Coffee Plantations & Waterfalls

After our couple of days living in the isolated paradise of Tayrona National Park, we headed back to Santa Marta and got the chance to wash our hair and dry out our clothes and become civilised again. We were only staying for the night before heading to the small village of Minca, which was only half an hour away.

Minca is famous for its coffee plantations and jungle-like surroundings. Hidden away 600 metres above Santa Marta, its the perfect place to escape the heat of the Caribbean coastline. The tiny village is all of one small road long and full of friendly Colombians offering lifts or tours.

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A village local

We arrived in the late afternoon, just as the heat of the day was starting to subside. Our hostel for the night was Casa Loma, which was this groovy treehouse-esque style hostel tucked in high above the village of Minca. We were thankful for only bringing small backpacks as the walk up to Casa Loma was a vertical ascent. Sweaty and out of breath, we reached the open area of the common area and checked in. Already I could tell that i would love this place. Big timber tables sat out on the edge of the mountain, with the spectacular jungle view below us. The hostel was covered in postcards and memorabilia and the staff were super friendly. It was obvious that people stay much longer than they intend here, its just a very homely place.

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Casa Loma

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Our beds for the night

We checked and signed up for the home-cooked dinner that night because a home-cooked meal sounded absolutely amazing (and we didn’t want to have to climb those stairs again!) To tide us over until dinner there was a very welcoming tray of brownies that we tucked into. As we watched the sunset over Santa Marta, with our beer and brownies, it was clear that Casa Loma had definitely won us over.

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Dinner was delicious but slightly on the small side, luckily there were extra brownies for dessert! We headed to bed early that night, eager to make the most of the following day. It was another night in a hammock but these ones were miles better than the hammocks at Cabo San Juan. I managed to get a full night sleep comfortably and woke up feeling fresh and ready to explore the area.

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Sunset at Casa Loma

We walked down the hill to a little cafe and had a filling breakfast of plantain, eggs and chorizo – washed down with local coffee. After breakfast we negotiated a price for some of the locals to drive us around for the day. Our driver from yesterday was there and he happily organised drivers for us and off we went on the back of their little moto-taxis ready for adventure.

Our first stop was the La Victoria coffee farm, about a 15 minute ride from the village. This small coffee farm still uses the original machines and has ingenious systems using water to transfer the coffee to one point from anywhere on the huge farm. We learnt about the coffee making process and the steps that goes into creating the perfect cup of coffee.

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Our drivers and us at the coffee plantation

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Learning about the coffee making process

It was interesting to learn that all the best coffee in Colombia gets shipped overseas and the Colombians only use the second and third rate coffee beans. It seemed peculiar that they would give away all their incredible produce but I guess whatever pays the bills! The farm does keep a small selection of the first grade coffee for their small cafe, which we happily took advantage of! They even had freshly cooked brownies and carrot cake which had our name all over it. This was definitely turning out to be the brownie tour of Colombia!

 

After the coffee farm tour, we jumped on the back of the bikes again and were taken to Pozo Azul to cool off. This little swimming hole was the perfect way to spend the afternoon and we played in the icy water, jumping off the waterfall ledge and taking a few too many GoPro selfies! We reluctantly headed back to the village of Minca, sad that the day had gone too quickly.

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At Pozo Azul

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Defs up for Colombia’s Next Top Model :p

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Unfortunately we were out of time in Minca and had to head back to Santa Marta to catch the bus to Medellin. It was a quick but peaceful stay in the this tiny village and when I return to Colombia one day, I’m definitely going to spend more time there. Its the perfect little oasis to escape the daily grind of travelling.

Now to catch the bus to Medellin! Hello 16 hour bus ride – I’m sure you’ll be a delight! :/

J. x

A Holiday From a Holiday in Palomino

It was time. I’d been gallivanting around South America for about four and a bit months now and was surprised at how worn out I was getting at playing tourist. Whoever said travelling was a walk in the park obviously has only been on all-inclusive holidays. This travelling business is just as hard as a job, the only thing is that its full time. So after reaching Colombia, I was a little tired of always being the tourist, I just wanted to relax and chill out. I guess you could say I wanted a holiday from my travels – ah its a tough life!

Luckily Colombia is full to the brim of places to get stuck in and really just live like the Colombians. After a week and a bit in Cartagena, I was ready for some serious beach time and Palomino Beach seemed like the perfect idea.

