Mitad del Mundo

We decided to sleep in and take it easy for the day. We went to a wonderful place named the Kallari Cafe. It was a cafe and chocolate shop that benefited Kichwa women who harvested the beans. 

After that we made our way to the center of the world. We took three different public buses to get there, and at times we thought we were lost, but we made it. 

It’s a geeky tourist trap, and it’s not even the accurate center I know, but it was kinda fun. 

  
Although the line wasn’t dotted like I thought…

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Cotopaxi

A bad thing to happen abroad is to get sick. Unfortunately for me I had the whole shebang, stuffy nose, sore throat and all I wanted to do was sleep. Of course this was the same day I needed to climb an active volcano.

We stayed the night in a town called Latacunga, full of historic buildings and planes landing on top of your head thanks to the international airport nearby. 

We organized a trip to Cotopaxi through our hotel with a guy named Vini. He told us first we would drive in his pick up truck to his mother’s house to drop off our luggage, then we will go to Cotopaxi. 

Sketchy I know, but at this point the only thing valuable I had in my pack was an Ecuadorian poncho for my mother. 

We dropped off our bags at Vini’s childhood home, waved to his mom, then headed up Cotopaxi. 

  
The drive up is difficult for a new car, and sure enough, Vini’s old pick up truck broke down before we got to the trailhead. We waited at the museum at the base of the volcano, and drank coffee and tea while he called up his friend with a new truck. 

That’s when we met our new guide, Tomas. He was a sweet older man who didn’t speak a lick of English but was the best tour guide I could ask for.

He went slow with us as we ascended the steepest trail I have ever been on. There would be heavy wind one second, threatening to blow you into a canyon, and the next second it was still. It was probably the most difficult trail I’ve done, especially since I couldn’t breathe, but we made it. 

  
After that we headed back down and rode mountain bikes back to the base. By the end of the day I couldn’t keep my eyes open. We went back to Quito, ate dinner, then had the best sleep I’ve ever had.

Banos, Ecuador Day 2

I have an irrational fear of waterfalls and caves and I experienced both those things on my second day in Banos. 

We started the day off by going to one of the hot springs in town. I let the minerals infuse with my skin and prayed to the Virgin Mary that my ailments would all disappear, as one does.

  
We then visited the Basillica Reina del Rosario de Agua Santa. For such a small town, this was a big and beautiful church. My favorite aspect of it were the murals that lined the walls depicting local miracles.

  

 Our last stop in Banos was the Pailon del Diablo. This is where my fear of waterfalls and caves comes in. 

We took a public bus for $1.00 and took a hike to the falls. We dodged branches, crossed rivers and swatted mosquitos. Finally, I heard the roar of the waterfall and my heart began to pound out of my chest.

  
 This place was magical. We had to crawl through a cave to get a closer look at the waterfall, which I hesitantly did in order to stay with my companions. All the while I thought of what an adventure this has been, and what more fears I need to conquer in order to get the most out of life.

I definitely recommend a trip to Banos since there is something for everyone. Whether you like soaking in a hot spring or zip lining across canyons you are bound to have a great time.

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.