From Lima to Quito: From the saddest capital to the highest

Why is Lima the saddest capital?

During winter months (while we were there) Lima’s skies are known to be always grey, which makes the city rather sad looking. That’s why we left Peru’s capital rather fast, after some minor sightseeing and a catch-up dinner with our friend Evi who joined us last minute. Guess in summer, when the skies are known to be always blue, Lima must be more enjoyable, as there are some great restaurants & bars to keep you occupied.

Why is Quito the highest capital?

Because it is! The city lies in the Ecuadorian Andes mountains at 2850m above sea level. You may think that La Paz in Bolivia is higher, well it is, but it’s the city of Sucre that is Bolivia’s capital which is located at “only” 2808m.

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So that explains how we have chosen our blog post title. It was this or “The time when Evi almost died 6 times:-) . But maybe you find the latter more interesting! Let’s say we took our friend on an adventurous trip, which is for us – by now – not that crazy adventurous anymore, but for someone who just joined in, it apparently is…
Sorry Evi for all those times, but hey… remember: those make the best stories that you will remember long after you’re back home.

THE TIME WE WENT TO MARCAHUASI

After Lima our first destination was Marcahuasi, an archaeological site famed for its weirdly eroded rocks but we were most impressed by the breathtaking valley views. But the trick is to get there as the last part is a gravel road that twists spectacularly upward for 40km. This drive, next to steep cliffs, with small passages, was the first time Evi almost died.

The second time however, came quickly after this, when we had to hike up the last stretch the morning after to reach the site of Marcahuasi, which is located on a plateau at 4100m. A short hike, but at this height, without being acclimatised & when not really fond of hiking, a real killer!

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Not only Evi had a hard time, it were also rough times for our car! We acquired some new scratches when we thought the road was wide enough for both us and a bus to pass. But that was not taking into account the bus drivers (lack of) willingness to drive closer to the cliff side & the ladder that was attached to the side of the bus.
We got stuck for a few minutes and the only way to get out of it was watching how the side of our car got scratched from front to back 😉
Let’s say I was sad for a while, but when looking on the bright side: it fits perfectly with the other scratches that the car already had!

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THE TIME WE WENT TO LAGUNA 69

Huaraz is the area in Peru where you have to be for hiking in the Cordillera Blanca. With the test hike being hard, we skipped on multi-day hikes and opted for a day hike to Laguna 69. But before that, we explored the area with the car (read: more winding roads) and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

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Packed with lunch and warm clothes we hiked to Laguna 69. It’s supposed to be 3 hours up and 2 hours down. It took us a bit longer, but we reached it! We enjoyed the great views and the crystal-clear lake.
Let’s say Evi’s appreciation increased when posting Instagram pictures afterwards :-) . And as she’s currently (considering) hiking in Canada, it could not have been that big of a nightmare.

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THE TIME WE WENT TO PARQUE NACIONAL SANGAY

In Ecuador, when going from Cuenca (see later) to Baños (idem) we wanted to take the long way by making a loop into Sangay national park and further on in the direction of the jungle. But nature decided differently. As soon as we headed east, clouds welcomed us and rain made it even hard to exit the car to take pictures or eat lunch.

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While we were driving further east, we saw some branches & rocks on the road and with no other people passing by, it started to look a bit dramatically… until the road before us was completely washed away by a massive landslide. I went looking for a passage, but my judgement decided that this was impassable.

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We had to turn back, no loop for us! A sign 80 km earlier would have been nice…

Note: Later on the trip we encountered 2 German retired couples, with big rigs, who said they just drove through it. Are we wussies or are they just loco?

 

THE TIME WE SLEPT IN AN APARTMENT ON THE 11TH FLOOR

In Quito we stayed a few days in a comfortable apartment on the 11th floor with large windows & great city views. It felt a bit like our home, where we could cook our own meals, make our own fruit juices, do our laundry, have a drink, … as long as we didn’t get too close to the window, as this was frightening Evi. She carefully selected her bed, which was furthest away from the window 😉 .