I caught the bus to Santa Marta and spent one night in this hot, busy city. Santa Marta didn’t leave much of an impression on me in the short time I was there. It seemed too chaotic, dirty and busy so I caught the bus to Palomino the following morning to meet two of the English girls I had stayed with in Cartagena. The drive to Palomino was long but beautiful. We passed Tayrona National Park, the starting point of the Lost City trek and many different little roadside villages. I arrived at the Tiki Hut Hostel where the girls were staying at instantly felt at ease. This tropical resort looking hostel was exactly what I was chasing. I spent the afternoon lazing around the pool with the girls, catching up on what we’d been doing in the past week.

The following day I did more of the same – devouring the amazing breakfast on offer at the Tiki Hut, sun baking, swimming and sampling one of the best brownies I’ve had ever. Not even kidding, these brownies were LIFE-CHANGING! Life is good! I went tubing down the river with some Danish girls that were also staying at the hostel and a big group of us solo female travellers found a delicious vegetarian restaurant that we may have visited twice in one day!

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The Tiki Hut – amazing!

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For the first time of the trip I was surrounded solely by girls and it was absolutely wonderful. We were all either travelling solo or in pairs and it was great to see how we could all come together from different parts of the world. I felt like girl power was definitely at its finest in Palomino, no boys needed here! I also found it hilarious that despite your address, every group of girls will have the same conversations. We talked about boys, our bodies and futures. As cheesy as it sounds but talking with these girls was empowering and it made me realise that my decision to travel instead of settle down was the right decision.

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Girl Power!

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Falafel and quinoa 
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Raw beetroot salad

We stayed in Palomino for the week, extending our stay every morning much to the hostels staffs humour. Each time we’d go to reception they’d said ‘Another night girls?’. That was another great thing about the Tiki Hut, the staff were so friendly and welcoming. I definitely recommend this hostel to anyone in Palomino – it’s the perfect place to enjoy the Caribbean coast. Plus the pancakes at breakfast are absolutely bomb!

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Palomino Beach

One of the English girls L and I wanted to go diving so we reluctantly left our little oasis in Palomino and headed back to Santa Marta to find a dive school. We booked into Masaya Hostel which was a grand old building, that must of have been a fancy hotel back in it’s day. The best dive shops were 15 minutes away in the small town of Taganga, so we put it on tomorrow’s do-to list and enjoyed dinner at a small little cafe called Carambolo, which had the most delicious wraps and drinks. It was here that I was introduced to coconut lemonade and let me just say that my life has never been the same! Carambolo was situated in a colourful little street that opened up into a big square, which was much nicer than the area of Santa Marta than I had seen briefly. My opinions on this city were starting to change.

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Inside Masaya Hostel

We headed to bed early that night, still running on our Palomino schedule where the bed time was early and the sleep was solid. Tomorrow, lets go diving!

 

J. x

 

Getting Beachy..

It had been about three and a half months since I’d left Australia and only twice had I been to the beach. After spending some much time in cities and in high altitude all this little black duck wanted to do was have some quality beach time. After we returned to Huaraz, L and I booked a night bus pronto to sea level and hung out at the hostel watching movies until it was 10pm and time for our bus.

We were heading north to Trujillo, where close by there was a small beach town called Huanchaco which sounded perfect for us to recover after our five days hiking. We reached Trujillo in the early hours of the morning and shared a taxi with a French couple to Huanchaco. The taxi ride took all of 20 minutes and before I knew it, I was breathing in the salty air that I haven’t breathed in so long. It was about 6:30am by the time we got to Huanchaco and of course we hadn’t booked a hostel, so we spent some time on a park bench eating biscuits until the hostels receptions starting opening.

Crossing town with our backpacks, we finally found a hostel that would take us. Naylamp Hostel & Camping was on the outer of the main street but was a peaceful little area, perfect for us to recuperate. We checked in to a six-bed dorm but had managed to score the room to ourselves. Spreading out our bags from one end to the other, we made ourselves at home and had a little nap to catch up on the missed sleep from the overnight bus.

Around 9am we headed out to explore the little town and find breakfast. Huanchaco was a sleepy little fishing village that just looked like someone had starting building a resort town and kind of gave up half way. Stray dogs roamed the streets and surfy looking dudes called out offering surf lessons. The streets were cracked and uneven and the buildings were unfinished and bare. It was like Huaraz except at the beach. However there was a certain charm to this little town and I had a feeling I would be spending more than a couple of days here.

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Sunsets in Huanchaco

 

In one of the back streets we found the Mercado and ordered breakfast from a little lady in one of the cafes at the back. Paying about $4AUD for two egg, avocado and cheese sandwiches sided with fresh juice and a coffee, we were pleased with the cheap prices here. The rest of the day was a bit of a write-off as we lazed about the hostel, found a delicious bakery and watched the sunset on the beach.

