Ladies of leisure in Lima

Lima is a culinary maze and we have definitely over indulged in our gluttonous stay. Walking through various neighbourhoods stopping to share a plate in every interesting looking place trying to fit in many different dishes a day. One afternoon after a free breakfast we wondered the 5k across Miraflores to the other end of Barranco stopping at a place called “Bao” serving up some very mouth-watering delicious steamed rice buns filled with a range of different succulent meats and pickled veggies.

Next stop was to try Aji de gallina a traditional chicken and walnut stew said to be the best in “Las Mesitas”.

Next stop was “Barra Mar” where we tried another Peruvian speciality, Causa, potato, avocado and fish beautifully presented as a tower.

Despite my ever growing appetite during this trip, I can safely say there has only been two occasions where I have felt like I have completely overdone it. And fallen in to a food gouch so extreme I can no longer walk or talk only undo my trouser buttons sigh and hope the moment will pass. This was one of those occasions. To Daisy’s great amusement I walked 10 very slow steps and flopped on to the local park bench with an uncomfortable look on my face. In some kind of self inflicted food coma. After a few self pitying moments we decided the only way to solve this dilemma was ice cream! So a place we had seen with cues round the block became our next victim. Where we asked to try almost every flavour before making a purchase and flopping on to their sofas to indulge once more.

Still heavy with food we opted for a bus back unable to carry the excess weight back home. On the journey back I honestly thought this was us done for the day and that there was no way we would be hungry again for dinner. How wrong I was. A few hours later I was ready to go again and with it being the Chinese New Year and all the talk of the amazing Chinese/Peruvian collaboration dishes we couldn’t help ourselves and headed out to “Wa Lok” a highly rated restaurant. The food was expensive but we couldn’t resist and ordered the prawn and scallop dumplings and the stewed tofu to share.

We waited an age for the food and when it did come out it was very lack lustre and Luke warm. Leaving us underwhelmed.

The next day we were trying to cut costs before our extremely expensive reservation at restaurant central, number 6 of the worlds best. Breakfast was the free kind and we whipped up some cheep pasta for lunch. A quick wonder around town and a catch up of chefs table and we put on our most sophisticated outfits and set off. The food was like nothing else I’ve ever tried. After being shown to our table we were presented with a pleasant looking palette cleanser made with some very subtle Peruvian Fruits and a home made edible flower ice cube.

Next they bought an entire loaf of amazingly soft dense purple looking bread with a melt in your mouth it’s so soft butter cream and a herbaceous pesto.

The first of our eight course tasting menu was the sea bass and clams, which felt like an incredibly balanced ceviche where acidity and sweetness came together in the most complimentary way. The plum sauce was to die for and you were left with a subtle nutty hint at the end.

Next up the scallops and seeds, served with a new to us Peruvian vegetable, where they had appeared to have frozen and charred the meaty part and flaked the seeds from inside. The sauce packed a punch of ginger and lime.

Next was the tubers, thinly sliced and pickled yucca and potatoes so colourful and precisely cut and plated. Sat on a smokey creamy substance.

Next was the cured duck an absolute explosion of flavour and my favourite dish! The duck was beautifully crispy the squid perfectly cooked and the absolute balance of texture needed. Served with a bread type pitta I had to ask was edible. Now I’m the sort of person who only knows duck to be covered in hoisin and wrapped in a pancake at my local Chinese so this was amazing and definitely the best duck pancake I’ve ever eaten!

Course number five was named vegetable diversity and was a combination of flavours and textures I’ve never tried leaving me feeling a little bit confused but delighted. So thin they were almost see through vegetable noodles on an intense coffee broth and served with artichokes crisps. Tasting slightly bitter and earthy in all the right ways.

Next the beef cooked for 14 hours, it actually melted in my mouth! The sauce was rich and tasty with some sort of foam. The burnt corn purée was super creamy with chunks of all different coloured corn, lurking like little hidden surprises.

