Tag: country review

Peru: In Review

Wowsa, where do we begin? Peru knocked our socks off. We loved it there and I am pretty darn sure we’ll be back again someday. Check out what we loved, what we didn’t, and of course, what we ate!

Top Ten

  1. The Salkantay Trek with the Mountain Lodges of Peru (MLP) – Pretty much the best trip we’ve ever done. Amazing scenery, great people, fabulous food, fancy lodges and spectacular hiking. What else can we say?
  2. Machu Picchu – Though technically part of our MLP trip, it deserves its own designation because it was just as good as we hoped it would be, and better.
  3. Getting to see and stay with family – What a treat to have a cousin living in Lima, Peru that was wonderful enough to host us and treat us like, well, family!
  4. Swimming in the Amazon River – There were a lot of amazing parts about our jungle lodge adventure that we loved, but getting to jump in the water and escape the jungle heat for just a few minutes was truly priceless.
  5. The Colca Canyon and the end-of-the-hike oasis – Just when you are getting hot, dusty and tired of walking, the blue-green pools of the Colca Canyon oasis are there to reward your amazing day of trekking with a refreshing soak.
  6. Kayaking around Isla Suasi
  7. The food (see below)
  8. Hot tubs on MLP trip – See, we can’t stop talking about this trip.
  9. Mountain biking in the Sacred Valley – Yep, that was a good day.
  10. Rooftop views of Arequipa sunsets against the surrounding volcanoes

Bottom Five

  1. The protests changing our plans in Cusco – Read Ted’s post about the protest delays. Not a big deal, but obviously not ideal.
  2. The jungle was HOT, too hot – We must sound like big whiners.
  3. Our grumpy host mom in Amantani – Sadly our ‘cultural tourism’ experience was a bit tarnished because we weren’t in the market for any local handicrafts.
  4. Uros floating islands – Tourism exploitation at its worst.
  5. Leaving the country – Could have easily stayed longer. That’s why I know we’ll be back!

Food and Drink – Favorite meals, dishes and drinks

This is really tough. Peru’s food is over-the-top. They are apparently in the middle of a culinary revolution down there. Nearly all the food was excellent – both in taste and presentation. I tell you, I think we need to start seeing some more Peruvian restaurants at home.

  1. Lomo Saltado – What I’d call the ‘national’ dish and served in nearly every restaurant serving traditional food, lomo saltado is strips of beef, served with onions and bell pepper in a delicious sauce/gravy over rice and/or french fries.
  2. Pisco Sours – The national drink. Made from grapes, Pisco is an alcohol that both Peru and Chile claimed to have created. The Peruvian version is made with sugar, simple syrup, sour mix, ice, and blended with egg white.
  3. Ceviche – When ceviche is good, it is really good.
  4. Pretty much all our meals on the Mountain Lodges of Peru Trip – We’ve never taken so many pictures of food in our lives.
  5. Amazing seafood restaurant with Ryan and Angela – One of the Lima food scene’s many gems. We were craving seafood and no one was disappointed!
  6. Eating Amazonian piranha that Ted caught earlier that afternoon.
  7. Set-menu lunches – We were served gigantic portions of delicious food and it cost us less than $2 a piece. Definitely a winner for those of us on a traveler’s budget.
  8. Machu Pizza – Well the name is cheesy but that didn’t stop us from going back again. Probably the best pizza and garlic bread we’ve had on our trip and served with dipping sauces made them even better.

Ecuador – Bagged it!

As I write this, Ted and I are sitting in an internet cafe on our last day in Ecuador (it’s taken us a while to post it though!). We leave in several hours to head to the airport and onto Peru. Ecuador has been very good to us and has been a very enjoyable first stop on our world travels. We´ve loved a lot of things, didn´t like a few, and learned quite a bit along the way. Below are some of our Top Moment Lists in attempt to summarize Ecuador in a nutshell!

