Sunday, 23 December 2012

Bus Rides and Iguanas

Lima’s hustle and bustle grew a bit tiresome by the end of our 8 days there and we were both happy to begin making our way north to Guayaquil. The busy company Cruz del Sur proved once again to be an excellent choice—almost fully reclining seats, food, blankets, and pillows. All of these things made the 32 hours much more comfortable and we passed out of Peru and into Ecuador without any trouble at all. I had my last taste of Peru on the bus ride as well by consuming my most favourite Peruvian cookies, alfajores. These little wonders are a short bread cookie filled with dulce de leche and sprinkled with icing sugar. These treasures coupled with gravol made the time fly by despite a somewhat smelly baby and a few horrendous movies that most likely never made it to North American theatres.

We opted to return to another familiar hostel in Guayaquil and have decided to forgo the northern adventure to Canoa because of a lack of swell. Instead, we bought plane tickets back to the Galapagos Islands for a week, and then will see how the waves are during afterwards. We will fly into a new location that we did not visit last time, San Cristobal. We will get the best snorkeling and beach basking this way, rather than taking another bus. It is also possible to surf in this area, so if the opportunity presents itself we’ll be ready! 

More soon...

do it yourself coffee


not something I purchased...

Miraflores' ocean view

Ecuadorian Bolon

Something lurking up there

Green iguana in Guayaquil 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Regresamos a Lima

In many ways, it feels like it hasn't been long since our last visit to Lima and we have experienced a strange familiarity coming back. Overall, we had hardly any troubles with flights, connections, and layovers. We flew with LAN airlines from LA onward and were impressed with the high quality of service on our 8 hour flight which included movies, a blanket, two meals, ear plugs, and head phones! What more could you ask for in an airline these days? However, just as we were commenting to each other about our smooth sailing, Iain had realized his bank card was only good for one withdrawal as he had left it the ATM machine outside the airport. Thankfully, we will just use our visas and I have my bank card… dodged another bullet.

Lima is a busy city full of crazy drivers and equally loco pedestrians. Cars always have the right-of-way and people boldly leap into the streets when the briefest of traffic lulls present themselves. The buses are always honking, and cars move fast which means we have to too.We came back to the same hostel in the Miraflores district we visited last time called ‘Friend’s House’ which is cheap and a great location that we already know. The only downside is 12 U.S.A. peace corp. are staying here too and the only time it’s peaceful is when they’re gone. I've been practicing my southern drawl with Iain well cursing the Americans for their boisterousness which we can hear at ALL times. Although, we have found humour in overhearing an American gordita (chubby girl) loudly talking while eating, and simultaneously choking/hiccuping without a break in conversation.  

We have spent the last few days shopping for our house and have made some great purchases so far—paintings, beautiful textiles, wooden bowls, and blankets. It has been fun to loiter the various markets practicing Spanish and bartering for bargains, and spreading the money to whom we think could use it most (think elderly, pregnant ladies, and vendors on the market’s periphery).

One of the paintings we purchased 
Lima has somewhat of a grand culinary reputation that we hadn’t experienced during our last stay, but we had a great meal at a restaurant Mezze last night. We also checked out Club Habana for a few mojitos and visited cats in Parque Kennedy. We’ve also tried cortados (coffee & milk) and cake from a great, bustling diner-like place called Manolo. We have also been frequent visitors of a high end grocery store called Vivanda where Iain has been binging on granadillas (he’s had four since I started writing this).

A regalo

Mango is lunch
We have booked bus tickets with Cruz del Sur to Guayaquil, Ecuador on Wednesday. This is somewhat of a commitment (30 hours on a bus), but a much cheaper option compared to flying. From Guayaquil we will make our way north to Canoa.

with Nina, maybe a famous artist? We bought one of his paintings

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Here We Are in Canada

Three Brothers
We hung around Miraflores neighborhood of Lima for our last two days scouring the market for textiles and
goodies and did not leave empty handed.Our flight left the city at 2 am, but we got to the airport early enough to deal with surfboard transport problems if they arose. To our surprise we didn't have any trouble sending the boards and we hopped on board our flight foot loose and fancy free and ready to start the trip back home. We got to Vancouver the next afternoon and were greeted by Iain's brothers Erik and Doug and spent the evening with them. Iain was glad to reconnect with them en route back to Whitehorse and happy to distribute some presents (including the creepiest festival masks I've seen in a while).

