It has always been a goal of mine to celebrate the New Year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It did not disappoint.
We stayed in Copacabana where the people are friendly and the beach just a few minutes away. There was a hefty cost for staying in the best area. I paid $80 US a night for a bed, sharing with eleven other girls with a broken air conditioner. With the Rio heat, and party goers nearby I definitely did not sleep during my stay.
Since it is a once in a lifetime experience it was hard for me to say no.
The night was filled with bottomless caipirinha, fire works, late night swim and endless possibility of the New Year!
One afternoon my brother convinced me that it would be fun to go for a four-day hike at the Berg Lake trail. Always up for challenge I booked two days off from work and off we went the following week. To prepare for the hike I made sure to pack light especially when it comes to food. I packed some dehydrated food, like meatball and pasta, scramble and egg. They were actually delicious. Except for the scramble and egg, I found it too watery or maybe I just put too much water. My favorite dehydrated brand is Mountain House. Their chicken and rice is so tasty. If you find they are too expensive, go for couscous. Just boil water, add the water and cover for 5 minutes and you’ll have a tasty meal to go with your beef jerky. Those are just one of my favorite hiking food.
Have to say it was the most amazing, kicked ass hike I been in a long time. My legs and butt were burning all the way up especially the hike from Whitehorn to Emperor Falls. It’s very steep but the pain from the hike is definitely worth the view.
This hike can be done in one day for those who likes a little pain. I would recommend spending four to five days, even seven days to really enjoy the hike since there are so many trails to explore from Berg Lake.
Our goal was to make it all the way to Robson Pass, which is the last campsite. I think that this is the best spot since there’s so many day trails near by, such as Snowbird Pass or Mumm Basin route. I was only able to explore the Snowbird Pass, where you’ll see a great view of the Robson Glacier. Plus, you’ll wake up with a view of the mountains while slowly sipping your coffee, getting ready to tackle another trail. What could be better?
I recommend hiking all the way up to Whitehorn; rest here because you are going to need it to hike all the way up to Emperor Falls. Keep in mind that Whitehorn is usually pretty busy. They have 22 tent pads available and they book fast. The hike between Whitehorn to Emperor Falls has to be the toughest hike in the Berg Lake trail. It’s very steep with lots of winding and turning. Then from Emperor falls hike all the way up to Berg Lake or Robson Pass. Berg Lake Map Happy hiking!
When people think of Peru they automatically think of Machu Picchu, but did you know that Peru is home to the most favourable food you will ever tasted. During my three week stay in Peru I ate most of the food that the country has to offer, except alpaca meat. Peru has now become one of my favourite country to eat. You will too, I promise!
Fish marinated in citrus juice. The acid from the citrus juice “cooks” the fish giving it chewy and delicate flavor. Red onion, aji pepper, tomato and corn are then added to add crunch and flavour. Head to Mancora to have some fresh ceviche.
2) Pisco Sour
The thought of having egg white with my drinks always grosses me out, that’s why I never liked eggnog. But this one is not even close to eggnog. It’s a light, sweet and sour drink that goes easily well with any meal. It is made with tart grape brandy mixed with lime, sugar, egg white and bitters. And it comes with different flavours. No wonder it’s Peru’s national drink.
3) Cuy and Rocoto Relleno
I’ll try anything once even if they are cute, fuzzy little pets. You cannot leave Peru without trying a roasted guinea pig. Its chewy with a lot of flavour. Have it with rocoto relleno, which is a whole pepper stuffed with ground meat.
We devour the cuy with some Peruvian beer.
4) Criollo cooking
Two words! SO GOOD. Peruvian food is a blend of Spanish, Andean, Chinese and African influence. I tried to eat slow to savour the food but it was really hard. Head to Lima to get some good criollo food.
5) Chinese food
All over Peru you will find a lot of Chinese restaurants. They are cheap and delicious! Their stir fry rice is to die for.
I can’t wait to go back. Next trip to Peru will be all about food! Happy eating.
We stopped at another beach town called Mancora, Peru’s hidden secret. Mancora is a beach town filled with Peruvian tourist, along with surfers hoping to catch a few waves and backpackers from all over the world. Despite its gaining popularity as a tourist destination, it still manages to keep its small, fishing community feel.
We arrived around four in the morning via bus from Ecuador. Right away we were greeted with tuk-tuk drivers offering us a cheap accommodation near the beach. We stayed a little longer at the bus station instead. The town was covered in darkness and the last thing we wanted is to go exploring in an unknown place.
We meet another solo traveller as we waited for the sun to come. He has been travelling South America for a month starting in Ecuador and asks if I speak Spanish. I said no. And he proceeds to tell me about his travel plans. His from Indonesia travelling around South America despite his parents wish to finish his education. He planned to stay in Loki, known as a party hostel and asked if we were staying there as well. Brian and I decided that we are staying away from party hostel for a bit. We want a quite space to relax and hopefully near the beach so we can surf.
