Monthly Archives: September 2016

Sarcophagi of Karajía & Quiocta Cavern – Chachapoyas, Peru

The other reason (apart from Kuelap) that Chachapoyas won out over the other towns with archaeological sites was that the Sarcophagi of Karajía really captured my imagination.  I’d come across them on the Atlas Obscura website that Charlotte put me onto and I just had to visit another site with “big heads” given I’d done so in Egypt and Easter Island.

The day started in the same way as the previous – bundled into a minivan with a bunch of other people (though the majority were international tourists this time) and driving 48km (about 1.5 hours) on one-lane roads with the world’s most careful driver to get to a place where we pre-ordered lunch and picked up gumboots.   In addition to visiting the Sarcophagi of Karijía, this tour also took in the Quiocta Cavern – hence the need for the change of shoes!

We actually went to the cavern first (another hour in the van).   And while it was certainly a large cave, if you have been in semi-decent caves before (which, judging from the oohs and aahs of my companions, they clearly had not), this really doesn’t compare.   It is mostly empty, with only a few displays of fairly worn stalagmites and stalactites, and very sticky mud.  In fact, one of the best parts for me was watching the others tentatively pick their way across the floor – why are so many girls (in particular) so tentative and uncoordinated?

Quiocta Cavern - Chachapoyas, Peru

The other interesting thing was the human skeletons (all children under 16 years old) found at the entrance to the cave – significance not exactly certain.

Quiocta Cavern - Chachapoyas, Peru

There was a bit of chauvinism going on from our guide, Ronald, who handed the lanterns only to the guys in the group (who, by the way were hopeless at pointing them at interesting things to look at), but I have to admit it was nice of him to give the girls a hand across all obstacles … he let the guys fend for themselves 🙂

Spent about an hour in the Cavern, then back to the town for lunch at a decent hour – 1pm.  Then back in the van for another hour-long drive in a different direction to get to the Sarcophagi.   By this time, I’d struck up a conversation in Spanish with Sebastian, a German guy who lived in England (and had a very English accent actually) and who I was sitting next to in the van.  And although it became quickly obvious that English was our easier language – we silently agreed to spend most of the day speaking in Spanish 😉 which also allowed us to bring Ronald and the other guide into our conversation.  Interminable hours in a van go much faster when you are chatting about Latin American music and other such things!

We finally arrived at the Sarcophagi (also known as the purunmachu) and had about a 2km walk down a fairly steep hill to actually get to the site.   There are only 6 remaining (up until 1970 there were about 60 in this area!) and they are perched quite high up on the cliff so you can’t get too close unfortunately.    But they are cool!  There are actually 3 women and 3 men here.   The men are on the right – if you look closely you can see ochre paint marks over the cream base that resembles a penis and testicles on the males.

Sarcophagi de Karijia - Chachapoyas, Peru

These purunmachu stand about 2.5m tall and made of mud, wood and straw, with mummies and offerings inside.

Ronald was explaining that the Chachapoyas culture had 5 different types of Sarcophagi – two of which we could see in this site.  The other ones were behind us and were characterized by appearing a little like hunchbacks with their heads below their hunched shoulders.

Sarcophagi de Karijia - Chachapoyas, Peru

That was pretty much all there was to the Sarcophagi so after taking a bunch of photos we walked back up the hill, got back in the van and headed back to Chachapoyas.   And although it doesn’t sound like much – it was cool and I’m really glad I made the effort to get out and see it!

 

Recommendation:  It is a LOT of time sitting in a van – so maybe not for everyone.  I just have a thing for big heads…

Cost: I booked through Amazon Expedition and it cost S/80 (~$25) for transport, guide, entrance fees, gumboot hire and lunch.  The whole tour was in Spanish – I have no idea if they offer in English.

Time: ~9 hours

It’s healthy – trust us!

Who knew that Fruit Loops had so much nutrition!