Airport pick-up
 The next day we arrived in Whitehorse shell-shocked but unscathed. Since then we have been readjusting to the lack of garbage and drinking tap water. We both felt a bit spacey getting used to the old life but are gearing up for a summer of work and are looking forward to topping up the bank accounts! We are also looking ahead to a beautiful Yukon summer with friends and family. In particular I am looking forward to using an oven, gardening, running and doing some yoga. In the fall we will think about what future adventures we should pursue. Right now we are considering another winter move to keep surfing and get a change of pace. 

Dads with their Chilean wine from Iris and Emeterio 

Parents happy to see their children

Thanks for reading and sharing our amazing experiences in South America with us! 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Ecuadorian Coast and Bringing it Back to Lima

Our last leg of the trip around Las Tunas and the surrounding communities was a perfect way to enjoy the little time that remained in South America. Las Tunas is a quiet beach town that hasn’t yet been spoiled by hordes of tourists similar to that in nearby Montanita . We were able to surf daily and take in the last rays of sun and truly warm weather we will see for a while. We stayed in a fantastic spot that had few people, kitchen access, friendly staff and beach front views. Each day we got to drink a morning coffee on our private balcony over-looking the waves and there couldn’t have been a better way to start the day. We also met and got to know one of the local stray dogs named ‘Surfing’ who we grew fond and who grew fond of us too. 

Surfing and his new friend Iain 
Mirada al Mar
 He ended up following us everywhere and was the most eager passenger to step foot into the car whenever he was allowed to tag along for a car ride. He was a hard dog to leave behind and just one of the few awesome strays we befriended while away that desperately needed care and attention. However, the best part of Cabanas Mirada al Mar, were the lovely, hard-working owners who graciously agreed to house our trooper until we return next which was a relief and surprise.

We spent a long time trying to figure out a way to sell the car, but none of the plans formulated into much. Anyone that bought the vehicle would have ended up acquiring a number of problems with it that weren’t worth there hassle. 
Additionally, we were starting to think the little amount we could get for the car in Ecuador or Peru was more work and travel time than we really wanted to deal with. So in the end, we decided to leave the car in Ecuador and return back to it at some point to pursue other adventures.

Coastal Ecuador was the perfect place to maximize the car’s use since we could travel to nearby locations depending on the surf. We also took the bed out and made room to give rides to our Finnish companions which was great since we needed to get rid of the bed anyway and we could all ride together.

We both had some great days in the water which was super fun and rewarding. I surfed mainly in La Entrada which had a really good learning wave that was small and less intimidating than some of the more powerful breaks around us. It felt really good to solidify my surfing experiences with catching some green waves  and finally get down the line (riding the actual wave or the ‘green’ part  as opposed to the white wash ahead of the break), which I had been trying to do since we left Peru). We also sold my Bic surfboard and rented a glassed 7’6” which was such a treat after being dragged around by the plastic beast on the shore break. My last session I went out alone because Iain had hurt his leg and it was amazing to be able to paddle out and catch my own waves solo style.
Iain's best Ecuadorian waves
He's in there...
Iain accompanied me on all of my La Entrada sessions as well as catching waves at Las Tunas, Ayampe, and Rio Chico. Iain’s best day was the last day when the waves were barreling. As soon as he looked out the window first thing in the morning he quickly geared up and ran full steam ahead for the ocean. Iain got two barrels and the last one smashed his leg up a bit. Nonetheless, he was perfectly content with the experience and left the coast happy with all his waves.

Sunset session 

After saying goodbye to the trooper, Las Tunas, and the Finnish crew, we started heading back towards Peru by taking a bus from Montanita to Guayaquil and then embarked on an epically long bus journey from Guayaquil to Lima that took approximately 30 hours. Thankfully, we booked the ride with bus company Cruz del Sur which is by far the most prestigious contender in the bus travel business. We paid a little extra to ride VIP style in the lower deck of the double-decker machine and had a ton of room to relax and sleep.
Riding in style with Cruz del Sur

We made it to Lima in one piece and are now thinking about our return to Canada which commences and 2 am on the 1st!  
Birthday Surf

Jussi and Surfing on an excursion 

A milk and fruit drink obsession has started

Las Tunas
blood and a bit of wax

Ramon's artwork on the back of Mirada al Mar

packing and surfing go hand in hand

'Grandma' and Jose

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Mishaps, Monkeys and Mountains

Hesitant vs. Excited 

The adventures continued from Banos to Misahualli where we got to the beginning of the Amazonia and sampled a little taste of jungle life. We stayed at France-Amazonia which had real coffee and great information on day activities. The first afternoon we arrived we scoped out the area and went for an exploratory drive. I spent the night dreaming of insects (when asleep), but mostly stared at the ceiling thinking spiders were going to fall on my head. Although nothing of the sort happened, the presence of insects was everywhere in the incessant vibrating hum throughout the night.

