Welcome to Colombia amigos! Our last stop in South America, a country steeped in history of a different kind. Cali is pretty much the Brisbane of Colombia - the third largest city, with nice (but not too hot) weather, and very laid back.

No buses… YEAH!

After eventually getting ourselves together and to the airport, we arrived before check-in and had to sit around… a matter of “hurry up and wait”-ing. There are many overland options to get to Colombia and travel within it, but unfortunately at the time the Australian government still had “do not travel” warnings for many areas, including the roads between cities, and our insurance wouldn’t cover us if we went to those places. So to get to our first destination, Cali, we needed to back fly via Guayaquil from Quito. Obviously the Australian government lowered the travel warnings two weeks after we booked flights that were on sale.

Stopping by in Guayaquil briefly we found some dinner at a restaurant with the best wifi that we had in months; we were able to upload 1gb of photos in less than 15 minutes. We arrived into Cali late in the afternoon and were greeted by José and Kelly from La Sucursal Hostel after our taxi driver got a little bit lost. The hostel is fairly new (for one night, we were the only people there) but it was great and should be amazing once it’s established.

Independence Day

When we had organised to come to Colombia, we didn’t bother to check dates of important things that were happening, like the Colombian Independence Day (July 20 for reference). Though it didn’t end up causing too many hassles, pretty much everything was closed so investigating our new city wasn’t easy.

Realising we had little Colombian coinage to pay for things we decided to go and find out a bank. This has not been an easy feat in some places, mainly because we have been trying to find ATMs that don’t charge us ridiculous amounts to pull out our own money - our bank doesn’t charge fees to withdraw cash overseas, but the ATMs may. We headed down toward the shopping centre that was conveniently close, and stumbled across a CitiBank office, complete with ATMs! We had a coffee on the ground floor, which was quite good, with a delicious biscuit (don’t worry the beers will come later). Given a lot of coffee is grown in Colombia we had high hopes for the quality of the coffees; they certainly didn’t disappoint.

After grabbing some groceries and dropping them off at the hostel, we went to find lunch and ended up at Cantina La 15 (on Calle 15), a very large Mexican place where James had “Aztec soup” and Dee had a really delicious chicken salad. Due to most things being closed, we chilled at the hostel for the afternoon, overlooking the street from the beautiful terrace on the bottom floor, planning out what we were going to do for the next week in Cali.

Aztec soup

View from the balcony

The place with the Little Witches

We decided that we should do something productive with our time in Cali, instead of solely sampling the local beers and food. This did require a very early start on Thursday morning, to go to San Cipriano for the day with Valley Tours. Our tour guide Karina collected us from the hostel in a nice looking 4WD, then onto another hostel to collect three other ladies - Simona from Switzerland, Zoe and Aline from Belgium. We started heading up the hill that overlooks Cali and were held up by an enorgmous amount of cyclists on the road - they only cycle on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but it was one of those days. Nearly two hours later, winding through the countryside, and narrowly avoiding some oncoming traffic, we arrived to a small town then jumped on the “Brujita” - a motorbike contraption on a train track.


Brujita in the literal sense, means “little witch”, so named because they originally were powered by men with long stick (like broom-sticks). These contraptions were designed by the locals to help get them and their goods transported between the main road and the small town of San Cipriano, linked only by a decommissioned train track. The carts have a motorbike running on one side of the train track, with a platform attached to it to connect to the other track, with some having the feature of a canopy to stop the elements getting in. The brujitas didn’t look like the safest of contraptions, particularly when going over large train bridges with ten metre drops and water running underneath them… we were warned to make sure we were wearing closed in shoes in case we had to jump off in a hurry.

There is only a single rail line running between the two towns, and the brujita have no brakes at all. This means that if you see another one coming the other way, you need to slow down before hitting them, everyone get off and lift one of the carts off the track, pass, and put it back on the track. Luckily our trip went smoothly!

Brujita off the tracks

Upon our arrival to San Cipriano, Karina had organised a day room for us to store our things for the day, we got water shoes and needed to change into our swimwear. Before we left, Dee had been reassured by Karina a few times that there were going to be water shoes big enough for her to go walking through the jungle… this was barely the case, as she had to check through five pairs of shoes to find a pair that fit; Colombians appear to have small feet. We stopped briefly to have a delicious breakfast of eggs, plantain chips, rice and coffee, then headed to collect our inner-tube and walk to the river.

Carrying the inner-tubes

Welcome to the jungle, round 2

We had wandered toward the river running near the town, and then clambered across and up a hill to drop our inner-tubes up the hill, before venturing on a three hour walk in the rainforest to two sets of waterfalls. Along the way Zoe stepped on a small snake, and was bitten by a fish in the water at the waterfalls. We had a laugh as to who was going to fall over first, James jokingly placed a $10 bet on Dee and then fell over himself a few minutes later. The walking track was mostly clay and very steep in some places, we occasionally got stuck but were able to wash off the mud a little later when we headed through a few creeks.

We eventually arrived back at the river, finishing the walk carrying our inner-tubes, and then jumped in the water, floating down the river. There were some very fast and shallow parts where a few of us hit our bums hit the rocks. Tubing was a lot of fun! At one point the river hit a wall and the water flowed mostly to the right and onwards, but a little bit went left and circled, and James got stuck in the circling water for a few minutes while every else floated past, and he was unable to paddle sensibly due to being in the tube.

Probably shouldn't step on snakes

At waterfalls

Ready to tube

We climbed out of our tubes at the end, finishing the trip with a lunch of fish with rice, plantains and lentil soup, which was made by one of the local ladies. After sufficiently stuffing ourselves we headed back to the brujita, which was stuck on the other side of the rail bridge. We had to walk across the rail bridge that was missing sleepers in the middle of it - the height and the rushing water underneath was a little bit of an issue; shaking legs and rail bridges over water don’t mix particularly well! Our Brujita driver met us half way across with the tiny cart and we gingerly got on.

It had been raining for quite a while and the tracks were slippery as we travelled back to the highway. Suddenly from around a corner, a cart came the other direction, our driver slowed down to nearly a stop but the other driver didn’t, resulting in a small crash! It was pretty hilarious but we think Karina was a little shaken up.

Steady on the bridge

When we arrived back into Cali, we went to have a look at the brew pubs close by. We stopped in at a place called Armena that wasn’t very good; the second place, Ritual Cervecería, was much better and had decently priced good beers. We finished up the night with dinner and some chats with a group staying at our hostel; they left to go to a salsa club, we were considering going with them but between our nine left feet we though better of it and headed to bed.

