South America

Mancora - street

I’ve mentioned my fascination (from afar) with surfing on here before. Never tried the stand up variety, always been in the sea for different reasons.

But here I am in Peru (of all places), and I flap about on a long mal in fun little waves, with a guy yelling instructions at me in Spanish… and loved every minute. Roghan, Piggy, Tobias and a few others… I certainly cannot claim to understand the love of it after this short session, but I certainly got a taste.

sign at border

We left Cuenca this morning and slid down the mountains, landing on the coast at the Ecuador/Peru border.

The crossing was busy, but we’re now on Peruvian soil, enjoying cold beers near the beach. Not a concept I associate with Peru (my own glaring lack of knowledge).

Have been away from a connection for a few days, so apologies to anyone waiting on a response to emails!

Cajas landscape

05 December 2009 – The long haul to Cuenca was finished on Friday evening.

Saturday morning we got up into the mountains above the city, exploring a little of Cajas National Park. Stunning.

Incredible glacier cut valleys and countless lakes and small streams running through the stunted vegetation, bringing on memories of the cushion plants and knarled bushes of the colder bits of Tasmania.

Lower down the forest was dense, with lichen clinging to the large fruit bearing trees and many birds calling out and flying through the canopy. We spent some time down there, then headed up higher via road to a little over 4000m.

We got out of the bus and wandered across the grass covered slopes and then into an incredible forest of trees that are the highest growing in the area. Amazing things, hundreds of years old, stunted and twisted (and somehow related to the rose).

A lunch of fried trout, then back down into Cuenca for a few hours walking the streets before dark.

painting

04 December 2009 – On the way to Cuenca from Banos, snacking on guinea pig, and I look up onto the wall… depending on your persuasion the saviour could be in there somewhere.

Looking down to Banos

Our time in Banos de Agua Santa has been nothing but relaxing.

The city is known for its hot springs, and sitting in them in as the sun lights up the hills around you is magic. The baths range from cold water pouring down the mountain side to water that is almost too hot to climb into. Hopping between the two is a quick way to wake up and start the day.

I spent the morning relaxing, and then we climbed back into the hills above us to visit a luxurious day spa. Edwina treated herself to a massage while I sat back with coffee and enjoyed the view out over the valley.

The sun set, and we made our way back into town to enjoy a cheap meal. Tough times.

Pilsener

Bus to Banos

Been away for a few days, so time for a quick update.

We left Quito on the bus headed south for Banos, and by the time we hit our destination we were on our third bus due to flat tires and the like.

Banos is known for outdoor activities, and by the countless operators that line its streets offering bungee jumping, white water rafting, horse back riding, mountain and rock climbing, hiking and Amazon jungle tours… well business is good in Banos.

Spider monkey

We ended up in the Amazon for two days. Monkeys, birds, swimming holes, alligators, frogs, bats and plenty of insects. Sweet.

Back into town for a hot shower and some easy times.

Quito. Ecuador

Quito. Ecuador

Plastic hat. Central Bougainville 2007

A day well spent so far. The morning was time out in the sunshine, snapping a few pictures, bumbling around on Quito’s trolley bus and generally wandering aimlessly and enjoying it immensely. The afternoon has been a little time set aside for chores and a lazy rest (because I can…).

As always my thoughts briefly drifted to work underway, and the boy wearing his plastic hat (snapped a few years ago in Central Bougainville) returned as I day-dreamed about projects to finish when I get back home.

 I think he is beautiful.

He came floating down the road as I stumbled towards a village polling station set up for the 2007 Papua New Guinea general elections.

I stopped him (probably with inappropriate desperation), and he humoured me for the few seconds it took to take the picture.

The equator

Ecuador… the equator… ahhh, got it (ding, the light bulb in my head illuminates).

We were off to a large market a few hours from Quito, but the stop at the equator did it for me. Heard about all the different methods of determining the lines position, the historic relationships people have had with the equator, the ability to see out into the milky way and view constellations at the same time that are often hidden because of geographic location… it was a cracking morning.

Best bit, of course, was standing in both the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time.

Straddling the equator

no photography

Museums can be such incredible things! We spent the morning at the Museo Nacional del Banco Central (Quito), dumb struck by the collection of archeological pieces. Further more the colonial and modern art galleries on the second floor kept us busy. Magnificent. No photograhy allowed, so a good amount of postcards were pilfered from the shop in the foyer. Great to see a good number of school groups in all parts of the museum taking advantage of the resource.

Back to the old town to do a dance with the pick pockets and laze about. The Basilica stands tall above the city, and of course we had to climb up into the belfry for a look out across the buildings.

Basilica

The afternoon ended with crummy jobs (post office, picking up the repaired pants and bag, washing clothes etc), followed by a warm dinner and early night.

street. Quito

Quito

A painful start to the day with the body screaming out that it was not morning, nor a good time to be crawling out of bed. Still, a quiet breakfast and coffee made things alright.

We did a few quick jobs around where we are staying, then back onto the bus to the old part of town. And that is where the trouble started…

It was crowded, we are tourists (and dressing the part), so inevitably my bag was slashed and Edwina’s money belt had a razor put across it as well (ballsy, they went through the front of her pants to try for the cash!). They are a talented bunch, you think you’re being careful as you squeeze into the bus… and then you notice the damage. Still, no luck for the crims, nothing lost for either of us except some damaged goods and some money with a nice long cut through it.

Another coffee/hot chocolate break to get over our little episode, then off exploring and enjoying more of the old town in Quito. We got up onto the top of a hill for a glorious look out over Quito in the late afternoon sun, then rolled back home to find a tailor to stitch the pants and bag (two days in and we’re already repairing things…ahhhh!).

Plaza San Fransisco, Quito

Rolled out of bed this morning for a late breakfast.

The decision was made that coffee and lazy food up in the old colonial part of Quito would be the deal for the day, so we wandered out and found a bus headed south.

Once we got to our stop we stumbled up the hill and found ourselves in Plaza San Fransisco, where some sort of festival/celebration/general letting down of hair was on. A large stage was erected for the pop music that was blaring out of a huge PA, and small bands were scattered around the plaza with people dancing to the different tunes. So we hit lady luck and enjoyed the spectacle.

Plaza San Fransisco, Quito

The rest of the afternoon we spent seeing a few of the old churches and walking the streets, no big plans or need to be anywhere else.