A Travellerspoint blog

Cartagena Goes Down a Storm.

Tropical thunderstorms on the Caribbean coast. 31st August - 3rd September.

storm 30 °C

After a very tranquilo day spent in our room in Bogota as Alice was feeling a wee bit ill, we left early the next morning to catch our flight to Cartagena. After a mild panic in the morning when we had no money and there were no ATM´s open, we managed to persuade the half-asleep hotel worker to let us pay in dollars. He tried to overcharge us, he failed to call us a taxi, he was basically one massive failure. We arrived with plenty of time to spare at the airport and quickly went through security. Once there we discovered we were starving, but that we had no money. It turned out that we had to go through the arrivals to take out money, and then go through the security check point again. It was a feeling of deja-vu for everybody involved and we got many odd looks. When it was time to board we discovered that we hadn´t filled out our details on the back of our boarding passes so quickly did that at the front of the line. We then casually strolled onto the plane and sat in our seats, only then realising that nobody had checked our tickets and ripped the bigger part off. Sneaking onto the plane for the win!

Landing in Cartagena at the Caribbean Sea.

Landing in Cartagena at the Caribbean Sea.

When we arrived in Cartagena it was 31 degrees and we immediately wanted to get back onto the airconditioned plane. It. Was. Roasting! It was also incredibly humid and we started sweating immediately, with it pouring down our backs. We got a taxi into town, again not knowing either the name or address of our hostel. We should really start learning from our mistakes. The taxi driver clearly thought we were morons and wasn´t very happy about the fact that we were sweating out his seats. Understandable. He kicked us out at the entrance to the old town, leaving us to figure everything else out ourselves. Luckily, we found a helpful tourist-guide and found our way to the hostel, where Alice immediately developed a massive crush on the receptionist called German. We had an amazing cold shower, put on as few clothes as possible, and headed out for a wander around town to see the sights and, of course, search for food. It was almost impossible to find any food that was in our budget, but eventually we went somewhere and shared a massive bowl of soup and plate of food looking like extreme cheapskates (which we are) and leaving with satisfyingly full tummies! On the way back we decided to do some shopping on the off-chance that we´d find a cheap, beautiful summer dress for the next few days. We didn´t, but Alice found some swimming shorts that were pretty cheap and would disguise the fact that she was wearing pants in the swimming pool.

Cartagena.

Cartagena.

Alice on the Old City battlements.

Alice on the Old City battlements.

Geckooooooos!

Geckooooooos!

We dragged ourselves back to the hostel to lie in the hammocks and Alice turned on the charm with German, having a quick kiss in the kitchen behind the fridge. Classy. We then both lay in the hammock together as German showed another guest around. We did a double-take. This guy looked EXACTLY like Simon Pegg!! We stared at him in awe and then later found out that he was Simon Pegg´s cousin, Bryan. The heat took its toll on Alice and she went to bed with a headache. This was also an attempt at avoiding German´s further advances as she had decided he was becoming a little too clingy and pushy which was no longer attractive in any way. Nyree was keen to party though, and had some drinks with the boys while watching The Patriot and staring adoringly at Heath Ledger who sadly died in the movie. Two girls showed up to escort Bryan and Nyree to the bars which had live music. They were nice, but a lightning storm had started and we figured it would be best to go home before the rain began. It was amazing to watch the lightning from the hostel balcony, as Nyree loves thunderstorms, and as soon as the rain started she persuaded Bryan to go outside and walk around in it for a while. She clearly had other intentions in mind. It WAS Simon Pegg´s cousin, after all. It happened. Win.

We adopted Bryan the next day, sincerely hoping he wouldn´t be another Dermot or Kirt. Our radar was on full alert for any odd signs, clicks or statements about Ketamin/building underground forts. We went to a bakery for breakfast and ate cakes, then walked around town following the walking tour route on our map and taking photos along the way. We also wandered along the old town battlements looking out to sea. This whole time, Alice was testing out her new shorts which were holding up well at this point. Or so we thought. On returning to the hostel, Nyree pointed out a massive rip in the arse-crack of the shorts with Alice´s blue knickers on full display. God knows how long she´d been walking around like that. Hah! We had lunch near the hostel, had a communal siesta, and then headed out for hamburgers and hot dogs. They were delicious! We also bought booze, lots of rum, and headed back to the hostel to mix our own cocktails and by cocktails we mean... rum. That night was spent playing ´Save the Queen´, the most annoying game in the world, chatting to the Americans (Alice took a liking to Johnny, who she flirted with an insane amount) and laughing at one of the funniest German guys we have met on this trip. He kept trying to get Bryan and Nyree together, and when they were talking on the balcony he slipped a massive paper flower into Bryan´s hand so he could give it to her. Good times. We didn´t make it out that night, standard, and slept like babies on lots of rum.

Division between the Old and New Towns, with lights that changed colour on the tower.

Division between the Old and New Towns, with lights that changed colour on the tower.

Alice had fish for dinner... it looked gross to Nyree but was tasty!

Alice had fish for dinner... it looked gross to Nyree but was tasty!

The following morning we were surprisingly un-hungover and had to get up at a reasonable hour to catch the bus to Santa Marta. Bryan said he might see us there as well (who was he kidding? He couldn´t get enough of us...) and we got a taxi to the bus terminal. The journey was incredibly long and we were sure we were being kidnapped as we drove through all the slums on the outskirts of Cartagena. Luckily this was not the case, and we arrived safely in the terminal. After buying our tickets, we sat down to wait for the bus that would leave in half an hour. Just before two o´clock a sudden and immense downpour of rain started and there was a powercut in the bus terminal. Our bus wouldn´t leave until the rain stopped, so we had to wait for ages, with the lights flickering on and off constantly. Malo.

Torrential rain at the bus station before we left to Taganga.

Torrential rain at the bus station before we left to Taganga.

Eventually, though, we were ushered onto the bus and chose our seats at the back, the back being the coolest part of the bus. This was a decision we would later regret. However, for the moment we were happy to be on our way to the beaches, swimming pools, and more rum. Bieeeen!

Posted by Alice_and_Nyree 10:19 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Vive Colombia!