Health food

According to the packet, all the Angel brand cereals come enriched with 14 vitamins and minerals that help in the following ways:

  • Iron – to prevent anaemia
  • Vitamin A – to help strengthen teeth and bones, for good vision and to care for the skin
  • Vitamin K – so that blood coagulates well
  • Zinc – for the growth and development of the body and to strengthen natural defenses
  • Vitamin D – to absorb calcium, strengthening the bones
  • Complex Vitamins B – so that you can better use the energy contained in foods

The shield states “A true ally in nutrition”.  Methinks thou dost protest too much!  I think it was probably a good thing that these were on the menu while I was hiking for 10 days!

Kuelap – Chachapoyas, Peru

Chachapoyas is a long way from anywhere in Peru but, if one looks at it a certain way, it is on the way to Tarapoto where I was headed to do the Vegetarian Cooking and Yoga retreat.  I decided to head here (as opposed to Cajamarca or Chiclayo which were my other options) because of some cool-looking pre-Incan archaeological sites, even though it meant an 8-hour overnight bus from Huaraz to Trujillo, 10 hours waiting in the bus station in Trujillo, and then another 10 hour overnight bus from Trujillo to Chachapoyas – I guess at least I saved money on accommodation!

Chachapoyas itself is actually quite lovely – if you can ignore the fact that they have dug up all the roads at once, even though they only seem to be working on a single block.  The buildings in the centre are in great shape and beautifully whitewashed, there is a pedestrian street that is filled with people every night and a lovely central square.    There’s also some great food to be had!

Chachapoyas

I only had 2 days in Chachapoyas, so the first day I headed out to the main architectural site – Kuelap – one of the largest and most important sites for the Chachapoyas people (the “Warriors of the Cloud”) who existed well before the Incas.  The site itself dates from about the 6th century AD through to the arrival of the Spanish in the mid-16th century, and although it was rediscovered in 1843, it was not investigated archaeologically until 1997.

So at 8:30am I was bundled into a minivan with a bunch of other people (all locals – it’s a good thing I speak Spanish!) and off we headed on the very, very slow journey to the site.    Kuelap is only ~70km from Chachapoyas, but it took us 2.5 hours to get there!   Admitted the road was essentially single-lane for a lot of it, but I do think we had the slowest and most careful driver in the world as an added bonus.

Our first glimpse of Chachapoyas construction came at the 1-hour mark when we pulled off the side of the road for a view across the Utcubamba river to Macro – a site used for agriculture and burials.

Macro - Chachapoyas, Peru

Then it was onward to a town where we pre-ordered lunch and I got my first experience of how frustrating this day would be.  We were stopped there for almost an hour because some of my fellow companions had bought a Mate de Coca and weren’t allowed to drink it in the van.  We had to wait for them to finish – but they certainly took their time about it!

Then it was another hour up to the visitors centre where we bought entrance tickets.   Another whole bunch of pfaffing before we started the 2km walk up to the site itself.   Oh my God!   They all walked soooooooo slowly!     OK – so admittedly I’d just finished trekking for 10 days at altitude and so was in good shape – but still.    As the guide, Ivan, joked with me – they were like tortoises.  I suggested that they were more like mostly-dead tortoises…

Kuelap - Chachapoyas, Peru

We eventually made it to the site and Ivan did a really great job of explaining what we were seeing – it was a great tour once we got there, and for the first time ever – I wasn’t the only one asking questions 🙂

Kuelap - Southern Sector - Chachapoyas, Peru

Essentially the best guess at the minute is that Kuelap was a military fort and a ceremonial centre with about 3000 people living there.  It is built on 3 levels with the uppermost level, obviously being for the most important people – the “retaining wall” that supports the upper level is considered the best construction work done by the Chachapoyans, though there are lots of very long, very tall and very thick walls that feature at the site (some walls are 80cm thick and reach up to 20m in height).

Kuelap walls - Chachapoyas, Peru

There are 3 entrances to the city – unfortunately the main entrance is closed because it is unstable, so we entered through what they think was the “common people” and animals entrance.  There are even llama imprints in the stone!   The entrances were constructed so they were wide enough to admit several people initially, but narrowed to only admit one person to the city in the end – an example of the strategic design of the city.

Kuelap entrance - Chachapoyas, Peru

The entrances to Kuelap start off wide enough for several people (top of right hand image) but narrow to sharply to only admit one person at a time to the city (bottom of right image).