I have the necessary koalifications, minus the koalas

After getting ourselves sorted out by eating some left over burritos and salad for breakfast, we decided that we would check out the local zoo. Our wonderful hosts at the hostel offered to drive us to there, which meant we didn’t need to negotiate prices and places with the local taxi drivers (we were very thankful for this!!). Arriving at the zoo, as with most places, we were bombarded with people offering to sell us all sorts of things including tours through the zoo by people who did not work there.


A lion, just chilling out


The zoo was filled with flamingos, crocodiles, tapirs, zebras, monkeys, toucans, macaws and a giant condor. Surprisingly the zoo was having a special exhibition that the locals seemed to be very excited about… upon our entry we discovered that it was an Australian exhibition filled with budgies, a couple of kangaroos and a kookaburra; there were no koalas, and they weren’t selling vegemite in the exhibition’s store. We have been told many times that one should not work with children or animals because they tend to be like herding cats… the zoo was the perfect example of this; between the five school groups there and the standard set of psycho children not being supervised, we were ready to have some peace and quiet time.




Monitor lizard

That afternoon was spent having a pile of chicken wings and 2-4-1 mojitos at Mr Wings, then a stop in via Ritual for some more craft beer, on the way back to the hostel. For the evening we were meant to go to salsa but between our five left feet and James not feeling well, we decided to try and have an early night.

Trying to do what the locals do

For the weekends in Cali things don’t kick off around town until after midday, with the nightlife beginning sometime after midnight. Both of us have started fearing our ages when we’d realised we were in bed before 10pm most nights, and up at stupid o’clock… although we haven’t got to the point of having dinner at 4pm yet.

Saturday we spent the day looking at some of the sights Cali has to offer; the strip we were staying in was quite touristy and filled with modern restaurants and bars, including Hooters! Cali has a definite vibe of old-meets-new, it is the capital of salsa dancing and although affected by the drug cartels, it is a beautifully safe city.

Beyond the shopping centre, sitting behind our hostel stands one of the more prominent features of Cali, three giant crosses on the hill surrounded by 50 or so antennae. On Sundays one of the local activities is to climb up the winding path to the top and checkout the city views. We started the climb up, not quite prepared for the heat that was on offer that morning. Eventually, 45 minutes and a few stops later, we made it to the top. The view was beautiful but there was sweat in places that it should not exist. It was time to head back down, and sample some more of margaritas offered by the bars near to our hostel. For the evening we chose to stay in and make a Thai chicken salad; poor Dee has been craving rice paper rolls for months and was extremely excited to see that the supermarket sold rice paper. She then saw the price and chose to make Thai salad instead - $7aud for a packet of ten rice papers was a little extreme!

Panorama of the city from Tres Cruces hill

The three crosses, behind antennae

Adventuring beyond the tourist strip

After organising our washing to be done (at $25aud - shocked faces here!), and enjoying the local coffee, we planned to meet José at midday on Monday to head to the Central Mercado. Like most markets it’s divided up into sections with fruit, meats, fish, baskets, and then the witching end. The fruit section was looking a little dismal, due to the truck drivers strike that had been going on for a week, disputing wages and conditions. We did, however, get to try some pretty interesting fruits, and purchased some to take back to the hostel to eat later.

Moving on the witching end of the market… that was a whole bunch of interesting all at once! There were potions for absolutely everything imaginable: vials of stuff to make people fall in love with you, to make people fall out of love with you, to cause and cure ailments, to make other people jealous, to live longer. We’d decided that we probably didn’t need any of the tiny colourful vials to take with us on our journey - customs tend to not like “magic potions (or powders) from Colombia”.

These bottles do everything you want, and things you don't want too!

Want a basket?

After learning about all the different sorts of weird and wonderful things the market had to offer, we stopped in at one of the little stalls for lunch. James had stewed lengua (tongue), and Dee chose a soup and chicken (with rice of course), and there were several juices on offer: tomate de arbol (tree tomato), lulo and carambola (dragonfruit).

Lunch time

Who doesn't like tongue on their tongue?

After a brief rest back at the hostel, we met up with José again at 3pm, to head into the down-town area. It was a relatively quick walk, much closer than we had expected. We began at Plazoleta Jairo Varela, which has a monument to Grupo Niche, a famous salsa singer/group with a huge amount of number one hits. You can stand under each of the downward-facing cones on the monument and hear music, first the drums, second all the instruments, third the main vocals, and then fourth the full song.

Trumpet monument

James in the cone

We walked along the street, past the mayor’s offices to one of the important parks in Cali. José said that the park unfortunately wasn’t well maintained, despite the mayor saying he wants the city to be more beautiful, because he had to walk through it himself every day. On one side there was loud music playing, which was music related to bull-fighting, and a couple on stage dancing “paso doble”, a dance with double-step. As we exited the park, we walked across a very old bridge, the first across the river which runs though the city. It had been widened in the past and everyone forgot that, so when a car tunnel was being constructed under the river, they accidentally discovered the original bridge, which the widened one had just been built on top of!

Band playing

Continuing along the street, we went into the gothic-style Emita Church. Next we walked past the “plaza de poeta” where people with typewriters can do anything you want, even apparently forge university degrees. The old plaza came next, and then yet another church. The main plaza of the city has two churches adjacent to each other, a San Franciscan one and a Jesuit one; te two were fighting over people to convert to Catholicism. There were a few people with cane juice carts around, and one with a thick drink concocted with coconut, nuts, rum (maybe?) - whatever it was called it was rather interesting. The plaza had a very large number of pigeons in it, and once they took flight and started circling we thought we should leave before a rain of poo started. We headed the wrong way down the street to get our obligatory state parliament photo, before continuing along the normal route.

Gothic church

Fresh cane juice

Lots of pigeons

Next we came across another church (surprise!), which was very old and quite simple; it was in fact the church that José had been married in. There were some quite nice old buildings in this area. Walking further along, we went past “Calle de la Escopeta”, or “shotgun street” - so named because from on top of the buildings it appears to be the shape of a shotgun. Most of the buildings have recently been done up, and had beenpainted by a local artist, who also did the art on the wall at our hostel.

