Santiago de Guayaquil, known as Guayaquil and pronounced as Gwuy-a-kill. The gateway to the Galapagos (although we didn’t go there), the most popular city in Ecuador and strangely lacking in touristy things to do, but Simon Bolivar made an appearance.

Guayaquil sign

How not to annoy immigration, or the rest of the bus

Once we crossed the border into Ecuador, it started being even more tropical, and we passed through around 40km of banana plantations. The roads were much better than Peru, with almost no potholes or speed bumps on the highway. We made it through the border crossing unscathed; however some other people on our bus managed to lose their exit slip from Peru, consequently delaying us by a half hour… luckily we had a shady spot of cement to sit on by the side of the road while we waited for them to sort themselves out. We eventually arrived to Guayaquil and found our hostel, then went on to find a recommended place for dinner that served ribs. After the raving reviews from the receptionist we were expecting a half decent restaurant with sit-down service; we were arrived to a take-away place but the food wasn’t bad.

On the boardwalk

Having finally gotten ourselves a decent night sleep and very thankful to not be on a bus again, we decided that Wednesday would be spent looking around at a few of the local tourist attractions. One of Guyaquil’s most prominent spaces is the ‘Malecón 2000’, a 2.5km boardwalk lining the Guayas River. The boardwalk was originally named after Simón Bolivar, and has plenty of statues of him and his mates sprinkled along the shoreline.

Statues on the Malecon

A few years back the local government decided that it was time to refurbish the area, along with a few museums, restaurants, shopping malls and a couple of food court kind of arrangements, the boardwalk is home to South America’s first IMAX theatre.

Death rowing a boat

Boars fighting or something, we don't know

For the few days that we were in Guayaquil we’d spent a large amount of time at the Malecón exploring the parks and market places. The artesenal markets were tiny, and barely worth the walk to the very end of the pier; however, the local commercial markets nearby were massive! Aisles and aisles of football shirts, phones, batteries, watches, radios, shoes… everything you could possibly ever need.


Walking the Giant Hill

After the couple of kilometres walking one direction on the boardwalk we came across the neighbourhood of Las Peñas, which is the beginning of a fairly steep ascent toward Cerro Santa Ana. Las Peñas is one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, with some of the houses being built over 400 years ago - many of which have been restored and turned into art galleries.

Santa Ana Hill and tunnel

We began up the hill of Santa Ana but managed to take a couple of wrong turns and end up closer to the river than we did the peak. Getting some directions from security guards along the way, and then realising that the stairs were numbered we eventually got ourselves heading in the right direction. Many of the stairs were lined with pubs and bars, the occasional corner shop, and a lot of barred windows with old ladies peering out. By the time we arrived to the top we were very thankful for a slight breeze off the river, and a guy selling water. Cerro Santa Ana is home to Guayaquil’s first church and town hall; it also has a pretty cool looking lighthouse.

Lighthouse on the hill

All of the food

So along with some pretty scenery and walks along the river, no city would be complete without trying the best they had to offer in food. Along the Malecón 2000 there is a sprinkling of restaurants who offer cocktails, food deals and some shonky coffee; in saying that, one place we came across offered all you can eat crab for an absolute steal at $16.99 US.

Dee with crab-hammer and beer

A little sceptical of the “all you can eat” sign (is it really all you can eat when you have inverted commas around the phrase?) we decided that we’d at least give the place a go for dinner. We sat down, were brought bibs and a tiny side plate of salad and beers. Then came the crabs… we had two buckets, one with Ecuadorian spices, and the other stir-fried in garlic. By the end of the evening we’d gotten through eight small crabs between us and were absolutely chocker-block full; we did however, watch another table eat six per person… Now these crabs aren’t the massive muddies that you get in Australia but they are definitely a decent size, and this place was definitely all you can eat!


Artesenal markets… and more food

So Thursday we rolled out of bed, still stupidly full from our overfeed of crabs we bypassed breakfast and headed back down to the Malecón to try and walk off some of the excess food. Arriving to the main fence we were greeted with a giant ‘Guayaquil’ sign that popped up overnight in front of Simón Bolivar. We headed toward the markets and then back around to a Parilla for lunch, where James decided that we needed a massive amount of barbecue meats… surprise!

Barbecued meats

Common Ecuadorian food

An arvo at the hostel

When one has too much meat they need to lie down… Our hostel room in Guayaquil was pretty awesome, our room was cleaned daily, and there were towels, a bath mat, a toilet seat and even an extraction fan! Unfortunately the intake is above the toilet, the outflow is to the main room, and it’s triggered by the light switch - so if you do anything smelly in there, the room suffers :( Hooray!

Friday morning it was time to go back to the bus station and get ready for another terrifying bus trip, this one was during the day… on a local bus… with no allocated seats… and a stop every two minutes to collect/drop off/lose someone. The patience for bus trips is dwindling! On the plus side we are off to a new city! Bring on Cuenca.

Us at night

Go see all the photos from Guayaquil

Fresh seafood, tourists, cocktails, coconuts and beach, welcome to the beautiful seaside town that is Mancora.

We’ve arrived, now the party can start

For buses in South America we’d pretty much hit the jackpot with the company ‘Cruz Del Sur’. Although the drivers sometimes appear to forget there are passengers, driving a little erratically now and then, the buses were extremely comfortable and usually you get fed on them. The morning of our arrival into Mancora, we were fed coffee (not even the instant type! But filled with five teaspoons of sugar), a ham and cheese bread roll, a muffin and a piece of fruit.