Chachapoyan architecture is very, very different to that of the Incas – the site is composed of 460 circular structures and only 5 rectangular ones (these latter were constructed when the Incas came and conquered the Chachapoyans).  Each of these round dwellings had walls about 4-5m high and housed 5-6 people – the replica in the image below was created about 17 years ago.   The irony is that the wooden supports etc are not part of the design – they are there to support the structure which is crumbling after only this short amount of time.   Yet the Chachapoyan walls have stood for over two thousand years…

Kuelap, Chachapoyas, Peru

Inside these dwellings you can see niches in the walls for placing important items, cooking stones and even a “guinea pig run” (the long covering of stones) where they bred and kept guinea pigs for eating.  Some also had a central “well” that they used initially as a food store (kind of like a refrigerator) but also to place the bones of their deceased.

Inside Kuelap building - Chachapoyas, Peru

On the outside of some of the dwellings, those occupied by the religious leaders, there was stonework that depicted the eyes of the Gods, in particular the eye of the Condor (left) and the eye of the Puma (right; note the vertical in the middle of the diamond – like a cat’s eye).  They also had “eaves” of stone to protect the foundations from the rain (seen above the pattern on the right).

Outside detail Kuelap building - Chachapoyas, Peru

One of the most important structures in the site is at the southern end – the Templo Mayor (Main Temple).  It is a solid stone construction (5m high and 13.5m in diameter at the top) in the form of a truncated and inverted cone with a narrow inner, bottle-shaped cavity.  It is believed that this was a religious construction (especially given the existence of the face of a deity – the only one in the site outside of the primary entrance) and evidence has been found for human burials and other rituals.

Templo Mayor (Main Temple) - Kuelap - Chachapoyas, Peru

Another important structure was located at the northern end of the site in the highest part of the city – the Torreón.  7m high, they believe it wasn’t used for military purposes, but rather rituals, even though slingshot projectiles were found near the structure.  There are also amazing views from here 🙂

Torreon - Kuelap - Chachapoyas, Peru

We also visited the structures built during the Inca times which included a rock “compass” marking the cardinal points and a couple of structures that housed human bones. In one of them, several human skulls with holes drilled in them were found … lobotomies anyone?

Inca part of Kuelap - Chachapoyas, Peru

Left: Incan compass. Right: human remains.

We finished the tour of the site at about 2:30pm, it took 45 minutes to walk (slowly) back to the visitors centre and another 45 minutes to drive back to the town where we had pre-ordered our meal.  “Lunch” turned out to be whatever you call the meal that is a combination of lunch and dinner (linner?) at 4pm – fried trout never tasted sooooo good!    Then another 1.5 hours back to Chachapoyas and the end of the tour.

 

Recommendation:  The Lonely Planet and various other websites make the claim that Kuelap rivals Machu Picchu.   That is a very big stretch!   While Kuelap is impressive and very interesting, it is not in the same league as Machu Picchu I’m afraid and nowhere near as big (though apparently it is one of the largest stone structures in the new world).

The advantage that Kuelap has is that it doesn’t get anywhere near the number of visitors of Machu Picchu – and almost everyone there when I visited was from Peru (apparently 70% national tourism, 30% foreign tourism at the minute according to my guide).

This might change soon though as they are building a teleférico to the site from the closest town – which will cut the trip from Chachapoyas down to only about an hour.   The teleférico is meant to open in November, though they seem to have quite a way to go from what I can see.  And is it OK that the towers are not perpendicular to the ground??    I’m also not sure how they are going to repay the $80M it cost to build!   The story is that they are limiting the number of visitors to Kuelap to 200/day to protect the site, and, at least for the first 3 months of operation, the teleférico will only cost S/20 (about $6) for the 20-minute ride to the site.

Cost:  I booked through Amazon Expedition for a cost of S/70 ($20), which included transport, entrance fees, guide and “linner”.   The whole tour was in Spanish – I have no idea if they offer in English.

