Page 3 of barrygahan Travel Blog Posts

South America » Ecuador » North » Quito June 8th 2008

Middle of the world There are few cities that can match Quito in terms of location. Drive a few hours to the west and you reach Ecuador's beaches, while the fascinating jungle landscapes are close by in the east. If it's mountains and volcanoes you want, well, they're practically on your doorstep as the city is surrounded by them; including the world's highest active volcano, Cotopaxi, only 1.5 hours to the south. An equally compelling attraction near Quito, one from which Ecuador took it's name, is the Equator, which passes through Ecuador just north of the city, and which was one of the first things we went to see first from Quito. Going to "see" the Equator might at first sound like a pointless activity, but there's plenty to do at Mitad del Mundo (Middle of ... read more
Telefericos above Quito
Divided by the equator
Basilica del Voto Nacional

South America » Ecuador » North » Otavalo June 2nd 2008

The dry season arrives I've complained in previous Ecuador blogs about how bad the weather has been, but on 1st June, almost like clockwork, the clouds cleared, the rain stopped and the sun made its long awaited appearance. The dry season in the mountains is supposed to start in June, but I didn't expect the changeover to be this precise. This was excellent timing as we had chosen that day for our first summit attempt in Ecuador. We found ourselves in the market town of Otavalo, a couple of hundred kilometres north of Quito, and together with Trudy from Australia and Denis, our guide, originally from Ohio, but now living in Otavalo, we attempted to climb Fuya-Fuya, a 4365 metre volcano just south of town, overlooking the impressive Laguna Mojando. There is no public transport to ... read more
This little piggy didn't last long
Descent from Fuya-Fuya
Panama Hats in Otavalo Market

South America » Ecuador » Centre » Baños May 28th 2008

From Vilcabamba to Baños Riobamba should have been our next stop after Cuenca, as we had planned to travel on the famous Devil's Nose train, but other travellers we met in Vilcabamba had recommended against it, and, more importantly, we would have seen very little scenery with all the clouds, so we skipped it and continued north to Baños, one of Ecuador's most popular towns. That's the great thing about Ecuador: it's so small (well, relative to other South American countries) that only a couple of hours separates many of the main attractions. Baños seems to have it all. It lies in a beautiful location at the foot of Tungurahua volcano, it has a good climate and sits at an agreeable altitude of 1800m. Quito, Ecuador's capital city, is only 3 hours away by bus, while ... read more
Sendero Sauce Hike
Baños from the hills
Taking the wrong path

South America » Ecuador » South » Cuenca May 25th 2008

Getting to know the lesser visited parts of Ecuador The old town area of Cuenca is one of only four UNESCO world heritage sites in Ecuador, which might lead you expect to see crowds of tourist and backpackers. But despite the abundance of churches and colonial buildings, we saw very few tourists in Cuenca, and enjoyed a few days break from the usual "Gringo Trail", as we explored the city and the surrounding countryside. Cuenca is Ecuador's third largest city (after Guayaquil & Quito), the largest city in the southern highlands, and is a good place to break the journey between the south and north. It's had a long, colourful history, being an important pre-Incan city, first known as Guapondeleg (the land as big as heaven) after being founded in 500AD by the Canari tribe. The ... read more
Fairytale Forest
Pre-Columbian Art
A taste of Colombia

South America » Ecuador » South » Vilcabamba May 22nd 2008

Vilcabamba A good climate, a fantastic location and a high enough (but not too high) altitude make Vilcabamba a lovely place in which to spend a few days. But however many days you plan to spend here, it just won't be enough. Vilcabamba is often called the Valley of Longevity as people living here supposedly have a higher life expectancy than average, with many living well beyond 100 years. We've heard stories of travellers settling down here permanently, seduced by Vilcabamba's laid back atmosphere and great location. A guy in our hotel mentioned someone he knew had planned to stay for 2 days...and ending up staying for a month! So was this all traveller talk or would Vilcabamba live up to expectations? We spent 4 days here trying to find out. The journey from rainy Loja ... read more
Creepy Crawley in Rumi Wilco Eco Reserve
Hiking the San Jose trail
Vilcabamba clouds

