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Bogota, Colombia: Monserrate, free walking tour and interesting food

IMG_2722The following morning, we rose from our bed early as everyone was rummaging around, making a lot of noise. We had a shower, prepared for the day and ate the complimentary breakfast, which was an arepa and egg. I now know arepas are eaten for a typically Colombian breakfast, which are just so versatile and delicious.IMG_2693

After, we walked around 5 km to the historical centre to start the free walking tour. There was a huge group of us and a lovely tour guide, who took us around different places in the centre, telling us about the history of Colombia. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about the history even though I had planned to live here. It was extremely interesting. As part of the tour, we stopped in cafe to try Colombian piscos and at Botero museum, who is an artist that paints with a fat perspective. It’s really clever with a lot of thought behind his detail. Towards the end of the tour, we stopped the main plaza, where the palace used to be and our guided talked about Pablo Escobar in an informative way. However, the police heard her say his name and then started questioning her to say that she couldn’t promote him (which she wasn’t doing in the slightest). After a lengthy chat, they eventually let her carry on guiding us around the city.IMG_2718

Once the tour was over, we went to a restaurant she had recommended to try  a hot chocolate drink with cheese inside and bread. It was an interesting concoction, where I decided I preferred to eat them all separately rather than together.

After, we walked through the city with graffiti covered walls to Monserrate, the cable car up the mountain. It was quite busy here but the ride was enjoyable, where we saw a magnificent view of the whole city. We wandered around up here, where there was a small church, market with souvenirs and food, and horses. Once we had taken plenty of name, we took the cable car back to the centre and caught a taxi with two other tourists to our hostel.Bogotas-speciality-the-strangest-combination-of-foods-768x576

It was time to say goodbye to travelling and my incredible friend I had been travelling with for over 2 weeks. It was a sad moment. I collected my luggage and bid farewell to my friend, where she was going to continue her travels around Colombia. A friend, who was from Bogota that I met in Australia, picked me as I was staying with him for a few days before starting my orientation.

IMG_2681Over the next few days, I helped him as he was opening a new juice shop, as well as seeing some different sights, hanging out and drinking aquadiente on a night out.

Travelling South America over the last few months has been amazing, where I have seen new places, experienced new things, saw Machu Picchu, made some awesome friends and just generally had fun exploring. Now, it’s time to kind of settle for some month in Colombia. Okay, so it’s not really ‘normal’ life as I will be experiencing a new culture but I will have to work again, well teaching, which doesn’t really feel like work as I enjoy it so much.

Farewell travelling. Farewell moving around.


Quito, Equador: Middle of the earth, cable cars, views from the cathedral and Cotopaxi volcano

Quito is the capital of Ecuador located near the north of the country. It is a huge city with lots of different history and architecture, surrounded by mountains. It has quite a lot to do with free walking tours, art and history museums, hikes, cables cars and middle of the earth.

The following morning, I wanted to just ignore the fact I was ill and got ready for the day. We went to meet my friend’s friend from Germany for breakfast in the main plaza. Unfortunately after eating, I felt extremely sick again so I returned back to the hostel to rehydrate and sleep while my friend joined the free Quito walking tour.Photo-13-2-17-4-12-47-pm-768x1024

After a few hours, my friend came back to the hostel to meet me. I didn’t want to waste my day so with an energy drink, I was able to see some parts of Quito. First, we walked to the central market, which was full of fruit and vegetable stalls as well as little food places. Here,  one could buy traditional, hot food, where my friend got a bowl of something meaty with potatoes in a soup. However, I wasn’t feeling up to eating. We bumped into the tour guide from this morning, who told us about different food, which we needed to try, as well as inviting us to a reggae-Ecuadorian night out.

Then we looked at this hostel to find out about tours for the next day before strolling to Quito Cathedral. We knew we wanted to climb up the towers so we paid the admission to go inside the huge, beautiful church full of stain glass windows and statues of Catholic scenes. Searching for the staircase to the towers were impossible. After a while, we asked, where we found out that there was another entrance if we wanted to climb the stairs.  This was slightly annoying as we had to pay twice when we would have prefer to just go up the two towers. I took the lift as far as I could as I was feeling rough but the last part was some dodgy stair, which I was slightly scared about climbing. However, the view was totally worth the effort. It was a beautiful sight of the whole of Quito. On the way up were several levels with a gift shop and different architecture. The clock on the tower confused us as it wasn’t the correct time but when we looked a little later, the time had complete changed not in accordance with the time gone.


