Here is a collection of my favorite pictures from my trip to South America.
It was my last day in Quito, my last night in Bogota, and tomorrow I was going home.
We started the day by going to Old Town Quito. This beautiful part of the city is full of plazas, churches, and history.
We then went to an artisanal crafts store by our hostel for some souvenirs and drinks before our trip to Bogota. I got my hands on a Canelazo, a hot beverage of aguardiente, sugar, and cinnamon water.
We then made our way back to Colombia on the infamous Viva Colombia. The take off was terrifying as we tried to clear the mountains. I never used to be afraid of flying until I had to take budget airlines.
We arrived at our home base, then headed out for some dancing at a place called Andres Carne de Res.
The whole experience was overwhelming. Loud music made it impossible to hear someone at your ear, the decor looked like the attic of an 80s post apocalyptic science fiction film, and the menu was an actual magazine with an index which was greatly needed.
It was actually the perfect end to my journey. I was 10% scared, 30% confused, but 60% enjoying myself.
In the end everything went a lot more smoothly than I had anticipated. I did far more than I thought I would and had so much fun. I can’t wait to come back to South America.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.