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Friday 26th March 2010

South of Ecuador

After a week in Banos it was time to start heading south towards Peru. My 7 nights at Plantos Y Blancos hostel including breakfast and bar tab only cost me $80US ... amazing! We decided to head to Peru via the mountain route instead of the coastal route as we had already had heaps of beach time.

After some confusion and being misadvised, we ended up on a bus to Riobamba where we had a few hours to kill before getting another bus to Cuenca. The bus was extremely slow, uncomfortable and seemed to stop every 4 seconds. We arrived in Cuenca around 5ish and checked into a hotel across the road from the bus station. It was a really nice hotel and only cost us $10US each. We ate dinner downstairs and it was delicious and cheap and the guy was so friendly. He even sent his son down the road to get us beers as he didn't have any in stock. My faith in the Ecuadorian people was slowly being restored after the bag slashing incident.

The next day, we had breakfast downstairs and jumped on a bus to Loja and then on to Vilcabamba which took most of the day. We got a taxi to Hostel Izhcayluma which had been recommended to us on numerous occasions and it didn't disappoint. It's set on an acerage on top of a hill with spectacular panoramic views. It's run by two German brothers Peter and Dieter and they have done an amazing job. It has a gourmet kitchen which serves meals from all around the world! We spent the next few days indulging in delicious food, good company and cuba libres at the bar. The bar staff were hilarious, 2 Irish girls had been running the bar for the last few months and were in the process of handing over to an Irish guy and his Peruvian boyfriend. It didn't take long before Clarkey and I were on first name terms and plenty of laughs were had by all.

The area is famous for its hiking and the hostel has developed a network of trails. We chose the Mandango trail which offered spectacular views but also came with a bandit warning! Apparently a few people had been robbed whilst on this trail recently. The start of the hike was extremely steep and we were sweating like dogs in our hungover state. Once we reached the top we continued along the ridge line and enjoyed some amazing views. In some parts the path along the top of the ridge was only 50cm wide with vast drops on either side. It was awesome! From the top we saw some potential bandits ahead of us so armed ourselves with the biggest sticks we could find in case a confrontation ensued. We were definitely on edge as we walked back through an overgrown gully which would have made a perfect ambush spot. Fortunately we made it back to the hostel without incident.

We made friends with some of the people in our room Julie (France), Farina (UK) and some Dutch blokes that I had met in Banos. Four of the six of us staying in our room had had their bags slashed on buses out of Quito ... crazy! We spent a couple of fun nights playing cards and pool at the hostel bar. We had learnt a new card game called 7 to 1 in Banos which was heaps of fun. Our last night was particularly loose as we ended up going to bed at 7am and getting up at 8am to catch a 10am bus. I think the bar staff were glad to see us go.

More photos here:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/Ecuador




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