When we got to the bus station the door had barely opened before we were bombarded with a crowd of locals trying to get us onto their tuk-tuk taxis and a tour. Barely able to step onto the ground, trying to find our passports and bags, and busting for the toilet, we were dragged onto some guy’s tuk-tuk and taken to our hostel. There was a little bit of sensory overload happening and the lack of sleep on the bus didn’t go well with it all.

Tuk-tuk to the hostel

Once we’d gotten to the hostel we were warmly welcomed by Diego and Helena who checked us in and came straight over with a beer, telling us to sit down, relax and enjoy Mancora. What a way to arrive! Much calmer and welcoming than the onslaught of yelling taxi drivers we’d originally been greeted with.



A number of people have said to us, “but your travelling, your always on holidays”, this is somewhat true; however being constantly on the move and needing to stick to a timetable can be stressful and tiring, but fun. For this reason, we decided that our time in Mancora was going to be a little less trying to catch the public transport around to see all of the local sights, and a little more sitting on the beach, relaxing and taking life at a more reasonable pace.

How to do this? Go and find a restaurant down near the water, set yourself up under one of their umbrellas and then let the staff do the rest. We sat in our little piece of paradise, under the umbrella, for most of the day, swimming, drinking a couple of cold beers and eating some of the freshest fish we’ve had so far on this trip.

Fresh coconut


All of the seafood

For dinner, Helena at the hostel recommended we go to a place called ‘Los Delfines’ (The Dolphins) as it had a beautiful view of the sunset and the food wouldn’t disappoint. Taking on board this advice we toddled into the shady looking restaurant, which had a tangle of live power lines hanging from the front of it, and sat ourselves down to watch another perfect Peruvian sunset.


So dinner was some of the best food we had experienced in Peru, fresh seafood is always a winner. James had “pescado a lo macho” which he had been looking at having for a while. He thought it was spicy fish, but was actually fish in seafood sauce. Dee had Parihuela, which is a seafood soup, containing half a crab, a side of fish and more.


More holidays, more cocktails and more seafood… surprise?

So for the rest of our stay in Mancora, we pretty much relaxed on the beach, enjoyed barbecued seafood and a lot of sun. Unlike other places in South America, James remembered to put sunscreen on the back of his hands, and Dee remembered to put on sunscreen full stop. Amazingly even in such a small town we still managed to get ourselves lost. We wandered for a walk to what was supposed to be a beautiful secluded beach at the other end of the town, past the fisherman’s wharf and near all of the rich houses, having walked for two hours and still not finding this beautiful beach we retired back to the main beachfront and chilled out.

Fruit tree in front of the church

Restaurant on the beach

We enjoyed a few places along the beach, including the Wawa bar and their comfortable couches, cheap Pisco and Happy “Hour” cocktails, happy hour starts at 9am and finishes at 10pm. While settling in for dinner on one of our evenings, one of the locals turned up downstairs with a giant snake in a bag and threw it on one of the restaurant owners; this caused quite a commotion and led to quite a fair amount of laughter.



Snake on the street

Farewell Peru

After a beautiful few days in Mancora it was time for us to say goodbye to Peru, we needed to find a money exchange (which we failed at), and get ourselves back to the bus station. Riding in the last of the pimped up tuk-tuks for a while we got ourselves on the bus and prepared for another crazy road, along with another border crossing.

Next stop Ecuador.

Go see all the photos from Mancora

Trujillo, the city of eternal spring due to it’s minimal seasonal change, and the cultural capital of Peru; sounds like a perfect place to stay!

Surviving the roads of Peru

As a child one of the most exciting things about catching buses is either being allowed to sit in the very back seat, or being on a double decker bus and being able to sit at the very front. We opted for the latter option for the bus to Trujillo, which allowed us to see EVERYTHING, selfie-sticks being sold on the side of the road, oncoming traffic while we were overtaking other buses, near accidents with tuk-tuks… On the plus side we were offered lunch, snacks and drinks on the bus for the journey.

We arrived alive into Trujillo, no longer hung over but extremely tired, and in need of a little dinner. Unlike the rest of Peru, Trujillo seems to work in normal hours, there was very little in the way of late night restaurants open at 10pm; but we found one.

Travelling like Shaniqua

Most of Trujillo involved trying to find places on a map that didn’t exist, and figuring out the bus system, which doesn’t really seem to have much of a system. We got chatting to another traveller who was in her mid 70’s, she was able to give us directions for the bus and some interesting things to see around Trujillo. We never actually got her name, so we shall call her Janet (a more reasonable choice to the original suggestion “Shaniqua”); Janet had been backpacking for six weeks, living out her retirement with stints of travel around the world - the day she left the hostel she was going to a place called Huaraz to do a hike. If either of us live that long, living a retirement travelling seems to be a good way to live!

Gold church

Random art

Trujillo was one of the first cities founded by the Spanish conquistadors in 1534; though, ironically it was the first of the cities to float the idea of independence from the Spanish empire, later becoming Peru’s first capital city. In short, the Spanish conquered the Incas, who conquered the Chimu Empire.

The Screaming Man Bus

After spending one of our days wandering around the main square of Trujillo, looking at old buildings and not being allowed into the Cathedral (because you can’t wear shorts), we decided to embark on a journey out to one of the ruins nearby. To get to Chan Chan you need to stand on the corner, where there is no bus stop, and wait for a minivan with a number on it and a guy hanging out the door screaming. When told this by the hostel staff we had a giggle, thinking they were joking about the guy screaming out the door; but sure enough, on the corner we waited and there was the guy screaming out the door.