Street art

Next we walked through one of the old neighbourhoods where many of the hostels are. Due to local heritage laws, most of the buildings can no longer be modified - not just the façade, but not on the inside either. We began walking up the hill to the next church, and in the park half way up there was a sculpture representing the gift of pinwheels and lollies that children in Cali (and only this city) are given on one day of the year. We continued up to the church, which was just about to start their evening mass, and grabbed some “obleas” as a desert-snack. As well as “arequipe” (similar to dulce de leche) and cream, you can also have grated cheese in them - weird but tasty. There was also a bench with “#selfie” painted on to it, the perfect thing to get a selfie in front of.



As we headed back down the hill, and to the other side of the down-town area, we made a visit to “el parque del gato de Tejada”. The Colombian artist Hernando Tejada had created a three-ton bronze cat sculpture and donated it to the city. The park was filled with people playing Pokemon and sculptures of cats all the way along the path (allegedly referring to the artist’s girlfriends). On the way back to the hostel we stopped in for the equivalent equivalent of Boost Juice (apparently a brand from Costa Rica, they were delicious!), then back to the hostel for a barbecue dinner shared with José and Kelly (our Thai salad made a reappearance!).

Giant cat statue

Cat with a hole

Dee and a cat, which is which?

Moving onto the next adventure

Through Colombia we had decided that we were going to keep our travel days on the same day, that way we wouldn’t get ourselves to confused as to what day of the week it was. There has been a need to set ourselves reminders of which day is travel day, as we’ve completely lost track of time… it’s still 2016, right?

Tuesday morning we got ourselves packed and then went for one last stop by Ritual to have some lunch before flying to Medellin. We were anticipating just having a few beers then having lunch at the airport, however, the lady at the bar decided that we needed to try some of the Casuela (seafood soup) they had prepared. This was definitely the best soup we’ve had in ages! Filled with all types of seafood and a nice thick broth, coupled with a side of bread.

Sufficiently full and ready to move on it was off to the airport… next stop, one of the many homes of Pablo Escobar.

Go see all the photos from Cali

Quito, not a place with five names, but a giant city spread across mountains and valleys. The city sits at an altitude of 2850 metres above sea level, it is home to over two million people and has been listed as the highest official capital city in the world.

We had left the Amazon, ready to leave behind the giant spiders but not ready to return to civilisation. Navigating ourselves at midnight Tuesday, in Quito was a bit of a mission; however, we made it and were thankful for the shower and comfortable bed awaiting us.

How to be a human again

Unfortunately, when you’re completely withdrawn from society and it’s troubles for a few days, you return to be faced with a large collection of menial tasks to do. Our collection included fun things like washing, blog writing, booking flights and finding hostels to stay in. These would have been so much easier if it weren’t for the crap internet at the hotel (due to “Buffer Bloat” causing crazy response times).

Dee loves sitting and doing adult tasks… we managed to make it through a few hours before deciding that being responsible is too difficult and that beers and food would probably be the way to go instead. Getting our bearings we ventured out into the Quito sunshine to San Augustin heladeria-restaurant for some amazing Seco de Chivo and house made ice cream. Amongst some of the bland flavours we’ve come across in Ecuador, Seco de Chivo was a welcome change; the stew is made from goat and served with plantains and yellow rice. For the locals the stew is only eaten on special occasions, as meat is an expensive commodity. There were two flavours of icecream, both of them fruits we can’t remember the name of.

Even the icecream knows where we are

Later in the afternoon, after recovering from the food coma we’d succumbed to, and managing to find a hairdresser for Dee to remove the last remnants of the Amazon from her hair, we hunted for a local brewpub we’d heard about. Fortunately, when we’d arrived, the pub was just opening and offered us delicious beers in their three-hour happy hour. After making sure we’d tasted a number of the beers, some deep-fried camembert and a sundried tomato pizza, the beer caught up with us and it was time to go home. Thankfully, the hostel was only 200m up the road, however it was up a giant hill - we were back in altitude territory… the struggle was real.


Usually, when we have written about drinking lots of delicious beers and eating phenomenal food, we have a winding bus ride, packing and a hangover that would make the morning so much more difficult. Thursday, however, we were able to sleep in, enjoy a decent breakfast and kill the hangover vibes while wandering the city.

We were planning on going on a walking tour but found out that we were supposed to put our name down at the hostel and not email them like the instructions said. Given the slight hangover situation we decided that we would take it easy and investigate the city ourselves to find out what Quito was all about. We walked to Plaza Independencia, to look at the few churches, found Simon Bolivar street, avoided the 100 people offering to clean James’ shoes and found a chocolate shop that sold chocolate covered Ecuadorian coffee beans - they were amazing!

The main plaza

Archipishop's palace turned into shops

Quito is filled with history, the obvious things have happened, like the Caras conquering the Quitu, the Incas conquering the Caras, the Spaniards conquering the Incas and then old mate Simon Bolivar with his mates sorting all of them out. Although this is a very brief and simple synopsis of some of the horrific things that have happened, it is also close to the forty-fifth time we heard the story of Simon Bolivar. In saying that, the historic centre of Quito is one of the best-preserved centres in the Americas and Quito was the first UNESCO Heritage Listed site in the world. The main square is filled with people and surrounded by the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace (which has been turned into shops and restaurants), the Municipal Palace and the Plaza Grande Hotel. We were able to take a free-guided tour around the presidential palace, learning about more of the country’s history and seeing some pretty expensive jewellery.

Entering the presidential palace

Some of the things

I don't know that guy ran a country

Running the meeting!

Eating out like a local

Some of the cheapest and most delicious meals we’ve had on our way around have been from the local markets. In this case, we’d read a little bit about the food offerings in the Mercado Central and had a bunch of recommendations for a small fish place called Don Johnny’s. Some of the stalls had questionable hygiene standards, with meat hanging all over the place and the occasional appearance of running water and a refrigerator. Arriving to the tables outside of Don Johnny’s we were congratulated on our broken Spanish, thrown a menu and then told not to worry about looking at it - we had to order the fried tuna soup with popcorn (cancha), potatoes and the Ecuadorian version of ceviche (a tomato-y concoction filled with seafood). This $5 meal was some of the best fish either of us had ever eaten - when in Quito you need to go to Don Jimmy’s!

Don Jimmy's food

Deciding that we were a little keen to have fish for dinner we found a fish stall that appeared to have refrigeration and better than average standards of cleanliness. In the Amazon we’d learnt to make bread from yuca, we attempted a version of this to have with our ceviche and finished the evening sitting at Bandido, utilising their high-speed internet to get a heap of photos uploaded and another countless amount of beers.