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THE TIME WE WENT TO VOLCAN COTOPAXI

From Quito we did a day trip to Parque Nacional Cotopaxi, a great place to drive around, observe lamas & horses on your way and get impressed by the picture perfect Cotopaxi volcano. We had to wait for a few days to see the volcano as it is often covered in clouds, but it was worth the wait!

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We drove up the slope of the volcano to a parking lot at 4600m from where you can walk to the refuge at 4800m. Only 200m higher but through a very steep path which takes more or less 1 hour. Evi encouraged us from downstairs while we made our way up :-) .

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From there it’s another kilometre to the top and you need to be accompanied by a professional who will guide you through the snow & ice slopes. As Volcan Cotopaxi is currently active, you cannot climb to the top these days. Too bad for our bucket list: “climbing one of the world’s highest active volcanoes” can (yet) not be ticked off.

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Next to these near-dead experiences, we also had less near-dead activities.

THE TIME WE DID CANON DEL PATO

After the Marcahuasi road (which we have to admit was one of the scarier roads on our journey) we knew that we had to pass another tricky road: Cañon del pato, a road next to a deep canyon, where we had to pass no less than 35 one-lane tunnels that are carved out of the rocks.  But guess what, after Marcahuasi, this turned out to be a piece of cake. It was a nice paved road and we could even enjoy the views!

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THE TIME WE CHILLED ON THE BEACH OF MANCORA

Before leaving Peru we went to a beach town where we had a few relaxing days: breakfast with ocean view, reading, eating delicious seafood, … and making a birthday crown :-) . While Benjamin was sick in bed the day before his birthday (medium cooked burgers are never a good idea), we had fun making a crown, on the beach, with a glass of wine! The making of was almost as enjoyable as the crowning of our birthday boy the next day!

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THE TIME WE WENT TO CUENCA

Our first stop in Ecuador was Cuenca, a nice colonial city where we arrived late afternoon just in time for birthday drinks. We celebrated Ben’s birthday with mucho mojito’s, nachos & nice conversations.

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The day after we did some sightseeing in the city and in the afternoon we went to Parque Nacional Cajas. Again, as soon as we entered the park, the weather started to change & it was drizzling. But we still did a short hike around the lake, relatively flat so we all stayed happy :-) .

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THE TIME WE WENT TO BAÑOS

Baños is Ecuador’s adventure capital located in a lush green valley (the downside is this means it often rains). We mountainbiked La ruta de las cascadas (the road of the waterfalls) where we saw many waterfalls, but the most impressive was el Pailon del Diablo: a huge waterfall where you can get very close to see the liters of water pass you by.

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However, it’s not the waterfalls that are Baños main draw, but it’s swing at “the end of the world”. Probably the only place in the world where grown-ups are queueing for a swing!
We didn’t take the long queue for the swing with volcano views in the background (as the volcano top only once in a while peeped through the clouds), but did enjoy the other swing with valley views (and almost no queue!).

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THE TIME WE WENT TO THERMAL BATHS IN PAPPALACTA

From Quito we did another half-a-day-trip to Pappalacta where we just enjoyed the hot pools for a while, soaking our tired muscles in steaming volcanic-heated water.

THE (MANY) TIME(S) WE HAD JUGOS

The food in Peru & Ecuador is not thàt amazing, so we were very happy that the fruit juices are! It was our favourite stop while on the road!

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Hey… fruit juices with alcohol are also fruit juices!

 

THE (MANY) TIME(S) WE PLAYED BONANZA

Another favourite pastime was playing Bonanza. Evi started as Bonanza queen, but I kicked her off that position later on.
And Benjamin? We let him win once, the last time before Evi left us and so did the Bonanza game with her 😉 .

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THE TIME WE HAD AN IMPRESSIVELY TASTY & COSY GOODBYE DINNER

Our last dinner was in “Laboratoria”, it is a kind of pop up restaurant because every few months the menu and the chefs change. The Laboratoria building was formerly a wire fabrication works, which provides an industrial interior design. The attention to detail is visible in drinks that are served in beakers. A great place to spend our last night: the food was muy rico y el ambiente muy bien!

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Sad to see her go, but happy to have seen her after being away for 11 months.
We made a good travel team, Team Evi for the win!

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Check out the video from the trip we made together:

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