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The following couple of days went similarly to the previous one. We slept in, ate lots and sunbaked on the beach. The laidback vibe of Huanchacho hit us hard and the motivation to do things was hard to muster. One morning we did visit the ancient ruins of Chan Chan – the largest pre-Colombian in South America. It was once the capital of the historical Chimor Empire from AD 900-1470 until they were defeated and incorporated into the Inca Empire.

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The ancient ruins of Chan Chan
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The rooftops were built to protect the ruins from rain and wind

After a few days L left me to head further north, whereas I was content with staying for a couple more days. After she left I switched to a different hostel right on the beach front. The Meri Surf Hostel was like a big old house made for backpackers. There was a rooftop terrace, outdoor kitchen and huge sitting areas. They had heaps of surfboards for rent and the TV was always playing clips of surfing videos. Even those I had no intention of trying out surfing here (after years of Dad trying to teach me I find it more satisfying to watch) it felt like home.

It was like a family at Meri, everyone knew everybody and we spent hours lounging in hammocks just talking about anything and everything. We gorged ourselves on chocolate croissants at the nearby bakery and got brown by the Peruvian sun. I was so chilled out that it was struggle to move further north.

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Afternoons in Huanchaco

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Sunset from the balcony of Meri Surf Hostel

After four days I took a nightbus with three other girls to Mancora to spend some more time at the beach. Mancora was a little more touristy than Huanchaco, with its main street lined with stalls selling everything beach related and many restaurants with persistent waiters encouraging you in. The beach was definitely nicer than it was in Huanchaco and the weather much hotter, so we spent most of our time either at the beach or by the pool.

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Overlooking Mancora from my room at Loki del Mar

I was staying at the infamous Loki del Mar Hostel, which was popular amongst backpackers for its crazy parties and resort-style set up. The girls and I split ways after a couple of days, with them heading to Ecuador while I stayed in Mancora waiting for a friend to arrive. After the girls left I have to admit I didn’t do a whole lot. The ‘Loki spell’ trapped me and I was definitely spellbound. Between the awesome people that I met, the crazy nights and the familiar sound of the happy hour song, my days here blurred into one long, happy stay at Loki.

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View from my room – bliss!
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Best breakfast at Monkey Coffee!

Early Thursday morning my friend J finally arrived and I had to say my goodbyes to this fun place and head north to Colombia. We had this insane plan to travel all the way to Cartagena by bus to meet friends of his and to get some real, Caribbean beach time. It wasn’t the most conventional way to travel South America but the both of us had zig-zagged across the continent already so we figured going a bit more out of the way wouldn’t hurt. Unfortunately my phone and thongs had decided to grow legs and disappear the night before so I was now phone-less and thong-less, which didn’t make for a great start for our journey. J was also feeling under the weather having spent the week travelling on buses but we booked our bus tickets to the first stop in Guayaquil, Ecuador, dubbed ourselves Team Dumb and Dumber and left Mancora with our fingers crossed that we would survive our massive journey.

Stay tuned for how our journey ended up!

J. x

 

 

Trekking the Santa Cruz Trail

After a solid but not long enough sleep, L and I woke at 5:30am to be picked up for our Santa Cruz trek. Still tired from the day before I stayed awake long enough to put my bags in the van and find a window seat before falling asleep again. When I woke a short time later, the van had filled up with seven more people all joining us on the trip. The bus ride went for about two hours and I spent that time drifting in and out of sleep. It was a bumpy old ride, which didn’t make for ideal sleeping conditions but the rest of the passengers in the bus and myself seemed to make it manage.

We were woken abruptly to stop for breakfast at the same place we stopped at yesterday. Having already packed breakfast because we were organised, I ordered a coffee and stocked up on the delicious chocolate bars I discovered there. We were ushered back into the van and driven for another two hours, high into the Cordillera Blanca. The scenery was absolutely gobsmacking; we switch-backed up a high mountain range and reached up to 4,800 metres above sea level. Stopping near to the top, we had a quick photo stop and were in awe of the view below up. The Cordillera Blanca stood majestically before us and the windy road we had just climbed up zig-zigged below. There were so many snowy peaks that I just couldn’t even deal – and this was only day one!

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Amazing colours on the drive to the National Park
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Just part of the view from our drive up to 4,800m
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L and I looking rather perky after a 5:30am start!