Absolutely loving life, and rum, in San Agustin!! 27th-30th August.

sunny 26 °C

Our bus from Popayan to San Agustin was interesting. It was basically a dirt track for the full 6 hours, with us bouncing up and down in our seats and failing to sleep. Leg room was minimal (more like non-existant) and we were dripping with sweat by the time we arrived. We were ordered off the bus at the side of the road and were meant to get a jeep transfer from there to San Agustin. Unfortunately, the jeep was a no-show. Instead, we had to get back on a different bus so that they could grudgingly take us the extra 5km into town. The bus was packed, and we had to stand near the door. Alice kept bashing an old lady in the face with her rucksack, causing the lady´s daughter to scream abuse at her, while Nyree had to stand on the top step near the door which had been left open by the driver for his amusement. It was a horrifying experience for us both.

Waiting for the Jeep, 5km from San Agustin.

Waiting for the Jeep, 5km from San Agustin.

Nyree´s foot at the open door, inches from death.

Nyree´s foot at the open door, inches from death.

To make matters worse, we had absolutely no idea what a) the name of our hostel was or b) the address of our hostel was. Bad times. However, when we got off some random man came up to us asking if we were Alicia. He introduced himself as Humberto, the hostel owner, who was there with his friend Alberro to pick us up. How they knew when we were arriving we had no idea, but we were very relieved and just went with the flow. Alberro walked us to the hostel and, when Humberto caught up with us Alice jumped on the back of his motorbike. Once he had dropped her off he said he would go back for her amiga but didn´t. Instead, he prepared some lemonade, they waited for Nyree to drag herself there in the intense heat with her rucksack, and then we went up to the terrace and talked over all the tours we could do.

After having a shower in the hostel we headed out for some food in the local restaurant. It was delicious, and we would become regular customers over the next few days. It had very interesting decorations, and a large number of children running around at all times which obviously made Nyree very happy. Back in our room we had a visit from an Irish guy from the next room who was called Dermot. He had heard us talking in English and wondered if he could come out with us that night. We said sure, but he´d have to wait while we napped. Normaal.

A Cow´s Head in El Fogon.

A Cow´s Head in El Fogon.

Instead of napping, we listened to our music and sang at the top of our voices which was obviously enjoyed by everyone who could hear us. Dermot soon came back and demanded that we stop singing immediately before he ripped his ears off, and we headed out. Locating a bar turned out to be harder than we thought in such a small town. The first few looked dodgy as hell, with a clientel of an average age of 14. Luckily we ran into some drunk local in the middle of the street who introduced himself as Berto, which later turned out to be his dad´s name, and who quickly appointed himself as our guide and dragged us to all the dodgy looking places we had avoided on our walk up. We visited LoveSound, where we drank large amounts of Aguardiente and salsa´d our asses off, and then headed to Rustik Club for some more dancing. Berto became a drunk mess before long and we decided it was best to leave before he tried to grope any of us again, and that included Dermot.

The next morning was our horse tour of all the interesting sights around San Agustin. We were really excited to go, and the horses looked nice and friendly as they waited for us. Alice was to have Chocolate, while Nyree had Palomo. Alberro our guide, however, gave himself the oldest and most tranquilo horse while Alice´s galloped off at full speed as soon as we set off. Nyree thought she was going to die for sure as they ran out of sight up the hill. Oh dear. Alice even lost her cap, which Alberro forced us to wear due to extreme sun, which was hilarious!

Alice with Alberro´s cap before it got lost.

Alice with Alberro´s cap before it got lost.

Palomo, Nyree´s crazy horse.

Palomo, Nyree´s crazy horse.

Us looking WESH on the horses, with no idea of the danger ahead.

Us looking WESH on the horses, with no idea of the danger ahead.

This kind of set the standard for the whole trip as the horses knew exactly where they were going and loved to go fast. Alice had to keep a death grip on Chocolate the whole time, causing her hands to blister within half an hour. Bad times. Alberro thought it was extremely amusing, repeatedly reminding her of how fuerte (strong) Chocolate was. This was unnecessary to say the least. Nyree was loving life, though, as Palomo was the fastest horse and also more reliable. However, later on the journey this would become problematic as it was IMPOSSIBLE to get him to stop. The only way it could be done, she discovered, was to slow him down as much as possible without him rearing up and jump off. Normaal. Alberro thought this was amusing as well and enjoyed his calm trip on Caramelo who had all the time in the world. Along the way we saw many interesting rock carvings and tombs of ancient cultures, Nyree saw a massive black snake cross her path (Alberro assured us it was definitely deadly while laughing) and we stopped for a delicious Jugo Natural (fresh juice) where we got free refills: "Welcome to Colombia!! Free refills for everyone!".

Ancient Carvings.

Ancient Carvings.

Alice looking beautiful, the only time the reigns weren´t in a death grip!

Alice looking beautiful, the only time the reigns weren´t in a death grip!

Rubbing lime into our skin, so the mosquitos don´t bite...

Rubbing lime into our skin, so the mosquitos don´t bite...

The ancient people used coloured sap from the trees to paint their carvings.

The ancient people used coloured sap from the trees to paint their carvings.

After finishing the ride with the fastest gallop yet, we left the horses and Alberro and staggered into the Archaeological Park with yet more statues, tombs, and historical sights. We were asked by some school kids to pose for photos with them and happily obliged. We also discovered that we only JUST had enough money for the combi back to San Agustin, so we couldn´t afford any water or food. This became problematic when the heat reached insane levels and we had to climb the biggest hill we had ever seen. We asked a man if it was worth it and were forced to grudgingly continue when he said yes. We were then forced to enter a small shop and begged the owner to give us something to drink for a measly amount of coins. He took pity on us and gave us a small plastic bag of water, it was the best water we have ever tasted! We finally reached the top, nodded at the statues, collapsed on the grass, and then made our way back down.

Standard tourist picture #1.

Standard tourist picture #1.

Standard tourist picture #2.

Standard tourist picture #2.

The steep hill. Malo!

The steep hill. Malo!

Our bag of water! Bieeen!

Our bag of water! Bieeen!