Mugs make good serving ware

Walking tour: attempt #2

Friday morning was an early wake-up day, though we were sans hangover, which was a much better start to the day than our efforts on Thursday. We had breakfast at the hostel then went to San Blas Square for the walking tour. In true South American style, our guide Tatiana was half-an-hour late. She knew a lot about the city but spoke only a little English, so the explanations were mostly in Spanish. It was difficult at times because the words and tenses that she didn’t know in English were pretty much what we didn’t know in Spanish. We saw the churches, and the Monastry of St Francis (it was huge). We were given a bit of history about the city then sent on our way to explore.


Interesting door

Things the convent sells

We found a nice coffee place that makes ice coffee without milk (winning for Dee) and very good hot coffees. We wandered our way to La Mariscal over the other side of Quito, via the parliament to get our photo then settled in at the Ethnic coffee Café for barbecue lunch - steak, chicken, sausages, vegetables and beer (surprise!). We ventured around and took a look at a few of the streets then tackled the bus back into the Old Town, deciding that we needed a few more beers to make sure we knew what they tasted like. Of course we wound up at Bandido, then decided we wanted to try some new beer at Sirka Arts and Beer - really decent beers served with plantain chips and cheese, guacamole and salsa picante. A little drunk, it was time for dinner: we went to the place next door for dinner that was hideously expensive but worth it - Dee had prawns and James had quinoa-crusted fish. The owner desperately wanted to show us his wine collection but for a US$40 dinner we decided to bypass the $200 bottles of wine.


Lots of glasses, no expensive wine

A day with something to do other than visiting brewpubs

Instead of opting for the hostel breakfast for the Saturday morning we thought we would treat ourselves to a breakfast near the square before heading on our day tour to see Quito’s surroundings. This time our scrambled eggs had tomato, parsley and onion in them, and the cheese in bread came toasted! Once finished we waited outside the tour office for our tour that was supposed to begin at 8am but they picked us up at 7:40… (very early for South American time). One of the other people on the tour arrived at 8:01 and got told off for being late, despite being told that the bus probably wouldn’t be there until 8:15. Getting ourselves settled in on the bus we drove one and a half hours to the lookout near Otavalo and tried some biscochi (an Ecuadorian biscuit), cherimoya (amazing fruit), dulce de leche and some of the locally made cheese. We also decided to buy some 100% cacao chocolate because it looked really delicious and has no dairy!

View of a volcano

After the lookout we piled back on the bus and headed toward the Otavalo markets and saw everything under the sun. People selling brooms, goldfish, hoses, meat grinders, bouncy balls and sunglasses - these were just the people walking around. Today, the market pretty much took up a four by six block section fo the town. The stalls had a lot of home made arts and crafts as well as the usual stuff imported from China. They were really huge, the food hall had crab soup for $2 and whole barbecued pigs in front of the stalls that they were pulling the meat off for the dishes.

Taking over the streets


Pigs to eat

When we finished at the markets we headed toward a reserve to see the lake in the side of a volcano, along with millions of roses growing in greenhouses. Ecuador supplies more than a third of the world’s roses, it is almost offensive to give a lady roses because they are so cheap; it’s US$2 for two dozen! On our way around we dropped into a town called Cotacachi for their $15 menu del dia - it wasn’t terrible but certainly not worth $15: chicken and vegetables, corn and potato soup, fried fish with vegetables and fruit salad for dessert. There was a quick stop to learn about how the locals do weaving, which was a big local industry. We finished up by walking up “leather street” to the park and then jumped back on the bus to Quito and home to bed.


Corn drying

A chilled day at Cotapaxi

Once again waking up at stupid o’clock and fighting the terrible internet again we managed to catch Dee’s parents online to have a chat with - Skype has been really wonderful while travelling. James had organised to go to Cotapaxi (a nearby volcano) for the day while Dee decided to give it a miss, still not feeling well from the previous day. For breakfast we ventured to the same café as Saturday, the señora there looked genuinely happy to see us again.

James then went out the front of the hostel to wait for the van to pick him up, and when it arrived there were another 8 people on the tour - he was the last to be picked up. There was a couple from Arkansas on a 8 day holiday, a Danish and Sri Lankan couple who lived in England with their three kids, a Danish guy, and two Swiss women.

We started off down the Pan-American highway, being driven by Gabriel who was the same driver as the previous day, and our guide Jose-Luis, who started explaining about the volcanos in Ecuador. Depending on what you count as “active” there are about 14 active volcanos on the Ecuadorian mainland and 11 in the Galapagos (to be officially classed as active they needed to have had at least one eruption in the last 150 years). Because the eruptions make the soil more fertile, a lot of Ecuadorian settlements in the mountain are near volcanos.


Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world, although there are higher volcanos that are dormant. Unfortunately due to a small explosion last year the road to the refuge and hiking area is closed, so instead we could only go to the visitor centre, and then walk near a lagoon close to the Rumiñahui volcano.

Ice caps

As we went along the highway, we passed through the town of Machachi, which is a “cowboy” town, as it is the main one near a lot of cattle and sheep farming areas. Jose said that if we were still in the area the following weekend, the town would be holding their largest celebration of the year with cowboy parades, rodeo-type activities, and a small amount of bull fighting.

We turned off the highway on to the road toward the Parque National Cotopaxi, and the scenery changed a lot - from plains to forest. Looking out the window, it looked a lot like it does in Tasmania! Jose then mentioned that we were passing through a lot of pine (I believe Radiata) and Eucalyptus plantations. The gum trees were brought over from Australia to grow for construction, but then became a bit of a weed as they consume a lot of water and causing native plants and animals to suffer. I guess we could say this was revenge for cane toads?

Arriving at the visitor centre, we were offered coca tea, which all the other tourists had not tried before. The table had some sheets on it with a list of the supposed properties it has, including curing “vocal fatigue” which one of the kids on the tour obviously did not suffer from. The visitor centre shows a diorama of the national park, and talks about how the volcanos were formed.

After that brief stop, we continued up the road to the Limpiopungo lagoon near the Cotopaxi and Rumiñahui volcanos. The lagoon is very shallow, only 1 meter at it’s deepest point, and is home to several types of birds including Andean Gulls (they sound just like sea gulls).


There is a small walk around the lagoon and marsh, which takes around one and a half hours to do, with a few rotundas on the way. The walk was pretty flat, so it was not a problem for everyone who hadn’t dealt with coming to altitude yet. A little over half way around we went off the main track, and started going up a hill to get a better view of the Cotopaxi volcano. Going up-hill at altitude is much harder, although it was not too steep, but one of the ladies decided to stop and wait at the bottom just a few minutes in. After about 20 minutes walking uphill, we stopped at the top of a rise to get some photos of the valley leading to the plain below Cotopaxi.

