Unexpected Máncora

The beachside of Peru is a happy place – littered with children laughing and playing together, tanned, salty and sandy, active and peaceful, this happy demeanour easily rubs off on anyone walking along the beaches at Máncora. 
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Quilatoa with a twist

It was definitely the beginning of a grande adventure when we arrived in Sigchos off the local bus and the clouds yet again rolled in, rain beginning to fall in big heavy droplets…. not a vehicle in site! 

We hoped to make it to the Quilatoa crater lake by trekking a section of the well-walked and breathtakingly beautiful loop. Opting out of the first section due to poor weather and a late start, we managed to negotiate a ride to Isinlivi and set up camp in the backyard of Llullu Llama hostel (a cozy and inviting home away from home), sharing our space with a llama and a beautiful big dog. 


Camping was fun, but I would strongly suggest those who plan to do the loop carry as little as possible, sleep in the beds at the hostels, save yourself the pain and breathlessness experienced on some of the hills along the way! 

Mulled wine, card games, good chatter and a warm fire kept us all up until late, forming friendships with fellow travellers. 

Hiking from Isinlivi to Chúgchillan was beautiful and exciting, but beware of two barking dogs, and children asking for lollies. Seeing as pictures speak louder then wor I will continue this post with a few images. All in all the hike was amazing! And we managed to beat the mountain weather that rolls in every afternoon (yay)! 


We stayed at the Cloud Forest hostal in town, which was lovely too. Though nothing like Llullu Llama, it had its own unique charms and a few cosy hammocks to nap in. 

The following day we opted out of hiking and decided instead to catch a taxi to Quilatoa and spend the day horse riding, kayaking, swimming and exploring the lake. 

Even though the taxi was 2 hours late, we had a beautiful day by the crater lake (see pictures below) 


We caught the mules up the steep track, which was a smart idea, though those animals work mighty hard to get up that hill, I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty. 

We enjoyed a meal of (yep, you guessed it, a reliable and common meal for Ecuador)…. chicken and rice. A delicious hot chocolate and we were on our way back to Latacunga where we had stored our luggage at Hostal Tiana. 

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A short stay in the Cotopaxi bush…

Heading to Cotopaxi by private shuttle from the Secret Garden Quito, to their sister hostel, the Secret Garden Cotopaxi was a bumpy ride. Located out of Machachi and off the well worn roads, we bumped across cobble stones and dirt roads with an extreme amount of potholes, dodging cows, llamas, dogs and horses along the way. 

The ride was well worth it, and not only did we all sigh a breath of relief when the bus come to a stop, we all sighed in awe at the beautiful countryside that surrounded us. Mountains on every side, farmland and animals running around, the quaint little  hostel nestled into the land with a special sort of romance mostly seen in movies or read about in books. 

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Set up for a relaxing and adventurous stay, this place was to become my home for the next 3 days thanks to a special package deal that includes all meals, snacks and a few guided hikes while you’re there. 

We were greeted with a warm fireplace, an abundance of Christmas lights and a mug of mulled wine. After getting welcomed, fed a hot lunch, and settled in our dorm rooms (very fancy and comfy dorm rooms), we set off on the first hike. 

Up the hill in our Wellies (provided), we crawled through the scrub into the river; which looked like something out of a fairy tale with green moss blanketing every surface you could see, and a cool clear stream flowing down the rocks. We Began to rock hop, climb and with slightly wet feet we continued up the river, listening for the sound of waterfalls…. that’s when it began to rain, hail, and pour! 


Nothing would deter us or break our happy spirits though, and we continued as a team up, up and away, until we finally came to the big and beautiful waterfalls. 

The water was freezing, so I don’t blame the others for not swimming, but nothing was going to stop me from leaping into the clear water! Our guide, Frank, then showed us the beer he had been carrying the whole time and we all shared a Few bottles between us before starting the hike home. If it wasn’t for the weather, we were told there would be views like no other! 