We got just what we wanted. We stayed in a bungalow type hostel. It literally feels like a couple retreats filled with hammocks and a pool right in the middle. Our bungalow was only a five-minute walk into town and one-minute walk to the beach. To top it all off there was a Belgium chef who makes the most amazing western meal with a Peruvian twist. We stayed longer than planned. How can you not?
When we were in Baños we were told by other traveller to check out a beach town near by, called Montañita. After doing some research we pack our things and caught a 6 hours bus ride from Santa Elena to Montañita the next day.
The open sea, and sandy beaches greeted us. Every corner either sells surf boards or funky, fruity drinks. At night the whole town turns into a big fiesta. There is block of kiosk bars where you can grab a drink or two for $2.50 right by beach. Unfortunately for us we stayed right in the middle of the party scene as a result our sleep was compromise. We didn’t mind since our days mainly consist of eating, napping and surfing. But it will definitely be last time we will be staying so close to the party scene, especially during the weekends.
This was our server for the night. He made sure that we were taken care of.
During the day we would walk along the beach or have a seista on the hammock. We also tried surfing for the first time. Brian insisted that he could learn surfing on his own but after hours of unsuccessful attempt he decide to join me for a private lesson the next day. Our instructor barely speaks English but for $20 each we didn’t mind. The $20 included a private lesson, a board and a wet suit. It was a good deal. He showed us some basic moves that reminded me of yoga poses. I have to say that surfing could be my new favourite activity.
We leave Montañita tomorrow to cross the border to Peru. It was a prefect place to end our 18 days trip in Ecuador. I know for sure that I will be back. With its friendly people, and amazing sites how could I not.
We took the trail from Baño going up to Casa del Arbol to see the famous tree house.
Along the way we meet a solo traveller, Isabella from Colorado. She’s been travelling around Ecuador for a month and planned to do more. She’s an avid nutritionist that believes in the importance of feeding the body with organic produce. We instantly became friends.
As we hiked along the trail to Casa del Arbol we took a different turn assuming it was a short cut. After three hours of hiking in the heat we decided to ask a local farmer for direction. With little Spanish he led us to a bus stop that he said will eventually take us to our final destination.
We paid the bus driver $.10 cent and it stopped right by a hill. We then said goodbye to our farmer friend and took off. We climbed a very steep hill only to find the property close. We were mildly disappointed. Instead of turning back we decided to trespass and jump off the fence. We are rebels after all. When we finally got to the tree tree house it was locked and the swing was put away. We made the best of our sitatution by taking pictures of the mountain scenery instead. On the bright side, we met a new friend from Colorado and the friendliest local along the way. He even helped us get a ride from a local couple back to town. It was definitely a random day.
Next day Brian and I decided to go to the tree house again. We just can’t leave Baño without seeing the famous tree house in action. This time we took a taxi from town. For $25 he took us right to the tree house and waited for us when we were done. Although the site was busy Brian did have a chance to use the swing. I was too afraid.
Instead I enjoyed the beautiful scene and the brave souls that dare use the swing. From where I was sitting I saw the great Mt. Tungurahua surrounded by beautiful green, lush and I was more than content.
Crossing the border from Colombia to Ecuador took about two days. From Bogota we took a bus to Ipailes which took 24 hours. It would have been shorter if it wasn’t for the constant stops by the police. We left Bogota terminal around 10pm to avoid getting into Ipiales by night, but still manage to arrived in Ipiales at 6 in the evening. We decide to stay the night to recharged for another long bus ride. Lucky for us there were a lot of hotels close to the bus terminal where we were dropped off. For 25,000 pesos ($13 CND) we were able to get a private room with our own bathroom. I have no complains except the icy, Arctic like shower I refuse to have.
There’s really nothing to see in Ipiales except the impressive architecture of the Las Lajas Catherdral.
The next morning we took a cab to the Ramchuca border. The line wasn’t very long when we got to immigration to get our stamp out of Colombia. As soon as we left immigration we saw a line of people with dollar bills offering to exchange our pesos. We did not bother exchanging our dollars here since the Ecuadorian border also accepts Colombian pesos.
We cross a bridge via foot to Ecuadorian side. I was suprised that no one checked our bags. We walked in to immigration, filled out the declaration paper, got a stamp into Ecuador and on our way. Took us about 5 minutes. The shortest immigration process I ever experience.
We then took a collectivo taxi for $.25 cent each to Tulcan, where we plan to catch a bus to Quito. We decide to skip Otavalo, which is famous for being the largest open market in South America. We were tried and was desperate need of sleep.
The bus ride from Tulcan to Quito took about 8 hours.
Overall, the border crossing from Colombia to Ecuador was seriously the easiest border crossing I have ever done.