Okay, are you ready for another update? This time it took me a lot less time! I’m in Peru now in a town called Huanchaco on the Pacific coast right outside the city Trujillo. I just got here today but it seems like an interesting little place. Lots of surf shops and sea food restaurants. I’m planning to spend Christmas here or in the city…will definitely be the warmest Christmas I have ever experienced!
When I left off last time I had just arrived in Banos Ecuador. Banos was an awesome place. I met two nice guys in my hostel the first night and the next day we went mountain biking all day together. I was really stoked to get on a bike and the trail was amazing. It was trail sometimes and sometimes road. Every so often we would pop out in a new little village. There were waterfalls and crazy views all along the way. I brought along some of the toffee Banos is famous for and that was fun to eat along the way too. In the evening back in Banos we went to the thermal pools. It was cool to go at night and see the lights of the city while sitting in the pool. The next day we rented a dune buggy! It is harder to drive than I expected and interestingly enough even though they are street legal no license was asked for! Anyway that was a lot of fun and definitely worth the four dollars. After that I headed back to Quito to catch the end of fiestas de Quito. The end of the fiestas was just as fun as the beginning. One of the nights the hostel owner of the hostel I was at rented one of the chivas (party buses) for his birthday. I was really excited because I had seen a lot of these all over the city and really wanted to try. These things would never be legal in the US… basically they are big trucks (like you would put cows or some other animal in the back of) stuffed with people and alcohol and blaring music. As they drive crazily through the city while people are dancing and leaning out the sides.
When I left Quito I headed for the coast. I took a bus to a city called Manta which is a nice little coastal town. I didn’t intend to spend time there but after a cab driver tried really hard to rip me off (it’s a long not very interesting story but the moral of the story is I’m not that stupid and he didn’t succeed) I ended up finding a hostel and spending the night. The Manta harbor was pretty in the morning as I walked to the bus station and got a bus to Montanita.
In Montanita after a little bit of searching I found an amazing hostel. I had a huge dorm room all to myself with a private bathroom and a porch with a beach view for 8 dollars a night! Montanita was a really strange little place. Everything there was either a restaurant, hostel, or over priced tourist store. But it was a really nice and fun place to spend some time! I met some great people in Montanita and the weekends there are crazy!
I left Montanita with one of my friends and we headed for Guayaquil. A lot of people had warned me it was a dangerous city and not very interesting but it is the biggest city in Ecuador and I didn’t want to miss at least just seeing it. Well turns out it’s exactly like everyone says…there really is nothing there.. There harbor was pretty and we climbed a hill to get a nice view of the city but other than that it’s pretty dull. The nice guy working at our hostel took us out to dinner and showed us around a bit so we did have fun but it wasn’t terribly exciting. The next morning we went right back to the bus terminal.
My next stop was the city of Cuenca. First let me just say if I move to one place in Ecuador it will be Cuenca because this city was big but also so friendly and beautiful. I loved it. When I arrived in Cuenca I was really sick (presumably from some sketchy food I ate in Guayaquil) and I spend the first whole day laying in bed. I was super excited when I woke up feeling better and I think that made Cuenca all the better…basically being healthy never felt so good. I met a lot of great people both in my hostel and living in Cuenca and probably could have stayed there a while. One sunday morning I went to a market in a place called Gualaceo outside the city, it was a nice excursion and I love outdoor markets. One night the city had a traditional Ecuadorian dance and music festival which was really fascinating and there are some cool pics of that online.
After Cuenca I headed to a small town called Vilcabamba that a friend from back home recommended I visit. Vilcabamba was a beautiful and amazing little place. I stayed at a hostel/lodge place up in the mountains overlooking the valley. It had a swimming pool and hiking trails. I went on two really cool day hikes and in the evenings I went into the village. I met an awesome family (also introduced to me through a friend back home) this family is from North Carolina but just moved to Ecuador with their three sons. They are one of the coolest families ever..
I took a bus from Vilcabamba to Loja and then Loja to Machala and then Machala to Huaquillas. It was an all day adventure but it was cool to see Southern Ecuador…Banana country!
The next day I crossed the border in Tumbes, Peru. It was just like the Ecuador Colombia border, super easy no questions, no search, just get a stamp and walk across. Then I was off on an all day bus ride to Trujillo. I stayed in Trujillo last night but today I was off to the beach here in Huanchaco. It is beautiful here! I just put up some pictures on facebook. I think this is a good place to spend Christmas. Everyone back home have a great Christmas! Miss and love you all!