We drove on for a bit longer until we reached the starting point of the trek. We stopped in a small village called La Vaquería and gave our bigger bags to the Sherpa’s and got acquainted with the rest of the group. There were five 18 year British boys that were on their gap year who were hilarious and just adorable and a German couple, who were doctors on a short hiking holiday. For the next couple of hours we went up an down grassy slopes passing small villages, where the local Peruvians were going about their everyday lives. It definitely would be a peaceful existence out here in the Andes, with all the fresh air and no worries of the modern world. After about four hours of hiking we reached the campsite in the Paria Valley.

Our camp was right near a rushing creek and surrounding us were huge mountains, some covered in snow. A large waterfall cascaded down a mountain and despite the thin air, I felt well and truly alive. While this was supposed to be the easy day of the trek, the sudden incline into higher altitude knocked us around a bit and we were so glad to finally be here! One of the perks of doing a trek with a tour group is that they set up camp for you and cook you all your meals. Call me a princess but after a day of hiking, I was in no mood to set up a tent! We settled into our tents and then had tea and biscuits while waiting for dinner. As the sun dropped behind the mountains it started to get very chilly and we huddled in the meal tent until dinner was served a little awhile later. It was amazing what our cooks could make out here in the mountains; we had delicious soup and meat with rice and vegetables – very Peruvian and very delicious. After dinner we chatted for a while before slowly all sneaking into our tents to sleep. It was only early but we were on all energy-conserving mode for the following day, which was supposed to be the hardest hike.

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Day one of the hike, so many gorgeous valleys!
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One of the pack horses for the trek

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Our campsite for the night

We were woken early the next morning by our guide Ricardo and wiped the sleep from our eyes while we had breakfast. Toast and eggs with coca tea and we were good to go. During todays hike we would climb over 1000 metres and walk about 12 kilometres. L and I had psyched ourselves up for this day and took it slowly as we climbed the rocky tracks higher and higher. Stopping every couple of metres, I stopped to admire the view and to suck in whatever air I could. The ten of us were the only ones on the trail and it felt like we were lost somewhere on the set of the Lord of the Rings. Lush green mountains surrounded us and grey clouds sat low, covering the snowy peaks. We climbed higher, passing small lagoons and rocky peaks. I was glad my Kathmandu hiking boots had good ankle support, this track was definitely ankle breaking inducing!

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Where’s Frodo?
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The grey clouds made for great reflections!
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Up, up, up

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Hiking on for a couple more hours, we slowly made the climb up to the pass, Punta Union. The last stretch of the climb was the hardest as the thin air made it nearly impossible to climb up the uneven, rocky path. Once I reached the top however all my previous pain disappeared. 4,800 metres have never been more worth it! The view was absolutely stunning! 360 degrees of mountainous beauty. A turquoise coloured laguna sat below a snowy peak and a massive valley encompassed by more huge mountains stood to the left. The wind was howling this high up so I found a little perch that blocked the wind and allowed my to eat my lunch in front of this amazing view.We stayed at the top of the pass for about forty-five minutes – even though it only felt like five – before starting the descent down to our next campsite. Now that we’d tackled the hard part of the trek (which actually wasn’t as hard as the trek to Laguna 69 to be honest) we had a downhill run for the rest of the trip.

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Made it! And made a furry friend! I’m getting good at adopting animals on hikes

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Our group at the top of Punta Union

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My new furry little mate
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Please ignore my dopey face – so happy!
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Stoked as! L and I hamming it up for the cameras

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Slowly making our way downhill, I had to keep stopping to enjoy the landscapes around me. I’d taken to walking alone with my headphones on and pretending I was in a music video. It made the downhill trek easier and took my mind of my aching knees. It also meant I could stop whenever I like to do a little happy dance because I was so damn pleased with myself! On this fine Thursday afternoon, here I was somewhere in the Andes mountains when my friends back home were at work – how could I complain with that!

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L and I with the British boys who were absolutely adorable!
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These views though!
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Taking a well deserved break (ha!)
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The road to our camp

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It took about an hour to trek down to the campsite, which was in the heart of the lush valley. I kept turning around to catch one last glimpse of the beautiful snowy mountains, but needn’t have worried because our camp was set up with a 360 degree view of the Cordillera Blanca. Our meal tent looked directly out to the infamous peak Artesonraju, or more commonly known as Paramount Mountain. Yes, that very mountain from the Paramount Pictures logo was standing right before me as I threw back coca tea. Dinner was an early affair and we huddled in the meal tent out of the frigid cold. It wasn’t as chilly as the night before despite being higher in altitude but it was still bitterly cold. Just before I went to bed, the sky cleared and Paramount Mountain glowed in the full moon’s light – it was a perfect way to finish the day!