We caught the combi into town but missed our stop and had to do a tour of all the tiny nearby villages before passing the stop again. By this time it was pretty late and we went to El Fogon for food again, this time with Dermot in tow. At this point we were congratulating ourselves that we hadn´t met another Kirt as he seemed like a decent (and normal) guy, even if all his stories did start with "This one time, when I was on massive amounts of Ketamine/coke/weed/speed...". We decided to have a late siesta before going out to party for Humberto´s birthday. He and Alberro had invited us to join them. Bieeen! We had a quick beauty sleep, much needed, and then threw on some make-up before heading out with Dermot to meet the gang. We walked to the pool bar to meet them and found only Alberro there. He ushered us out of the door and brought us to an Internet Café where everyone was doing shots of rum and pounding back beer. We settled in quickly and kept up shot for shot the rest of the time we were there, with Alice complaining in the beginning and then loving it and demanding more!

VIVE COLOMBIA!!!

VIVE COLOMBIA!!!

Humberto´s old uncle was there, and it was soon decided that the party should continue at his place, a big house in the countryside. We piled into a jeep, with the two of us insanely psyched to ride in the open back and everyone joining us. When we got there we discovered it was a haven of adorable animals, with two cute puppies and a kitten that Alice couldn´t get enough of. Everyone was pretty wasted, with one man falling asleep in the dog pee on the floors and the rest dancing away. Nyree took a shine to our driver, but was disappointed when she learned he was only 16. Sad times. Two rums later, age was no longer an issue, so she agreed to dance with him. Humberto had told him the guy was 16, but she asked his age anyway and he said it was 20. Hmmmm... She asked to see his ID and, sure enough, he was 20. Bien. We left after a little while longer, all of us wasted, and Alice tried to sneak the kitten away with her in her bra. Nyree got to sit in the passenger seat of the car, while Alice and Dermot were loving doing Titanic impressions in the back trailer. Everytime the car stopped they almost fell onto the roof, causing us to think they had fallen out of the jeep itself. We got back and went to sleep, and as we had a spare bed in our room Dermot slept there too.

Us in the back of the jeep, having a great time!

Us in the back of the jeep, having a great time!

Colombian Cowgirls. Bieeen!

Colombian Cowgirls. Bieeen!

Attempting to steal the kitten.

Attempting to steal the kitten.

Alice was very hungover in the morning and was not looking forward to the special tour we were doing that day of the local countryside and coffee plantations. Nyree had breakfast with Dermot, and then we all went up to the hammocks to wait for Humberto. When Dermot left to get his book, Nyree eagerly quizzed Alice on what had happened between them after she had fallen asleep. Alice was confused. "But Dermot just told me that you two kissed last night!" Nyree revealed. After a lot of thought, Alice was convinced that nothing of the sort had happened. Convinced! Nyree also found it unlikely, seeing as Dermot was not her usual type, being ginger and gangly and odd. But why would he lie about it? We will never know, but we are sure it didn´t happen. After this, we felt that maybe we had spoken too soon about him not being as odd as Kirt. Oh dear. He was odd in his own way, and wanted to join us to Bogota as well. Double oh dear. After waiting the whole day for Humberto to not show up, it was decided that we would do the tour the next day instead. We watched Gothika, ate food, and went to sleep after making sure Dermot knew we didn´t want him in our room again.

The special tour was on the next day, and Alberro took us to see some nice horses in the area for no apparant reason, and showed us the coffee plantations that were nearby, even showing us how it was produced and letting us try our own. It was great!

Nyree loving the Colombian Coffee.

Nyree loving the Colombian Coffee.

After saying goodbye to Dermot, we managed to leave him for a few hours and went off to do some shopping. However, on our way a Colombian man approached us and begged us to join him and his friends for a coca cola in a café close by. As soon as we got inside, the idea of a coca cola was laughable and the Aguardiente was cracked open. We tried to protest that we didn´t have enough money for it, but this was met with screams of laughter and many a thigh-slap as they poured us numerous shots. It got a little odd when one of the men asked Alice if she wanted some cocaine, and another asked Nyree to marry him. We quickly went to the old emergency story of us being lesbian lovers, but the guy only told us that the three of us could have even more fun then. Alice assured him that Nyree gave her all the pleasure she needed, and we made our escape. Sadly, a little later it was time for us to catch the overnight bus to Bogota with Dermot tagging along. We said goodbye to San Agustin, and an insanely friendly local who we met at the last minute, and hoped this bus wouldn´t break down and would arrive on time.

Posted by Alice_and_Nyree 15:15 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Hello Colombia! Hello Hillbillies and Hotties!

Our first stop in Colombia, Popayan. We fell in love! 24th-27th August.

sunny 26 °C

At Tulcan we crossed the border to Ipiales and after dumping our bags in the bus terminal and fighting off all the Colombian men wanting us to go to Pasto with THEIR company, we went to wait for a collectivo to take us to Las Lajas Cathedral Sanctuary. We waited and waited, with all the taxi drivers smirking at us, and by the time a small group had formed, one of the taxi drivers decided to transform himself into a collectivo. We squashed 5 people into the back, with Nyree on Alice´s knee, and drove at fast speed up and down the curvy roads. At one point we almost hit a cow, who had decided to plonk himself in the middle of the road for a nap, right at a tight bend. We strolled down the mountain to visit the famour church. It was beautiful and well-worth the trip, it was also almost worth the intense climb back up the steep hill. Almost. At the top, we were the first people in the collectivo and had to wait a long time for it to fill up. During this time, we decided to change our trip plans drastically. Instead of zipping from San Augustin to Popayan to Cali to Bogota to Cartagena, we decided to cut Cali and go to Popayan first. We would then have more time to enjoy everything, it made more sense, and it would give us an excuse to come back on another trip. When the last woman got into the collectivo we all cheered and the two of us got back into yet another bus to Popayan. It was a late bus, and die to arrive there at 1am. Unfortunately, the bus was also crap and around midnight the bus broke down. Nyree was still petrified of being robbed, especially at the side of a random road in the middle of Colombia. We eventually got going again, only to break down several kilometers further down the road. The people going to Cali were called off the bus to swap to one that could actually move, the rest of us just had to stick it out. We finally arrived in Popayan at 4am at Hostel Trail, run by a Scottish couple. We got straight into our double bed (hubba hubba) and conked out.

