Our Monthly Wrap #9: 27 February 2015 – 26 March 2015

9 months has somehow passed us by & it feels like this one has flown past!

In truth it has, with only 28 days has been the shortest of the 9, but even with it being a couple of days shorter, it only seems like yesterday that we were posting the last of these wraps…

Kicking off our month with a dive in the Galapagos at Isla Tortuga

Kicking off our month with a dive in the Galapagos at Isla Tortuga

Countries Visited:                           2             (Ecuador, Peru)

We’re finding it difficult to fly through the countries again (simply too much to see and do), in fact if you told us our 1st 12 months would likely be wholly in the Americas, we’d have scoffed at you!

Turns out you’d likely have been correct…

Cheapest Bed(s):                            El Recreo, Banos, Ecuador $14.50 US ($18.84AU)

Most Expensive Bed(s):                Posada Turistica Terito, Puerto Moreno, Ecuador $25.00 US ($32.00AU)

Highlight:                                          Salinas de Guaranda, Ecuador

Pure indulgence in the lovely mountain town of Salinas de Guaranda

Pure indulgence in the lovely mountain town of Salinas de Guaranda

When you travel somewhere, solely on the premise that they make both cheese & chocolate, in this part of the world, you could be setting yourself up for a world of disappointment.

Thankfully, Salinas (this gem in the mountains, not the seaside resort town) delivered with the best cheeses since we’ve left home, some delicious chocolates & a restaurant that dished up some of the best pizza devoured on the whole trip!

If only we’d been able to get our hands on some fresh milk…

Lowlight:                                           Our 1st Galapagos dive

The visibility was rubbish. Our operator/dive master was a cowboy. The current was strong.

I never thought it was possible that diving in the Galapagos would not be good. Turns out that it could be the case! Thank goodness there was a 2nd dive…

Favourite New Food:                     Patarashca, Iquitos, Peru

P, a dish 10 years in the making... I mean waiting!

Patarashca, a dish 10 years in the waiting!

She may not have remembered the name, but this is a dish that had been 10 years in the making (Sarah had visited Iquitos 10 years ago with her mum).

When we sat down to dine on it again after all these years, she worried that perhaps her mind had romanticised the memories somewhat.

She needn’t have, as this concoction of river fish, steamed in a leaf along with tomato, onion, garlic & coriander (cilantro) and its accompanying spicy sauces, remained a true gem!

Best Beer:                                         Amazonas, Peru

Most impressive Church:              Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Cuenca, Ecuador

The Iglesia didn't look so special from without, but within, it was lovely!

The Iglesia de Santo Domingo didn’t look so special from without, but within, it was lovely!

Cuenca delivered on the churches front, after what was looking at first to be a pretty lean month.

This was our pick of their bunch, but an honourable mention needs to be given to the Iglesia de la Santa Cruz in Puerto Ayora in the Galapagos.

After all, it was lovely to see stained glass full of dolphins, turtles & other local life, rather than the stock standard saints & apostles!

Bucket List Items:                           0

New Bucket List Items:                  Visit Uluru in Australia’s red centre

Sometimes you just dream of home (travels at home that is), & after seeing some stunning pictures on a fellow bloggers page, it truly made me wonder why we’d never been!

Highest Elevation:                          4350m                 Road from Ambato to Guaranda, Ecuador

It may have been in the comfort of a bus, but check out further down this post for why this was one of the most scenic road journeys of the trip to date!

Days in thongs (flip flops):           19

Turns out that this month only had 28 days (that’s the impact of last month finishing in February)… and of those, well we were sick for a bit, we’ve had some days at cooler altitudes.

Still, the flip flops have thus far still reigned supreme!

UNESCO Sites:                                 2 (Galapagos Islands, Historic Centre of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca)

We started this month where we’d finished the last, in the amazing Galapagos Islands.

That said, Cuenca wasn’t a half bad city as well!