South America » Peru » La Libertad » Trujillo May 15th 2008

Peru's ancient civilisations: More than just the Incas Cloudy skies and desert landscapes are the memories I will take from our time in northern Peru. This region is much less popular with tourists than the south of the country, but, with sights such as the stunning mountains around Huaraz and the pre-Columbian ruins at Trujillo, there are plenty of reasons to visit. We left the mountains of Huaraz behind and descended to Trujillo on the coast via overnight bus. I remember waking up early on the bus and looking out to the contrasting scenes of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the arid desert on the other. Despite being in a desert, I don't think we saw the sun between Huaraz and the Ecuadorian border - the skies were always covered by thick clouds but, ... read more
Colonial Houses, Trujillo
Plaza de Armas

South America » Peru » Ancash » Huaraz May 13th 2008

Isn't the rainy season supposed to be over? One of the joys of camping is the escape from everyday life: no email, no mobile phone, no TV, no cafe lattes! The luxuries of city life are quickly forgotten and, instead, what occupies your mind is finding shelter, making a home, stopping for the the next break, reaching the next pass or sometimes even just completing the next 20 yards! There are often nice views to divert your attention but in general camping is all about getting back to basics: survival, food, shelter. Nowhere was this more true than on our recent Santa Cruz hike in the Cordillera Blanca. We didn't see the sun until the third and final day, and what's supposed to be one of South America's finest hikes turned into a difficult trudge through ... read more
Trying to stay warm at 4250 metres
Ruth at Vaqueria
Huaripampa Locals

South America » Peru » Lima » Lima » Miraflores May 8th 2008

Back to sea level after two months in the mountains Lima is very different to the rest of Peru. With 8.2 million people it's by far the largest city in the country (next biggest is Arequipa with 760,000), and after spending so long in the lovely city of Cusco, arriving in the capital was a complete culture shock. Two days isn't long enough to fairly judge a city the size of Lima, but in a country with so many other attractions, two days was plenty for us - I think we were both relieved to move on from Lima to the mountains of Huaraz. We travelled direct from Cusco to Lima on an overnight Cruz del Sur bus. The bus left late, at 4pm instead of 2pm, so we missed out on the supposed excellent scenery ... read more
Bronze Statue, Plaza de Armas
Paragliders above Miraflores
Llama statue, Plaza San Martin

South America » Peru » Cusco » Choquequirao May 4th 2008

Choquequirao: Cradle of Gold I'm standing on a ridge, gazing down on the ruins of what was once believed to be the legendary last city of the Incas. The buildings of this ruined Inca city, unknown to the Spanish Conquistadores, and hence not destroyed, lie just below me, while in the distance I can hear the roar of the mighty river as it weaves it's way though lush valleys and under beautiful mountains towards Cusco. This scene might sound familiar to anyone who has been been to Machu Picchu, but I'm in fact at a different Inca site, less visited and less celebrated, but no less compelling: Choquequirao, the Cradle of Gold. Machu Picchu is, for many, the single reason for a visit to Peru, perhaps even to South America. But the ruined city and many ... read more
Inca Ruins of Choquequirao
Village of Cachora
Choquequirao Flower

South America » Peru » Cusco » Sacred Valley April 26th 2008

Capital of the Inca Empire In the Popular Arts Museum in Cusco there's an old photo, from 1935, taken by the famous Cusco photographer Martin Chambi, which shows a view of the city from the Inca ruins of Sacsaywaman. It's easy to pick out familiar buildings such as the Cathedral & Plaza de Armas, but the most striking thing about the picture is the size of Cusco. It looks more like a provincial town than the large city it has become today. You can see the edge of the city in Chambi's photo, whereas today, from Sacsaywaman, the suburbs seem to stretch far away into the distance. This one time capital of the Inca Empire, which stretched from Quito to Chile, has, in 70 years, mushroomed into the the essential tourist stop in southern Peru, a ... read more
Cathedral, Plaza de Armas
Woman working in Inka Museum
Pre-Columbian Art

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