The following day we decided to visit the ecological reserve Jatun Sacha to walk in the rainforest and were able to do a self-guided tour accompanied by an English information booklet. The walk was fantastic and awe-inspiring. Every so often there were various stations that corresponded with the booklet that explained different things we were seeing. After we finished, we stopped by another conservation site with medicinal plants. We were the only ones there and got a free tour with a super knowledgeable staff member. This was definitely my highlight of the jungle experience and it was incredible to learn about what plants are used to remedy various ailments from nasal congestion to contraception. We were able to try out a natural anesthetic used for numbing of the mouth, use sap to seal a cut on the hand that had antibiotic properties and learn more about hallucinogenic  plants like Ayahuasca which is used traditionally by those living in the Amazonia, but is all the rage with tourists pursuing eco/jungle travel. We continued on down the road and stopped at Kamak Maki, an indigenous Quicha village that is promoting sustainable tourism. Iain also got to meet a monkey here that became his new best friend.The finale of the day was visiting a famously old and gigantic tree on the outskirts of town. We managed to see it just before sunset and to witness its size alone was worth the visit.

Add caption

The next day we decided to check out of the hotel climb up to a waterfall and start making our way back to Banos. However, the day started out a bit rocky after I discovered an enormous fury spider in our bed after breakfast. This was terrifying and possibly my worst Amazonian nightmare. The night before I finally put our bug net to use for the first time and slept slightly easier knowing nothing was going to fall on my head. Little did I know this creature lurked beneath and I flipped out upon finding it. After the spider incident was dealt with we made our way to the town’s well-known waterfall location. It was an hour hike in and we wondered if we should wear shoes, but decided against it. After the first ten minutes we should have turned around to go back and get shoes because the trail was more like a dangerous mudslide. The walk turned into one of those situations where you think it can’t be too bad for too long and just push ahead because you’ve already come so far. It went from bad to worse after my flip-flop broke and from then on in we were walking barefoot for about 2/3 of the way there.  When we got to the waterfall it was crowded with Ecuadorian tourists who were celebrating Easter weekend. After taking a couple anti-climactic pictures we decided to head back slowly and surely (still barefoot) until I accidently put my hand on the craziest looking caterpillar we had ever seen. It was so strange looking Iain had taken pictures early to document its red head and feet and bizarre long yellow feeler/hair things. The evil caterpillar stung me immediately which resulted in a hyper-ventilating ‘get me out of the Amazon’ emergency accompanied by and tears. After making it back to the car it was time to leave the jungle.

woke up to this...

walked like this...

to see this...

got stung by this

After spending the night in Banos we headed into the Andes to attempt the Quilotoa Loop. We had read that the mountainous trip was no easy go and that the roads were anything from smooth, but ended up taking a wrong turn which took us deep into the cloud forest. We were extremely far down this road and the sun was setting when we came across an impassable portion. We ended up having to camp the night in the car on the side of the road, but managed to get out fine the next morning and make it to Chugchilan unscathed. However, we later discovered from a guide that a ‘dog’ Iain had spotted during a late-night bathroom break was quite possibly a bear. We spent a couple days in the area; one day we viewed the cloud forest from above by horseback and another we hiked around Laguna Quiotoa.

guess we can't go this way


new friend


We spent one night off a seemingly random road where we met Cesar. Cesar lives on a hill above were we had parked the car and works in the mountains growing potatoes. After offering Cesar a cup of tea and an axe that we didn’t need he asked if we would be there in the morning. Iain promised we would have pancakes and invited Cesar to come back. The next morning Cesar brought us potatoes in return for the axe and took his pancake to go in our cooler. Since we are leaving so soon back to Canada, we compiled an extensive array of belongings that he could take that we needed to leave somewhere anyways. It was so great for us to give someone our things that we would have no use for in a few weeks.

tea under the umbrella in the rain

After leaving the Andes we drove back to the coast and have stopped in Las Tunas where we are back to surf a few more days before the end of the trip. Our Finnish friends from Huanchaco, Peru are here too, and it is so awesome to be surfing without a wetsuit in warm water. We will relish the last week here in Ecuador. 

balcony view from Las Tunas