Once we had wandered around the cathedral quarters, we decided to walk for a long time to Mariscal, basically ‘gringoland’ with expensive bars and restaurant, tour agencies and thousands of tourists. It was a nice walk and a lovely area to explore. We found some tour agencies to find out the prices to do a day excursion. After we dawdled the half a dozen kilometres back to out hostel, taking a different route so that we could see different areas and parks.


In the evening, we just made some food and I went to bed early as I found the day exhausting, still feeling slightly ill, while my friend went out to meet one of her friend’s.

The next day when I woke up, I was feeling so much better so we raise from our bed early to do some exploring. Feeling full from breakfast, we left the hostel and took a taxi to Teleferiqo, cable car to the top of the mountain. We purchased our ticket and hop on the cable car to the top. Down in the city, the weather was bright but as we inclined up, overlooking Quito, the weather became worst with clouds covering our vision. Once we reached the top, the view was non-existent with chills filling the air. We walked around to find a church and the start of a famous trail, however, I didn’t have the energy to hike miles and miles. In the end, we disappointment rising up inside us, we just gave up; nothing was open, no-one was around and the weather wasn’t going to shift anytime soon. As we climbed aboard the cable car to go down, we were given a heart-shaped balloon and some chocolates as it was Valentines day. The lower we got, the more the shape of the city came back into shape.

Back at the bottom, we caught a taxi back to the centre as I wanted to see the guards changing but this never happened. This day was definitely not going to plan. We check out our hostel as we want to change to the neighbourhood ‘Mariscal’ as we were planning a night out as well as wanting to get up early for an excursion.

We wandered around the city, poking our heads in little, quaint, artistic shops and taking a look at Museo de la Ciudad. It had beautiful patios and information about how the history of the city. The only disadvantage was that most of the signs were in Spanish. Afterwards, we walked to a tiny shopping area with a cheese shop, where we tasted samples and a chocolate shop, ordering hot chocolate and various naughty desserts. It was to die for with the richness of the chocolate.

Mid-afternoon, we gathered at a hostel to take us to the ‘Middle of the Earth’. The ride took nearly an hour to get there in the van, through the busy traffic. First we took a guide tour of the museum explaining the customs and beliefs of the indigenous people, ending with the statues of the ‘middle of the world’ where the equator line was believed to be. We took several photos and did a few tests with water swishing and balancing an egg. However, it was recently found that the equator line wasn’t actually there so no too far away, there is now a moment to show exactly where it is. We visited this before heading back to the centre.DCIM122GOPRO


We returned to our hostel, where we collected our bag and took a taxi to the our new hostel. Once we had checked in, where we had a private room, we got changed ready for the night out. In the common room, we started drinking and eating cheese and biscuit that we had bought earlier. On of my friend’s friend joined us, listening to music and chatting. For the rest of the night, we partied in a club, dancing the night away.

The next day, we had to wake up super early as we were being picked up to be taken to Cotopaxi Volcano. Forming part of the chain of volcanoes known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, Cotopaxi is one of Ecuador’s most-active volcanoes, with 86 known eruptions. It is the second-highest summit in the country and is among the world’s highest active volcanoes, reaching a height of 5,897 meters

We were both feeling rough but after some sleep and plenty of water, we were feeling refreshed again. On the way, we stopped off at a viewpoint of the city, then a restaurant to eat breakfast and then little market to buy clothes to keep us warm as we were informed that it was going to be cold.

Driving up rocky, mountainous paths, we reached our start point of the trek. With all our warm clothes and walking boots, we hiked up Cotopaxi Volcano on the windy road, which was a bit tough due to the altitude and tiredness, to the base point. We couldn’t go any further up because of the season, we were in so we sat, rested and drank a cup of coco tea to feel better from the altitude. The view wasn’t that great as it had clouded over.Photo-15-2-17-11-34-10-am-768x542

On the way back down, it started snowing, turning into rain, where we slid more than walked back down the mountain to the van., whilst only seeing about a metre in front of us. From here, we took down the bikes and cycled down to a beautiful lake along a bouncy road. I decided not to ride on bikes as I was still not 100% and cycling is not my favourite thing to do but I did get to walk around the lake and take pictures.

After, we drove back to the restaurant to have some lunch. This was probably the best food I’ve had in Ecuador; a delicious soup, vegetable main and a lovely dessert. I was totally full afterwards.

Our transport drove us back to our hostel, where we arrived mid afternoon. We rested with a coffee in the hostel until it was time to leave. Then we took a taxi to the Quito airport, ready to leave the country. Once we had checked in and gone through security, we waited for our flight number to be called before boarding the plane. The flight was uneventful and pretty quick.