In no particular order…

Top 10 Things We Loved
1. Ecuadorian Spanish – The Spanish here is spoken relatively slowly and people seem to enunciate very well. It was great for those of us who were very beginners (Sarah) and for those that were trying to brush up as well (Ted).
2. Overall value – From great accommodations for $20/night to delicious lunches for $5 and cheap, cheap bus rides anywhere you need to go – Ecuador is a steal of a deal.
3. Our time in Pucará - We loved getting off the beaten track, having the opportunity to live with a family and take Spanish lessons. A big thank you to our friend Peter for making it possible.
4. The evening of our homestay in Pijal – The community warmly welcomed us – teaching us how to make their rolls for dinner, sharing sips of sugarcane alcohol with us, and dancing and playing music until it was time to go to bed.
5. Our guide Jose – Jose was very good to us over the 3 days we spent with him – from hiking around lakes that only foreigners like to walk around (his joke), to arranging a mid-hike snack (popcorn and juice) at his mother-in-law´s house in a nearby village, to helping us with our Spanish. Jose was a treat.
6. The Black Sheep Inn – The whole experience. I loved our warm hosts, our amazing accommodations, the friends we met there, the delicious vegetarian meals, the beautiful hike, and the list goes on.
7. Pailón Del Diablo Waterfall (the Devil’s Cauldron) – This amazingly powerful and gigantic waterfall was a 10-12 mile cruisy downhill bike ride from the tourist town of Baños. We didn´t know what to expect but it entirely exceeded our expectations and blew us away.
8. Montañita - Courtney and Jed were warm and welcoming hosts and we got to play on the beach, go surfing and eat a lot of seafood. Si, perfecto!
9. Whale watching – I´m a water girl and I could barely contain myself from jumping in and swimming with the beasts. I couldn´t believe how many we saw and how close we got to them. It was incredible.
10. All the spectacular volcanoes – We knew Quito was at altitude (around 10,000 ft.), but we didn´t know that it was surrounded by so many gigantic volcanoes. We lucked out and finally got to see them on a clear day – some over 20,000 feet!

Top 5 Things That We Didn´t
1. Getting our stuff stolen – Hands down, this was the biggest bummer of our time in Ecuador.
2. Upset stomachs – We each had a bout with it and it isn´t fun. Obviously.
3. A bus ride that Lonely Planet quoted as 8 hours (ugh), taking closer to 10 (double ugh).
4. Wine costs the same as it does at home and beer comes only in the pilsner variety.
5. Adorable puppies. Normally puppies are not a bad thing but when they are roaming the streets and most likely homeless and potentially rabid, you shouldn’t be petting them, and that is just torture.

Top 5 Favorite Foods and Drinks
1. Jugos and batidos! Name an exciting tropical fruit flavor – they´ve got it!
2. Intag coffee – Straight from the source, a community-driven economic success story and delicious.
3. Set-menu almuerzos – Hole-in-the-wall shops serving a multi-course meal for a total of $1.50 to $2.50 per person. It usually came with a delicious soup and the main consisted of some meat (either beef or chicken) with rice and salad. Muy bien!
4. Popcorn – I know this isn´t that exciting but I love popcorn and they serve it everywhere, and it is delicious.
5. Fresh seafood – We ate the majority of our seafood when we were on the coast in Montañita and loved it loved it.

Top 5 Things We Learned/Found Interesting/Found Entertaining
1. There were significantly less tourists around and particularly American tourists than we had thought there would be. No matter what “touristy” things we did (hot springs!, waterfall hikes!, gondola rides to the tops of mountains!), we were always pleased to see significant numbers of Ecuadorians there with their families doing these things along with a couple Germans and maybe some Brits thrown in.
2. Outside of the big cities (and quite a lot IN the big cities as well), nearly every structure – home, shop, school, etc.- is made from cinder blocks. Sometimes they´d get plastered over and/or painted to make them look nicer, but for the most part not-so-much.
3. How prolific and useful knee-high rubber boots can be – from hiking in the rainforest, to working at a minga, to getting the mail.
4. Ecuadors biggest exports are: oil, bananas, flowers and shrimp. In fact, 1/3 of the roses purchased in the U.S. for Valentine´s Day are from Ecuador.
5. It´s perfectly normal for a woman speaking Kichwa (the most widely spoken Indigenous language in the region), clothed in her traditional dress with a baby strapped to her back to be walking down the street on her cell phone.

After 4 weeks of exploring our first South American country, we are officially hooked.  While we’re pleased with the amount of ground we were able to cover, as always when you’re traveling, we discovered more that needs to be done.  We’ll be back for sure – the Galapagos and the Amazon are calling our names.

For a few more highlights of our time here, check out our ‘Best of Ecuador’ photos.

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