Video: Hervideros organic mud-baths outside Tumbes, Peru (Spanish/English)

When crossing the border from Ecuador to Peru I lost my bus onwards to the Hare Krishna village north of Lima. This meant I had to spend the night and the whole next day in Tumbes. At first I was a bit annoyed because I really wanted to move downwards towards the Hare Krishna sanctuary.

However, I met a young guy named Mauro Alexander, who was my taxi driver when I arrived in Tumbes, and he changed my point of view. He suggested that he would come and pick me up at my hotel the next morning at 10 and take me to Zorritos beach and Hervideros mud baths.

Having left Thomas in Ecuador (he had to work) I was now a woman travelling alone. This made me feel a bit vulnerable. I considered several times whether to accept Mauro’s offer and decided to say yes eventually. Why? Because I remembered when I visited Nepal back in 2006. I met a guy called Shiva in a wool shop. We talked a few times and he invited he to come and stay with him and his brother two hours outside of Kathmandu in their small village for the night. My intuition told me that I could trust Shiva and I decided to say yes. That visit is one of the most memorable 24 hours in my life. Shiva and his brother took care of me like a beloved sister and at night he gave me his bed and cover and slept himself with his brother. Shiva is one of the kindest people I have ever met in my life – he has such a good heart and always thinks about other people. Still to this day, when the world is against me, I think about Shiva – to remind myself that there are many wonderful and loving people. That’s why I said yes to the invitation from Mauro – because sometimes we have to take chances in life to fully enjoy the beauty of it.

So Mauro picked me up at 10 and we drove to Hervideros. Hervideros is placed in the south of Zorritos, in Monte Guacura (Guacura Mountain), in the department of Tumbes. Hervideros has several natural pools with medicinal high-temperature waters that contain iodised salts, minerals and special properties for skin and for health. The surrounding area is the most beautiful area I have seen in Peru. We spent a few hours at the mud-baths and afterwards we went to Zorritos beach before Mauro took me to my bus bound for Lima.

The mud baths were not in my guidebook (it had free entrance), but you can contact “Mauro Alexander” through facebook and pay him to drive you there. It is very beautiful and well worth a visit. The video above shows you me covered in mud and Mauro who also explains (in Spanish) about Hervideros.

Train ride down the Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s nose)

Train ride down the Nariz del Diablo (Devil's nose)
Train ride down the Nariz del Diablo (Devil's nose)

The train ride down the Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s nose) is a tourist trap. Honestly – only tourist will pay 10 $ for a 45 min tourist train ride from Alausi to the Devil’s nose. And then having to pay an extra 2 $ to sit on the roof.

The so-called devil’s nose looks nothing like a nose. It’s just a mountain and not a big one. All the tourists on the train were disappointed. The view that you see from the train i beautiful – but nothing in comparison to the views you see when taking a regular bus in the South of Colombia.

The five hour train ride to Sibamba starts in Riobamba and stops in Alausi just before passing down the Nariz del Diablo. From Sibamba, the train immediately makes a return trip to Riobamba, stopping again in Alausi. Most people get on and off in Alausi.

The train departs on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 7am from Riobamba. The tickets can be bought the day before – but as I said – I don’t recommend anyone doing this ride unless they have huge amounts of time and money and nothing better to do.

Video: Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca is a beautiful colonial city in Ecuador. Although not as grand as Quito, it has another advantage – it is a lot safer and that makes it as charming as Quito. With its narrow cobblestone streets and whitewashed red-tiled buildings, its beautiful plazas and churches, and its setting next to the Rio Tomebamba it makes a definite worth-while visit.

This video shows you the charm of Ecuador’s third largest city.

Bag slash robbery on Quito – Cuenca bus

I arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador a few days ago, having taken a bus from Quito. The journey was meant to take about 10 hours, but I arrived in Cuenca exhausted, 13 hours later.

The first bus broke down after 2-3 hours, and we ended up sitting beside the road for about an hour and a half waiting for a replacement. On the second bus I ended up in the seat at the back by the toilet, inhaling the acrid smell of piss.

There’s no doubt about it, this was a journey from hell. My first seating companion was a local woman with a baby that screamed hysterically non-stop for two hours. She tried to stop the baby screaming by shaking it, which of course had the opposite effect. She was replaced by a woman with her (approximately) 9 year old daughter sprawling on her lap, which ended up being on my lap too. The daughter then started vomiting in a bag, and continued vomiting for quite some time, whilst lying all over me.

We stopped for lunch at 3pm, I had got up shortly before 6am and missed breakfast, so I was starving. The man in the roadside restaurant had no change for my $5 note, so I was forced to skip lunch too.

I arrived in Quito 13 hours later, having eaten one bag of potato crisps all day, and then discovered the following morning that my small backpack, which had been carefully sandwiched between my legs for the whole journey, had a neat 15cm razor slash in it. My plastic wallet (hidden in a back compartment of the bag) containing $1300 in travellers cheques and $100 in cash was missing.

All I can think is that I fell asleep for a while, and the sprawling 9 year old took it. BUT I am totally amazed that anyone managed to enter my bag, with it sitting between my legs (whilst ignoring my laptop, two cameras and MP3 player) and go straight for the hidden compartment and extract the bag without me noticing.

The Police lady informed me that I am the 10th tourist in the last two months to have been robbed on the Quito – Cuenca bus, whether that’s cause for alarm or not I don’t know…?

Video: Quito – the most beautiful capital in South America

Quito is possibly the most beautiful capital in South America. Spread across a spectacular Andean valley with volcanic peaks in the background, Quito’s setting alone is enough to leave you speechless. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978 and is incredibly beautiful. All the churches and colonial buildings have been restored and is in use which makes the city come alive with the vibrant working class and indigenous character that has always defined it. Walking its narrow streets is to wander into another world. The old time is also the best place to find a guesthouse. It is both the cheatpest and safest place to stay in Quito (if you can call Quito safe :-/)

Merely a 20-minute walk from the old town, Quito’s ‘new town’ is a different world; a mixture of hotels, high-rises and government complexes. Many travelers head to Mariscal Sucre, which has trendy cafés, international restaurants, travel agencies, cybercafés, bars and small hotels. The area’s nickname is gringolandia (gringo land), but quiteños (people from Quito) like it too. It is, however, a lot more dangerous to walk here after dark than in the old part – so be aware.

The video above shows you a little bit of Quito’s splendor.

Video: Ecuador beaches: Puerto Lopez, Ayampe and Montanita

After spending a while freezing in the centre of Ecuador, I decided to escape to the sea side to look for the sun and heat. It was right in the middle of the carnival. I read in my Lonely Planet guide and from the description of Puerto Lopez decided to go there: “chipped blue fishing boats bob on a beautiful fishhook bay and cheerful hotels…, happy cafes and a dirt road pace of life make it tough to leave”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only truth to it was the fact that it was a dirt-road…in fact a muddy dirt road. All the hotels were obviously full and it was cramped with people – to to be honest – it was not charming.

I was rescued by a lovely young Chilean couple who took me to Ayampe beach which is located 17 km south of Puerto Lopez. It is a beautiful chilled beach (even during the carnival) with some lovely guesthouse options. I stayed in a guesthouse on the beach during the carnival for 10$ a night -really a bargain.

After a few lovely days at Ayampe beach I went to Montanita. Montanita according to the Lonely Planet means “bare feet, baggy shorts, surf and scene. Some dig it others despise it.” It was completely packed when I was there – but I could still see how at other times than the carnival this would be a fun place to visit. The video above gives you an idea about the three beaches. Enjoy.