It was early hours of the morning when we arrived in Bogota airport. We collected our bag and went through security successfully before catching a taxi. The taxi driver was extremely talkative and that time in the morning, I couldn’t comprehend Spanish. My mind was bowing with concentration. Eventually after taking us the longest way possible, we got to our hostel. The receptionist showed us our room, where our beds weren’t prepared so he managed to wake up the whole room. As soon as they were ready, I collapsed in a pile and fell asleep.

Banos, Ecuador: Swings, canyoning, buggies, waterfalls and jungle treks.

[007562]Banos is a small town south of Quito in Ecuador, which is most famous for doing adventure activities and the swing at the end of the world. It’s a pretty town, which I enjoyed apart from being ill some of the time.

After we went around several tour companies, telling us the different options about what we could do here, we booked a few things for the next couple of days. In the evening, we went to a vegetarian restaurant for dinner, where I ate a burrito with chips and salad, then we heading back to the hostel for an early night.

With some conflicting information about the ‘Swing at the end of the world’, the following day we woke up around 5.00am in the morning. Some of the agencies told us that we had to go with a guide there and use their bus, some others told us that it was a long hike up there, and then we got some information about a local bus taking you us the mountain at certain times of the day. We were told it was best to go up early as it can get extremely busy but there was conflicting information about the opening times. We spoke with some other traveller who had been there and they told us there was a huge queue to go on the swing, where you could only take one photo, plus paying ten times the price we did. We definitely made the right choice of going early.

We walked to the road, where the bus picked us up and mounted on the bus. Yes, we were the only gringos, everyone else were locals going to work. After half an hour of confusion and anxiety but majestic views of the sunrise, we reached the area where the swing could be found. There were several opposing signs giving us different directions but we eventually found the entrance once we hiked a little hill. Here, a man from our bus, took our money and let us in. The place was empty, not a person in sight. We ran over to the treehouse, where we took endless amount of snaps and videos. There was the original swing plus an extra one as it was so popular with tourists. Obviously we rode both but the original one had awesome views, overlooking Banos and Tungurahua Volcano. In the complex, there was a little zip-line and a restaurant but unfortunately it wasn’t open. However, we had brought a packed breakfast, which we ate on top of the treehouse. During the hour and a half we were here, only a Peruvian family of three joined us. This was totally one of my highlights and I was so glad I could enjoy it with a friend.[006725]

After, we decided to walk back to the town, where we wanted to stop for a coffee, but because it was too early the only coffee shop was closed. We strolled through fields, windy paths in the forest, finding glimpse of different wildlife, and found another platform on a tree look out to the city. Just before our finally decent, we stopped on the cross on the hill, which wasn’t as impressive as night time with it shining in the dark. At the bottom, we chilled in a café with a coffee before starting our afternoon adventure.

Throughout the afternoon, we hired a buggy, driving along the main road to various spots and waterfalls. It was so much fun driving again even if it was at a slower speed. At one of the places along the side of the road, we took a cable car to the other side, hike down to the incredible waterfall, took some photos and ate lunch. On the way back, we ended speaking to a young guy, half in English, half in Spanish, telling us about his life. We kept driving to different places, taking it in turns, and being mesmerised the amazing views of waterfall, rivers, birds and forestry. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go to all the place we wanted as we had only hired it for 3 hours, which the agency recommended to do all the areas. It was a lovely afternoon of walking, driving and seeing some wonders.

In the evening, we ate at a Mexican restaurant, where I had a plate of beans, cheese, salad, guacamole on a tortilla. That night, we decided to just relax and take it easy before going to bed. We were feeling tired after getting up so early in the morning.


The next day we rose early to enjoy a full day excursion to Puyo, at the edge of The Amazon. At the tour shop, we were picked up amongst a group of tourists wanted to do the same. With the bus packed, we drove about an hour to Puyo, with a spectacular view of The Amazon. Here, we had a break and the guide told us the history of the place and an overview of the rainforest. Then onto our next stop: a rescue centre for animals. We walked around the complex, looking at different Ecuadorian animals and finding out about them. There were many animals I had never seen before with sign with their ironic names. I’m not sure how well the animals were looked after as the area they lived in was dirty and quite compact.

After we headed to Puyo river, changing into wellies and hopping into long canoes paddled by some guides. The river was rough, jumping over rocks and screeching a little. At times, I definitely thought our canoe was going to tip over, where we would fall into the river. Fortunately, this didn’t happen but it was a fun ride down the river.