Everyone was pretty hungry by this point, as we left Quito at 8am and it was 2pm, so we headed back to Machachi for lunch. We had a set menu with two small cheese empanadas (one pastry and one green plantain outside), locro (potato soup) with corn and avocado, a choice of grilled beef or chicken with the usual rice-potato-vegetable combination, and either mora (blackberry) icecream or maracuya (passionfruit) cheesecake.

By the time we finished lunch it was 3:30 and we headed back off into the van. Surprisingly we went straight back to Quito, with me dropped off at 4:05 despite the schedule saying we would arrive at 6pm. This meant Dee, who was out having a coffee wasn’t ready for me to be back quite yet.

While James was away for the day, Dee had a very chill day, venturing through the markets and getting things together to cook at the hostel: a delicious fish stew, and some banana, peanut butter and mora “icecream”. In her adventures around, Dee decided that it was time for some more decent coffee and to have a little look around the square, more specifically, people watching. Many countries in South America have traditions that may seem strange in Australia, and this particular Sunday offered one that was quite confusing. Settling in for coffee there were a large amount of people very, very formally dressed. Dee assumed that, because it was a Sunday, and being in a very traditional religious country, the formality was because Sunday mass was being held. Not far off from the prediction, there was Sunday mass, however, it was a Sunday mass wedding day… It costs the locals a lot of money to have their wedding in the city’s cathedral, so instead of each family paying $1000usd to hire the church for their wedding, the families all get together and have their weddings in very quick succession, one after the other, after the other. In total there were 120 brides getting married, and each wedding lasted less than 15 minutes. There were tears, some interesting dress choices, lots and lots of people trying to take photos, and a giant line outside the church for people waiting to get married. Not the traditional style that one would assume, but interesting nonetheless.

Wedding line

Surprise: there’s another teleferico!

Monday morning it was finally time to go up the teleferico (our fourth in South America). Since it is a long way to the base station, we caught a taxi from the hostel, which took about 15 minutes. The base station is already a reasonable way up, at 3215m above sea level (365m above the city itself), but as we got closer we could see how high it went. After purchasing tickets (for US $8.50 each!, La Paz was 25c) we started the ride up to 3775m. The ride was fairly uneventful, although there was some ear popping due to the large altitude changes.

View from the top

Not a selfie!

That afternoon we returned to the coffee shop we had been to the previous day, Ktedral since it had great coffee and said hello to the staff there again. Since we were up for a few drinks, we got talking to them more, and ended up staying there for quite a long time. The guys upstairs showed us quite a bit of their fancier equipment, and how to use it, and talk about how it affects the flavour. The two upstairs were Venezuelan and very friendly, and it was good for us to practice our Spanish and then ask a few questions about complicated English bits. Dee learnt how to use some of the equipment they had, and it even made their facebook page!

Dee making coffee

For the rest of the day it was packing to get ready for our flight the following day to head to the land that is Colombia!

Sunset over Quito

Go see all the photos from Quito

Welcome to the beautiful Amazon! Need we say more?

Good morning sunshine…

Arriving off the bus into Lago Agrio at stupid o’clock with little sleep we weren’t really prepared for the onslaught of people yelling at us for taxis, tours to the jungle and the questionable toilets that greeted us. There were also a bunch of chickens underneath the bus… not being in Guatemala yet we were surprised to see them.

Lago Agrio is one of the last small towns before you reach the Cuyabeno reserve, where we stayed inthe Amazon, it is a relatively new town having only been settled as a basecamp for oil drilling in the 1960’s. Outside the bus station we discovered what little tourism Lago Agrio has, some small “shops” across the road with instant coffee (thank gosh they had some kind of caffeine) and a few streets. Sorting ourselves out we made our way to the meeting point for our Amazon stay at Caiman Lodge and then decided it was time for more coffee.

While waiting for our tour bus to arrive, we were greeted by a man off one of the other tours walking around with a baby anaconda in a bag, then some American tourists who conveniently held up their bus by an hour (after it was already running on South American time), and eventually our minibus driver. We drove for two hours to a small holding pen next to a river, and then were shovelled onto a motorised canoe for a two-hour trip into the deep Amazon.

Baby anaconda

Welcome to the jungle…

In our little boat, fearing that our bags may get wet from the water spray, or eaten by some kind of animal (remember there was a fairly severe lack of sleep here), we stopped off to see a few different types of monkeys, and started learning about the kinds of things that lurk near the river. Our tour started on different day to the ones that the company usually has, which meant that we only had five people in our group - the other three were Swiss-German ladies who were equally as terrified of spiders as Dee… This was going to provide the rest of the group with a lot of entertainment.

Boating down the river



We arrived to our lodge safe and sound with the laptop in tact from the torrential downpour on the way, it was time to have some food. For lunch we had a bit of (well cooked) beef with beans, rice and fried plantain. During the lunchtime rush, we were attacked by the Mealy parrot. Later in the afternoon, James went for a quick snooze in our penthouse room on top of the tower, while Dee did some admin and played cards with Jasmin, Alison and Laura.

Meally parrot

Accommodation tower

Our room

At 5pm, we went for a canoe trip back up the river to see some wildlife, no monkeys this time around but we got to see a few Herons, and learn about some of the Amazonian eco-system. Once finished with our wildlife tour we rowed back down the river and stopped in a giant lagoon for a swim during sunset. James braved the water, Dee on the other hand decided to stay in the boat and keep dry for fear of an ear infection, and some of the lurking animals underneath. On the way back after watching the beautiful sunset we saw the splash of a dolphin, but not the dolphin itself and then came the mosquitos. Covered in a few bites once we got back to the lodge, we got ourselves covered up and sprayed, then ready for a delicious dinner of Telapia (fish) steamed in banana leaf with rice, fried plantain and a small tomato and cucumber salad followed by starfruit for dessert. After, with tiredness setting in and another impending rainfall we headed to bed.



The Amazon is like a world of it’s own, completely removed from civilisation, it’s peaceful, quiet and filled with every creature imaginable. Thankfully, for us, the creatures hadn’t visited us throughout the night, but they were around breakfast… howler monkeys in the trees, nearby, and a large number of insects. Once we’d finished our fruit, omelette and tomate de arbol (tree tomato) juice we were ready to explore the Amazon, gumboots, togs and waterproof bags in hand. We rowed the boat for about 5 minutes then hitched a ride with another boat, then another one after that.

