Adios Peru, Hola Ecuador!

I was afraid to leave Huaraz. My guts were in an awful state and spending eight hours on the bus to Lima sounded so horrible that I cried. I was so disappointed because I assumed that after five days of being sick I would feel better, but that wasn’t the case… I was actually feeling worse. Wanting to be brave, although I wasn’t really thinking straight, I agreed to get on the bus.

Luckily I made it to Lima without incident but I was super dehydrated and not exactly feeling like a million dollars. The next day Harry brought me to the hospital and I was hooked up to an IV. Thankfully my blood work came back negative. The doc believed that whatever I had was probably my Arequipa-born Evil Gut Monsters throwing a party. I was given a prescription and sent home with orders to drink a lot of water and eat soup when I was hungry. Of course my Peruvian doctor wanted me to eat SOUP! When don’t Peruvians eat soup?

He also told Harry to give me a massage twice a day, buy me lots of flowers and carry my backpack for an entire week. Well, maybe he didn’t exactly say all of that, I might have misunderstood some of his Spanish.

All in all, my trip to the hospital and pharmacy cost $260. Here’s a picture so you can see how cute and pathetic I was. My doc was pretty cute too, but Harry didn’t take a picture of him.


Lima: Round II

Since we’d already spent a week in Lima in early July, we really didn’t do much this time around since our goal was simply for me to get better. Of course we visited Kennedy “cat” Park again, and oh yeah, one afternoon I went to a dentist. I was very medically high-maintenance during this visit to Lima. I thought I’d cracked a filling a few months ago and wanted to get it looked at once and for all. Apparently my sensitive tooth was simply a product of my imagination, which is way better than needing a root canal. The dentist examined me and took a whole bunch of x-rays, and the entire visit cost $70.


Family Friend

One of Harry’s childhood neighbors lives in Lima with his Peruvian wife and their two adorable daughters. We had lunch with Brian one day at Maido, an award-winning Sushi restaurant. The guys ate some incredibly creative sushi while I sipped my tea. Later that day Harry and I visited Brian and his girls at their home. It was really fun to connect with him and to hear about his life in Lima.

Heading North to Ecuador. Slowly.  

We assumed that we would just fly from Lima into Ecuador, but once we learned that each ticket would cost $500, we quickly went to plan B. We had already taken a bus from Lima to Trujillo on the north coast of Peru, and we didn’t want to retrace our steps. Instead we spent a third of the price and bought plane tickets to Piura in northern Peru and then a cheap bus ticket to Mancora. Our flight was only 90 minutes and it felt so decadent, almost like eating an enormous piece of chocolate cake for no special reason. After the flight we could barely climb on board the hot bus to take us north to the beach. Three long hours later we found ourselves on the Pacific Ocean in the little surfer town called Mancora.

Mancora Needs a Makeover 

People who like to surf and party love this beach town, but to us it felt like it had seen better days. The Pan-American Highway serves as Mancora’s main street with buses, tuk-tuks and motorcycles zipping along all day. The landscape was hot and dry and the beach wasn’t that clean. Maybe it was because we were just ready to get to Ecuador, but we didn’t find any magic in Mancora. Luckily our hostel was an oasis of sorts with hammocks and a pretty garden.

On another note, three blog-worthy things happened in Mancora. Firstly, Harry was offered cocaine on the beach. He said no. Secondly, I treated myself to a haircut. My hair was washed in a bowl of cold water, it was combed out and the beautician made five snips in a straight line across the back with her scissors. The whole process lasted six minutes and cost me $4. Thirdly, I had an absolutely delicious vegetarian “menu of the day”; you can read about it here.


Crossing the Border into Ecuador 

After our two night pit stop in Mancora we were ready to head north…. all the way north into Ecuador. We had been in Peru for almost three months and it was time to experience a new country.

We had some trouble buying our bus tickets to get out of town, or at least we thought we had some trouble. Really, we were just suspicious and paranoid that the tickets we bought were bogus. After we interrogated our ticket sellers several times Harry convinced me that everything would be OK. It turns out that I am way more skeptical than Harry is, and he’s way more trusting than I am. We actually balance each other out. We loaded our packs onto the roof of a mini van, hoping we weren’t being scammed. Ninety minutes later we reached an actual bus station. After we moved our stuff onto a “real” bus, we both breathed a big sigh of relief and hunkered down for the six hour ride across the border into Ecuador. We were on our way to Guayaquil for a quick stop before transferring to the lovely town of Cuenca.

