The journey to Ecuador was very eventful including a lost purse, a nights stay in a hotel you usually pay for by the hour, a recovered purse and a very long road they call trampoline of the dead. And rightly so as it’s so high up in the mountains their is absolutely no visibility and a huge mountain drop to one side. So narrow that when you meet oncoming traffic somebody’s reversing skills are seriously tested as they manoeuvre around blind corners dodging the fallen down trees and boulders.
A quick stop at Otavalo that we both agree was overpriced and the market not all it was hyped up to be. So after a quick walk around we got a local bus to Laguna San Pablo, we both agreed that although the lagoon was beautiful it would look better from above so instead of paying for a very bleak looking boat trip, we began scaling the closest mountain. Feeling pretty unfit as we finally reached the top panting and collapsing on the surrounding rocks.
We got back to town and jumped on a bus to Quito hoping to find some new friends, sick of the sound of each other’s voices after days of travelling. But instead ended up making an enemy in the owner of our hostel (bad) Vibes. The owner was the kind of person who moved and talked like he was constantly bored.
After our first night I work up eaten by bed bugs again! And when I politely took the owner to one side to let him know they had a problem he instantly accused me of lying despite the obvious evidence. Told me I probably had a skin condition and practically kicked us out threatening to blacklist us in the hostel world so no one would take us in. We left in a state of shock, walked around the corner and checked in to Colour house.
The owner was amazing and not only had all of our clothes washed, dried and back with us within hours , but also arranged our tours for us for the next day and all cheeper than Vibes.
That evening we went to the historical centre of town which is amazing! Beautiful building surround the local square filled with benches of content locals taking in their surroundings. We ate in Cafeteria Modelo a busy place where we tried some local classics. One of which being Locra a potato, cheese and avocado soup. It was lovely.
That night after sharing a giant beer us lightweights were drunk and stumbled home lost with the giggles.
A boat and two busses later and we arrive in Popayan armed with some seriously toxic bed bug spray. We splashed out on a private room, locked ourselves in the bathroom with all our stuff and gassed ourselves out. Going a bit OTT with the bug spray looking and feeling like mad women when we finally tumble out with red eyes and serious headaches, hoping we had finally got on top of this infestation. Waking up with no new bites felt like winning an all out war! And although 100s of bites still remained scattered on my body I knew their days were numbered! We took our clothes to the laundrette changed rooms and strutted off to Silvia. A town so high in the mountains that Daisy shivered in her inappropriate attire. We bought some fruits for breakfast and scaled the nearest peak for our tradition of a viewpoint.
Everywhere In Colombia seems really easy to get too but is like a series of hunger games on the return journey. As everybody fights for a spot on the designated method of travel, on this occasion a bus. But feeling unbeatable after our victory with the bed bugs we decided against the scramble and strolled off in the general direction of Popayan. We successfully thumbed down a lift to the next town with a local and jumped on a conveniently waiting bus. Where we began attacking our bags of fruit, devouring tomorrow’s breakfast! Offering it to the locals and dropping it all over the place.
That night we ate at a place called Pita and as you’ve guessed it sold pittas.. with a variety of toppings. After a game of backgammon where me and Daisy realised we can’t play anything other than cards without bickering and Daisy wanting to quit because she’s loosing! So we left. I was definitely still hungry as I don’t believe hummus qualifies as a side so we shared some cake at the hostel whilst laughing at how pathetically competitive we are. (And for the record I won backgammon but maybe don’t tell Daisy I said that).
The next morning we grouped up with some people from the hostel and headed to the hot springs. Swerving the usual tour and catching a bus. The hot springs stank worse than my exes curry farts and at first I was hesitant to go in and cursed the children splashing in my general vicinity. But half an hour in and now immune to the smell we began rubbing smelly clay all over ourselves (doing as the locals do).
After a dirt cheep meal we went back to the hostel where we no joke tried a slice of every home made cake, rating them in order. My favourite being the chocolate, orange and zucchini followed closely by Daisy’s favourite Banana and cardamon and lastly the still amazing coffee and chocolate. Yum! That night we all went for Tapas at Restaurant Carmina. Where we drank wine, ate delicious food and drifted between intellectual debates and chatting shit. Until full and giddy we wondered home missing our turning for the second time since we’ve been here. The next morning we checked out only to later realise we had been undercharged. Alright for some!