Mirror-like lagoon

Rainbow over the lagoon!

Blue-crowned trogon

For those who know Dee well, small insects and the like are not her forte - she scares very easily and can be very jumpy when she has not had enough sleep. The Amazon may not have been the best place to test her coping skills with small bugs and giant spiders, however she provided the group with a little entertainment whilst attempting to row through the tree branches.


A tight fit along the river

Getting through the branches, the spiders and the occasional flying bugs we made it to the Canangueno Lagoon (the Hidden Lagoon). Miguel, our guide was very excited to take us to the lagoon, it is a rare experience that most people don’t get to see, even if they have gone on a tour. Whilst on a trip there we saw:

Monkey mid-air

Our guide

When we got to the other side of the lagoon we stumbled our way out of the boat through the mud and into the jungle. Before leaving in the morning it was a little bit of a mission to find a pair of gumboots that fit Dee’s giant feet… unbeknownst to Dee, there was a massive hole in the back of the gumboots - when she climbed out of the boat she got waterlogged in the thick mud and couldn’t move, then walked around the forest for two hours not being able to lift her left leg properly because of the amount of mud accruing on the inside!

The lagoon was an experience and a half, but alas it was time for us to head back to the lodge for lunch, an afternoon swim and then off to a night walk in a different area. We arrived into the darkness and the mud, and with Dee in her second set of holey boots, then ventured into the night to find some more insects and spiders. While in the darkness there was another torrential downpour, we unfortunately didn’t get to see as many creatures as expected; however there were still lots of spiders for Dee to be terrified from. Sufficiently scared and tired we headed back to the lodge, on our boat, in the rain and decided we needed to have an early night for our next mornings adventures.


Boating in the rain

For a lodge in the middle of the jungle, we were very impressed at the standard of our rooms and the food we were receiving. Ready for another huge day we were up at seven and had breakfast, which was cheese empanadas and ham scrambled eggs with lots of coffee and some papaya juice. Miguel got us ready to go and took us to the boat, thankfully a motorised boat and not a row boat this time around. On our way down the river toward a local community we saw lots of wildlife including:

  • birds
  • Cappachin monkeys
  • Howler monkeys
  • Wooly monkey
  • Squirrel monkey
  • Milk drinker monkey (small black one)


We learnt a lot of information about the eco system and how the wet and dry season affects the wildlife. Since the river is quite high it’s harder to see anacondas and caimans at the moment, as they live one the edges of the river. After an hour or so of looking in all of the trees wanting of seeing something other than monkeys we had just about given up all hope. All of the sudden our boat driver yelled, stopped and turned us around, heading toward a set of bushes, hanging over the side of the river. Hidden in the trees was a giant black anaconda with big yellow spots… it apparently was a baby (at a mere 3 metres long) and not as dangerous as the big ones. In reality, a huge snake is dangerous when your boat runs into the tree the snake is in, and your guide gets attacked by fire ants. Thankfully the snake was not phased by the intrusion.


Our next stop was in the forest somewhere to see one of the large capoc tree which produces seeds that have a cotton type flesh inside them. The tree was 80 or so years old. We trudged through mud to see it, and got eaten by a million mosquitos (James even got bitten once!).

Looking up

We continued down river and went past two of the local Siona communities, before stopping at the third. We went on a quick tour of the village, walking past a few houses and rough looking chickens wandering around. One of the houses had satellite TV they had installed to watch the 2014 soccer world cup, which was one of the few modern things they had.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Girls with toucan noses

We went to the other side of town, and dug up some yuca (cassava) roots. Taking those fresh roots to the community house, the lady cut the skin with a machete, so we could remove the outer skin and then wash them with water. There was a trough made of wood, which had a folded metal sheet over the side with many punctures, forming a grater. We had to grate the sides of the yuca first so it wasn’t slippery, and then grate the whole thing down. You can eat a little bit of raw yuca, which tastes like a potato-y coconut, but not a lot since it will give you stomach problems. One of the Swiss girls cut herself slightly on the grater.

James grating Yuca

The lady put the grated yuca in a woven belt, which was closed and then hung over an extension of a rafter, and turned to squeeze all the water out. There was a huge amount of starchy water coming out, which they collect to ferment into a pale brown paste (a bit like spicy vegemite). Next, the desiccated yuca is sifted so that it is nice and smooth.

A clay plate able to withstand around 200 degrees had been warming up over a small fire. She measured a bowl (made of pumpkin skin) of yuca flour to put onto the plate and then began to spread and smooth it out into a nice circle, using a wooden knife and the back of the bowl to flatten it out. As it cooked it started to stick together, and then using the knife to check under it occasionally, it was flipped over once it had started to brown. When the other side was done, she took it off with her hand and put it up on the sifter rack to cool slightly.

Dee sifting Yuca

Cooking it up

We all broke a piece off to try, since we were starving by this point. Miguel had brought some tuna and tomato-onion mix, which we ate like a small taco. One of the Swiss girls had a turn at cooking another one. Miguel had also brought some cooked rice with salchipapa, onion, capsicum, chicken and other things in it, which we had for lunch with more of the yuca tortilla. Dee had a go at cooking one as well but couldn’t get it looking as nice as the one the lady cooked in the demonstration. After lunch, Miguel took the remaining rice to give to the community.

The local shaman came over to us and told us some information about what they do, their history, the plant that is brewed into a hallucinogenic drink call Yagé (their language) or Ayahuaska (Quechua). He was wearing the traditional necklace and head-dress, made with teeth of jaguar and other animals, and the semi-traditional robe - before interaction with other cultures they never wore clothing. We performed a ritual to call for good spirits to surround us and protect us, which involved singing while shaking a small branch of leaves over us.

Shaman ceremony

Smoking a pig

On the way back to the lodge, the shaman’s magic must have worked, since we got to see some pink river dolphins. Apparently dolphins originally evolved in rivers then moved out to the sea, but now there is only one type of dolphin that still lives in fresh water.

River dolphin


After the local community, we headed back to the lodge for a brief rest and later went out to the lagoon to see sunset again. James went on a night walk, where someone had a black light to see one of the scorpions lit up. Dee, after having been terrified enough the night before, stayed at the lodge to do some blog writing, and have some beers. This turned into no blog writing, and a game of four kings with some of the other tourists staying at the lodge.