IMG_1784Hola, Ecuador!

A Taste of Peru

Many of you have inquired over the past number of months about what we’ve been eating in South America. Truth be told, the food hasn’t really been, in my opinion, worth writing home about. Then we came to Peru. Ask anyone who’s traveled to SA and they will agree that the food in Peru wins the “Best Food in South America” prize.

My editor (you know that’s Harry, right?) wants to make sure we don’t insult anyone’s national cuisine by making it clear that we are not foodies, and we are traveling on a backpacker budget. We do not seek out the best restaurants and top chefs wherever we go. In fact, our preference is to eat simply and frequent local restaurants, food stalls and street vendors. Luckily for us, much of Peru’s food, regardless of where it’s purchased, is tasty.

Pass the Potatoes + Quinoa, Please

Peru is proud of their potatoes. Thanks to the resourcefulness of the Incas and their high-altitude farming practices, we’ve heard there are between 3,800 and 5,000 varieties grown in Peru. While you might only see a few types at the market, many family farms are growing their own variety for their personal consumption. Some are exceptionally lovely looking while most just look like, well, potatoes. But they all have one thing in common: they are meant to be eaten, and rest assured, one eats a lot of potatoes in Peru!

Quinoa is another staple in the Peruvian diet. One of the few plant-based sources of complete protein, quinoa is also grown in the high Andes and can be found in many soups and dishes. Street vendors cook it up with apples, blend it with water and serve it hot as a hearty breakfast drink.


Over the years quinoa has become increasingly popular in the US and Europe. Ever notice how expensive it is? That’s party because it’s difficult to harvest and partly because it only grows in the high altitude region of the Andes in Peru and Bolivia. The cost of quinoa has risen so much that many locals cannot afford to eat it anymore. Guess what they’re eating instead? Imported white rice. This issue has received a lot of press lately so if you’re interested, please read more about it. A field of quinoa is pictured below.



Ceviche is a very popular dish that is sold all over Peru in both restaurants and on street corners (we are not recommending this option! Duh). Peruvians will tell you that they invented this refreshing dish. While I don’t eat seafood I can certainly appreciate how beautiful ceviche looks. Harry ate enough for both of us. While we were in Lima we had a fancy dining experience at Bistro 1087 and I was served delicious vegetarian ceviche. Tip of the day: if you want to eat ceviche you’ll need to go to a ‘cevicheria’ for lunch when the fish is fresh. You won’t find this dish for dinner.


Menu Of The Day

In Argentina Harry fell in love with the “Plate of the Day” concept where one can buy a set meal for lunch for a low price. Harry’s been as pleased as punch to find that the same practice holds true all over the countries we’ve visited. In Peru the value meal is called the “Menu of the Day”, and it always starts out with a bowl of soup. If I’ve said it once, I’ve it a million times: Peruvians love their soup! The warm bowls of goodness are generally made with noodles or quinoa and some kind of meat. One can choose from a few options for the main course, like chicken or seafood with rice or potatoes. A fresh glass of fruit juice is served as well. You can get all of this for as low as $2.40. Restaurants have sign boards that sit on the sidewalk advertising the day’s menu.


Here’s a picture of Harry’s soup with a chicken foot (sans toes) in it. He politely tucked the foot on the side of his plate and finished his soup.


I Got Lucky on the Coast

I found the best Menu of the Day I’ve ever had on our second to last day in Peru. We were in Mancora on the Pacific Ocean in northern Peru. The “tortilla con vegetales” (egg fritter with veggies) was full of vegetables like peas and peppers. I was served rice, of course, and a side of lightly fried plantains creatively rolled up in style. The “aji” (homemade hot sauce) was flavorful and spicy. My meal was so good I just had to eat there the next day as well. It was the perfect last meal on our final day in Peru.


“Causa rellena” is a typical dish made with layers of potatoes topped with hard boiled eggs. Chicken or seafood salads and olives are often found inside.