Las Lajas Cathedral.

Las Lajas Cathedral.

We woke up at 12 the next day and immediately befriended an American called Kirt. We were on our way out to brunch and he asked if he could come along. Always the friendly type, we said of course and headed on our way. As we were walking, we were suddenly struck dumb by a man who walked past. He was the most BEAUTIFUL MAN we had ever seen in our lives, no exaggeration whatsoever. We immediately jizzed and couldn´t speak for a full 10 minutes - what a stunner. After agreeing with each other about our feelings for him, we walked a little further in silence. We then looked at each other again and realised we were both still picturing his face in our minds. Siiiigh. We got to a café and sat down with Kirt still in tow. Five minutes in, we realised our mistake of taking him under our wing. Kirt was the definition of a hillbilly in the most annoying sense, with none of the usual hillbilly charm. He poured loads of water on our table and wiped it down, while telling us of his freight-train experiences. He also reckoned he could last hiding out on a freight ship for 40 days without water or food. We told him this was impossible, and our answer was "Well, Jesus did it.". That was us told. After this, we were allowed to know about his daily routine at home, where he ran for 4 hours in the morning, then worked for 12 hours on the farm, then cycled for 40 miles, all while still having the hobby of building underground houses and studying plants. His parents were paying for his flight home and so he could stay as long as possible. He was already home-sick, though, and was ready to leave after 3 days. We weren´t very happy about this and considered him a massive pussy and weirdo. Therefore, he was ditched as soon as possible and avoided at all costs for the rest of our stay.

Popayan.

Popayan.

FREEDOOOOOM!! Nyree loving life!

FREEDOOOOOM!! Nyree loving life!

We changed dollars in a random shoe shop to avoid any documentation nonsense, all very illegal of course, and then we chatted with the Scottish couple who were very friendly. They said we could take their cute dog Ally for a walk later to watch the sunset from the top of the hill. We thought this was a great idea, but were horrified when we saw that Kirt had returned and had heard the exchange. He asked if he could come, but we said we were only leaving later. We definitely dodged a bullet there... When he went to the toilet, we grabbed Ally and ran! You may think we are horrible people, but it´s impossible to fully describe the extent of his annoyingness. Seriously. Ally loved her walk, as did we, although we were too impatient to wait for the sunset as our tummies growled. We sneaked back into the hostel to return Ally after briefly looking at the jewellry stands, and then went to a Mexican place for dinner. The food was amazing and we befriended the waiter, asking if we should go out tonight or tomorrow. He assured us that tomorrow was better, and advised us to go to ´Iguana´, a salsa bar with lots of dancing. This seemed like a great idea, as it meant we could go read and sleep. Yay!

Ally! So cute!

Ally! So cute!

The View from the hill.

The View from the hill.

Aaawwww, puppy love!

Aaawwww, puppy love!

The next day we headed to a bakery for breakfast, where there was a friendly girl working. She advised us where to buy shoes, and Alice managed to find a pair of sandals that were not painful on her toes. What a win! We looked around some more shops, took some photos, and wandered around the market a little. We saw Kirt walking with another guy who gave us a desperate look screaming for help. We shook our heads sadly at his misfortune. Later on, we saw Kirt again playing with his hacky sack in the middle of the plaza. He was awful and it was embarassing for everyone there. He approached us and told us he used to do it for three hours every day and was just a little out of practice at the moment. Yeah right. It was high time for a siesta after this, so we headed back to nap and then watch a movie.

They don´t do juice like this in Britain or the Netherlands...

They don´t do juice like this in Britain or the Netherlands...

Breakfast time! YUM!

Breakfast time! YUM!

Alice getting a regalo in the market.

Alice getting a regalo in the market.

We went back to the Mexican for dinner, ordered the young waiter to come dance with us later, and then got ready to go to Iguana. While Alice was in the bathroom Nyree looked around and spotted a TV screen showing the security camera for the main door. To our horror, it showed that Kirt was outside smoking and drinking from a large beer bottle. We could NEVER get past him without him seeing us. Nyree grabbed Alice, let her see, and we hid in our room for 15minutes until we guessed the coast was clear. Sure enough, the TV screen was empty and we tip-toed down the stairs. Who would we run into but Kirt, heading our way... dun dun duuuuuun! He asked where we were going. We told him we were going to meet the local friends we had made earlier. "Oh," he said, "I just finished having a drink with my friends too...". We remembered what we had seen and were tempted to point out the lies of this statement but, instead, we bit back our laughter and made our escape.

We had a fantastic night in Iguana and were immediately asked to salsa dance by the majority of the bar. After trying to convince people we had no idea how to dance, we realised we were fighting a losing battle and proceeded to embarass ourselves on the dancefloor. Luckily, the men were mostly so drunk that they had no idea how bad we were and just enjoyed teaching us the moves and trying to hug us and plant kisses on our cheeks telling us how linda we were. Alice got dancing with an incredibly attractive Colombian, while Nyree started doing shots of the Colombian spirit ´Aguardiente´with three other guys and danced with them all. One was a lot of fun, even though the two of them couldn´t understand each other. Towards the end of the night, we decided that tonight was the night to complete our challenge. The Colombians were incredibly nice and cute, and we couldn´t think of a better way to finish our last night in Popayan. We both had a wee kiss, bieeeen, and walked back to the hostel with a hop in our step and smiles on our faces.

Having a last walk in Popayan.

Having a last walk in Popayan.

We had an early bus the next day, so went back to the bakery for a smoothie and some food. Alice realised that a milky drink was a bad idea for her hangover and only managed to drink about two sips. Malo. We said goodbye to Popayan, to Ally, not to Kirt, and jumped on the bus. We were really looking forward to staying in the small Colombian town of San Augustin and seeing some more of the local culture and fun-loving Colombian people.

Posted by Alice_and_Nyree 13:14 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Relax, You´re in Ecuador!