Time: About 10 hours

Menu del Día – Great Latin American Ideas

One of my favourite things about travelling in South America is the extremely cheap set lunches you can get everywhere – the Menu del Día.  Usually you get a choice between 2 entrees and 4-6 mains with the dessert and drink always set.

Here’s what I had for lunch today in Huaraz, Peru for 7 Nuevo Soles (less than $2.50).

Menu del Día

Huge plate of vegetable and quinoa soup, fried trout with rice and potato, jelly for dessert, and juice.

Yet another thing that Australia should adopt!

Laguna 69 Day Hike – Peru

When I was putting together my year-long trip last year, I had very few concrete plans.   In fact, the only plan I made for Peru was that I knew I wanted to do some hiking in the Cordillera Blanca near Huaraz.   And it was for this reason that I’ve been lugging around a relatively large bag of cold weather gear in my relatively small (60L) pack for the past 7 months.  Finally I would get to use it!

After the epic 38 hour bus trip to get to Huaraz from Cuenca in Ecuador, I spent a couple of days arranging logistics for the 10-day Huayhuash Circuit Trek that had caught my eye back in Ecuador, and then figured I’d better get cracking and do an acclimatization hike before trying to walk for 10 days at altitude!

And that is how I found myself hiking to Laguna 69 in Huascaran National Park, one of the most popular and beautiful hikes in the Cordillera Blanca.  It is an early start – I had to be waiting outside my hostel at 5:40am for the 3 hour drive (including a 1/2 hour breakfast stop at the village of Huashao) to the trailhead.  But it was absolutely worth it!

Before reaching the trail we had to drive up a series of switchbacks set against a vertical wall of rock that must have been a couple of hundred metres high (very impressive)!  We also had a quick stop to look at a couple of other gorgeous lakes along the way – the Llanganuco lakes: Chinancocha (Woman’s Lake) and Orconcocha (Man’s Lake).

Llanganuco lakes: Chinancocha (Woman’s Lake) and Orconcocha (Man’s Lake)

Top: Laguna Chinancocha, Bottom: Nevado Huascaran – the tallest mountain in Peru – peeking out between the hills surrounding the lakes.

The ~12km (there and back) trail to Laguna 69 starts at Cebollapampa  (3900m), a wide, flat grassy area cut through by the river you follow for the first part of the walk.

Laguna 69 hike - Peru

Bottom: looking up the valley which constitutes the first part of the hike. Laguna 69 sits at the base of the snowy mountain on the left.

The first 45 minutes-1 hour (depending on how fast you walk) is nice and easy with some spectacular views of mountains and waterfalls.  From there, you enter a series of switchbacks, which are not too bad, but you definitely notice them getting steeper until you arrive at a small lake – not Laguna 69.

laguna 69 hike - Peru

This is from the top of the first set of switchbacks – view to one of the enormous waterfalls in the valley and Huascarán

laguna 69 - the lake before the laguna

Not Laguna 69, at the top of the first set of switchbacks

From there, it flattens out again for about 15 minutes before the final steep zig-zag ascent to the Laguna.  This is the tough part!   But there are really wonderful vistas and ample excuses for stopping and taking photos – so definitely take advantage of the opportunity!

laguna 69 hike - Peru

Alpine vistas

And of course, the reward at the top is spectacular!   Laguna 69 is a turquoise glacial lake at 4600m with Cerro Chacraraju towering over it – you really need a proper wide-angle lens to get it all in the one shot (luckily I took mine)!

laguna 69 - Peru

Out of the ~70 day-trippers, only 3 took the plunge and went for a dip (not me, I’d done my run and jump into a freezing cold lake in Mongolia – Lake Khovsgol – up near the Russian border).

Stayed up at the lake for about an hour eating lunch and soaking it all in.  Would have been nicer without the ~69 other people of course, but oh well.  It would have actually been nice to do as a 2-day hike – but I just didn’t have the time.

From there it was back down the same way to the start of the trailhead (much easier going down) and the 3 hour drive back to Huaraz.

Recommendation:  This is classed as an acclimatization hike, but it is still quite high and demanding.  I’d try to spend a couple of days around Huaraz before attempting if you aren’t great with altitude.

You don’t need a guide for the hike.  The path is obvious – particularly when you have all the other day trekkers there with you!