When we halted at the side of the bank, we climbed out of the boat and walk down a little track to the spot where we would have lunch. We ate a soup, rice, beans and meat for those who weren’t vegetarians plus a traditional sugary drink.

We climbed aboard the bus, which took us to a spot for a hike. We hiked through the river, down windy tracks, covering ourselves with mud. My friend fell knee deep into a muddy hole, where we had to pull her out. On the way, the guide showed us some red stone, which he mixed with water to create a face paint substance, painting all the girls faces. We carried on trekking to a swing rope, where we took it in turns to be flung into the air through tree with a huge drop to forestry. This filled our adrenaline filled heads, which was extremely fun. After another short walk, we reached a waterfall, where we plunged into the cold water taking photos and enjoying the fall. The guide kept flirting with my friend, wanting to carry her and ended up trying to kiss her behind the waterfall, which was visible for everyone to see.

When it was time to leave, we hiked all the way back through the mud and over bridge to the van to change our clothes and warm ourselves up. The last part of the day, we went back to Puyo river, walked over a bridge to visit Quichua indigenous community. We saw a group of children in traditional clothing, where the guide told us about this community. The children spread achiote, which is a natural paint, on our faces with different patterns. We then practiced  the blowpipe: it was a long, thin pipe with arrows slotted in to the top and then one blows into it, aiming at the target. It was definitely harder than it looked. There was a little shop with handmade jewellery and other gift souvenirs to buy. On our tour was a little boy, who decided to pee right in the middle of the shop. He did it discreetly so no-one really noticed but I did.



By this time, it was dark and it started to rain, showing us it was time to leave and go back to Banos. Back in the town, it was pouring with rain so we ran back to our hostel, not to get too wet. We planned to meet some of the guys from Mancora to go out but unfortunately, I suddenly come down with something, causing my stomach so much pain and needing the toilet every ten minutes. My friend, however, met up with them and enjoyed a night out in Banos.

When I woke up the night day, I felt exhausted with the worst night sleep and not feeling any better. It’s weird for me because I never get ill so this was extremely rare. We had booked to go canyoning in the morning to do some more adrenaline filled activity but I was in no state to do it.

At our meeting time, we went to the tour agency, who told me I couldn’t have a refund. As I didn’t want to waste my money, I thought I would go and see how much I could cope with. I looked extremely pale and ill, and even the person in the shop commented. I bought an energy drink to make me fill stronger as I couldn’t really eat anything.

We walked around the corner to another shop, where we put our sexy equipment on: wet suit, helmet, harness and jacket. Seven of us, along with our two guides hopped in a chiva, which took us to the place, where we would be canyoning. Canyoning, if you don’t know, is where you abseil down waterfalls, getting extremely wet and sliding around.

First, we had a brief safety talk and instructions on how canyoning was going to work. Then, we climbed over rocks and fences to our first spot at the top of a small waterfall. I had done this before so I wasn’t scared and anyway, we had a harness and rope to catch us if we fell.

One by one, we were lowered down the waterfall, jumping against the wall until we fell into the pool of water at the bottom. I kept slipping and sliding as well as trying to get right in the waterfall to make it more challenging. Next there was a long waterfall to abseil down. It was extremely fun and a good way to distract myself from being ill.DSCN4094

After, we dawdled to another section of the waterfall, where we weren’t really  told what we would be doing. Our guide clipped my friend and I together, told us to sit then we were pushed. We slid down the waterfall on our bottom, landing in the water. It was great.

The last part of this adrenaline adventure, we were going to free fall from the top of a high waterfall, then hopefully be stopped by the rope before hitting the bottom. I was extremely excited about this. However, when it was my turn, I looked down and it was high. I was feeling nervous. I had to trust the guides so much that they would catch the rope. 1…2…3… JUMP! Flinging through the air, I screamed but it felt so good. My rope jolted just as I came to the rock. I unclipped my harness, fell into water and joined the others.

Once we had all done the jump, we climbed back up to an area where we could change out of our wetsuits and drink some hot tea. Then we were taken back to the shop. My friend and I went to get some food, before returning to the hostel to collect our bags and go to the bus station. It was packed with people so we had to wait a couple of hours for the next available bus to go to our next destination. The journey was pretty horrific as it was slow and I was unable to go to the toilet and I was in so much pain and all I wanted to do was sleep. When we arrived at the bus terminal in Quito; it was dark outside so we caught a taxi to our hostel in the historical centre. That evening, I didn’t do much except sleep.