... until you get to Quito, in which case: run for your lives!! 19th-24th August.

semi-overcast 25 °C

Our bus journey to Guayaquil was pretty tranquilo. The only thing of note was the border-crossing inot Ecuador in the middle of the night where the humidity was insane, we all got drizzled on, and Nyree was asked if she was single by the migration officer. Alice also felt like she would collapse because she was ill and had to sit on the floor, embarassing for us all. Normaal. From Guayaquil we decided to power through and get a bus straight on to Baños so said goodbye to Niall and Hollie at the bus station. The bus journey was, again, pretty uneventful apart from the appearance of a "Locita". She was a little old lady who Nyree spotted trying to force her way into the locked toilet at the back of the bus. She then sat down and looked incredibly excited when a man got on the bus selling boxes of chocolate (standard), aggressively asking everyone to show her theirs and buying about 3 boxes. The bus conductor then came round to ask for tickets or collect money and she stubbornly refused to buy one, having spent all her money on chocolate we presume. She then got a bit mouthy and the conductor went to fetch the police. However, when they arrived she had disappeared. She had again tried to get into the bathroom, but had settled for sitting on someone´s knee in the back of the bus. The police escorted her off with everyone shaking their heads and tutting at the Locita (crazy lady). We continued on our way. The views from the bus were beautiful with the countryside looking a lot like Scotland but a lot more sunny and blue-skied!

The could-be-Scotland scenery.

The could-be-Scotland scenery.

At one point we had to get off the bus and swap onto another one at the petrol station. Alice befriended a local of Baños called Wilson who helped us get on the right bus. Alice also graciously gave her seat to an old lady, meaning she had to sit on a little plastic stool in the centre aisle of the bus. Nyree couldn´t stop laughing, even though she was trying hard not to as she desperately needed the toilet. Standard. This would become a running theme throughout Ecuador, it must be something in the water. Every other country has toilets on the bus, but when there aren´t any our bodies refuse to hold in anything. Sad times.

The Tungurahua Volcano at Baños.

The Tungurahua Volcano at Baños.

We arrived in Baños in the late afternoon and headed to the hostel to shower and relax a little. That night we went out to a bar with three levels and a discoteka on the top floor. We had some cocktails at the bottom, got more confident and went a level up to look off the balcony and check out the local talent, and finally, after some more cocktails, went up to bust out our best salsa moves with the Ecuadorians. Two of them immediately latched on and obviously had more thaqn just dancing in mind. After half an hour of dancing, their hands started to creep lower and we made a strategic retreat. Even though we had both challenged each other to pull a local on this trip, this wasn´t the time. We headed back to our hostel to get the name of another discoteka. We failed to find it, but found another and were let in for free - WIN! We danced for a while, telling all the men who tried to approach that we were novias (girlfriends) and then headed home to bed.

Nyree with her Mojito. Yum!

Nyree with her Mojito. Yum!

Awkwaaaaaard...

Awkwaaaaaard...

Alice´s Sleazeball. Lol.

Alice´s Sleazeball. Lol.

Surprisingly, we woke up early in the morning for our steam bath in the hostel. We headed upstairs in our bikinis and towels and were immediately told by the steam-bath man to sit in a wooden box which closed around us so just our heads were sticking out of the top. It got incredibly hot inside and just when we thought we could no longer hack it we had to get out, pick up a freezing cold soaking wet towel and wipe it all over our bodies - very unenjoyable, but the worst was yet to come. This was repeated four times, before Alice was told to sit in a shallow bath of freezing water and massage her bowels. Nyree was then led into a seperate room and had to do the same. He left, and all she could hear was Alice screaming from next-door. Terror struck, Nyree knew she was next. Sure enough, he came back and started splashing her aggressively with the freezing water. Then it was back into the box with both of us. Another woman popped in, so he left for a second, and Alice told Nyree that he had kissed her on the lips when putting her back into her box. Oh dear. What a perv. The lady was also led to a box, and she had decided to come along completely naked. At least Alice was less-likely to be his number one target now. We had to wash ourselves with the cold towel again, and then a massive tub of cold water was poured all over our heads. Malo! It was then back into the box, and then we had to go through the last ordeal. This came in the form of an ice-cold hose with the pressure on the jet of water at its highest possible. It was basically like being stabbed repeatedly with an icicle. Needless to say, we were happy to leave but we did feel very refreshed and thoroughly cleansed (and in Alice´s case, slightly taken advantage of).

We had a choice of two walks ahead of us that morning, but when we found out that one was uphill our choice was clear. It was meant to be the more interesting walk anyway, so there! We walked out of the town after passing a massive fruit and veg market and stands where they roasted guinea pigs, and made our way to San Martin shrine.

Loving the Tartan Outfits at the Market.

Loving the Tartan Outfits at the Market.

Guinea Pigs, Yum Yum!

Guinea Pigs, Yum Yum!

While we were balancing on a bridge looking down the steep gorge into the river, a bus needed to cross the bridge. He stopped to let us get off, but Nyree foolishly told him it was bien, there was plenty of room. There really wasn´t, and we were pressed against the dodgy fence tightly, looking down to certain death below while everyone on the bus was looking out of their windows with clenched teeth, probably secretly hoping we would fall. What a story for the kids! After looking at the shrine, basically a large plastic model of the virgin mary, we walked back. On the way we stopped to look at the sugar cane and a kind man gave us a couple of pieces to try. You basically put the sugar cane in your mouth and suck the sugary juice out, before spitting the remains out on the floor - very classy. We asked how much it was and he laughed, telling us "Tranquilo, estan en Ecuador!". It was so delicious that we bought a massive bag anyway. Alice also wanted to take a photo of Nyree eating her first sugar cane and made an unfortunate discovery. In the space of two minutes, her camera had gone from hunky-dorey to gory. It would only take bright white photos - not ideal. Further down the road we got some more free samples of sugar cane taffy, a local specialty of Baños.

The Gorge we almost fell into.

The Gorge we almost fell into.

Sugar Cane and Sugar Taffy.

Sugar Cane and Sugar Taffy.

We strolled around the town for the rest of the afternoon, and then had a delicious dinner at Casa Hood which was very yummy, with live music entertainment from a local band. That night we had invited Alcides, one of the hostel workers, to come and drink with us for an early birthday celebration. We played TODITO with beer, it was the most beer Alice had ever drank in one sitting, and then said goodnight.

