento. Stocked up at the market πŸ™‚ Eating them now on the bus!

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Huacachina- Underestimated

So many people I had spoken to completely down played Huacachina. I was told it was a small, cool town but nothing to do once the sandboarding was done.
Technically this is true but I don’t know about others but I would have gladly spent a few days chilling in this crazy landscape just looking at the huge sand dunes surrounding the mini oasis.

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The landscape is so unusual it’s hard to comprehend. It’s like a tsunami of sand surrounding this mini town. We were also lucky that we arrived in on a Saturday evening on the Peru hop bus. We stopped at the Nasca lines on the way. Wasn’t really worth waking up for in my opinion but depends what your into.

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Huachachina really comes to life on a Saturday night. We were invited to join a bbq for 35soles with free drink for an hour also. It was gringo central but good to all get together and meet new people. Plenty of meat,salads and drink aswell so no complaints πŸ™‚
After the bbq the Peru hop guide and other tour guides brought us out to the local bars and clubs. The town was hopping with gringos and locals mixing together. I got plenty of salsa dancing in! Great fun!

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Our hostel Casa del Armes was very pretty with a pool and poolside bar but unfortunately joined onto the club. So music pumping until 7am! They know how to party here.

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Next morning I skipped pisco tasting in favour of a walk around and a chill by the pool. The whole place can be walked in 10minutes but it’s a gorgeous place to relax.

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Buggy driving and boarding began at 4. 9 of us who had travelled together on Peru hop were in the same buggy. Ofcourse I was put in the front! The buggy driving was unreal!! We had a mental driver who scared the bejaysus out of us it was brilliant!! Flying over sand dunes at crazy speed.

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The sandboarding didn’t go aswell asΒ  I thought. My 1st board down a very steep sand dune, I hit a bump at the end and bit straight through my lip. We did 5 more after that and I did them but it made me very nervous about the others not to mention I was in a fair bit ofΒ  pain for the rest of the boarding. But it’s definitely worth a go. Everyone loved it!

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The sunset was amazing and the views were just incredible. Felt so surreal being surrounded by sand when yesterday I was surrounded by city buildings.

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On the bus journey from Arequipa to here, I really noticed how much the Peru landscape changes. From built up cities, to steep mountain ranges, to green hills and dessert dunes all in a few hours drive!

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