Drumming up business, our of the bus door

Seeing Chan Chan

Arriving at Chan Chan we had a local try to con us into being taken around in his “taxi” for 60soles to all of the sites (he neglected to mention that we also then had to pay for the entry fees), after stumbling through our Spanish and politely declining numerous times, we were on our way toward a big pile mud brick in the middle of nowhere. On our walk down we came across some high school students who were in awe of us, I’m not sure if it was the whiteness of our skin or us speaking in English, we got quite a number of looks from them and the occasional ‘hello’ with a lot of giggling; it was a little bit of a novelty.

Arriving at the ruins we were escorted in and offered a guide who showed us around the historical palace.

Dee near the base of the huge wall

Carved walls

Fish patterns on the walls

Chan Chan was the capital of the Chimu empire and the largest pre-Colombian city in South America. The city has ten walled ciudadelas (mud-brick palaces), which housed the Kings of Chimu… only one king lived in the palace, as soon as they died a new palace was erected for the new king to move into (which they had probably started building 10 years earlier). The palaces are filled with ceremonial rooms, storage areas, courtyards, irrigation channels and interestingly enough, the king’s tomb.


Excavation site

Wall artwork

Once we’d finished at the ruins, we walked back out toward the main road and up to the museum. Expecting a rather large museum we walked into a small room that contained only a few relics that were recovered from the Chan Chan palaces and their surrounds.

Face sculpture

Dee with some figures

After the museum we waited out the front on the side of the road to catch the screaming man bus, whilst waiting we were beeped, flashed and hassled by every taxi driver going past. The bus turned up, the screaming man let us on but charged us a different price to the first screaming man bus; probably because we’re gringos.

Chillax time

The afternoon was spent relaxing at the beach, watching people learning to surf and continually falling off their boards, being convinced by every person walking past that we needed to eat in their restaurant or buy their sunglasses. The beach was nice, but still not as beautiful as the ones back home… we are really spoilt with beaches in Australia. While at the beach we tried some of the local food, hitting up a restaurant for a mountain of ceviche, buying a rum home made ice-cream along our walk, as well as some kind of mystery deep-fried honey drenched dough. Our lovely relaxing afternoon ended with us perched at a little café that gave us a perfect view of the sunset.


Sunset over the water

The Sun and Moon Temples

An ideal way to start the morning is with coffee… we forgot that we were back in instant coffee territory on Friday morning. Somewhat tired and looking forward to a decent coffee to go with our jam and butter breakfast we were hit with reality. It was time to go and find a café that didn’t charge through the nose for a half-decent coffee. This was much more of a mission than either of us had anticipated but we got there.

After being a little overwhelmed with information and somewhat exhausted, Dee decided to take it easy and catch up on some admin stuff back at the hostel for the day; the admin stuff may or may not have included a show or two of Orange is the New Black.

Near Trujillo there are a number of sets of ruins, James decided that he was going to go and check out the Huacas del Moche (the Temples of the Sun and Moon) instead. These temples are over 700 years older than Chan Chan and are filled with so, so, so much history. They are well worth the visit if you have time in Trujillo.

Site on the side of a dry hill

Overlooking an excavation site

Because of how old the site is, and having been filled with dirt and mud for so long, much of the artwork is badly damaged and faded (I’ve edited these two photos to make them easier to see). The site is still actively being worked on by archaeologists too, but it was very cool to see.

Wall with artwork

Art on a wall

Round and round and round

Upon his return from the Huacas we headed back into the main street to find ourselves some dinner before our bus to Mancora, at 11:30pm. On the way out of the hostel, Dee scared herself (again) by seeing the thing above the doorway, which she mistook for a huge spider!

Not a spider

We got ourselves to the bus station with plenty of time to spare, both ready to try and get whatever sleep we could on the eight-hour bus trip. Like with anything in South-America we were running on the locals’ time, so the bus didn’t leave until 1am, it was another terrifying ride but we weren’t sitting in the front row this time!

Go see all the photos from Trujillo

We’ve arrived! Getting into Lima just past midnight we were happy to be dropped off right outside the door of our hostel, and offered welcome pisco shots…

we were sensible enough to decline the pisco shots, in desperate need of a drink of water instead (it is apparently unsafe to drink the water in most of South America, neither of us were willing to risk another round of Dr. Deb’s trusty travel pills). After checking in and sorting out what was going on, we discovered that the hostel was separated across two locations, our room was not in the hostel we had checked in at, but six or so blocks away. Thankfully, after an hour or so of sorting things out and finding a car to drive us, we were on our way to a proper shower to wash off the previous days’ sand experience, and a bed


Waking up to beautiful, ummm… cloud, we were welcomed to Lima. Lima is the largest city of Peru and is on the coastal part of the country, which means another week of zero altitude for us, hooray! Lima is pretty much a desert, although it lies on the coast so has an interesting mix of hot and cold all at once. Basically, the winds off the desert meet the winds of the Pacific Ocean, resulting in Lima pretty much having constant cloud cover as well as very little variance in temperature.

Gray sky

Slightly exhausted from the previous week of early mornings, terrifying sand dunes and buses we decided that we were going to take it easy for a little while. Lima has quite a number of things to do, including local breweries. Before hitting any of the breweries we decided to be sensible and grab some coffee from the large Larcomar shopping centre that hangs over the cliff of Miraflores. The shopping centre is almost completely built underground and info the cliff, with a park on top, so until you walk right to the edge of the cliff or stairs you may not even know it is there.