Alice in Casa Hood.

Alice in Casa Hood.

The next day, our last in Baños, we had another insanely early start and headed to the famous thermal baths. Bieeeen! They were awesome and we spent an hour or so just lying in the water which was incredibly warm and full of locals. People had the strange habit of wearing their underwear underneath their swimming costume, which Alice felt good about as she had lost her bikini bottoms and so was wearing a pair of knickers. From there, we went back to the hostel to change, pack, check out, and then it was Mission: Sort out Nyree´s Travellers Cheques. Nyree had had them stolen weeks ago but we hadn´t yet got round to sorting it out. So, she called with Skype and cancelled all her bank cards, and then claimed the cheques as stolen. In the end, it was decided that she should pick up the monetary value of them immediately, which meant going to the bank and getting $1124 in cash, all in $20 notes. Cue incredible paranoia. We then got ont the bus to Quito, with Nyree putting $500 down each bra-cup. For a short while at least, she looked like she had massive boobs which made her feel very happy. Alice just thought she looked like she´d had a boob job, oh dear...

Baños, in the early morning mist.

Baños, in the early morning mist.

While we were on the bus, loving life, we got a text from Hollie warning us to be very careful on Ecuadorian buses as Niall had almost had his bag with EVERYTHING valuable stolen. It had been an incredibly close call, and we became even more terrified with Nyree refusing to sleep at all and constantly patting her breasts just to be sure no-one had slipped their hands in without her noticing. We had also heard many bad robbery stories about Quito and were so scared that we almost refused to get off the bus. We sprinted into the bus-terminal, jumped into a taxi, clutched each other and sobbed with relief that we hadn´t yet been robbed, and then dashed into the hostel. We went to bed straight away, mainly because we were too scared to do anything else.

That day was our first, and last, day in Quito so we decided to do everything. In the morning we prepped our bag, feeling pessimistically certain that we were likely to be robbed at some point. So far, apart from in Buenos Aires, we had been robbed (or almost robbed) in every capital city. Instead of Alice´s IPhone, we changed our minds and took Nyree´s phone for time-telling instead. Alice would be in charge of the bag, leaving Nyree free to protect her camera at all costs with her life. We set off for central colonial Quito on public transport, which was a bus with everyone crammed together like the Tube, and got to the Main Plaza without any problems. Or so we thought. We strolled around for a bit, and then sat down to look through our guide book and do a quick time-check. However, while Alice was raiding through the bag, struggling to find the phone, Nyree saw a cut in the bottom of it. Shit! Some bag-slashing bastard(s) had robbed us within 5 minutes of leaving the hostel. God knows how, as Alice had her arm around it the whole time and we had both been watching the bag carefully. Luckily, though, Nyree´s phone was ancient and it was high-time for it to be replaced. Let´s be optimistic and say it was a blessing in disguise, and that he went through all that careful trouble to get a shitter phone than he already owned!!

Before we discovered the robbery.

Before we discovered the robbery.

Oh dear.

Oh dear.

After this minor setback, we pulled ourselves together and set off for Calle Morales which the guide book said was a beautiful street worth visiting. Two policemen directed us to it, without a hint of warning. However, when we got a little bit lost and asked a lady in a shop where Calle Morales was, she clutched her chest, staggered backwards and told us to run for our lives. Why the hell would we want to go there?! Apparantly it was crawling with danger! We would be robbed, raped, and shot almost instantaneously and simultaneously. We took her advice and decided to head back. Our next stop was the volcano overlooking the city, which you could reach by cable-car . We spent $10 on our tickets and then an hour waiting in the queue, by which time we were starving. And was it worth it? At the top it was freezing, a good 20 degrees lower than the shorts weather in town, so we headed to the café and bought hotdogs, before heading straight back down to Quito. Basically, we spent $15 on a hotdog. Definitely worth it.

In the cable car up to the volcano.

In the cable car up to the volcano.

Returning to the hostel we dumped some stuff, told everyone about how we´d been robbed, and headed out to do some clothes shopping and try to find somewhere to fix Alice´s camera. Almost as soon as we left, we were hit by a freak rain/thunderstorm and dashed into the nearest shop for cover. We managed to both buy cardigans there and wear them instead of ruining our Alpaca jumpers in the rain. We then ran across the road to another shop, but had to cross a massive puddle at the curb. We were almost killed by a taxi, and Alice´s flip-flop came off in the puddle. Puddle = lake. She had to risk death again to fish it out with her hands, while Nyree laughed from the dry doorway and encouraged everyone in there to join her. No-one was walking outside, but as we were wet anyway (that´s what she said) we decided we might as well keep walking as true Scottish women. We found the shopping mall, all the good shops were closed, and we walked back. We did manage to find a man that would fix Alice´s camera after another, more professional man had told her it was impossible. He would do it for $40 after a lot of persuasive haggling. Bieeeeen! On route back to the hostel, we passed a hairdressers where we could get a haircut for $3 each. What a bargain! We daringly took the risk and were happily surprised, even though they did an odd job of our fringes and insisted on only drying them, leaving the rest of our hair soaking wet. At least Alice had had a fringe cut, Nyree had a fringe dried for her instead.

For dinner, we had a massive plate of food while Santiago who worked at the hostel posted Alice´s postcards for her on his jog. Afterwards, feeling very full, it was time to walk back to the shop and retrieve the camera. A Colombian boy started chatting to us while we waited and was so friendly that we started looking forward to going to Colombia the next day even more. Anything to get out of Quito. The man showed up shortly afterwards, and unbelievably the camera was actually fixed!

Testing, Testing... in the camera shop. Bieeeen!

Testing, Testing... in the camera shop. Bieeeen!

Alice almost hugged him, but he was so sour about fixing it so cheaply that we decided not to risk it. It was another early night for us then, as we had an early start to the border with Colombia the next day. We got a bus to Tulcan for the border crossing excited to get into Colombia, the last country of our trip.

Posted by Alice_and_Nyree 11:47 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Peru: A Blast From the Past!!