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One of the boys enjoying the scenery
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Ah the serenity!

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Sweet little mountain ponies

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Paramount Mountain in the fading daylight

The following morning we had another early start because we planned to reach the end of the trail.While we were on the four day trek, it was possible to finish in three and meant we could enjoy the hot springs in the small town we finished in, winning! We started our hike by heading up to the view point to see the Paramount Mountain properly. Despite the clear skies though, it didn’t quite look like the logo – but that didn’t mean it wasn’t any less cooler! I guess I’m just a nerd when it comes to things like this, the smallest things excite me!

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Paramount Mountain – not quite like the famous logo
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Views of the valler
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The token alpaca

The hike down was beautiful as we crossed an empty river, fully of ankle breaking stones and headed into the valley that we had seen from Punta Union the day before. We were flying through the trail and had made it halfway before 10am. We stopped for a food break and continued on where to trail starting to descent rather abruptly. I have to say, hiking downhill has to be worse than going uphill. The pressure on my hips and knees is going to bite me in the butt when I’m older I just know it! By early afternoon we were reaching the end of the trail and the hot sun starting pounding down on us. By now we had been walking for about five hours and the novelty was starting to wear off. I was tired and my toes hurt from squishing into my hiking boots from every step down, but just as I was ready to break we reached the small town of Cashapampa where our camp was set up ready for us!

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More animal friends

Celebrating with a hard earning Cocoa-Cola and chic-chip bikkies, we were stoked to have made it. It was still only early and our guide Ricardo was impressed with our efforts, he said we absolutely smashed it (well the British boys said it, but you know) We spent the afternoon chilling out at our little campsite before devouring a feast for dinner and talking late into the night. We didn’t even go to the hot springs that have enticed us the day before, it was a 35 minute walk away and we were so done with walking!

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Our little tour group

The following morning we had an easy start as the bus wasn’t coming to pick us up until 10am so we ate breakfast and lazed about until the van arrived and took us back to Huaraz. My first overnight hike was definitely a success and I’d happily do another one in a second! However I was ready to get back down to sea level and get some beach time in! It’s been a long time coming and I couldn’t wait to hit warmer weather!

J. x

Lost My Breath at Laguna 69

Laguna 69 is a place that I’ve never heard of before I stepped onto South American soil. It was in Lima the first time when I heard about this incredible place. A couple I had met had just come from Huaraz and told me it was an absolute must-do in Peru. After seeing their photos I had to agree, Laguna 69 was officially on the bucket list. Three months after I learnt about the Laguna, I was finally on my way to see this magical place.

My new French friend L and I caught the night bus from Lima to Huaraz and after a bumpy ride we made it into Huaraz early in the morning. It was a little chilly here which was a big change from hot Lima so we rugged up in whatever gear we had on hand and walked into the town to find a hostel. Akilpo Hostel seemed like a good option, mainly because it was the first one we came across! We checked in and luckily got to go to the room straight away, where we passed out for an hour or two. The thing about catching a night bus is that it is good in theory to use it as not only a way of transportation but as a bed for the night. However usually you don’t get much sleep anyway and spend the next day tired as hell.

We stirred around 9:30am and headed out in search of breakfast. Huaraz had a similar feel to Bolivia with its crazy, hectic streets, unfinished buildings and women in traditional clothing. It was definitely a big contrast to modern Lima but I liked it as it made me feel like I was back in the ‘real South America’. We found a little sandwich shop and ordered breakfast sandwiches, coffee and fresh juice for the bargain price of $1.50AUD – I liked this place already! After breakfast we went out in search of a travel agency to book our trips. Not only did I want to do Laguna 69 but also the Santa Cruz trek which is a four day hike through the Andes mountains. We managed to negotiate a good price for both tours and all of a sudden, our next five days were booked up!

We were doing the Laguna 69 trek first as an ‘acclimatisation’ to the altitude even though I’d heard it was the harder of the two treks, but after spending the last month or so in high altitude in Bolivia I was sure I’d be able to handle it. We checked out Huaraz for the rest of the day and got organised for the two trips before heading to bed early ready for a big day.