Mancora, Peru: scuba diving, beach and relaxation

Two night buses in a row with some lack of sleep meant time to relax by the pool and beach in Mancora. The main purpose for my visit was to chill and Scuba Dive. There’s not much more than plenty of tourists, markets, street food and many places to drink something refreshing. Our hostel was a party place with a resort pool and sunbeds to lounge on with is totally what I needed for the next few days.

we had arrived in Mancora at around 6 in the morning, we took a tuk tuk to our hostel, which ended up being a lovely party resort with a pool and a place to relax. Just what we needed! As we couldn’t check in yet, we lounged in a hammock until the restaurants were open. Then we wandered along the beach to find something to eat, where we ordered breakfast We stayed here for a while watching the children in the café playing with toys and lying in a hammock with a coffee. After we checked in.

During the afternoon, we la[004016]id in the sun by the pool getting a tan, which I was in need of as I hadn’t had much sun while being in South America. We walked along the beach, eating fruit, then searched for a place to book a scuba diving trip for the following day. This was  one thing I wanted to do while I was here even though it wasn’t a popular destination to do this.

In the evening, we just relaxed, talked to people and had a drink before heading to bed. The hostel was a party hostel so there was loud music playing for most of the night. However, I was so exhausted that I just fell asleep with any problem.

The next day, we got up early to go to the scuba diving centre. Even though my friend didn’t scuba dive, she came for the boat ride and enjoyed some snorkelling. She was extremely scared of the water but overcome her fears with the help of the guides and managed to swim and admire the sea creatures.


Along with the guide and one other guy, we assembled our equipment and jumped into the water. The first location was an abandoned tower with just the frames. We swam around, diving deeper and looking at octopus, sergent fish, sea lions, a brittle star and many more sea creatures. I tried to swim through several obstacles, which at first I was successful but then I panicked slightly, causing me to worry and breathe heavily. I managed to calm myself down under the water and carried on swimming. When our air was running out, we resurfaced and relaxed on the boat, which took us to our next location.

Again, we dived down but this time the visibility was so bad that I couldn’t see more than 10 cm in front on me so my dive master held my hand and guide me in the correct direction. There was nothing. We were only about 8m down, extremely close to the sandy ground. After a while, he gave and we all resurfaced to the top of the ocean, where our boat collected us. Then we tried again. This time the visibility was better and we swam around the bottom of the ocean looking at varies fish and coral: octopus, trumpet fish, puffer fish, angel fish, butterfly fish, high hat fish, panana pork fish, frog fish and a star fish. After about 30 minutes, we slowly came back up to breathe normal air. Our boat collected us and then we chilled while the boat took us back to shore. Near the shore, we saw and swam with several huge turtles and different birds.


We carried our equipment back to the van and drove back to the dive centre. It was great fun diving around again even though the locations weren’t great. I still need to perfect my diving skills but I feel like I am getting better.

In the afternoon, we first went back to the hostel to have a shower, pack and check out. Then we tried to look for a shop selling bus tickets, where we ended up waiting in a café, drinking a coffee and I spoke with my sister on skype. Eventually, we found and open shop and purchased a ticket for that night. After, we laid by the pool in the hostel, drinking some cocktails and talking to some other travellers.

Early evening, we searched for some street food then went to the hostel to listening to other singing karaoke. It was a mixture of Spanish and English songs, which was fun. When it was time to leave, we got a tuk tuk to the bus shop. This time the bus was full of mainly gringos wanting to enter Ecuador. It was time to leave Peru. This is a beautiful country with so many things to offer and do, with delicious food and landscapes. It was definitely an amazing 3 weeks, where I met some incredible travellers and experienced so many things. I would have stayed here long but by this time, I had just found out my start date for my job in Colombia so I needed to get a move on and explore the next country: Ecuador.DCIM122GOPRO

On the bus, we drove to the border of Ecuador, which wasn’t too far but it was late at night so I was feeling sleepy. At the border, we lined up to be stamped out of Peru and into Ecuador. It was a really easy process with no hassle at all. Back on the bus, I slept until we reached Cuenca. We were originally going to stay here for the day then get another night bus to Banos but instead, as we were feeling exhausted, we decided just to get a day bus there. We quickly bought a ticket before the bus was leaving and took our seat. It dropped us off just outside of Banos, where we had to get another bus to the town. It was easy enough. Eventually, after 15 hours of travelling, we arrived in Banos, where we found our hostel and relaxed for a bit.

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