June 30, 2004

Dinner is $3 but we don't actually serve dinner

Trujillo, Peru for some ruins, over the border to Ecuador, and visits to Vilcabamba, Cuenca and Baños.

After leaving our friends in beautiful Huaraz, sadly, we continued north to Trujillo on the coast. There we visited the pre inca ruins of the Moche Culture with guides from our hostal. First was the Sun and Moon Temples which are giant pyramid like structures which are currently in excavation. It was exciting seeing archeologist at work. Apparently, a group of students from Laval University in Quebec were the first to really start excavating the sites. The Sun Temple is so far pretty much unexcavated, but the Moon Temple has had a lot of work done by both archeologist, and looters. The Moon Temple is built as a series of floors built on top of each other. When a leader died a new floor would be built and the previous one filled in with bricks or entombed. Not only did they build upwards, they also would build outwards as well, so the excavation is uncovering layers and layers of ornately painted outer walls. This temple was unlike any ruins we´d seen so far and was very impressive. Later that same day, we visited Chan Chan, a massive Moche ruin consisting of 9 royal palaces. Only one of the palaces and the Arco Iris Temple (Rainbow Temple) have been restored and are open to visitors. It was very impressive to see, not just ruins, but a restored version of what these sites were in their prime.

From Trujillo we bussed up to Piura via Chiclayo. Ben had some ceviche in Trujillo moments before we left on the bus to Chiclayo. We had been told it is best to have ceviche early in the morning while it is still fresh so he thought that since it was 11:30am it was safe to have. He enjoyed it so it must have tasted better than it looked with various squid pieces amongst the interesting looking chunks of nondescript white fish meat with a generous helping of onions and yucca at the bottom.

We overnighted in Piura and then took an overnight bus from Piura to Loja in Ecuador. We chose an inland border crossing into Ecuador after hearing horror stories of robberies and general sketchiness at the crossing at Tumbes. The trip was rather uneventful other than our bihourly passport checkpoints which prevented any hopes of having a decent bus sleep. Arriving at Loja around 7am, we caught a bus directly to Vilcabamba, about an hour south. In Vilcabamba, we stayed at a heavily pimped hostal called Hosteria Las Ruinas de Quinara. It was a bit of a disappointment when you compare the hostel to their flyer. For example, we asked how much dinner was as it is advertised on the flyer and in the hostel and we got an answer of $3. Then around dinner time we asked when dinner was going to be served and told that they don't do dinner anymore. When we inquired as to why he told us dinner was $3 instead of saying there wasn't dinner we didn't get an answer. Feeling lazy, we spent a few days just roaming the small town, eating and trying exotic fruit juices at a vegetarian set lunch and enjoying mexican food, wine and spanish covers of english 80´s classics at a local restaurant.

Next, we headed north, as always, to Cuenca, Ecuador. We stayed at El Cafecito in the city, a popular place with good food, good rooms, but very thin walls :). On our arrival evening we walked around the city center, admiring the beautiful main plaza and popped into a cafe for a hot drink and to share a banana split. Who should walk into the cafe not 10 minutes later but Yvonne and Sandro, our Swiss road biking friends from our 3 day Bolivia jeep trip. They arrived on their bikes that same day and had been invited by a local guy to stay at his home. We caught up and made plans to meet for happy hour at our hostal the next evening. The next day, Yvonne arrived for happy hour without Sandro, who had become ill after some bad cebiche at that restaurant/cafe the night before. We had a nice evening with Yvonne enjoying their stories of how they had spent the last 2 months since we´d seen them. The next day, Ben and I visited a number of travel agents in Cuenca, looking to book a flight to Cartegena and then later to Bogota. Unhappy with the $400 US prices that we were finding for the flights, we settled on just a flight from Quito to Bogota with Aero Postal, a Venezuelan airline, for $96 US each including tax. A nice travel agent told me that if we bought our other Columbian flights there in Ecuador, we would be paying alot more because we´d pay both Ecuadorian and Columbian taxes. We´ll save those flights for booking in Bogota.

From Cuenca, we caught busses to Baños via Ambato. We are currently in Baños and staying at El Oro, a nice HI hostel. Baños is a beautiful little tourist town at the base of Tungurahua Volcano, at 5016 meters. Unfortunatly, so far, we haven´t seen the active volcano because it´s been cloudy. Yesterday, I treated myself to a luxurious 2.50 US, gringo price, manicure. This morning we hiked up to the Virgin statue overlooking the town. It was a rather steep, but short hike that gave us some great views overlooking the town.

In other news, we are glad to hear the Canada doesn´t have a Conservative government and Happy Canada Day to all our friends back home.

From Cuenca,

Posted by bforsyth at June 30, 2004 10:59 AM

Look into purchasing those Colombian flights outside of Colombia. At one point, in order to encourage (safe) tourism, the Colombian government was subsidizing flights for foreigners that were purchased outside the country.

Avianca (www.avianca.com) used to have really good prices on 3-7 flight packages to, from and within the country. Try to find an agent in Panama City. As a travel hub for the hemisphere and the busiest connection for Columbia, they had many great packages when I was there.

Good luck!

Posted by: Davd Huska at July 10, 2004 02:57 PM