LarcoMar shopping centre built into the cliff

The Larcomar shopping centre is very fancy, it’s one of the few places in South America that we have seen very western type shops, including a Nike store, Nine West and an UGG shop - not quite what we were expecting. The area also has some really cool buildings, setting itself apart from the rest of Lima; there is much less historic Spanish influence here and a lot more modern reflective glass buildings.

Inside the shopping centre

James’ favourite pastime

Discovering the restaurants in the shopping centre were reasonably expensive, and after James had been dragged into every shop possible, we decided it was time to head to one of the little microbreweries about 1km up the road. Craft brewing in Peru has become a very large industry in recent years, mostly because of the tourism and immigrants from America - Peru is much cheaper to set up a business in than pretty much all of the Western countries. This hasn’t helped us in our quest to master Spanish; however, the people in Peru speak Spanish much, much slower than other countries we’ve been in, and pronounce their words properly.

Beer O’clock

We’ve ended up at a craft brewery called Barbarian, where we tried a few of their beers and enjoyed the local snacks (the not popped popcorn stuff). Chilling out for the rest of the day we eventually made it back to the hostel and cooked ourselves dinner… not a very exciting afternoon as some of the travelling had taken it’s toll on us, and neither of us had quite completely recovered from being sick.

Being allowed a sleep-in past 6am was complete and utter bliss! Both of us became normal human beings again, no more tired eyes! Hurrah! After getting ourselves organised, and after James had hit is head on the ceiling hung TV for the umpteenth time, we headed out a few blocks up the road to go and join one of the many “free” walking tours the city offered. Making our way to the meeting point up near McDonald’s, we came across a park completely covered in cats. There were cats everywhere; apparently the government has a program to de-sex, feed and care for them… SO MANY CATS!

Cats in the park

After making it past the cat scenery we met up with the walking tour group and headed to our first stop, a coffee shop with free coffee; these people know how to please tourists first thing in the morning! It was then off to the train station to go to the historic centre of Lima; one really useful thing of this tour, we were shown how to use the metro system with the cards and stations. Using buses and stuff shouldn’t be too hard, but having an idea of where to buy tickets and where to go is really practical information, many of the walking tours don’t do this!

Seeing through walking

Our first stop was the Plaza Mayor, where there is the main cathedral, the presidential palace, and the archbishop’s palace along with a myriad of other buildings. The plaza was huge! Smack bang in the middle of it all was a giant fountain, which we couldn’t get close to because there was a police guard; we’re not entirely sure why but they were there nonetheless.



We were taken around the historic centre and learnt about Simón Bolívar and San Martin. For anyone who has been to South America, you should know who these people are, or at the very least know that EVERY South American city settled by the Spaniards has a street named after these two men. Every city we’ve been to also has a statue, or multiple statues of Simón Bolívar on his horse; Lima was no different.

While on the tour we were fortunate enough to be close enough to the Presidential Palace to see the changing of the guard, it happens every day at 11am. Having never seen a changing of the guard happen before, we were treated to quite the show. Old mates were up there with their trumpets, the band of hatted men and their instruments came out and walked around the front of the building, then as quickly as they came out, they disappeared.

Changing of the guard at the presidential palace

Changing of the guard at the presidential palace

Toward the end of the tour we were taken into a few of the souvenir shops to try Peruvian chocolate, and then on to the Pisco shops for Pisco tasting. After that we headed toward another of the city’s churches and learnt about the one-eyed woman. Back in the day women (and some men) would dress very modestly but cover the head with a black scarf, revealing only one eye… This created a lot of mystery and caused men to chase after them to find out what was going on under the scarf. Sometimes it was a little surprise for the man to find out that the woman with the scarf was in fact a man too, or severely deformed in some way. It was pretty much a way to help the ladies who may not be the errr ‘cream of the crop’ to get married.

One of our group in a black scarf

Decorations on the building

After the tour, we were a bit hungry, along with a few others from the group at a restaurant near the plaza. Settling for one of the $5aud menu del dias we were given a huge amount of food, consisting of the usual double-carb of rice and potatoes along with some mystery meat, and corn soup. Since we didn’t have anything planned for the rest of the afternoon, we decide to head back to Miraflores and visit the bar of Nuevo Mundo, a local micro-brewery that we had tried a few beers from in our travels around Peru. There were a few to choose from, some good and some fairly average. While the mass-produced beer in Peru is fairly terrible, the choice in craft beers is quite nice.

After downing a few beers we decided we should get ourselves home at a reasonable hour and probably do something crazy like cook our own food instead of eating out. Two nights in a row we’ve had a home cooked meal! It had been a while since we stayed in a hostel that had a kitchen; it was time to get the culinary skills in action. Deciding not to get too adventurous (especially post-beer) James got to work on making French onion soup with some crusty bread, if you ever need an easy and cheap (but not quick) meal, make that :)

Saturday morning rolls around and it was decided that we needed to spend some time apart from each other. Living in each others’ pockets in confined spaces for a while can cause some unnecessary and ridiculous arguments, and of course both of us are always correct. James decided to chill around at the hostel for the morning while for Dee, it was time to go shopping! Back down to Larcomar Dee toddled, straight into a little restaurant looking over the ocean, who offered cocktails at reasonable prices. When one is offered a drink it is impolite to refuse right?

Dee's cocktail

Giant wood ball

After enjoying a nice refreshing cocktail and enjoying the view of the cloudy sky offered by Lima, it was time to consider some lunch and suss out where James was hiding. After finding James we wandered through the Larcomar precinct, stumbling across a pop-up cart festival arrangement thing, which had a few of the local microbreweries showcasing beer. Stopping for a quick thirst-quencher, we wandered our way around to find some food and then hang out for the afternoon; it was at this point that Dee found the left over candle from the sandboarding experience in her handbag… you know, just in case we needed some more candle wax?? There might also be a little bit of sand hanging around in our shoes too.