The following morning at 5am we were picked up and driven a couple of hours to the starting point of the Laguna 69 hike in the Cordillera Blanca. A quick stop for breakfast and toilets and to pay the National Park fee and then we were on our way. The first part of the hike was nice and cruisy as we walked through lush fields surrounded by snowy mountains. Despite the lack of oxygen at 3,900m above sea level, I felt like I could really breathe here. After being in stuffy Lima for a couple of days, it was nice to get back to nature and suck in all the fresh air that I could!

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The drive through Cordillera Blanca to the starting point of Laguna 69
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SO MUCH SNOW!
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Views from the start of the hike

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We slowly inclined up rocky path, jumping over flowing creeks and admiring nearby waterfalls. Yet again, I was overly excited about the snow on the mountains and couldn’t believe I was spending the next four days surrounded by them. For years I have thought that I was a beach girl however after travelling through South America I was torn between the beach and the mountains – and at this point, the mountains were winning!

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Can’t breathe, still smiling!

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We hiked on and up, slowly inclining to a higher altitude and lack of breath. We reached the top of the first incline and the trail flattened out into a valley, where we caught our breath and shed some clothes. The sun was starting to bear down and despite the chill in the air, I was getting clammy! We hiked on, our group dispersed all over the trail. L and I were one of the first few and I didm’t want to lose my spot, I wanted to be one of the first to see the Laguna! The second incline was a lot tougher than the first and it took a lot of stopping and promising myself with chocolate bars to keep going!

Finally, finally after many stops and wondering why I decided to like hiking we made it to the top. Racing down the stony path I knew what I would be seeing in a matter of steps. Within a hundred metres I could see that infamous turquoise water shining in the morning sun. Overwhelmed with adrenaline and excitement I raced closed and squealed with delight – the Laguna looked even better in real life! 4,600 metres above sea level and no oxygen but all the views! Clambering onto a big rock away from everyone I sat down to catch my breath and to take in the view. There were no words to describe the view – actually there are hundreds but words don’t do it justice. Photos don’t either but here are a couple for you to get a little idea of the magic I was witnessing.

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Made it!

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So, so blue!

I got closer to the Laguna and we ate our packed lunch by the clear waters. A lone cow was roaming around looking for food so I bribed her with cookies to get a selfie! We stayed for about an hour and just took in the amazing beauty that Mother Nature had shown us. Peru truly has every kind of environment possible. It was hard to believe two days ago I was at the beach and now I’m deep in the mountains. It’s one of the reasons why its my favourite country.

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Making pals everywhere :p

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The healthy part of my lunch. The rest was chocolate bars and biscuits!

Reluctantly after an hour or so we had to head back so we slowly made our way down the mountainous trail. The views were still spectacular this way and the vision of Laguna 69 was still deeply imprinted into my retinas. If this was an indication of the next few days to come, I was going to be constantly in awe of nature. It took us considerably less time to hike back down and by the time we reached the bus I was tired but happy. Stuffing my last chocolate bar down, L and I gushed over the magnificent scenery before passing out on the bus journey home. We reached the hostel around 7pm and had to organise our bags for our next trip.

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On the way back down

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Last stop before the bus back to Huaraz

If you make it to Peru, add Laguna 69 to your list ASAP. It’s not that hard of a trek if you’re relatively fit as long as you give yourself a bit of time to acclimatise to the altitude. You won’t regret it!

J. x

 

 

Snorkelling and Volcanic Sunsets.

Our last day in Maui!

The last couple of days went by so fast. We’d been nearly all around the island, been through coastal, rainforest and volcanic landscapes and eaten our body weight in M&Ms (they have some many different kinds!)

We had big plans for a massive last day in Maui so we woke early ready for more adventures. Grabbing another delicious acai bowl from the Farmacy we then headed south past Kihei to Makena in hopes in finding Turtle Town. We’d come across Turtle Town on the internet which promised heaps of turtles all year round in this elusive bay. After finding the bay, we discovered that a) the Internet lied again and b) snorkelling in a choppy ocean is not a good time. Giving up on the turtle hunt, we sunbaked for awhile before heading back to Kihei for lunch. We were feeling way too lazy to do anything productive so after another ABC lunch (aka whatever random things we found at the convenience store) we sprawled out on the beach once more, trying to get at least a shade darker. It was crazy how un-sunburnt we were getting. I know sun-baking frowned upon but we spent days and days in the sun without getting any darker. If we had tried this at home we would be looking like tomatoes. I guess the hole in the ozone layer isn’t so big over Hawaii, we were pretty well protected.