On Tuesday morning Dee went out to see the sunrise and do some bird watching. When she came back, she nearly stood on a tarantula and a green tree snake… the animals obviously had sensed her fear and felt that they needed to come after her. After packing ourselves up it was time to head back to civilisation, we caught the boat back to the bridge. We expected the trip to be fairly similar to the one going out, but it wasn’t uneventful - as we turned around a corner, there was a shout and we suddenly stopped the boat, as we had just gone past a black caiman (like a crocodile)! It disappeared within a few seconds, so no photos, but seeing it at all was cool.

Once back to the tiny town, we too the minivan to Lago Agrio, and then the evening bus to Quito, getting in to the hostel around 11pm. We were exhausted and ready for bed… the Amazon was amazing but we were most definitely ready for civilisation without mosquitos, or snakes, or tarantulas!

Go see all the photos from the Amazon jungle. Really, go look - there are way too many things to see to fit them all in this post.

Why Ecuador has long names for places only to shorten them we’ll never know, but here we are at Baños de Agua Santa, more commonly known as Baños. The gateway to the Amazon and located at the foothills of a volcanos, we were ready for a few days of relaxing in the natural hot springs and eating taffy.

Winding down the mountains

Coming down slightly in altitude from Cuenca helped the hangovers slightly… winding roads for nine hours? Not so much.

The wheels on the bus go round and round

To try and save a little money we’d been trying to make sure the hostels we booked were close to bus stations, or close enough to public transport so that we didn’t need to pay for a taxi and barter prices in Spanish. Our hostel this time around was walking distance from the bus station; however, Google maps has had a lot of problems being able to accurately locate us, usually placing us within a five block radius of where we actually are. This has resulted in Dee’s ‘Female Map Disorder’ and James’ logic having to work together whilst hungover to find our hostel, as it started to rain. We survived and are still married.

Regaining our composure we headed for a walk around Baños in the rain to find some dinner. Unfortunately for most of our time in Baños the weather wasn’t quite 100% but we were able to see some pretty cool things.

Clouds over the hill

Dinner on the other hand was excellent; James got a rack of ribs and Dee, a steak cooked on the stone very perfectly… It was one of our best meat and beer meals yet.

Dee with her steak

James and his ribs

Killing time in toilet

The literal translation of Baños from Spanish to English is ‘bathrooms’ (originally hot spring baths), though when you ask to use the toilet in Spanish you also use the word baño/baños. There are a heap of adventurous kinds of sports to do in the surrounding areas of Baños, including buggy rides, sky diving, bungy jumping and swinging off a giant swing over the top of a cliff next to a tree house… these are not things we were overly interested in; instead we went to the natural hot baths on one of our days, got massages and tried a few of the different brew pubs scattered throughout the town, the best being Stray Dog. Our adventures also involved a few drinking games of cards with some fellow travellers at the hostel, as well as a night out into the nightclub stretch with some locals.

Flaming Moe

Homer suggests you have a beer

Baños is home to many lolly shops, which claim to make some of the best melocha (taffy) in the world. Walking through the streets you’d easily come across five lolly shops one after the other, with a person standing out the front softening the melocha over a giant hook that sits in the doorway. Needing to see if their claim to the best taffy in the world, we stopped in at one of the shops and got some multi-coloured sugar on James’ way to the Ruta de las Cascadas tour. The taffy was pretty delicious!

Taffy pulling

More taffy pulling

Seeing the waterfalls

The “Ruta de las Cascadas” (waterfall route) tour started off by standing around near the tour agency waiting for the transport to turn up - James was told he needed to be there by 2pm, but it didn’t appear until 2:30pm. The bus was not a normal tourist bus, but a “chiva” an open-side bus with a pile of benches in the back. There were a few people already in there, and the next 15 minutes were spent driving around the town (barely making some corners) picking the rest of the tourists up from the various booking agencies. On the same bench seat was a lady from Quito with her 8 or so year old granddaughter.

The bus headed out of town along the old highway, which is almost exclusively used by tours now, next to a small river canyon, with a few small waterfalls on the other side draining into it. The first stop was in a section of the road where one of the waterfalls came down on to the road, and to the surprise of everyone on board we stopped right under the falling water! It was nice to see, and we could jump out to get some photos, but not everyone was happy being wet.

Water on the bus

With everyone back on board, the bus continued on passing many small waterfalls and a lot of zip-lines crossing the river canyon. The next big stop was at one of the zip-line company’s buildings so that you could enjoy the ride if you wanted. There were three parallel lines so that a family could go together (and buy the video) if they wanted. If you didn’t want to do that, you could walk 80m down the road to the “puenting” site, which is basically bungee jumping off a small bridge, so that you just touch the 2m deep river. Only a handful of people wanted to do either, so most of us just stood around or bought some icecream.


The next big site was much more interesting, a horizontal cable car which takes you almost all the way to the big waterfall on the opposite side of the canyon (around 300m). Being Ecuador, this wasn’t a fancy cable car and was powered by a truck/tractor engine run by a guy in earmuffs. When it was time to come back he just threw the gears into reverse! Allegedly this is the longest horizontal cable car in Ecuador - most of the big ones are for going up hills.

Cable car

Chugging along in the chiva for a while we arrived at Pailon del Diablo (“Devil’s cauldron”), on the Pastaza river. While you can kind of half see it from the top, it’s definitely worth the half US dollar to walk down towards it. There is a suspension bridge and a stone/cement path along the cliff, but I wasn’t sure how to get to the second half of it, it seemed to just stop.

Path and bridge

Path and waterfall

Walking back up to the bus stop at the top, there was a small restaurant with bathrooms that I decided to use. Not only was it free, there was even toilet paper! I think that must be a first for Ecuador. Heading back towards Baños, we stopped across the road from the Casa del Arbol (“tree house”), home to the “swing at the end of the world” where you can ride a swing attached to the tree in the air over a gully. Unfortunately the bus doesn’t wait for you so you’ll need to catch the next one in an hour, which would be too late since James had already organised to meet Dee right after the tour ended.

Whilst James took the tour, Dee took some time around the town to check out the local markets, as well as some of the local coffee shops, whilst getting some delicious food and wine from a Swiss place.

Snack plate

Street art

Unfortunately, in the afternoon we had to get ourselves ready to catch the night bus to Lago Agrio… another exciting bus trip through the winding roads and crazy drivers of Ecuador. This one we, we were glad to find out, had allocated seats; so a little less chance of random people’s bums sticking into your face at 3am.

Next stop… The Amazon!