Love is in the air

Sundays in Lima are like everywhere else, most places are closed all day, with some opening up for a few hours across lunchtime. We decided to spend the day walking along the beach and checking out the parks. Our first stop was the Parque de Amor (Park of Love), where there is a giant sculpture of people kissing in a certain pose. There is a record for the longest continual kissing in that pose, and at one stage the record was held by the mayor of Lima! The park is surrounded by beautifully tiled walls and over looks the grey ocean. Heading down the stairs toward the water we started our walk along the beach. With the lack of sunshine offered by Lima, the beach just didn’t seem quite right… there was also a distinct lack of sand - I’m sure we had enough in our shoes still to help in that department. The beach was lined with small smooth rocks, and a large amount of washed up sea life, including urchins and cucumbers, as well as the occasional crab.

Love arrow

Kissing status

Though the beach wasn’t one of the nicer ones we’d seen on the trip, it didn’t stop the locals from going surfing, or trying to con the tourists into going surfing. Given Dee’s lack of stability on land trying to walk (she’s only fallen over a few times on the trip), it was decided that we might leave the surfing for another lifetime. The beach is only a narrow strip along the coast, and there is only the highway separating it from the long set of cliffs (due to erosion). The Larcomar shopping centre is built into one of these cliffs, and from the beach, it actually looks quite unstable and like it could collapse at any time. Since Peru suffers a lot of earthquakes, there is also a risk of tsunami here, and every 500m or so there is a big sign showing where the evacuation routes to the top of the cliffs are in case the warning sirens go off.

Dismal beach

We were walking along the beach to find the small market area James went to on his first morning in Lima last time, but it turned out to be a lot further away than we thought. After walking down the beach for about 3.5km, we decided to give up finding it, and head up the stairs and paths on the cliff, into the Barranco suburb. Like Miraflores, this suburb is a wealthy one, and has a lot of old buildings that have been turned into embassies, and similar places.

The path up to Barranco

Giant ant sculpture

As expected in a fancy suburb, there are fancy restaurants; though it was a Sunday so most were closed. Fortunately for us, the Barranco Beer Company was just down the road. Wandering in, we settled in for a couple of craft beers and some giant pretzels before heading back toward Miraflores for chicken wings and a nap.

Dee enjoying a BBC drink

Chicken wings

Random street art

Water in the park

Lima doesn’t have much in the way of major tourist attractions, despite being the capital. In saying that, the Parque De La Reserva is on of the few really cool things to see in Lima at night. A quick trip on the metro toward the soccer stadium brings you right out the front of the park, where there are a million people trying to sell fairy floss, flowers, llama key rings and food. Heading in to the park there are small bursts of colour and then lots of water… the park is covered with fountains and in the evenings there is a water and light show. The fountains are lit up in vibrant colours and water shoots in every direction, there is also a projected show with music in the background; it was definitely worth the four soles to see!

Light show

Light show

Dee with light show

James with light show

Light show

Light show

Light show

Ceviche time!

With Peru being the birthplace of ceviche, we decided we couldn’t leave Lima without having any. Ceviche is raw fish, mixed with corn, chilli, red onion and lime juice; the acidity in the lime juice reacts with the proteins in the fish, effectively cooking it. Many of the touristy spots sell ceviche but it is at a premium price, for a very small amount. The sign of a good place is always one that is busy and has a lot of locals in it; the most obvious place for us to head for a good meal of ceviche was to the local markets. After getting ourselves organised at the hostel, and James hitting his head on the low hanging television again, we were ready to hunt down the best ceviche Lima could offer.

The market in Lima is similar to most of the others we’d come across in South America; stalls and stalls of mystery fruit, mystery meat and shops offering random goods. Unlike the artisanal markets, there are no llama key rings, there is no one trying to offer tours or massages, and very few Caucasian people wandering around. The local markets are probably one of our favourite things to visit, there is always something new and exciting to try, and the meals are ridiculously cheap; even in Lima where everything is four times the price of other places in Peru.

Wandering around we were offered every type of ceviche under the sun; it can be made from pretty much any seafood, however the most traditional is made with Corvina (sea bass). We found a stall, were sat up on tiny bar stools and fed fish soup, then a meal of ceviche for a grand total of $7aud. It was so delicious that we forgot to take a photo, so here is some fish:

Hand drawing of fish

Completely stuffed from the ceviche we decided to head back toward Larcomar to try and find some new shoes for Dee… the ones she had were looking a little worse for wear - they had done around 800km of walking. On our way out of the market we stumbled across some middle-aged men crocheting tablecloths and towels (it is not just old women who crochet apparently), and a guy with his own little wheelie panaderia (bread shop) complete with dulce de leche stuffed pastries, for 20c.

Crocheted items

Mmm... dulce de leche

The shooooooesah

Something we have become accustomed to on this trip is that we very obviously stand out to the locals. Aside from the obvious blonde hair and blue eyes sported by James, the somewhat pail skin of both of us, we have generally been at least a head taller than everyone in Peru. Us gringos stand out like a sore thumb, Lima was proving no different… when you’re taller than the average person in Peru, your feet are generally bigger than the average person’s as well. Going in to shops to find shoes for Dee, and heading straight to the men’s section gets weird looks from the sales staff, and then a good giggle because your feet are bigger than any size they stock. No shoes for Dee.