The community we formed in this little hostel was like a small family and a few of us enjoyed a rest in the jacuzzi while it drilled with rain outside. 

The following morning we could see Cotopaxi (Before the clouds rolled in)! Cotopaxi is the highest active volcanoe in the world, and the word means ‘shining peak’ – she definitely shone, radiating white snow and an air of mystery. 

Pasachoa was hiked that day – an extinct volcanoe that now appears as a sunken crater with a humid forest within (which we explored). Up to 4200m, we climbed. Whilst it was a beautiful hike, the altitude affected everyone and we were all out of breath on various occasions. The forest is one of the only non-touched highland forests remaining in its original state, it was pretty cool to see. 


The hike took us about 5 hours and was only a 15km round trip. We relaxed in the late afternoon again with a jacuzzi and swinging in the hammocks with a glass of wine. 

The clouds rolling in at the top of pasachoa : 


There were a variety of other activities to participate in, including reaching the climbers refuge at Cotopaxi and then riding a bike out of the national park, horse riding in the outskirts of the national park, and the ruminahui summit trek which invokes ropes, abseiling and climbing. 

Below are some pictures of my stay (as my camera is very precious to me I didn’t risk taking it out in the rain (it rained every day which was unusual) so there are not pictures of everything here). 


I would recommend this stay to anyone who needs a bit of adventure, some good food and a bit of relaxation. Be aware that although transport to the hostel is included, getting a bus out is not – it costs $3 to get to machachi and from there you can hail down a bus to nearly anywhere (latacunga or Baños seem to be popular next destinations). 

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings…”  – John Muir 

Riding TeleferiQo  and climbing Pichincha Volcanoe

I made it! 

Sweaty and puffing and I could see my breath and the air was cold and dry, and the clouds immediately rolled in and the hail fell in big chunks onto my hat and clothes, but I made it! 4710m altitude…. (and only about 5km of walking uphill to get there and a few incredibly steep sections) just a taster of what is to come later in this adventure. 

This was my first experience at this height and I was surprised to say I actually enjoyed myself. I didn’t get any headaches as I had been warned would happen, but I did feel very out of breath after doing very minimal exercise. It has never been so hard for me to walk 5km then climbing Pichincha had been. I followed all the advice: 

– take it slowly

– drink a lot of water constantly (I went through 3litres during the hike)

– take copious breaks 

– eat snacks along the way

– take it slowly (this time it wasn’t by choice) 

I would say go for it, take the teleferiQo up the mountain and start hiking the volcanoe. It was good fun and the best views of the city! For those who are curious, the  TeleferiQo is a cable car that goes up the side of Quito and has viewing platforms and out the back the beginning of a hiking trail that follows a ridge line out to Pichincha. It costs $8.50 for a return trip and it’s best to go in the morning before the afternoon smog and clouds arrive and block the amazing view of…. well…. everything! 

You can catch a taxi there (easiest option) from anywhere between $3 and $5us depending on where you begin! There is also a cafe up the top but I would suggest taking your own food from the markets as it is over priced and not that delicious (even after a strenuous 10kms). 

Head down promptly if a storm rolls in as they are likely to close the cable cars in the event of wind rain hail and lightning….

It’s free to hike there and you can even hire a horse to take you up, however all I found was the horses But nobody to hire them from…. 

Some pictures of the hike and my face drunk on the altitude: 


I think it is the sort of hike where you need someone pushing you along, so company is good, but you can complete it on your own as I did, it feels very safe up there and most other hikers are very friendly and up for a chat and some encouragement ! 

The Secret Garden Hostel and CarpeDM 

My stay in Quito, whilst brief, has been awesome. I believe part of this is due to the amazing people I met made possible through the Secret Garden Hostel and a tour I went on with CarpeDM tours. 

There are so many reviews about this place on google so I will keep my post about it brief. 