After fuck all sleep, scratching till I bled it was time to head to Buenaventura a place we have chosen to go, despite everybody’s advice and looks of shock when we mention it. But being off the beaten track it should be a bit of unspoiled paradise right? Wrong! On the bus there you watched the built up westernised city (we had only just been complaining about) crumble away replaced with tin roofed shacks and jungle abyss. After the pristine beaches and busy city’s we had become used to, this felt like something out of an apocalyptic film. In my mind I kept hearing the saying taught to me by the locals only yesterday “el que no oye consejos no llege a viejo”. A saying I could now see we had completely ignored. Entering the city didn’t seem much better, the buildings were made out of bricks but most were either derelict, burnt out or half built. The people don’t seem as friendly and their isn’t a backpack or hostel in sight.
Our hotel was a puzzle to the taxi driver who had never heard of it, even when we finally pulled up outside there was no telling this building was in-fact a hotel. The reception was a locked cage with a very unhelpful lady watching tv, barely looking up to acknowledge us. Now in our room safe but seriously itchy, sketched out and hungry, but not one bit reassured by the reception cage! We realised we can’t stay in the room forever as our bellies would never allow it and head out in search for food. We managed to find a nice part of town with kids playing outside and actual restaurants! So we grabbed some cheep food and booked a boat out of there for the very next morning, having survived one night we didn’t want to push our luck.
The next morning I had scratched so much my bites had joined with their neighbouring bites and created giant bites all over my body! I was so tormented I wanted to cut out each bite individually. As we head of to Ladrilleros tired and delirious from all the antihistamines and sleeping tablets, plus now soaked to the bone as the weather had decided now was the perfect time to rain down a shit storm on my already pretty miserable self.
We really started to wonder what we were doing in a place where there were no tourists and the only accommodation was overpriced and unappealing. So we ditched our bags and had a walk around the area, where the only streets were muddy tracks slowly turning to rivers with every moment that passed. The beach was beautiful but my current circumstances made me unappreciative and I only managed one positive comment on the view so as not to be a spoilt fun sponge. I am on holiday after all! Looking for a distraction from the itching and a break from the rain we stopped for lunch, where we received bland vegetables that we doused in soy sauce to try and coax out some flavour. Completely despairing I decided to call my mum because no matter how old or independent I think I am, the mere sigh of a cold or creepy crawly and I just want my mum. So now feeling slightly better we debated our options.
1. Stay here in this strange land that despite the rain gushing from the sky didn’t have enough water to wash our clothes and rid them of the bugs potentiality living in them.
2. Accept the loss of the tenner we had spent on travel and head back to civilisation and hope for some better luck in Popayan.
Easy choice! So we left with a bitter taste in our mouths and soaking bags on our backs. Fingers crossed for Popayan.
The entire journey to Jardin we felt like experienced travellers ruffing it with the locals. Wedged in to the back of the bus where the luggage usually goes. After a quick beer we headed to bed in our new hostel Arcadia, a hostel with three story bunk beds and riddled with bed bugs!
The next morning itchy enough to want to rip off my own skin, we burnt some pancakes and scattered wishing we had never returned to Medellin. Next stop Jardin a supposed three hour bus drive that took five. We got stuck in traffic and I found myself super annoyed and restless waiting in the heat until we passed the reason for it. A car accident that lives had almost definatly been lost in, it left me feeling hollow as people gasped at the tragedy and I wanted to cry for the message a family was about to receive. The rest of the journey was spent in silence as I realised how lucky we are to be here. Jardin is a beautiful small town with soo much choice of food.
Our first meal was spent in a busy local place where we invited ourselves to sit at a table with a fellow backpacker, from the moment we sat down we managed to make her feel uncomfortable as we scratched our bites that were now everywhere, discussing the possibility that we had caught some sort of skin condition. Needless to say she ate quickly and left before she caught said skin problem. Dinner was Thai at a place called Bon appetite. And that evening we readily jumped on a very sketchy unsafe looking cable car to a view point high in the mountain. Where we enjoyed a beer whilst taking funny selfies, just two goons set loose on the world.
Breakfast was a DIY of cereals and toast, I opted for cereals a bad option as they barely kept the hunger at bay as we set off to to the local river. Which was beautiful, feeling like Mowgli off the jungle book we jumped along the rocks up river for a beautiful unspoilt view.
On the way back we ended up tagging along on the back of a tour in to some cave tunnels full of bats. At this point we were feeling pretty smug believing we had just blended in and avoided paying the £2 entry. We strutted out only to be asked to pay up, proving that even with out now off white skin we are still easy to spot amongst the other tanned tourists. Now lured away from the beauty by the familiar hum of hunger on the horizon we set off in search of a vegetarian restaurant “Dueños silvestiano”
The food was amazing and we inhaled it in record time, but then feeling super healthy and needing balance in our lives we searched for a bakery to stock up on treats for our upcoming bus trip. A doughnut and a caramel filled pastry cone in hand and we boarded the very festive looking locals bus to Riosucio.