Deciding to finally be active we went for a snorkel for the last time. Buying our own snorkel set was probably the smartest thing we did. It was so nice to get out anywhere and be able to go for a snorkel. It also helps that Hawaii has reefs right on the beach. Within metres you can see the coral and sea life. We snorkelled for awhile, checking out the fish and coral until we came across a beautiful green sea turtle. He/She was just gorgeous and I spent at least 40 minutes floating above him/her going about their day. Turtles seemed to have the cruisiest life. Just floating about, eating seaweed and making friends with lost clownfish. I watched the turtle until he swam off into the distance before I headed back to the shore.

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My new buddy! Could have watched him all day
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Hello Crush!
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L hanging out with our new mate
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Turtle love ❤

We hung out by the beach for the rest of the afternoon, only moving from the sand to the shade in the grass for a quick nanna nap. While we didn’t do as much as we had planned, it was nice to just chill out and relax. After running around Oahu and Maui ticking off bucket list items, it was great to just stop and have a break.Though as always it didn’t last long, we had one big thing to do before we left Maui. Around 4pm we grabbed a Coke ($1.50 for an XL, I need to leave Maui before my pants don’t fit), filled up the Jeep and headed towards the Haleakala National Park to catch the sunset.

Haleakala is Hawaiian for ‘house of the sun’. From Kihei it took us about two hours to reach the summit. While the distance wasn’t long, the road was super windy and we kept stopping in awe of the view. It was crazy; from the bottom of the volcano the weather turned bad with a heavy fog surrounding us. We drove through the white mist, laughing about how we chose the worst day to witness the sunset – we couldn’t even see 10 metres in front of us. However as we climbed higher, we drove out of the fog and back into sunshine and blue skies. Below us sat the heavy fog and created the most amazing view!

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Above the clouds and on top of the world
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K taking in the beautiful view

We reached the summit at approximately 10,000 feet and quickly changed into warmer clothes. The air was fresh and cool up here which was a stark contrast to the hot weather by the beach. We raced over to the edge to find a good viewing spot and waited patiently for its descent. According to my dear friend Wikipedia, the summit area of Haleakala ranks one of the best sites in the world for viewing the night sky due to having almost zero light pollution, above turbulent atmospheric conditions and little atmosphere. And I had to agree, the sky was flawless.

The sky turned from blue to pink to orange. The clouds looked out out of this world as they glowed in the last of the days sun. It was definitely one of the nicest sunsets I’d ever seen. However the beauty of the sunset also brought on a little sadness. It was like a metaphor for the trip, it had been so beautiful but it had to end. Tomorrow we fly back to Oahu for a final day before K and L head back to Australia and I continue onto Peru – which was slightly scary to think about!

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#nofilter
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It was like being on another planet
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Bye sun
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After the sun descended we turned around to this incredible view

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We left the summit as the sky turned to black and made our way back to the Banana Bungalow. First we made a dinner stop at Whole Foods, picking up some wine and cheese to toast the end of our trip. K and L had never been to a Whole Foods before so we spent a good 45 minutes in there wandering through the aisles lost in the decision making process. Finally immersing from the store with way more food than we intended we set up a perch for dinner in the common area at the Banana Bungalow and devoured our Whole Foods feast.

Tomorrow brings an early start as we have to be at the airport for our flight to Oahu at 9am.

J. x

 

 

Aloha Hawaii! Day 1 in O’ahu

We arrived into Honolulu at 5:45am after a rather lovely flight from Brisbane. The plane was only about half full so as soon as the seatbelt sign switched off, K, L and myself dispersed and claimed a row to ourselves. For an el cheapo Jetstar flight that we’d been dreading, it was actually one of the easiest flights I’d been on!

The three of us made it through baggage and customs quickly and hailed a taxi to take us to our hostel in downtown Waikiki. We were staying at the Waikiki Hostel International, which was about a 25-minute drive from the airport. Even though it was nearing 6:30am, the sky was still covered in a blanket of darkness and we could only see the outline of the palm tress and skyscrapers. By the time we reached our hostel, the sun had made an appearance and the city started to come to light. We were way too early for reception to be open, let alone checking in time so we did what every self-respecting human would do. We went to find food.

Walking towards the water and the main strip, the city began to come alive with a mix of street cleaners, shop owners and early birds who came out to watch the sunrise. We walked right out to the edge of the sand and looked out at the blue water, relishing the fact that we’d arrived. Waikiki was exactly how I expected. Palm trees swayed in the slight breeze, surfers and paddle-boarders floating on the azure coloured water and high rises lining the beach from one end to the other. It had a similar atmosphere to the Gold Coast, but a little more island-y.