Go see all the photos from Baños

¡Bienvenidos a Cuenca! Or really, welcome to Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca

After our more than interesting bus ride, we arrived into Cuenca a good five hours later than we’d expected, thanks to the hop-on/hop-off rabbit run from Guayaquil. Fortunately for us, we weren’t on a chicken bus, that’s coming later apparently, but there were chickens underneath the bus that we could hear on the odd occasion. Settling in for a quiet night we went for a quick dinner and then off to bed… bus days are not nice days.

Clang, ding, dong, noises and stuff

Looking forward to a little bit of a lie in Saturday morning, we were surprised to be woken up numerous times during the night with the sensor light on our floor, and then the ongoing church bells from 5:40am. Our hostel was supposed to have a breakfast that we could opt to have for $2, realising they didn’t have this option we wandered into the little café next door. Not sure what to expect, we thought we’d try one of the local breakfasts that was a strange but delicious mixture of scrambled eggs and corn, along with toast, jam, coffee and the most delicious raspberry juice ever!


Panama hats are not from Panama

Ready for a day of exploring we walked around the old part of Cuenca, coming across a Panama Hat museum… as you do. While there we tried on numerous hats, being nearly conned into buying one (not sure where it was going to fit into our backpacks), and learnt a little about the history of Panama Hats, apparently they are not from Panama. Different sources give different reasons for the name, and like most things it is probably a bit of A and a bit of B. When the toquilla straw hats were shipped to Europe they went through Panama to be exported, and later on the US president wore one while inspecting the construction of the Panama Canal making them more famous.

Panama hat museum

Hat-making machine

James in a hat

Along the way we found some weird sculptures on the street, such as one of people trying to climb up a pole with items hanging from the top. We have no idea what they were trying to represent, but worth a photo.

Odd sculpture

We came across a Venezuelan place for lunch that served the most delicious carrot soup and a traditional Venezuelan main that included a mixture of delicious spices, chicken and salad, as well as a fresh juice. On our quest around the find out a little more about Cuenca we stumbled across a market happening next to a church (we think it may be the church that had the bells clanging at 5:40am) and tried a few of the local delicacies, including craft beer.

River in the city

Later in the afternoon we stumbled across another bar that had two-for-one cocktails, so of course we had to try them! For a change in the South American cuisine we decided that we might try some German food for dinner… we felt that it was the Ecuadorian version of bad German food… unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to expectations. Hopefully when we get to Germany it will be much better!

Another Sunday with everything closed

Like many other countries in South America, Sundays in Ecuador aren’t the most exciting of days… many places are closed and the local people enjoy shenanigans in the parks. Living in each other’s pockets for as long as we have been, we decided we were going to spend a little time apart… we’d been driving each other a little crazy. After another delicious breakfast at the tiny café next-door James went down the south side of the river past the university and towards the mountain, while Dee went into town to try and find some hydrolyte. Six pharmacies, some impressive broken Spanish and hand actions later she had success! The walk along the river is quite pretty, and we can see why there are so many ex-pats here.

River in the city

Fountain near the university

Food without power…

Finding each other back outside the hostel a few hours later we decided we’d go and find somewhere to have a little chill out, and potentially some happy hour specials at a cocktail bar. Being in a continent that takes soccer as seriously as religion, if not more so, we were inevitably going to come across a soccer game at some stage… especially when the UEFA Cup is being played. Not knowing many rules about soccer, but we knew enough that we had to support one team or another and enjoy some cocktails while we were at it. Settling in at a bar we watched the second half of a game we cheered on whichever of the European teams were playing and enjoyed our cheap drinks.

Deciding that we should probably have some food to counteract the potency of the 2-4-1 $5 cocktails, we hunted for a place to have dinner. Sundays there is bugger all open, as per usual, so we settled on an Arab/Pakistani place for dinner with some pretty decent looking food. Just as we had settled in and were ready to order, the power went out at the restaurant, and the surrounding four blocks. We waited for half an hour, settling in with a beer, then decided that it was probably better that we didn’t sit and drink more before eating… Less than five minutes after we walked down the street, the power came back on. At that point we’d already decided that we’d give the Mexican restaurant around the corner a shot. Blue Monday was not our best choice… we stepped into the American styled place, greeted with 1980’s style margheritas and Mexican food similar to the poor quality that Montezuma’s offers at home, except double the portion size.

One huge burrito

Shopping in Cuenca

Another morning of cling-clang bells at some ungodly hour meant that we were up well and truly before we wanted to be. In our wandering around in the previous days we’d decided that we were going to give a new café a try for breakfast… Ecuador has a large amount of ex-pat Americans (allegedly 2-3% of the city’s population), many of the breakfast stops have very American breakfasts which isn’t really exciting; they do however, have decent coffee though… not more instant coffees! A confusing thing when you’re in the ex-pat cafes is that the menu is in American English, not Google translate English, or Spanish. After getting used to the Spanish menus, it was quite hard to read in American English, and not automatically try to translate the food words in your head, more so before the first coffee… brain function was not good.

The day was panning out to be fairly quiet, we needed to find a currency exchange and then find some new shoes for Dee. The shoe situation wasn’t improving in our travels around, starting on the third pair in less than three months on the trip. We all know how much James loves shopping, and being dragged into multiple shoe shops, clothing shops, just shops in general. To thank James for his patience with the shoes shopping, and wandering around for hours on end trying to find a currency exchange, Dee decided to take him for a treat of mid-morning cocktails (at the $5 place again). Both exhausted, the cocktails were a nice pick-me-up for what was going to be an otherwise relaxing day.

How to blend in with the locals

It appears that drinking in Ecuador at any time of day is something that the locals do frequently. It is ok to walk around with alcohol on the street at any time of the day, and drink it at any time of the day. Alcohol is sold at every corner shop and is cheaper than soft drinks, tea and coffee, and even water! So to blend in with the locals you pretty much need to be in a café, brew pub or restaurant with one of the local types of alcohol and you’re set. We decided that for the rest of Monday we were going to blend in with the locals by going back to La Compañia (the microbrewery around the corner). This ended with us sitting with two Ecuadorian guys, talking about who knows what, and missing dinner - probably not a bad thing given the terrible dinner experiences we’d had the two previous evenings.

Oh look, beer!

When the blending in goes bad

So Tuesday… the clanging was not good. The bells… not good at all, it was 5:40am, we were very under the weather and we had a bus to catch. Why oh why do we continually decide that having a big night before catching the bus is a good idea? We eventually packed, we probably left things behind, we were dying… things were not good.

On the plus side, we were heading to our next stop… Baños!

Go see all the photos from Cuenca