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.
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.
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.
New year same hangovers! Me and Daisy showered, shaved and put some makeup on, we actually resembled the two girls that had left England 3 weeks ago! This is the first sign of the direction the night was going in, see for two girls who have given up caring about appearances and only shave when absolutely necessary when we actually look and feel like women again we want to share that. So now ready for a drink we got tipsy at the hostel bar trying our first shots of Aguadiente. Now sufficiently drunk and ready to take Medellin by storm we left our fellow hostelers and went to Happy Buddha to meet our Aussie mates. A few beers and some eagerly received free food later we decided to walk the half hour journey back to our hostel putting the world to rights the entire way. After a few more beers we were all drunk and aware that the countdown was fast approaching so headed out in a convoy of taxis to our next location. A hostel even more quiet and shit than ours had been. This is where the mischief really began as I decide to wingman Daisy with the help of my super unsubtle friend. Less than five minuets later they share a sneaky kiss and we celebrate our new careers as matchmakers with a high five. I instantly realised this plan had backfired when it dawned on me that I had now lost my wingman. But my matchmaking partner filled the position of partner in crime as we bonded over fellow pride and lots of booze. After a countdown that Daisy missed whilst peeing, followed by hugs with a bunch of practical strangers we ended up at Happy Buddha hostel once again. Where the floors were sticky, the bathroom cues long and the residents a sea of pissed up gringos! We managed to bump in to almost everyone we had met on this trip so far and embarrassingly failed at salsa. After we had kissed a couple of frogs with some cringeworthy public displays of affection across town, we decided to call it a night and snuck off home. Only to wake up the next morning realising the guys we had kissed were actually staying in our hostel! So now sleep deprived and followed by our shame we hid in the tv room watching a chic flic until we had enough energy to load up like donkeys with all our worldly possessions and head off to find a bus out of this hell!
So the first day in Medellin has been a success, deliriously tired we have spewed out our usual random shit chat to all our new roomies. Where we oversaw the making of pancakes, we did no labour and just picked flaws in their plans dictating our own methods to anyone who would listen, but as soon as the pancakes materialised and we realised we wouldn’t be included in the consuming we decided it was our time to leave. We set off on a mission to find you guessed it.. more food. During our journey a creepy guy plucked up conversation and invited us to a New Years party at Pablo Escobars mansion, we readily took his number and later it dawned on us that he only approached us as he clearly overheard our explicit chat beforehand. Now sufficiently distracted and still super sleep deprived we got lost for over 2 hours walking up and down hills with no real destination in mind but a busy looking street we had passed earlier. Finally we find some where to eat settling for some cheep sushi, a nice meal down but now miles from our hostel and with the full blown munchies we set off in search for churros. There always seems to be a guy pushing churros in your general direction except when you actually want them! We settled for some caramelised peanuts and a whole tub of ice cream which I had already ripped the top off and started consuming before we set foot outside supermarket. Back at the hostel Simon whipped up some piña coladas and we all traded slang words over a few bevy’s. The next day we got up at 7.30, what a lie in! And with the addition of ear plugs a brilliant nights sleep. After a few hours lazing about on the worlds most comfortable sofa FaceTiming home and listening to Daisy’s continuous moans about the WiFi, it was time to get out, and being the culturally adventurous people we are we headed to Starbucks for some caramel frappes! Amazing! Now loaded with enough coffee and sugar to power Palomino through a power cut, we strolled aimlessly around town without a destination in mind wondering if this is what retirement feels like! Until the predictable happened, we decided we were no longer full but not yet hungry meaning we were ready to indulge in another feeding. We stumbled across “Sumo” and ate some of the best ramen we have ever tried! With an intense delicious broth and beautiful tender chicken. What a find! We strolled back to the hostel and played the worlds longest game of scrabble and now with our creative juices flowing and having worked up an appetite we walked to the dangerously close 24hr supermarket to buy cheesecake and chocolate meanwhile discussing what our stripper names would be… Dangerous D and Teasing T or Delicious D and Tasty T. Having rambled our way through town only stopping to feed our ever growing appetites the day had flown us by.
A bus journey that should have taken four hours took 6 and we arrived in Cartagena starving as usual! A quick trip to Arsenal rum bar where we were presented with some rum to taste but hastily downed in true Brit style. We ate some lovely fish dishes that were tasty but too small and overpriced for us ravenous cheep skates. After a walk along the harbour we fell in to bed early. Next morning we were up at 6.30am for a run followed by a quick free breakfast and we set off on a free walking tour. The tour was good but I couldn’t help the inner child in me feeling like I was being dragged around the Alhambra for the 50th time. The guide was very knowledgeable and it was interesting to hear about the history although at the end when he did a quiz we couldn’t answer any of the questions and just fired out random names to the wrong historical story’s. We threw a couple pound to the donation pot and scattered off guiltily. A stroll through town to kill some of the many hours in a day and Daisy spotted a chocolate shop offering free tasters hallelujah! 20 minuets and a serious amount of chocolate later we practically rolled from the place, having tried chocolate in every fruit, nut, spice and skin product. For lunch we went to a place called Espiritu Santo advertiser in the lonely planet as a local gem and boy were they right! The place was huge but every table was packed with locals sat in front of overflowing plates of goodness. We asked for recommendations and ended up with a banquet of fish, rice, salads and chips so good they reminded me of home. One of the fish dishes had a sauce that tasted exactly like salt and vinegar crisps! A walk to find a good view of the sunset and to walk off our indulgent afternoon and we bumped in to a girl we had met in San Gil and her companion. After the sunset the girls suggested dinner and We already knew exactly where to go! A ceviche place we had heard about so we set off in search of it. We were followed the entire way by various musically talented street performers serenading us. When we arrived we found a que out the door proving the food must be good and giving us valuable time to work up an appetite over a beer. The food was everything and more at La Cevicheria we ate peanut octopus and a mixed ceviche with a lovely bottle of Italian wine and some great company. This is also where the blog was born as our new found friends encouraged our silly stories!