Ay Caramba Vilcabamba

Leaving Peru, while relatively straight forward was an adventure in itself. We started off taking a mini van out of Mancora to Sullena at 5.30pm. At the last minute one additional guy wanted on and in spite of there being no seats left, the driver found a tiny unfold-able chair, so this fella was wedged between Abi and the sliding door on little more than a piece of fabric with metal poles (he and Abi made an awful lot of unwanted eye contact). Further down the road we were stopped by the police and the entire van was asked for their ID. The police couldn’t have cared less about the lack of seat belts or creative seating that had taken place, but instead took great enjoyment upon seeing Abi’s American passport, repeatedly saying ‘Donald Trump’ and laughing their heads off every time Abi groaned.

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Make shift stool seat
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The police and their ‘Donald Trump’ banter

As we were dropped off at the bus station Abi and I were expecting to drop our bags off and wait an hour for our bus. But the guy at the desk kept telling us we owed USD 13 even though we had paid 90 soles each for our ticket from Mancora to Loja. I was outraged and started to argue in my broken, basic Spanish. Until another backpacker came along and the desk guy shushed me! Arf! He was close to getting the foot stomp and death glare at that point. The backpacker looked at me and said “do you speak English?” Having heard him speak Spanish I was relieved that he could convey to this jackass that Abi and I had already paid and weren’t paying again. Unfortunately however that seems to have been the extent of his English (he was Argentinian) but he did listen to me and repeat back to the desk butt head and vice versa. Eventually the DBH (desk butt head) was all smiles and told Abi and myself that we had in fact paid and didn’t need to pay USD 13 each. Very frustrating. So Abi and I spent the next hour practicing our Spanish and talking to Argentina backpacker dude. He was super lovely, helped us get our tax ticket (I forgot about that as I’d always had to do it in the south of Peru but had yet to do it once in northern Peru). He then told us we needed to get our bags back from DBH and load them on to our bus ourselves – could’ve been an epic fail.

At the border crossing, completely zonked we queued up for our Peruvian exit stamps. Only to look on in total bewilderment as our bus drove off and out of sight – our hero told us that it had simply driven to the Ecuadorian border and not to worry. At this point it was 11pm and neither Abi nor I were really with it so when the border officer asked me something I just looked on like a gaping idiot. Hero Argentinian backpacker stepped in again and answered all the questions (lucky we’d told him all about our trip when we were awake really). We then had to walk across a bridge to the Ecuadorian border – where a group of four guys were having some kind of car rave on the bridge between the two countries. Seems like a random place to party to me.

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Random little border crossing rave
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Hello Ecuador

When we arrived (at 4am) at Loja we were greeted by ‘TAXI’ ‘TAXI’ ‘TAXI’. Even my ‘shut up it’s four in the morning and I don’t even have my bag yet’ grumpy bex routine didn’t deter their screeching. Again hero Argentinian backpacker stepped in, and gave them a disgusted look when they told us it was USD 20 for the three of us to Vilcabamba (I’ll be honest it seemed reasonable to me). Instead Abi and I just trailed our new found hero into the bus station where he found a bus leaving for Vilcabamba at 5am for USD 1.50, (sometimes I’m ashamed I don’t look around more). So a few hours and a bumpy bus ride later Abi and I stepped out into heaven…

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Hostel Izhcaylama

Day one and as we’d arrived at 6.30am we had to wait around to check in. We had breakfast (so good) at 7am and by 9.30am
heard our room was ready. A room for four and who joins us..German brothers we’d met and climbed Lake 69 with back in Huaraz. I love that about travelling. After a long nap the extent we managed to achieve was to get into town, eat our body weight in epic food and somehow manage the walk back up to the hostel. Couldn’t tell you what happened after that but I’m sure it was followed by hammock time and then an amaaaaaazing dinner.

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The next morning I had a really hasty breakfast (got up late, I’m lazy and in heaven ok?!) and had to run to my massage (I don’t want to hear ONE single ‘posh traveller’ comment >_<). It was cheap and seeing as my last and only ever massage experience was an excruciating sports massage thanks to ‘Dr’ Steven the previous year before hiking Rainbow Mountain (my god I do NOT recommend), I wanted to try a real massage. Not gonna lie, not sure they’re for me. I booked a neck, arm, back massage (lugging my bag around is bad for my back ok…hmpf) but she spent an awful lot of time touching my bum. Not sure if that’s supposed to happen…? Felt a little uncomfortable.

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Next up was the 10.30am yoga class. I’m not a fan of yoga but it was free and Abi was having a full body massage (god knows where the woman’s hands went with that one). The setting for the yoga class was STUNNING. The session was 1.5 hours long and it was by far the best yoga session I have ever had. Normally I’d prefer a HIIT class or kickboxing, volleyball or Taekwondo, where I feel like I can get a real work out / work my emotions out. But this yoga class was a great mix of relaxation, stretching and strength training. Definitely considering getting into it in the future.

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It was way too hot…ok I’m lying. Abi and I were way too zen for anything at this point, so it was more lunch and, for me, blogging time. Around 3.30pm we got restless and instead of doing a second yoga class that day we decided to do one of the shorter hikes around the stunning valleys. It’s worth noting both Abi and I are absolutely shocking with directions. The entire route was marked and we still got lost. Did find a random teepee though.

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Realising we were walking into someone’s garden we backtracked..only to be convinced that we couldn’t possibly have come from this direction because there were no footprints in the muddy path we were looking at (in my previous life as a tracker…). So then in trying to back track we got even more hopelessly lost and had to re-find our way back to the teepee, eventually figuring out the path we’d taken to get there and in fact realising that yes, we had walked down the muddy path but hadn’t left footprints because we walked on the plants at the sides. Talk about your typical female and poor sense of direction, genuinely ashamed. Finally we see where we went wrong…and the giant red arrow pointing in the direction we should’ve gone. Arf. Then it was another 15min down a ridiculous river where Abi aptly said ‘everyone’s just having a little bit of lunch right now’. We get out of swamp / forest / lost land and make it to a normal road..with a steep incline. At this point we’re both kind of miserable and questioning our sanity. But a couple of puppies en route cheered us up.

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His name is Jammy and I want to keep him. Heart stolen.

Finally we started rounding the tops of hills, and once again our moaning stopped and we were so glad we’d done the hike.

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Moody weather
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Spot the Abi
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Stunning valley
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Didn’t fall or scrape a knee
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Wanderlust

The way back down was a little treacherous but I didn’t fall once! Bex stabilizer arms did come out though.

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At least it wasn’t the penguin arms

Do not skip Vilcabamba and definitely stay at Izhcayluma hostel. It’s incredibly beautiful, lots to do and at backpacker prices. It’s a total gem and you absolutely will not regret it!

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