Banos, Ecuador

I have this habit of falling in love with a picture on the Internet, then becoming obsessed with going to that destination. 

The first time this happened was with a National Geographic picture of Angkor Wat. I was lucky enough to visit the exact place where the picture was taken, and sure enough it was even more amazing in person. 

It happened again when I visited Banos. 

We took the 4 hour bus ride from Quito to Banos and checked into our hostel, the Princesa Maria. Like after every trip we were starving, and decided to eat llapingachos at a stall in the market.

Meat with a fried egg, rice, salad, beets avocado and delicious fried potato cakes all for $2.50.

After that, we took the dollar bus up the mountain to La Casa del Arbol, where I was able to “swing at the end of the world”.

  
After taking turns on the swing, we headed to get the last bus to Banos as the fog rolled in. It started to get a little chilly, and a man was sitting outside his restaurant asking us if we wanted hot chocolate. 

It was the most delicious chocolate I have had in a long time. It was so unique and had a creamy texture but without the heaviness of milk. It warmed me up before we took the ride back down the mountain.

  
I saw a picture of Banos on the Internet a few years ago, and as with any epic picture, I figured I would never get a chance to go there. 

I think what I’ve learned from my travels is that the world is a small place full of big surprises. I never thought I would go to the Great Wall of China, and I ended up climbing it twice. I never thought I would see my mother’s country, and here I am sitting in the warmth of it’s sun.

Quito, Ecuador

Ecuador is the most beautiful country I have ever visited. I’d like to now admit that I am completely biased since I am half Ecuadorian, but as the plane approached the runway, the sun illuminated the beautiful mountains and I felt at home.

We arrived at our hostel with growling stomachs, and decided to go to a restaurant two blocks away called Achiote Ecuadorian Cuisine. 

We went all out. Llapingachos, Patacones, Fritada, all washed down with a tall glass of Chicha. As we ate a man played sad love songs on on the guitar.

  
I am so honored and excited to have the privaledge to visit my mother’s country, and I can’t wait to explore more. Next up, Banos.

Bogota, Colombia

I won’t lie to you, you first meal in Colombia was McDonalds. After arriving at midnight, we were starving and it was the only kitchen that was open. 

I like to think I redeemed myself the next morning with breakfast a a restaurant called La Puerta Falsa. I had a melt in your mouth tamale accompanied with hot cocoa. 

  
Afterwards we went to El Museo del Oro. The museum has the biggest collection of pre-Hispanic gold work in the world, and gives insight to what things were like before Europeans came. 

  
After that, we took a cable car to Monserrate which gives a great view of the city. Unfortunately it was a rainy day but it was still a beautiful sight. 

 
Finally we had dinner at a restaurant called  San Alejo and had Sopa de Ajiaco. In a movie called Ratatouille, there is a scene towards the end where the grouchy food critic tastes a dish and he is sent back to his childhood. That is exactly what happened when I tasted this soup. 

The smell transported me back to my grandmothers kitchen. The taste lifted my spirits and the warmth was exactly what I needed on a rainy day. 

Bogota is a great city. There are great things to do, great food to eat and wonderful people. I was glad I was able to spend a day here while on my way to Ecuador.

Peru

I loved Peru. Not only was it a visually stunning place, but the people I came across were genuinely nice and eager to help. 

I thought I would share with you some of the specifics of my trip in case you should want to go yourself. 

We flew into Lima, then stayed a night at the Backpackers Family House. This hostel is situated in a great neighborhood called Miraflores and is very close to the water. 

  
The morning after, we flew to Cusco and took a day to get used to the mountain air. We stayed at the Piccola Locanda which is my favorite hostel so far.

The receptionist told us to take it easy and not eat anything that would upset out stomach, so we went to a restaurant called Victor Victoria for some soup and pasta. 

  
The day after we took the thirty minute taxi ride (organized by our hostel) from Cusco to the Poroy train station. The train from Poroy to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) took three hours. 

  
We stayed the night at a hostel called Supertramp in Aguas Calientes, then took the 5:30 am bus to Machu Picchu. 

We didn’t climb either of the mountains in Machu Picchu, but we did go to the Sun Gate and the ruins which all together took 2 hours. 

  
We took the train back to Poroy, stayed another night in Cusco, and then took a flight back to Lima. 

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, because I know I had to ask around a lot on how to do Machu Picchu. I am completely satisfied with my trip, but I really hope I could visit the wonderful country of Peru again in the future. 

Up next, Bogota.

Machu Picchu

We walked the empty streets of Aguas Calientes to the bus that would take us to Machu Picchu. The ride up was unnerving. With every sharp turn I thought of how the bus could fall down the mountain or crash into another bus making its way down. Of course we made it to the entrance safely.

The climb was actually a lot easier than I thought. With all the horror stories I got before my trip, I was prepared for anything. Since it was early in the day, we decided to walk up to the sun gate to watch the sun rise. It was hard to make it in time, since with each step I noticed something picturesque. 

  
Of course there were mountains and ruins, but also flowers and wildlife. I even saw a hummingbird for the first time. 

I had to pinch myself a few times to convince myself I was there. All your life you look at pictures in books of faraway places that you wish you can visit, that when you are actually there, you feel like you are in a fairytale.

   

Aguas Calientes, Peru

We made our way to the Poroy station. The train was a lot fancier than I expected. Although my toes were frozen, it was a was a pleasant ride as we made our descent into the Sacred Valley.
  
We arrived in Aguas Calientes too early to check into our hostel, so we decided to look around town. 

The streets were crowded with tourists. This was the first time since I arrived in South America that I came across so many Americans. 

Every restaurant and shop was a tourist trap, with people trying to get you to buy their overpriced goods. 

We decided to spend most of our time at our hostel’s bar, which had the cheapest prices in town as well as a great view. We drank Pisco Sours and beers until we sung along with the bar’s stereo system.

  
At first the bar was empty except for us and the bartender. At 6:00, a football game came on, and the bar was full of locals. Together we laughed and screamed at the television as Chile and Uruguay fought it out on the pitch.
At one point, a man came to give one of the workers at the hostel a cake along with several plates. He asked us if we wanted a piece and we accepted. It was a warm banana chocolate cake that melted in my mouth. It warmed me up as the night grew colder.

Although Aguas Calientes isn’t my favorite place in Peru because of its dependence on tourism, the locals made it feel like a home away from home. 

Cusco, Peru

We were surrounded by mountains. It was as if the wing of the plane would graze the them, but we landed safely and tried to hail a cab.

I hailed one taxi, and upon telling him where I wanted to go he said, “No, no puedo ir arriba!” At this, I was confused. What do you mean you can’t go up? 

I quickly learned. It was Inti Raymi, also known as the sun festival, and the streets were flooded with people and music. The second taxi we hailed dropped us off as close as he could get, and we went the rest of the way on foot. 

 I also quickly learned that Cusco is  comprised of rich history and stairs. We climbed up the cobblestone pathways, quickly running out of breath. By the time we got to our hostel, I was unable to tell the receptionist that we wanted to check in, preoccupied with trying to fill my lungs. 

Our hostel was amazing. From the rooftop we could see for miles. People, houses, mountains and monuments, everything was magnificent, saturated with the setting sun. 

I quickly fell in love with Cusco. It may have just been perfect timing, but the food, the music, and the dancing just added to it’s natural beauty.