Feeling rather defeated in the search for shoes, we stopped for a cocktail and a quick snack, and then sent James on his way to find a hairdresser. Fortunately for him, the experience was much better than Dee’s, he came back looking rather dapper, no butchered hair in sight.

What to do when there is Pisco

For the evening we thought we might go and suss out the hostel bar, which was in the other hostel building a few blocks away. When we arrived our first night we were offered welcome Pisco shots, we weren’t aware that the welcome shots are a “welcome to the bar every night you need to have a shot”. In short, there were a few people welcomed, and there were a few shots, and a few beers, and a stumble back to the hostel at some hour of the night, via a burger place, and a stack up the stairs… It was also Dee’s turn to hit her head on the television in the middle of the night. The following morning was going to be an interesting one.

Another day, another bus

At some point in this trip, we will learn that trying to pack and catch a bus with a hangover is not a particularly smart idea. The only time either of us seems to get a hangover is the day that we need to pack and catch a bus. Forgetting to set an alarm we woke up quite late (very close to checkout time), consequently meaning that we had to speed pack our bags, checkout and get to the bus station by 11:30 for our 12:30pm bus.

We made it, we found food and Gatorade, and we were on our way… next stop Trujillo.

Go see all the photos from Lima

The ocean! We can see the Ocean again! And sand, and dirt, and water!

Another early morning…

Saturday morning unfortunately involved an early morning pickup, between 5:15 and 5:45am. PeruHop had been on time so far (unusual for South America) so we’d packed the night before in an attempt to get more sleep in the morning. We set our alarm for 4:30am, got up, showered and ready, and then waited. Unfortunately after our good organisation, the bus was running late an arrived around 6:15am due to people at other hostels not being ready on time, they were apparently running on South American time. As we started heading out of Arequipa, the guide brought breakfast around and started taking orders for what we wanted to have for lunch. We thought that we weren’t going to get any breakfast on the bus, so we brought our own snacks - but some water, juice, a muesli bar, a mandarin and muffin were pretty good.

Bag with our breakfast

Sometime in the previous 24 hours Dee became a little unwell, it might have been food poisoning, it might have been a little too much cheese… either way a 10-12 hour bus trip was going to be interesting. It was James’ turn to catch up on the admin things, so Dee rested and watched a movie. While James said he was going to catch up on all the tasks we needed to do, in reality he procrastinated about doing that - probably doing some spreadsheety thing, or something to do with the black screen and green writing on the Macbook, this is open all the time (I have no idea what it is but it looks important). The trip was fairly uneventful apart from a lot of windy roads going down the dry dusty mountains until we hit a great big blue mass of water. OMG we hit the coast - the first ocean we’d seen in six weeks!

Our first glimpse of ocean in a while

Peruvian ceviche at it’s best

We stopped into the seaside town Chala for lunch, both of us having ordered ceviche that morning, which came with a side of very sweet chicha morada. Not sure if ceviche was a great choice to have for lunch with an upset stomach, it didn’t really last long but on the plus side, it was delicious. After the quick lunch stop we continued on to Nazca, arriving mid-afternoon. Very few people on the bus got off, most of them were continuing on to Huacachina, and only seeing the Nazca Lines from the small tower on the side of the highway.

We checked into our hostel, which seemed nice enough, and went outside briefly to enjoy the warm weather - another difference to the last 6 weeks was that the overnight minimum was going to be 16 degrees! Dee still wasn’t feeling great, so she skipped dinner and James went out to grab a small quick bite and then returned to do some more things with the black screen and green writing on the Macbook.


While on the bus we could book in for tours that we wanted to do in each of the towns we were visiting. Dee booked in for the flight over the Nazca lines, however James did not since he had done it previously, and the lines aren’t likely to be changing anytime soon (Greenpeace’s stupid efforts aside). At the height of food poisoning (thankfully only a mild case this time around), Dee downed some of the medication prescribed by the amazing Dr. Deb to try and settle her stomach before flying at 9am.

Flight sign up sheet

The flight over the Nazca isn’t exactly the safest of flights, as there have been numerous fatal accidents, and for a long time, a lack of air safety precautions, regular maintenance checks as well as issues with light planes and weather conditions. Apparently the earlier you fly in the morning, the safer it is, the later it is in the day the windier it is, and with planes flying on 45 degree angles side-to-side they can easily be blown around and crash.

Cockpit controls

It was also advised not to have breakfast before the flight as the tiny planes swing and swerve in the air… this was potentially going to be a recipe for disaster, upset stomach, no coffee, anxiety and no James to hold my hand while freaking out. Ready and waiting for the pick-up at 8:45 for the 9am flight, we waited, and waited, and waited. By 9:30 the reception of our hostel called the company to find out what was going on, PeruHop had told the flight company the wrong pickup address…

Still not flying yet…

After sussing out the pickup situation, and finally being collected, Dee was on her way to the tiny Nazca airport. Upon arrival, and after paying an exorbitant amount of money, it was time to hurry up and wait. The weather wasn’t amazing and the wait was going to be until 11am… what little confidence held in the flight company in the first place was rapidly deteriorating. There were some pretty flowers around the building though…


Nearly two hours after the original scheduled time it was finally time to get going. Piled into a plane that fit eight people, including the pilot and the navigator, we taxied the runway and were off.