Instead of forking out a bunch of dollars on a restaurant breakfast, we had too much fun in an ABC store (like a 7/11 on roids) and picked out heaps of random things to sample for breakfast. Making a little picnic in a grassy area by the beach we devoured our food and watched Waikiki wake up. There was a slight chill in the air, which stopped us from jumping into the water then and there so we settled for watching the surfers catch the tiny waves until our hostel opened.

Around 7:30am we meandered back to our hostel and dropped our gear off that we wouldn’t need for the day. Going with the theory that if we stayed up all day we would miss the whole jetlag situation, we got changed into swimmers and headed for the beach.

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Streets of Waikiki

By the time we were down at the beach, Waikiki had truly come to life. There were people everywhere. We found a patch of sand to call ours and made a beeline for the water. The water seemed saltier than back home so we floated like buoys under the increasingly hot sun. We laid out on the beach, enjoying the sun until the itch for coffee got too much. Wandering down the strip to the nearest Starbucks we got our caffeine fix, we wondered why people were starting to line the streets with sun chairs and eskies. As it turns out, it was Martin Luther King Jnr day (ignorant Aussie right here) and the city of Honolulu was here to celebrate him!

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The beginning of the Martin Luther King Jnr Day parade

We watched the parade for awhile, impressed with the passion and vigour of these locals. They knew what they wanted and weren’t afraid to say it. Group after group of people chanted and marched down the busy main street, adamant in their beliefs. We watched the parade for awhile before heading back to the water to cool down again and deciding to do something productive for the day.

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L taking in the views of downtown Waikiki
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Ah the things you find in the ABC store – A Jagermeister lei!

Walking through the streets with the intention of finding stand up paddle-boards but this quickly changed to bicycles after finding a good deal. We took off in the direction of Diamond Head and hoped for the best. After working out which side of the road to ride on and a brief lowdown of the road rules from a local, we pedalled off on an adventure. What we found was a very steep hill, which just seemed to keep going. The bikes weren’t exactly Tour de France worthy, making getting up that hill a workout and a half! However we were rewarded with constant view of sapphire coloured water and swaying palm trees so it’s hard to complain. At the top of the hill, we found a path down to the water, which we gladly walked down and leapt straight into the waiting ocean.

This little beach was much quieter than the busy shores of Waikiki. Full of surfers and body boarders this seemed like a local jaunt as the gnarliest looking guys kept coming in and out of the water. We swam, sun-baked and checked out the surfers until our stomachs started to grumble.

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Our little secluded beach
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Much quieter and peaceful than Waikiki Beach!

Riding the bikes down the hill much easier and quicker and we reached downtown Waikiki in no time. Taking a different route to last time (not planned) we ended up finding an ocean blue food truck offering some local Hawaiian fare. Not one to pass up on freshly cooked food, we ordered coconut shrimp and salmon and shrimp poy bo and sat at the makeshift tables in the shade.

The food was delicious to say the least. The shrimp and salmon were fresh, crunchy and full of flavour. We devoured the food in minutes, totally satisfied with our choices. If this was an indication of the food we would be eating, I was absolutely okay with it.

Deciding to ditch the bikes for awhile, we got back on the foot falcon and walked around the streets a bit more. Ending up in the more upmarket part of town, we quickly discovered our sandy feet and wet hair wasn’t really welcome in the likes of Jimmy Choo and Tiffanys! Luckily it was time to properly check in to our hostel so we hoofed it back and had some down time in our room to recuperate a bit.

Wanting to catch the sunset, we showered and dressed up ready to watch the sun fall below the horizon. It seems like everyone else in Honolulu had the same idea as us, making finding a spot on the beach near impossible! We found a spot just as the sun dropped below the water line. It disappeared so quickly, but we managed to catch the final rays. The crowd erupted into applause and exclamations of the sunsets beauty. It was nice to see that in this crazy concrete jungle of Waikiki, that Mother Nature was still appreciated.

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Sunset at Waikiki Beach
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Looking out to Diamond Head
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Such a glorious end to our first day!

Just as quickly as the sun went down, the city lit up in blinding lights. Nighttime in Waikiki had begun! We searched the strip for somewhere to eat and ended up at a Mexican restaurant one street back from the strip. Cheers-ing to our first day in Hawaii we discussed plans for the next few days. Despite the fun and hustle and bustle of Waikiki, we decided it was too touristy for us. Making plans to head north a day early, we rearranged our plans a touch so we could escape the busy strip and discover some of the real Hawaii..

It sounded like a solid plan. I couldn’t wait!

Until tomorrow..

J. x