Revisiting the orphanage/city Alice worked in two years ago! 11th-19th August.

sunny 18 °C

Our time in Peru started with an awful lot of bus rides. Malo! Luckily we decided to splash out and travel with Cruz del Sur for the whole journey from Puno to Chiclayo. As Alice had already spent a year in Peru and travelling round it, Nyree had settled for only seeing the place Alice had lived for a year... just kidding! She was REALLY looking forward to seeing where Alice had worked in the orphanage and was delighted that she had the excuse to come back to South America again for a proper tour of Peru.

Inca Kola: Peru´s Irn Bru! Yum!

Inca Kola: Peru´s Irn Bru! Yum!

The first bus, Peru to Arequipa, was an uneventful 7 hours. The only thing worth mentioning was that the bus-hostess woman was a bit of a bitch and hated us. When we saw that one of the films had english subtitles we asked her very nicely if she could put them on. Her answer was "No" followed by a look that almost killed us both, and then she marched off. Our next bus was from Arequipa to Lima and Nyree spent the majority of the journey feeling very ill after having thrown up in the toilet at the bus-stop in Arequipa. Eew. Alice happily ate most of Nyree´s dinner in the VIP section of the bus, while Nyree watched ´Taken´ for the first time. It is a favourite of the Peruvians, and Alice was very excited to see it again for the tenth time. We spent one ´night´in Lima (can barely call it that) where we didn´t see any of the city but pigged out on chinese food and yoghurt while watching some quality tv. The next morning we boarded the next bus, a measly 12 hours up to Chiclayo. We didn´t have seats together and were reluctant to ask the people next to us to move after having been turned down very dramatically in Bolivia - a sad and hurtful experience. However, the man in one of our seats offered to swap with us as it wouldn´t make a difference to him. We were very happy - Bieeeeeeeen! Our debt to him was repaid when Alice won the bus bingo! Wiiiiin!! She was ecstatic, even though she had won a free return trip to Lima... malo! We gave this trip to him and he seemed very happy about the whole thing. After the bingo, it was time for the first film of the trip. We were worried as many films had been disappointingly dubbed in Spanish without any English subs available. However, we were in for a treat. The film was called "Always By Your Side", starring Richard Gere, and told the heart-warming story of a dog and his owner. Towards the end, the owner died and the dog waited every day by the train station for his owner to return, getting dirtier and thinner by the day. The end was welcomed by floods of tears with Alice barely able to watch the montage of happy pictures of the two stars. Nyree couldn´t look at Alice for fear of entering the crying stage of horrendous and unstoppable sobs which would last the rest of the journey. We arrived in Chiclayo at night and headed to the seaside town of Pimentel immediately. Alice was ridiculously excited and pointed out everything she recognised to a tired and still-ill Nyree who loved seeing it all. The taxi-driver got progressively more annoyed as we had NO idea what the name/address of our hostel was but knew what it looked like. We got him to drive around until we spotted it and didn´t give him a tip. Standard.

After all of the bus journeys we decided to sleep in a little in the morning. Being in Chiclayo was the time for rest and relaxation so we were in no hurry to get anywhere. Alice met Daniel, the owner of the hostel, when we woke up and he remembered her and her mum from when they stayed there two years ago. It was super sweet! He even gave us breakfast even though we had woken up waaay too late for it. After walking to the Plaza and asking the Farmacia where the internet place was, we saw an old ´friend´of Alice´s. He was a little bit odd to say the least, and Alice was not happy to see him. She avoided agreeing to meet up with him again, and we ran for the internet café. The rest of the day was spent relaxing at the beach where we ate some Ceviche (raw fish, a speciality of Peru) which made Nyree ill again on her delicate tummy. Sad times. When Nyree went off to the loo in the restaurant Alice saw someone she recognised from her time there. She beckoned him over and he luckily recognised her too. He invited the two of us to drink with him in his restaurant that night. We said we´d see him later and went back to the hostel so that Nyree could have a lie down. Daniel started talking to Alice, calling her a winged angel from heaven for giving a year of her life to the children of Peru - typical drunk Peruvian chat, and it wasn´t even 3 yet! We headed out to the internet café again later to finally upload photos and finish some blogs as we had not seen internet this fast since the UK! A couple of hours later who should turn up but the ´odd friend´ who we wanted to avoid at all costs. "I saw you guys had uploaded photos so figured you must be in here..." he said creepily. Stalker!! We managed to somehow get away again and kept a careful eye out for him the rest of the day.

Ceviche!

Ceviche!

That night we went out and bought pizza for dinner before going to meet Juan, the guy from the restaurant. He met us at nine and took us to his restaurant after stopping at his house on the way for a Spanish-English dictionary. It turned into a very random night with vast amounts of Pisco (strong Peruvian alcohol), Todito (a drinking game), and eventually with his friend showing up and turning it into an odd double-date. Oh dear. His friend then regalo´d Nyree his scarf (gave it as a gift). Of course, the scarf had an emotional story behind it which he told Alice numerous times. It goes a little like this: the scarf was made by his friend´s dead mother and was the last gift she had ever given him. She had knitted it herself and it was made with lots of love. He kept the scarf with him at all times and looked after it like his own child, and Nyree must take just as much (if not more) care of it. He had chosen to give this precious scarf to her because she was the first Scottish person he had ever met and was therefore very precious to him as well. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The scarf was hideous, we both agreed, and Nyree said she couldn´t possibly accept it. He took this as a massive insult, told the story another few times, and Nyree ended up stuck with it. Shiiiit. We finally got away at 5am and avoided kisses as we were walked to our hostel, a little like playing extreme dogdeball! We collapsed on the beds and fell asleep immediately.

The next day we slept in late again and then caught a Combi to visit Chiclayo. It was a very exciting experience for Nyree, as a first timer, even though Alice ´snobbishly´ insisted we have the front two seats. Basically, the point of a Combi is to get as many people squashed into it as you possibly can and then drive very quickly to a destination. We had a great time! Chiclayo was awesome! Alice remembered her way around, more or less, and we went to her favourite restaurant near the main Plaza. We checked out the cinema (no good films) and went shopping before heading back to our hostel. To do something different from the night before, we got some food and watched television, early nights for the win! We spent the next day just chilling on the beach again, ready to move to Chiclayo the next day. We heard that Hollie and Niall had arrived safely in the city and arranged to meet them tomorrow.