The first of our two deserts the Frozen Pomerose (whatever that is) was a beautiful bright pink frozen substance covered in a herby green dust sat on a sweet cream with some apple flakes.

Dessert number two was cocoa from the mill, let’s just say I didn’t know chocolate and honey could taste soo good.

Lastly they presented us with some chocolate Bonbons beyond words. Throughout the entire meal the service was effortless the staff topped up our wine at exactly the right moment and the chefs came and explained every dish we were presented with. The evening was a type of sophistication I would love to get used to and I left a very happy full lady! Lima has been some of the best food I’ve ever eaten from the local classics to the Michelin stars they know their way around a kitchen!

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Mooching in Mancora

Our flight back to the mainland was a turbulent death trap most of which was caused by our coffee shakes. The flight operated like a bus where once at Guayaquil we disembarked with only half the passengers as the others stayed aboard for the next stop Quito. We got straight on a night bus to Tumbes Peru and against all advice crossed South America’s most dangerous boarder at night. We hopped off the bus at immigration where there was a power cut and we stood in the dark the only light the bored staffs phones illuminating their faces as they scrolled social media, until the systems rebooted. Finally we were cleared and got back on our bus and drove through a refugee camp with Venezuelans sleeping rough and in tents. The boarders all over South America have seemed overwhelmed with refugees. We swapped busses in Tumbes and boarded the only bus leaving at this time of night. A bus run by some very obviously coked up men. At least 5 of them were wedged in the cockpit chain smoking and aggressively chewing on god knows what! So 2am tired and pissed off we arrive in Mancora with nowhere to stay.

Mancora is the Peruvian equivalent to Palomino (Colombia) but minus the power cuts. It has a laid back hippy vibe that bubbles over in to a party town at night. The beaches are long stretches with only a scattering of bodies.

There are plenty of food options and we have tried the £2 set menus all over town. Whole bbq fish, Chinese inspired Peruvian classics and ice cream coffees to die for.

We’ve spent our days lazing on the beach soaking up the sun or covering ourselves in mud at the mud baths trying to calm the sunburn. This being the only time it is acceptable to roll in the mud sober.

We have leisurely nibbled our way around town enjoying the slow paced lifestyle after our jam packed Ecuadorean escapades. In the evening we have enjoyed a few beers or pisco sours watching the town come to life, but quickly sneak off to bed before our minds become hazy. Being the good girls our friends back home didn’t think existed.

Throughout our stay I have been discussing ideas with a local tattooist and tonight before our night bus my ideas shall come alive.

Bike rides in Baños

Baños has a small town feel to it buried high up in the mountains. The first night our hostel was lacking in dorm beds so we were upgraded to a private room and all for the same price as I cheekily suggested, proving my mum was always right when she said don’t ask and you won’t get. That night I ate a two course meal and drank half a bottle of wine, whilst Daisy sat across the table from me feeling ill but politely nodding along to my tipsy ramblings.

The next morning we rented bikes and set off on a 17km bike ride along a busy road with no helmets and in the pissing it down rain. We passed four beautiful waterfalls before arriving at Pailon del Diablo. Where we stared mesmerised as the crashing water resembled the flames of a fire and the spray the smoke rising in thick patterns before hitting the rocks. Now soaked to the skin from the ride we resembled drowned rats. And opted for a lift back in a pickup where we squelched in our shoes and my jeans felt at least two sizes smaller making me feel as though I had been sectioned in my own clothes.

Now absolutely starved we rode around town in search of some lunch. I got distracted by a veggie looking place, nearly dropped my bag, slammed on the brakes so hard that I nearly went over the handle bars. It Was a close shave but a great find of Avo burrito! So was totally worth the bruised shin.

That night we went to a vegetarian restaurant called Healthy Cafe the food was to die for. We ordered two different curries and both were amazing and even better washed down with a bottle of red. So now drunk, full and ranted out we stumbled home.