Street Food + Local Markets

Many people get nervous when they hear the words ‘street food’, but really there’s nothing to worry about. Ha! Well, that’s not exactly true. As long as you’re careful and only eat food from a clean source you shouldn’t have (m)any problems. I was so happy to find some street food that I could eat: potatoes, boiled eggs and hot salsa. Harry likes to eat grilled meat on-a-stick, even when he’s not sure what kind of meat it is. Eating raw vegetables is usually not a good idea, even when served in a restaurant because you never know if they’ve been washed with purified water or not.


Yes, that pig’s head was put back on the body, backwards. Fancy.

Guinea Pig: It’s What’s For Dinner

This section is dedicated to my brother David who has been begging Harry to try guinea pig for dinner. Yes, you heard me right — guinea pig! A delicacy in Peru, this cute, furry rodent called “cuy” is either fried or roasted (sometimes over a spit) and served with its head and legs intact. It’s a pretty expensive dish and many locals can’t afford to eat it on a regular basis.

The question of the day among travelers is always, “Have you tried cuy yet?” and as you can imagine, there are two passionate answers to this question. Even though I had a pet guinea pig as a child (RIP, Gunther), I, too, was rooting for Harry to sample this unique dish, but he stood his ground. While he does like to be adventurous, he draws the line at the rodent family.

*The following photos are not for the faint of heart.* Walking around markets one can find cages of live guinea pigs so you can choose the one you want to eat. Or you can buy one already prepared for cooking, skinned and splayed open for display. Aren’t their little organs cute? Since Harry wouldn’t order guinea pig I had to borrow the cooked cuy photo from our Australian friend Adrian. So…. close your eyes if you are nervous about seeing the following images…

IMG_0418IMG_1319Cuy for Dinner

Salty Snacks

It wouldn’t be nice of me to end this post with those pictures, so let’s talk about potato chips for a minute. After all, you know me — I love me some salty snacks. But South Americans? Not so much. While one can always buy potato chips in tiendas (little markets), there aren’t a lot of options to chose from and you can always count on the imported brands (namely Lays and Doritos) being really expensive. Plus, who wants to eat American brands while in South America?

With that said, we’ve come across a brand of chips called “Viva La Papa!” in bigger grocery stores. I love everything about this brand. Look at the packaging — so pretty with indigenous fabric stripes on the tops of each bag. The photos are great — do you see the kids on a soccer field on the blue bag? And the indigenous faces on the other bags? The flavor of the blue bag is “Andean Pink Salt”. You might remember that we visited the salt factory in the Sacred Valley near Cusco and saw how the locals harvest that same salt.

These chips are a special treat because they are expensive, but sometimes we just can’t resist. There may be 5,000 types of potatoes in Peru, but for me the potato chip takes the cake.


Peru: Huaraz ~ Hiking in the Cordillera Range

We went on some phenomenal hikes while we were in Huaraz. The Cordillera Blanca mountain range looks amazing from all different angels and viewpoints. With blue skies, turquoise lakes and snowy peaks we felt like we hit the trekking jackpot!

Hike #1: Lago Wilcacocha

We rode in a public bus for 20 minutes to the trailhead. We hiked for two hours uphill and found ourselves with a marvelous view of several snowy peaks overlooking the valley below. Called an acclimatization hike, it was *only* 12,286 feet at the top of the trail. Yep, we were breathing pretty hard on the way up, but the views on top were totally worth it.


Hike #2: Lago 69 

We were picked up by a bus at 5:00 AM and traveled three hours, the last two on bumpy dirt roads, to access the trail. We hiked through a high-altitude meadow with smashing views of various snow-capped peaks. There were tons of happy cows, waterfalls, and bushes of Lupine, my favorite mountain flower.

Three hours later we arrived, breathless and with pounding heads, to the stunning turquoise Lago 69 at 15,000 feet. This was the highest hike either one of us had ever accomplished. We were feeling great and psyched to be there.


Hike #3: Lago Churup

Harry went on this hiking adventure with our volunteer friends, Olivia and Erik, whom we’d met at Hilo Rojo. I was in bed trying to convince the Evil Gut Monsters to leave me alone, so I missed out. They took a local bus for an hour and then hiked up a dry, rocky trail. After scrambling up the side of a waterfall they reached the lake.

On the way back down Harry made friends with a local boy named Alex… all it took was a package of cookies to win him over.


Huaraz is definitely one of our favorite places in Peru and we highly recommend visiting here someday.There’s nothing like trekking in majestic mountain landscapes to make you feel like you can do anything!