Ready for takeoff

The Nazca lines are in the middle of the Nazca desert, they are thought to have been created somewhere between 500BC and 500AD. Their purpose isn’t completely known, though it is believed that they may have held religious significance to the original creators. There are hundreds of lines, most of which are geometric shapes, but there are a number that are shaped into animals, human figures and plants. The lines were created by moving the red-pebbled surface to expose the grey coloured ground underneath… this all sounds really simple, right? The largest figure is 370 metres in length, the creators didn’t have any kind of aerial view to help create the lines; how they managed to get them so perfect, I really don’t know. The preservation of the lines is also really cool, basically it doesn’t rain, the temperature doesn’t change much, and there is no surface wind - the wind is only up high where the tiny planes are.

The flight across the lines lasted only fifteen minutes, but it was amazing. The photos don’t really do this place justice. Look carefully…



Tree and hands/frog

When in Nazca

After the flight, we still had another night in Nazca. We wandered around the town, took photos of random things, stumbled across a market that sold everything from the llama keyrings to goldfish and of course, stopped in for a quick pisco sour or two. Sometime during our stay in Nazca James also ended up with some kind of virus thing and succumbed to the wonderful medication Dr. Deb gave us. We’re hoping that this might be the last time Dr. Deb and her wonderful medications get a mention in the blog for a while.

Drink for dinner

Spider tile on the ground


Another bus trip… yay (rolls eyes)

By this stage the bus trips are taking their toll… the PeruHop buses are nice, but we’ve had enough. I don’t want to be on a bus anymore, I don’t want to drive along winding roads, and I don’t want to feel like I’m going to die every time we go around a corner, or overtake someone. Though the drivers on the buses in Peru are much safer than those in Bolivia, it’s still a rather scary trip when they overtake other vehicles, driving the bus into oncoming traffic.

This bus trip was only going to be a couple of hours, driving from Nazca to Huacachina with a stop at a tower in the middle of nowhere so that those who opted not to do the Nazca lines flight, could see them. The tower wasn’t built by the government, since until somewhat recently they didn’t take much care of their historical sites, but by the German mathematician/archaeologist Marie Reiche, who also campaigned for the lines to be declared a UN heritage site. Unfortunately the Peruvian government’s lack of care also lead to one of the lines being bulldozed through when they were building the highway :(

The tower is pretty much a money making scam, as you can’t see much from up there, the people at the bottom are trying to sell you all of there “made in China” souvenirs, and you get charged a bit as you go up.

Frog/hands from the tower


¡Hola Huachachina!

It was time to get off the bus and go for a hunt for the hostel we’d booked. PeruHop give options for hostels, most of which, when we have researched them, have been really expensive or have very terrible reviews from other travellers. Unfortunately, for us, we didn’t stay at the recommended hostels from PeruHop this time, instead deciding to stay at a place that looked great online… arriving into it, the scene was somewhat similar to Afromans’s filmclip “Because I Got High” - just a few rooms at the back of a bar.

Huacachina is a small desert town, just outside of Ica, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by humungous sand dunes. There is really no reason to stay there, other than to go on one of the buggies to go sand boarding (which we could conveniently book on the bus). When we arrived we didn’t get much of a chance to see the sand dunes as it was rather dark. The town has a small lagoon in the middle, and like everywhere that has anything resembling a lake/lagoon/waterway in South America, there were boats to paddle around in.

Dune behind buildings

Lagoon in Huacachina

Tuesday morning we were extremely excited at the prospect of having a sleep in for the first time in ages… no 5:00am wake up, or so we thought. There doesn’t seem to be a stop or start time for construction, we were woken at the more reasonable time of 6:30am to a guy hammering the roof of our room; it appeared a second storey was being built above the current rooms of the hostel.

How to fix things with Pisco

After the abrupt wake up and some coffee it was time to have a little wander around the town and organise ourselves to meet up with the rest of the group to start our excursions. Wandering around we found a few interesting restaurants, including “Huaca-fucking-china” (excuse the language), were bombarded with tour information and the option of hiring motorbikes, bikes, boats, day trips, winery tours, llama keyrings, Nazca line pictures, portrait drawing and menus. Politely declining all of the above, from the same people every time we passed them, we found our group and organised to go on a Pisco Vineyard tour.

Surely by now you’ve read all about pisco? But if not, here is a little info for you (with a little help from our trusty friend, Wikipedia). Pisco is the creator of some of the worst hangovers you will ever have. It is a type of brandy that is produced in the wine regions of Chile and Peru - don’t tell them that though, since they both say the other country doesn’t produce proper pisco. It was made because the locals got sick of paying ridiculous amounts of money to import brandy from Spain, so they thought they’d over-ferment some grapes, turn them into a spirit and then drink it… sounds amazing? Well it kind of is, mix it with some lime, don’t worry about any actual drink mixers, chuck in an egg-white, some ice, some sugar and shake: there’s a Pisco Sour; it is potent and delicious when used in the correct manner. We’ve had pisco in many different places, with many different mixers, and most have been delicious; but like cheap wine (maybe even the deadly ‘goon’ variety) it gives horrific hangovers. You can make them in a blender too, but the egg foam on top isn’t anywhere near as nice.

Anyhow, back to the tour:

The vineyard we went to was El Catador, one of the ones that runs activities for tourists. By coincidence, it was the one that James visited when he was in South America last time, and like many other things was a lot more touristy than previously. We went on a quick 20 minute walking tour of the site, being told how they make pisco in the traditional way, rather than the industrial one. Originally the pisco was squished by feet in this area:

Grape squashing area

Then put into large pots, sealed with a bit of mud/cement, and then stuck in the ground to ferment for a while. Storing them in a hole rather than stacked up is very important since Peru has a lot of earthquakes - you wouldn’t want all your alcohol containers to smash. The actual town of Pisco was almost completely destroyed in 2007 by an 8.0 earthquake, so the danger is certainly there.

