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.
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.
So Cali is a big, busy city where the people seem less friendly and the constant heat leaves you feeling clammy from the minute you wake up! The first thing we did, after breakfast of course (our priorities always firmly on food) was head to the closest viewpoint. The city stretched for miles, ugly spewed-out buildings as far as the eye can see. Here we indulged in one of the local delicacies, something I can only describe as a Colombian slush puppy. Fruit flavoured ice and a mountain of fruit all rammed in a plastic cup that tasted even more amazing than it looked!
After walking around for hours we decided to cool off at the hostel, whilst intermittently muttering occasionally about the heat. Then we headed off in search of a local market offering some beautiful local seafood dishes. Now I usually pride myself on being a bit of a bottomless pit when it comes to food but this time I really over did it and had to undo my skirt and lean back in my chair sighing occasionally. I only moved at the mention of coffees, where we hobbled the 20 steps away and ordered caramel frappes!
It was here we made out first real Colombian friends where we laughed for hours discussing different sayings and slang words from the area. “El que no oye consejos no llege a viejo” (if you don’t listen to advice you won’t live a long life) which I think might have been a hint for us to listen to advice. My personal favourite and one I believe we have been living by even before we knew it is “donde fueres has lo que vieres” basically meaning “do as the locals do”.
With that being said we went for a beer with our Aussie friend that we have bumped in to literally everywhere since we met in Taganga!
And we attempted to dance salsa with the locals to the great amusement of those watching as we shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other, red faced and sweaty but persistent in learning what looked like simple steps. After sweating out our body weight and noticing that the time had flown by we fled the ball like Cinderella, wanting an early night ready for Buenaventura tomorrow.
So the three hour bus journey was anything but and we arrived at Riosucio five hours later after a wheel change and then a chaotic change of bus altogether where two buses going in opposite directions swapped passengers and did a dodgy turn on a tight mountain road. So now on a considerably smaller bus, extremely squashed with people stand up spooning down the aisle, there were people hanging out the door with arms gripped through the windows. Buses here are so unpredictable, there are no real stops and people just hop on and off whenever they please with a wave of the hand or a shout to the driver. And there is ALWAYS room for one more.
Once in Riosucio we were bundled on the side of the road with locals who had all bought tents for the night as the local carnival had the town’s accommodation overwhelmed. In the dark and hungry, we were told all buses had stopped! We began seriously considering our street-sleeping strategy when we managed to flag down a bus going pass to the next city. So now with a glimmer of hope we board our posh empty minibus with reclining leather seats and plug sockets, feeling like we had finally made it! I asked the driver if he had eaten, which was me subtly hinting that I was starving. He pulled over and we ate some strange but enjoyable corn pizza-style fast food. Even with the stop we somehow managed to get to Peireira early. Now at a busy terminal and on a roll we took advantage of the busses and jumped straight on one to Cali. We arrived at 2am, disgruntled from a three hour journey that turned in to 12 hours of unplanned travelling. I found a card for a hostel in my bag that I must have picked up somewhere along the way. So with blind faith we headed to El Viajero, our new home! And definitely a party hostel as no one was in the dorm despite evidence of gringos scattered across the room. Flip flops and bags everywhere. We flopped on to bed and remained their until 8am when we knew breakfast would be being served.