After our hectic and adventurous November we turned back to our city routes in the beginning of the month then headed to the mountains to volunteer on the Quilotoa Loop for the holidays.
- Countries visited: Peru, Ecuador
- Cities: Lima, Quito, Isinlivi
- Airbnbs: 1
- Workaways: 2
- Volcanos kayaked in: 1
Hanging with Hipsters in Barranco
After enjoying the cafés and colonial architecture of Arequipa, we flew to Lima. We had heard very mixed things about Lima, most people reported they did not like it bur a couple of people said they loved it. We decided to only spend 4 days there just in case we were in the former category. We did our research and decided to forego the popular Miraflores neighborhood opting instead for the hipster-y and supposedly bohemian Barranco neighborhood that we figured would suit us best because it wouldn’t be super touristy. Our risk with Barranco paid off, it was a really cool neighborhood full of street art, old houses, lots of families, and great food.
Speaking of food, we didn’t have a bad meal in Barranco. Of note was Veggie Pizza, delicious vegetarian pizza place where they encourage you to pick 4 different flavors for 1 pizza. It was really yummy. Also, it wouldn’t be Lima without at least one meal of ceviche. We wanted to go for dinner one night but it turns out the dish is more of a lunch thing, so on our last day in town we made our way to the local classic was Canta Rana. The ceviche was cheap and delicious, and the pisco sours were strong! We couldn’t have asked for a better last meal in Peru.
Enjoying the Scenery on the Waterfront
Lima is an extremely interesting city. They have a really pretty coastline. And like many cities (San Francisco, Chicago, New Year, etc), they’ve put a freeway right along the coast which makes getting from the city to the beach fairly difficult by foot. But disregarding that, what makes their coastline very interesting is they have a large cliff behind the freeway lined with sky scrapers with a really nice winding between them. It definitely makes for one of the more interesting skylines of any city we’ve seen.
Learning the Art of Translating with Workaway
We flew to Quito and immediately started a short workaway. Our job was to take some Spanish to English translations and make the English better. Learning the nuances of translating was pretty interesting. We often had to stop and ask if something was said in certain ways for stylistic reasons or because it was an idiom. Everything was short fiction written by Ecuadorian authors. The workaway meant we got to see a whole different part of Quito most don’t see. The host lived near Hotel Quito in a wealthy part of Quito that is not touristy at all. The street he lived on was remarkably modern lined with residential skyscrapers from the 70s and 80s. It was a great place to workaway because we could walk out of the building and to a nearby cafe and use our laptops for hours without issue. We also had enough time to explore the area and the historical city center. The workaway was a great experience.
Getting to Know Quito’s Old Town
The historical center of Quito is really incredible. Very pretty with so much amazing architecture, mostly Italian influenced. In the city center was an amazing market where we had Llapingachos. They were delicious, super cheap, and even had vegetarian options. The week we were in Quito also happened to be a celebration week. It was “Founder’s day” and there was a really cool, and really long, parade through the city center full of local marching bands and dance troupes. We also visited and a really underrated and very cheap museum: Museum of the City. It is housed in an old hospital and had great exhibits covering the whole history of Quito. We really liked the large number of exhibits that were recreated scenes, homes, buildings, etc. It was a fun anthropological and historical view of Quito from Incan times to now.
Climbing the Basilica
A major highlight of our time exploring Quito was climbing to the top of the Basílica del Voto Nacional. The church is incredible, huge, and on top of a hill so it has an stellar view. The main cathedral area was closed, but they were still letting people climb to the top. And boy, was it a climb. At first it was a spiral staircase that went up and up and up. Then after we got to the level that houses the organ and looks down upon the pews, we had to walk across a catwalk above the ceiling of the pews. Then we climbed several sets of ladders, until we were finally at dizzying heights. From the top we could see all of Quito, as well as get great views of the basilica. The ladders were borderline scary, and getting down was even scarier. Putting that aside though, it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in Quito.
Hiking the Quilatoa Loop
After our workaway in Quito we headed to Hostel Llullu Llama in the tiny village of Isinlivi for another workaway opportunity. The hostel is widely known as one of the best in Ecuador, so we were excited to spend the next month there. The hostel is located on a hiking trail called the Quilotoa Loop and one of the requirements as volunteers was that we had to hike the trail ourselves. The Quilotoa loop turned out to be one of our favorite tourist attractions so far on our trip. Its right in the sweet spot for travelers, not so touristy that it feels inauthentic (like Colca Canyon and most things in Peru) but its not so tough that you need to have full backpacking gear. The loop takes 3-4 days with 4 to 6 hours of hiking per day from one small village to another. The nice part about this particular route is that there are hostels in little towns along the way so the trail is possible with just a small day pack. Each segment of the hike is incredibly beautiful with rolling hills and wide open farmland. We only saw a few other tourists and a few local farmers and we loved that the route wasn’t covered in vendors looking to make a quick buck off the tourists.
Retreating to the Mountains for a Month at Hostel Llullu Llama
We decided to settle at Llullu Llama for a month and it’s been great. The work we do can sometimes be long, but its never stressful. We help serve meals, check guests in and out, and walk the hostel’s St. Bernard, Baloo. In exchange we get to stay for free at one of the most beautiful and relaxing lodges in Ecuador, and it even comes with free food. So we are basically spending no money the whole month we’re here save for a few candles from a local shop we bought to have on Christmas.
Our days are calm and restful. We go on daily walks through the beautiful countryside with Baloo. We have more time to work on this blog. Jeff has also had a lot of time to work on his big update to WaterMe. and he’s confident he’ll finish it before we leave. We even had a day off to head back to Quilatoa to kayak in the lake.
Overall, its been really really nice being able to take a vacation from our vacation and settle down a bit. At times, traveling feels like rushing from one place to another. Seeing one thing after another. Our time here has been spent building a routine and relaxing for a little bit.
With that we wrap up 4 months on the road as well as ending the year that brought us on these travels in the first place. We are so grateful for the opportunities last year brought and we’re flowing into 2018 with renewed optimism for all of the adventure the new year brings. Happy 2018 everyone, may this be the best year yet!