The rooftop bar is AWESOME. It has such a cool vibe, hammocks, free drinking water and hot drinks, and they will provide breakfast and dinner if you are willing to pay extra (between 3 and 5 dollars depending on what you want). The staff are friendly and the lady who occasionally cooks makes the most delicious chocolate cake. The one downfall (which isn’t really a negative) is the stairs. There are many stairs. This combined with the altitude of Quito, you may find yourself out of breath more frequently then you would back at a normal sea level. This can’t really be helped and the hostel is set out well with a quirky spiral staircase leading up to reception and the bar. Be sure to use the showers on the second floor in the middle of the balcony – they are hot and have a good pressure. My dorm room bed cost $10us per night and the bed was comfy (although squeaky), and there are lockers for your valuables in the room. 


The view from the rooftop bar. 

To book your stay visit HostelWorld.com and search for the secret garden hostel Quito, Ecuador. 

Downstairs is the CarpeDM travel agency. They are so super helpful and run many different tours and can help organise cheap and safe trips in various places around Ecuador. The staff there are so lovely. 

They also run a free walking tour which I believe is a great intro to the city. I did this on my first day and our guide was very funny but had a breathtakingly fast walking pace. 

Some of the people on the streets of quirky Quito : 


We went to 4 churches, saw the changing of the guards at the presidents place, visited a chocolate making cafe and went to the fruit market. We stayed in the old town for the tour and walked a lot. We were also given a few free tasters for various Ecuadorean sweets including an alcohol lolly, honey paste thing, sugared coconut and sugared peanuts. We also had chocolate and tried the beautiful cacao butter at the chocolate shop (my hands look 10 years younger and they smelt like chocolate). 

Some of the churches:


After the walking tour which ran from 10.30am until around 2pm, we returned to the hostel to eat our lunches (I had a cheese and potato spicy soup with avocado) a few of us met the tour guide again and he drove us in his car out to the equator line. 


Mitad del Mundo is the demarcation of the equator as it makes it way through ecuador. It splits the hemispheres in half. It’s worth visiting even though the tour is somewhat corny and touristy. Make sure you go to the right place and not the monument that was put in the wrong place (and costs more). 

The little museum located here is very cute indeed and costs $4 for entry and a tour which has some interesting exhibits including some info on the tribe who used to shrink human heads. We were even shown 2 examples of real human shrunk heads (one is pictured above). We got another chocolate tour and more free testers (I love free stuff. It always tastes so much better then stuff you have to pay for). 

On our way home we bought delicious raspberry ice creams from street vendors who brought them to our cAr. Desert before dinner is always the way to go. 

I finished the night by drinking a carton of wine with 2 Irish lads, ah how I’ve missed the life of a traveller. 

‘So long, marianne’

 “Somebody ought to tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit every minute of every day. Do it, I say, whatever you want to do, do it now.” — Michael Landon

Just do it! Go ahead! Live that life of yours, take those chances, do what you have to to make yourself happy. 

I’m sitting at the departure gate now in Melbourne Airport, waiting to board. First stop, LA ! And then, South America, baby! 

A few things to know about Melbourne airport:

– you can take empty bottles through security and the fill up stations, once through, dispense cold and beautiful filtered water…. Mm mm refreshing! Take your own bottles with you and stop buying plastic bottles. 

– Gate 10 is hard to find, it isn’t Inbetween 9 and 11 as you may think.  
– security can take a while to get through, allow yourself some extra time for that and saying goodbye before you leave.

– it’s fine to make awkward eye contact with certain people 

– it’s even more fun to put on fake accents and talk to random people

– there are free perfume testers in duty free (don’t go overboard) 

– there were free alcohol testers in duty free (go overboard) 

– my plane looks huge (Time to board) 


‘So long, marrianne’ is a great song by Leonard Cohen. 

Yoko Meshi

The origin of the word Yoko Meshi is Japanese and it refers to the peculiar excitement of speaking a foreign language – it literally means A Meal Eaten Sideways.

To me, this sounds very adventurous! How does one eat a meal sideways? Do you need to be lying on your side while you eat the meal? Or maybe you need to hold the meal on it’s side while you eat it….

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