Number of towns:                          13

Number of beds:                            14 (2 different beds in the same Iquitos hostel, Golondrinas)

Nights in transit:                             4 (3 Buses, 1 Aeroplane)

Although, if we’re being completely honest, we actually spent 1 night on the floor of Lima airport, as the flight was not until 5am…

Randoms:          

  • After starting this marathon back in Nicaragua, I finally finished reading Tolstoy’s ‘War & Peace’!
  • Incredibly, in several Ecuadorian towns it was not uncommon for us to see hair salon’s open long before Panaderias (Bakeries)… in fact they were often open earlier than anything!
  • Ecuador feels like it’s the last bastion of the Diners credit card. I haven’t seen it offered so much (more than Amex, Visa or Mastercard) anywhere in many a year!
  • As we sat on the deck of our river boat, 3 hours shy of departure from Iquitos (for a 3 day trip to Yurimaguas), a local sat nearby listening to music on his phone. The 2nd song that came on? Who can it be now? by Australian band, Men at Work (this particular band had some small international success back in the early 1980’s)!
  • True to form, our 5pm (or was it 5:30pm) boat departure from Iquitos, after a few false dawns, finally got underway… the following day!
  • Incredibly, we didn’t meet any fellow Australian travelers in the past month, rare indeed!

 

Additional stuff:

Given that we initially budgeted for about an 18 month trip, this means we’ve possibly crossed the imaginary half way line (we could end up traveling less, or perhaps even a little longer, who knows)!

So what has this 1st 9 months meant in numbers?

274       

Total days in this period, including the fun experience of living through the 27th of June twice (both in Australia & in the United States)

13

The number of countries visited, although if you include our home country (where this adventure almost didn’t get started… you can read about that misadventure here), we can sneak it up to 14!

52,903

The distance we have travelled in kilometres (this is a conservative approximate, not 100% accurate). If we convert this figure to miles, the number is 32,860.

22

This is the number of nights that have been spent in transit. Primarily on buses, but there is the occasional boat in there as well (3 to be exact), & 2 flights (although much of 1 of those flights was spent with just as much time sleeping on Lima’s airport floor).

75

The total number of different beers we’ve sampled across the journey to date (an impressive 17 in Mexico alone). Our pick of the bunch was probably a tipple that was infused with the flavours of Ginger & Honey from a microbrewery in Buga, Colombia.

4350

Our highest elevation yet reached, in the relative comfort of a bus as it ferried us from Ambato to Guaranda in Ecuador. That translates to 14,272 feet…

The views it gave us of Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest peak were stunning!

Chimborazo in all 6268 metres of its glory

Chimborazo in all 6,268 metres of its glory

33

This is the number of UNESCO World Heritage locations we have visited, some proving to be amongst the trip highlights to date.

The Good…

  • Incredibly, despite our lack of care (that’s not to say we don’t apply common sense), we’ve only had 1 shared case of Montezuma’s Revenge or Delhi Belly (or any other name you may care to put to it) in the whole trip to date!
  • We’ve not lost anything of true value or importance to date (touch wood), with 1 T-Shirt, 1 scarf & 1 cheap (& replaceable) Mexican power adapter all that springs to mind…

The Bad…

  • Unfortunately we encountered an instance of counterfeit money in Peru, courtesy of an ATM! The bank in question (BCP) when we visited a branch, confirmed that one of the bills was indeed fake, but when we lodged an official claim with them it was rejected, as they refused to believe it would have been issued from their machine!
  • Being forced to buy extra tickets simply to board our flights to the US, simply because they consider Mexico & Canada part of the US for their ESTA Visa waiver. These tickets went unused and turned out to be non-refundable making it a very expensive Visa!
  • Sadly there has been a real lack of opportunity to indulge in our beloved dairy products, especially milk (of the fresh, pasteurised kind). Luckily we’ve been able to lean (rather heavily I might add) on Yoghurt drinks in most countries we’ve visited, to keep our calcium levels up as we dream of milk & cheese…

The Ugly…

  • The rubbish (or trash if you prefer). Not to say I don’t understand how waste management is such a minor concern in many of the poorer countries we have visited, where their primary focus is on making a living.
  • The hustlers in Havana who tried to swindle us out of close to $60.00 CUC (about the same value in US dollars) at a local bar. This stoush got loud and heated, but they eventually backed down & we walked away paying about half of that (which was still a rort).
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