After an unproductive day we went for dinner in an amazing Spanish place Tascos! The tapas were amazing and all the surrounding tables, us and the owner friendlily conversed between courses. When we got back to the hostel we found the place a complete mad house, the already strange residents were even stranger with the addition of beer pong and brightly coloured wigs. They couldn’t understand us brits being sober and kept trying to pressure tequila shots on us, until we locked ourselves in a dark room and tried to watch a film that was intermittently interrupted by strange shadows opening the door.

The next morning we went to Casa Arbol for some not so high adrenaline but super cheep swings and zip lines. With lots of time to kill before our night bus we went for some Chinese massages where I was manoeuvred like a piece of meat being aggressively rubbed up. So now sufficiently tenderised we headed off to the city ready for our flight to the Galápagos Islands.

Quilotoa and Cotopaxi

An early start at 6am and we set off for Cotopaxi the second largest active volcano in the world.

And then on to Quilotoa an amazing volcano with a lake in its centre.

There is not much I can say about either of these that the photos don’t say themselves.

Cotopaxi is huge and intimidating whilst stood at the base, but the higher we scaled the more energised and giddy we became. Dressed like creepy Arabs layered up with sarongs and headbands we must have looked a real sight!At 15953feet we shared a coca tea wishing we had the time and equipment to continue to the top! Because we certainly weren’t lacking in enthusiasm.

Quilotoa is one of the best views I have ever seen so calm was the water and silent were the hills, it’s crazy that this place wasn’t roaming with tourists but we were grateful for the lack of an audience after we boldly left the group behind and descended down in to the volcano, only to run out of time and have to scramble back up panting and seriously debating an air ambulance.

The bus drive back we jumped out at a roundabout and switched busses to one going onward to Baños. Following the always room for one more rule I sat on the floor by the drivers feet and talked taxes with the driver.

Statues in San Agustin

So although the bus was still an hour late it almost felt early in comparison to the usual three hour late busses. We checked straight in to Casa De Nelly the prettiest hostel, where the owner was a cornucopia of information for our route to Ecuador, and the place instantly felt like home.

After a nice dinner in town, we set off on the walk uphill back to the hostel, only to have a pizza delivery guy who was conveniently driving there anyway offer us a lift. What luck! As I was drifting off that night I heard a kufufflae and muttering from Daisy’s direction. I looked over to see a very startled Daisy batting off a cricket that had landed on her face. The next morning, we left to get a bus to the local statues. But in luck again we ended up getting a lift on the back of a hostel workers bike whilst he set up some horses to meet us at the entrance. Where we galloped around the park with a tour guide explaining the history to us. All for the same price as the entry fee!

So another free ride to a local vegetarian restaurant Tomate and we enjoyed an amazing lunch, where we overfilled ourselves with unidentifiable great tasting veggies.

So now two very achey completely stuffed gringos walked back to the hostel where apparently our luck had ran out and we walked the whole way back arriving out of breath and sweaty. That evening we arranged a yoga class down the road where again we conveniently got a free ride. It was the kind of yoga my mums been trying to get me to go for years, all breathing and meditation. We had to avoid eye contact the whole time as a wave of the giggles threatened. This was especially difficult in the eye yoga! During one of the breathing exercises she asked if we had felt anything, I’m pretty sure a blocked nose was not the answer she was looking for (but the one I gave nonetheless). We left the yoga class confused at what had just happened and completely starved. We dined at Homosapians, another veggie place that served up some very quick tasty food.

Trying to get a taxi home in the downpour was a very serious task as we hovered in shop doorways trying desperately to flag down any vehicle in sight. The only one that stopped was an already full taxi. Despite this we loaded in with the complacent family, making 8 of us in there. We did manage to negotiate a discount based on the fact we didn’t even have one seat between us. We got back to the hostel soaked through and in a fit of giggles. And who do we see sat on the sofa… only our Aussie mate, I am now starting to believe he is a stalker. So a quick catch up and we all clamber in to bed trying to get some sleep but finding ourselves far too funny to stop firing comments across the room.

Places in Popayan

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!

Problems on the Pacific coast

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.