You don’t have to have breakfast at the restaurant you stop at.  I bought my own and munched on it while I was sitting there with the others – they didn’t mind.

Cost:  I booked the transport through Active Peru in Huaraz.  40 Nuevo Soles for the transport there and back.

Time:

  • 3hrs each way in the transport
  • I did the hike up in 2.5 hours, though they generally say it is 3-3.5 hours up.   Hike back is about 2 hours.

Sampling Ecuadorian Food

This one’s a bit of a cobbled together post as I kind of sampled Ecuadorian food in a haphazard manner…

My first foray into Ecuadorian food was through the Quito Culinary Tour and Cooking Class, which was followed up by the Friday Night Food Walking Tour offered by Community Hostel in Quito.  There were about 15 of us trying to squeeze onto very narrow footpaths, sharing samples of different local food that could be found around the hostel.

Our first stop was Los Caldos de La Tola and, although I’m not a fan of innards at all, I did try the Caldo con Guagua Mama, which is essentially placenta soup.  Yes, you read that correctly – it is what the lady is holding up in the bottom left picture.   Here we also tried Tortillas con Caucara (which was yum, and not innards-y at all) and Morocho – a warm drink that to me was essentially rice pudding 🙂

Ecuadorian Street Food Tour

The bottom right picture was from the shop across the road and is Tripa Mishka – or BBQ cow tripe.    Again, I’m not a fan of tripe – especially after being inadvertently tricked into trying it the first time by chefs of Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory about 18 years ago (it really wasn’t their fault – it looked like sweet and sour chicken so I took a huge plate.  It most definitely was NOT sweet and sour chicken 🙁 )    Imagine my surprise when I actually really, really liked the Tripa Mishka!

From there we headed up the street a bit to a shop that had lots items made out of corn.    While I’d already tried humitas, empanadas de morocho and pristiños before, I added quimbolitos to my sampling (top right picture) – which were kind of like a humita but with a cake-like texture.  Nice!

Quimbolitos - Ecuadorian Food

At yet another shop across the road, Mr. Pincho, we sampled pinchos (skewers with sausage, potato, mushroom and capsicum) and alitas (chicken wings on a skewer).

Pinchos - Ecuadorian Food

Before heading into La Ronda to try Canalazo (which I’d already had on my mountainbiking trip) and an Empanada de Viento – essentially a very large deep-fried pastry with sugar on top 🙂

Empanada de Viento -Ecuadorian Food

Empanada de Viento

The final stop on the Food Walking Tour was a little further down La Ronda with the best Fritada (kind of roasted then fried pork) I had in Ecuador (and I sampled a lot after this awesome introduction).  Sooooooo good!

Fritada - Ecuadorian Food

Best Fritada I had in Ecuador, plus two types of Aji (spicy sauce). One with peanuts and one without.

That was it for the Food Walking Tour, but based on the recommendations from the Quito Culinary Tour and Cooking Class, I went back to the Santa Clara Market for lunch on a couple of different days.

Once I had fried fish (something I’ve really come to love this year) – I chose the most popular-looking place 🙂

Lunch at Santa Clara market - Quito

Another time, it was the Seco de Chivo – which is beef in a quite flavourful sauce.  Another one of my favourites.

Seco de Chivo- Ecuadorian Food

And both times, to top it all off, I had one of Ecuador’s famous juices that are pre-prepared and ladled straight out of the large jugs.  My favourite combo is Coconut + Blackberry (I’m really on a coconut roll on this trip!)

Batidos - Ecuadorian Food

In addition, on the Free Walking Tour of Quito, we stopped by one of the most famous “sweets” shops in Quito.   So of course I had to sample several of their products as well 🙂  Unfortunately I can’t remember their names – but they were good!

Ecuadorian Sweet Shop

 

Recommendation:

To be honest, the Friday Night Food Walking Tour had potential to be amazing, but fell short.  Not all the samples were included in the price and you only got to have a very small sample of the dishes because it had to be shared between ~15 people.  Also we had to share the drinks we tried from the same cup … which put off quite a few people.

