It´s been quite a ride towards Peru. We have visited the mountains, beach and desert along the way, and thanks to Nic, have eaten a lot of dessert as well. Our first stop after leaving Latacunga was in a town called Cuenca, a small town in the foothills, filled with college students and lots of opportunity for mountain biking. We ended up meeting up with some friends that we saw in Latacunga, visited a bike shop owned by a friend of Nics and walked around the market. We only spent one night there, and mainly took photos and ate food while continuing to recover from Cotopaxi.
The next day we arrived in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, a gringo filled hippy oasis that made us feel very welcome. Nic had been in this town before so we were lucky enough to meet up with Steve and Elsa, friends of Nics, and have a good dinner at Pura Vida, a delicious natural eatery that seemed to serve as the hippy hub of the town. The next day we hiked to Steve’s house above the town and saw his unique view of Mt. Mondongo, the mountain in the center of the San Pedro valley. It was a peaceful place with a calming atmosphere, more peaceful than any vacation spot I had experienced and this was his house!
We met lots of nice people, shared a wild experience with a fellow Colorado State grad named Emma, and hiked high above the village a few times during our stay. Our hostel, called Rumi Wilco, was a nature preserve located fairly centrally in the town, but backed up to the national park on the north west corner of the valley. When we climbed up above our hostel to peer down on the town, we all were stunned by how similar the scenery appeared to Yoshi´s island. With surrounding hills and valleys climbing to shallow peaks and the colors of the night sky seeming to carry the clouds through in a fairytale like manner. It´s difficult to describe, but after having spent a long day at our hostal it felt great to see such an amazing view.
We took a few more hikes, cooked many great meals and visited a waterfall on our last day. We scheduled an early, 6 AM bus to Jaen, where we would stay for one night on our way towards the Peruvian boarder with plans to arrive in Chachapoyas, known for the precarious location and high number of surrounding ruins. We traveled with a large group of people through these towns, but met a nice French girl, Melo, with whom we enjoyed many meals and adventures. Visiting Kuelap, the ´second greatest´ ruin in Peru next to Macchu Picchu, was the highlight. We learned about the complex and diverse history of the high alpine fortress that protected ancestors of the Inca, Chachapoyas and even Spanish people. Our guide was great, and after our return to the town ( a 2.5 hour, one way journey) he took us high up to his friends property with an amazing view of the town. It was a special moment shared with great people, a friendly dog, and also a not so friendly dog (we each carried a big stick in case he decided to charge, but his bark was worse than his bite). We walked the many miles back to town and said our fairwells to our friendly guide, returned to our favorite restaurant with cheesy chicken fried chicken and ate to our hearts content.
We left Chachpoyas on Friday evening on a 7 pm overnight bus. That day Nic and I had hiked along the rim of a ginormous canyon towards the maximum security prison our guide had pointed out the previous night. We didn’t realize until we were walking along the fence what we had found, but it was a great view of the mountains none-the-less. We prepared for our trek, hopped on the bus and woke up in Trujillo, about 15 minutes shy of our destination village, Hunchaco. It is a sleepy beach resort town where locals and backpackers flock to escape the hustle of daily life in Peruvian cities. We relaxed after our early morning arrival, set up camp at our hostel, Neylamp, and met a family we had encountered in Vilcabamba just days prior. A nomadic family, who has been traveling and working on farming and sustainability projects around the world to survive and maintain, that has one son, Nel, who was very interested in my camera. He and I shot video and looked over what we had created. It was a fun experience, one that instilled in me the simplicty of traveling and connecting with others.
We went surfing with Renee’, the father, and his friend whom we met at the surf shop. The sunset and pink clouds were magical, and the break in the heavy clouds was a good escape from the foggy weather of the day. We returned and made a tasty breakfast style dinner, shared some rum with Renee’ and sat by the fire late into the night with he and his wife. We will continue to visit sites today, specifically Chancha, just outside of Hunchaco, and probably surf more in the next few days. I’ll post more pictures as we capture them!