In the morning we ate breakfast and outside the hostel a taxi-driver stopped as he had recognised Alice. He was super, super friendly (possible ADHD) and offered to drive us to Chiclayo for a cheap price. Bieeen! He serenaded us all the way, and told Alice how much of a winged-angel she was again. Nyree couldn´t stop laughing. He brought us to the hostel where we ran up to Hollie and Niall´s room to wake them up. Hollie was the friend who Alice had worked in the orphanage with, so it was super-awesome that they could both go back to visit together! First up was a trip to the market to buy some flowers for the orphanage director and then we bought some sweets for the children. Nyree and Niall waved the two girls off as they headed out for what would surely be an emotional reunion in the Aldea.

The Taxi Driver Serenading Us.

The Taxi Driver Serenading Us.

Alice with the flowers.

Alice with the flowers.

Alice and Hollie both burst into tears as soon as the first children came to hug them and they were delighted that the children still remembered who they were. It was amazing how much they had all grown in two years. They spent a while walking around the houses, dishing out sweets, and playing games with everyone. It was amazing to be there again and see everyone, but by the end they were both so drained of energy. They also visited their old house again and Alice found a book her mum had sent over with her name still in the front, super cute! They decided to come back the next day to have lunch in the Aldea and headed back to Chiclayo to meet Nyree and Niall. These two had gotten along very well in the afternoon and were found happily chatting over a beer. We had burgers for dinner (amazing ones that Alice had waited 2 years to have again!) and decided to sleep early and go out the next night.

Alice in her old room.

Alice in her old room.

Hollie with the Kids!

Hollie with the Kids!

Casa 5 Reunion!

Casa 5 Reunion!

The next day we paid a visit to Jorge, a friend of Hollie and Alice´s from earlier. He seemed pleased to see them and gave hugs all round, arranging to meet up with us that evening and let all the ´Old Crew´ know that the girls were back in town for one night, and one night only! With Nyree in tow we then headed back to the Aldea for lunch and to show her around. It was lots of fun and thank goodness it wasn´t mondongo on the menu (tripe!). The kids were all pleased to see Nyree and thought that Alice only hung around with ginger people. Hollie and Alice were also happy to have Nyree there when the children asked what the word "Ommobe, ommobe, ommobe" meant. This was met with looks of confusion, prompting the children to show us a Black Eyed Peas music video which started with those exact words. Nyree figured it meant "I´m - a - be", black-speak for "I´m going to be". We hoped the children weren´t using the Black Eyed Peas as their English-language role-models... We left with an invitation to come back to lunch the next day with the director and directora and after playing with their cute puppy as well! That night we met up with Jorge and the Crew. Hollie and Alice were pretty pissed off as one of the guys hadn´t bothered to show up after being one of their best friends for a year. However, the rest of the boys were super excited to see the girls and we had a great night. We squashed as many people into a tiny Beatle as possible, had a bar all to ourselves (where Nyree and Niall created many an in-joke as they couldn´t speak Spanish), and ended up in a karaoke bar. Oh dear! Alice and Hollie were forced to sing song after song which, lets not lie, they loved! This was until Niall started filming them. Alice´s camera was dropped into some sort of alcohol, but Nyree and Niall carefull cleaned the lens and dried it so that it started to work again. We staggered back to the hostel after a delightful evening of many Pisco Sours!

All squished in the Beatle.

All squished in the Beatle.

Hollie, Alice, and the Crew.

Hollie, Alice, and the Crew.

Nyree and Niall Loving Life!!

Nyree and Niall Loving Life!!

The Best Karaoke-ists EVER!

The Best Karaoke-ists EVER!

Drunken Note to Hollie and Alice.

Drunken Note to Hollie and Alice.

Hollie and Alice went back to the Aldea again for the last time at lunch time the next day, after Nyree and Niall decided to let the girls go and say goodbye on their own. They had a lovely lunch with Yolanda and Alfonso and saw their flowers sitting proudly in the middle of the table. Win! Yolanda gave them all the Aldea gossip and told them they should visit again next year for the 25th anniversary - tempting! After stuffing their faces with the delicious food, luckily they could still eat Peruvian portions, they went around the houses one more time to say goodbye to everyone. Sad times. The goodbye to Yolanda was especially emotional as she started crying but they both felt like they would be back for sure. Niall and Nyree spent the afternoon on the beaches of Pimentel looking at all the fishermen and boats after having some yummy Piña juice! We all rode home in the Combi together and went to a fancy restaurant for the last dinner in Chiclayo - it was high-time to treat ourselves! It was delicious!! We watched a movie and slept.

Alfonso and Yolanda with the Puppy!

Alfonso and Yolanda with the Puppy!

Pimentel Beach.

Pimentel Beach.

Peruvian Fishing Canoes.

Peruvian Fishing Canoes.

Nyree perving on the fishermen - standard!

Nyree perving on the fishermen - standard!

We woke to our last day in Chiclayo, Alice was very sad, and set off to book a bus to take us as close to Ecuador as we could. Amazingly, Hollie and Niall found one that would take us all the way to Guayaquil! Yay! We didn´t do very much that day except stroll around and say goodbye to the city. We also visited an old friend of Alice and Hollie´s - the little old lady in the tourist shop where they had frequently bought goods to send home. She was very emotional when she saw them again and gave us all a little present. What a cutie! She was sad that the girls were leaving so soon, but gave everyone a cuddle and made us promise to visit again. After we had bought bus snacks in the supermarket it was time to say goodbye to Chiclayo. We were apprehensive about a night-time border crossing (always a worry!) but we had Hollie and Niall with us... we would throw them to the dogs first giving us more time to run! Broma!

Hollie and Alice with the Cutest Woman Ever!

Hollie and Alice with the Cutest Woman Ever!

Lets go to Ecuador!!

Lets go to Ecuador!!

Posted by Alice_and_Nyree 14:24 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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