The Free Walking Tour of Quito was really awesome and you should definitely do it if you are visiting.

You should definitely check out the Santa Clara market – it’s a great place to wander around and to eat at – and you can get some awesome Ecuadorian chocolate there!

Cost:

Time:

Perfume solves everything – Ecuador

Something I discovered in the main market in Cuenca on the Free Walking Tour.  If you want to:

  • attract someone
  • get rid of someone
  • get rich

or any number of other desires in life, all you need is perfume!

Perfume - Ecuador

It’s legitimate, quality assured and 100% effective according to the advertising on the boxes, and here I thought things like this required charm, skill and/or a lot of luck!

For example, if you want to attract quick luck and money – you buy this perfume.  The small print says:

Perfume - Ecuador

“This perfume is considered an efficient help to obtain financial gains in stock and mercantile activities in general.  Moreover, it generates a good gilt for productive businesses and protects the money obtained”.

Anyone need some?

Cajas National Park – Cuenca, Ecuador

One of the things I was excited to do while in Cuenca was to get out and explore Parque Nacional Cajas.   So I signed up for a day tour with one of the agencies in town and was joined by a family of 3 from the US.

We all crammed into a very small car for the half hour ride to the National Park (fortunately I had the front seat 🙂 ), where our first “hike” was along the Uku path around Laguna Llaviucu (Zorrocucho) – the first time I’ve ever seen signs restricting the number of visitors per day!

Cajas National Park - Cuenca, Ecuador

It was nice, and the surroundings were pretty, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a hike.  Or even a walk.  More like a very slow stroll around a lake…

Cajas National Park - Cuenca, Ecuador

The abandoned building in the bottom image used to be a Pilsener beer factory (Pilsener being the main beer of Ecuador)

From there it was back in the car for the drive up to the lookout at Tres Cruzes, named for the crosses that remember the three travelers who died of exposure in these high parts near Cuenca.   Morbid story aside, it has a spectacular view back down over the park – such a pity that the highway cuts right through it though…

Cajas National Park - Cuenca, Ecuador - Tres Cruzes

The name – Cajas – mean “boxes” in English – and refers to the more than 200 small (and not so small) lakes that store water all year round in the park.   Our next stop was one of the larger lakes – Laguna Toreadora – which is also where the main visitors centre is.

Cajas National Park - Cuenca, Ecuador -Laguna Toreadora

There we started our very slow stroll around the lake which, again, was very beautiful, but incredibly frustrating.

Cajas National Park - Cuenca, Ecuador

When I signed up for the trip, I had anticipated some decent walking (at least) that would cover a fair bit of ground … lesson learned – ask for more details when you are told it is a “1.5 hour and 3 hour hike”!

Given how slowly we were walking, I had plenty of time to take pictures of the flora.

Cajas National Park - Cuenca, Ecuador

Including the bromeliads that created what was a soft carpet for us to walk on.

Cajas National Park - Cuenca, Ecuador

And the Polylepis (paper tree) dwarf forest that is only found above 3,300m.

Cajas National Park - Cuenca, Ecuador - Polypsis trees

We then had a very late lunch (3pm) at a restaurant 1/2 way back to Cuenca.

For me, I have to admit, it was an incredibly frustrating day and I wished I had come up with another way to explore what is a really beautiful park.  I expected some proper walking and I would have preferred to bring my own lunch and eat it at a reasonable time.   That being said, the family were really struggling with the altitude – so I guess it is all relative (I have done quite a bit of hiking at altitude after all).

 

Recommendation:  If you enjoy proper hiking – I would investigate more deeply the tours offered in Cuenca.   There must be a way to arrange a good hike in the park – there are certainly plenty of trails.

Cost:  The tour I did to Cajas National Park cost $50, and can be booked through a number of providers.  Includes guide, transportation and lunch.

Time: 8 hours, though it could easily have been done in half that time.

La Warmi Cooking Class – Cuenca, Ecuador

Apart from the Culinary tour I did in Quito when I first arrived in Ecuador, other opportunities for cooking workshops have been few and far between.  However, wandering down a random street in Cuenca I saw a sign outside of the restaurant “La Warmi” that was advertising one for that very night.   Must have been meant to be!