Fermetation pots

After the fermentation, the liquid is sent through to a massive copper still, and then the vapour to a giant pipe in a many-thousand-litre pool of water.

After learning about how the pisco was made, we got to go and try some, as shots. No mixers, and no chasers… though some were quite nice, the first two we tried could be closely related to rocket fuel. We made it through the pisco tasting, purchasing a bottle of chocolate pisco on the way out, before heading back to the hostel to get ready for more activities.

Bar/shop in El Catador

Drinks for tasting

Man-shaped pourer with a penis-spout

Little dune buggy…

While in Huacachina, aside from being hassled to hire boards and things to go down the sand dunes on, there is also a constant hum of the giant sand buggies that tear around the town.

Dune buggy

As with the Nazca flight, we’d heard some pretty epic horror stories of accidents on the sand dunes, the drivers being drunk and reckless, and little maintenance on the vehicles to keep them safe. The anxiety was taking it’s toll, especially after the first five minutes when we stopped for the driver to ask us if we wanted the slow or fast tour (of which, we had to pay him an extra tip for). Our group being sensible, chose the “we want to die on the sand dunes going ridiculously fast” option.

Driving on the dune

Large sand dunes

Up and over hills we went, hanging on for dear life, screaming… If one has a fear of heights, or knows what damage accidents on sand can do, this is probably not the tour to go on. Thinking the ride there in the buggy was scary enough it was time to do the actual sand boarding itself. Given bashed up snowboards we were ready to go, until old mate (the crazy driver) informed us there was a very specific way to get down the hill so that we didn’t seriously injure ourselves, or end up with sand in orifices that we didn’t want it. Of course, the most sensible way was face first, hanging on for dear life, down forty metre sand dunes - after waxing your board with a piece of candle he purchased along the way. Terrifying is an understatement…

Us in front of the buggy and dunes

Sand in my pants

After doing four of the hills successfully, avoiding near collisions with other tourists who refused to get out of the road at the bottom of the dunes, it was time for another crazy ride in the buggy. Although the ‘face-first’ strategy was supposed to help stop some of the sand getting into uncomfortable places, it did not. Rest assured you will not be subjected to pictures of where the sand was. Look how tiny we are compared to the dune.

Boarding down the dune

We're all tiny against the dune

Dee arriving at the bottom

Our shadows against the next dune

After sorting out a little of the sand situation, including getting the couple of tonne out of our shoes, we arrived at our next stop; the top of a giant dune to watch the sunset. Words cannot do the view justice… so here are some more pictures.

Sunset next to the buggy

Orange sunset over the dune

Sky darkening to blue, with the moon up high

Us standing next to the buggy

Trying to hang on for dear life, and having a rapidly loosening seat belt could be described as fun for some people… for Dee, not so much. The rest of the people in the buggy had great delight laughing at Dee’s blood-curdling screams as we sped over the dunes. I will point out that the trip back to Huacachina was just as fast as the trip out, except we were now driving mostly in the dark. We made it back safely, just.

Sand for days

After arriving back to Huacachina, it was time for us to get onto another bus. The sand situation mentioned earlier still hadn’t been rectified. Fortunately, for us, we only had a two hour bus trip covered in sand to get to Paracas; for one of the other guys in our buggy, he had an 18hr bus ride, sans shower. Definitely didn’t envy him.

Paracas didn’t hold much adventure, we were able to somewhat sort out the sand situation, and chill out with a couple of drinks with a few of the girls we’d met earlier in the trip. It’s funny while travelling through the tourist trail of South America, you run into people continually that you’d seen weeks or months before. Paracas was no different, Kate from our trip to the Colca Canyon was there, and Billie and Caitlyn who we met in Florianopolis in Brasil (then again in San Pedro) also happened to make an appearance.

Whilst in Paracas, James went on a trip to the Paracas National Reserve while Dee chilled out and took some time to chill out and relax - this inevitably ended up in having beers with people at the Kokapelli hostel. The reserve is both a land reserve and a marine reserve, helping to protect a lot of local wildlife (like birds) and some historical sites. The reserve isn’t that exciting to look at, lots of dry rocky ground (with plenty of quartz fragments everywhere), cliffs, and rocky beaches.

That afternoon we strolled around the shore of what could loosely be termed as a beach cum boat harbour, ate ceviche and watched the world pass by for a little while.

Boats on the coast

Pulpo al olivo

A "prohibited solid boldness waste" sign"...

Coastline at the Paracas reserve

In the afternoon we were to meet back with the PeruHop crew in minibuss to go to Hacienda San Jose; a giant mansion that was owned by San Jose and his cotton and sugar cane farms. We arrived after dusk and taken down into the eerie tunnels that connect with four other haciendas in the area, as well as the port which is 17km away.

Hacienda courtyard and church

Front of the hacienda

Unfortunately, in the time that the hacienda was built, slavery was legal; to avoid paying taxes to the government the owners created the tunnels from the port to smuggle people in. The mansion, as well as the nearby church, have many hidden entrances and escape routes linking the buildings together. The hacienda was beautiful and extremely interesting; though it’s since been transformed into a guesthouse - the eeriness of the place was enough for us not to want to stay.

Bones in the slave tunnels

A dim tunnel, leading somwhere...

Church alter, with a secret passage to the tunnels

After the hacienda visit it was time to meet up with the big bus and make our way to Lima.

Go see all the photos from Nazca, and Huacachina, and Paracas