The menu was:

  • Locro de Papas  (potato soup – very common in Ecuador)
  • Camarones al Ajillo (garlic prawns – hmmm ok not what I associate with Ecuadorian food)
  • Muchines (yucca dessert – also common in Ecuador)

For a change, I wasn’t the only participant!  There was a couple from France who were also keen cooking-school attendees (I immediately recommended the Uncorked Cooking Workshop in Santiago, Chile – one of my favourite cooking experiences ever), and a lady from the US.   And for the first time ever – we had to wear hair nets!  Not even in the cooking schools I’ve done in Australia have I had to do this 🙂

La Warmi cooking class - Cuenca, Ecuador

The recipes were really easy, and we all helped out with the food preparation and cooking.

La Warmi cooking class - Cuenca, Ecuador

Including picking up some tips around working with yucca, and the secret to making patacónes (use a tortilla press obviously!) along the way.

La Warmi cooking class - Cuenca, Ecuador

And, of course, once the cooking was finished – we got to enjoy eating our creations! 🙂

La Warmi cooking class - Cuenca, Ecuador

Left: Locro de Papas; Middle: Camarones al Ajillo; Right: Muchines

The Locro de Papas was really amazing (will definitely be making it again!), the garlic prawns were nice, but they were just garlic prawns, and I have to admit that the Muchine is not my favourite dessert – it was OK though.

Recommendation:  Not sure if they usually run this in English (I think they do), but because the French couple and I all spoke spanish, it was actually done in spanish (we ended up translating for the lady from the US).   Perhaps ask first before signing up.

Cost:  $25

Time: About 2.5 hours.

 

Ziplining – Baños, Ecuador

Although ziplining has become really popular over the past years,  I’d never actually tried it.  It never looked like something that would get the adrenaline going (I’m not afraid of heights), though it did look fun, so I thought I’d give it a go in Baños.

Chose to do the 6-zipline trip at Puntzan – because, well, why not 🙂   They have 2000m of zipline to explore and you get to do a little bit of walking in between as well.

Ziplining Puntzan Baños Ecuador

Basically ziplining is like a very large flying fox that you are harnessed into – here’s a video made by Puntzan that gives you an idea.

And it was lots and lots of fun!     First line (150m in length) we did upright to get the idea of what to expect.  For example, it’s not entirely obvious how you actually stop at the other end – but all became clear when the pulley smacked into a wooden block that one of the guides could control to slow you down.

Ziplining Puntzan Baños Ecuador

The next line (300m) we could choose to do upright up upside-down.  Of course you know what I chose!

Ziplining Puntzan Baños Ecuador

Third line (250m) was our first go at “superman” ziplining – which really is the closest thing you can get to flying (unless you are willing to die in a squirrel suit).   Supermaning is definitely the favourite – and it is incredible to look down at the ground far below you as you glide over.  I’m not sure what the drops were, but some were at over 100m at least!

Ziplining Puntzan Baños Ecuador

Rain shower on the 4th line (350m) which I again did upside down.  Perhaps not the best option in the rain as it tended to go up the nose…

Ziplining Puntzan Baños Ecuador

5th line (450m) was a dual-superman that I shared with Eric.   This one took you seriously high off the ground and along the river – spectacular!

Ziplining Puntzan Baños Ecuador

And finally, the 6th line (550m) was upright again.

Ziplining Puntzan Baños Ecuador

Brilliant fun!   And although they don’t necessarily have the longest ziplines around Baños, being able to do 6 of them is really awesome!

 

Recommendation:  Do the 6 ziplines at Puntzan.  That way you get to figure out what it’s all about on the first line and then really enjoy the others 🙂   Most agencies in Baños offer it – we went with Geotours simply because that is where we had to return the bikes to after cycling the Ruta de las Cascadas in the morning.  You can arrange with about an hour of advance notice.

Cost:  $20.  Includes transport, equipment, guides.  $5 extra for photos, though it is possible to take your own.   All the photos that appear here were taken by the Puntzan guys.

Time:  Depends on the number of people, but about 2-3 hours.