Ecuador & Peru: 5/14 – 5/20

Salinas >>> (Peru) Chiclayo >>> Chachapoyas >>> Huaraz

5/14 – Bike ride to see sea lions and then the spicy burger challenge!
5/15 – Rest Day in Salinas and Bus Ride into Peru
5/16 – Arrive in Chiclayo and wait for the night bus to Chachapoyas
5/17 – Planning Day in Chachapoyas
5/18 – Gocta Falls
5/19 – Kuelap Ruins
5/20 – Jumping from bus to bus until we made it to Huaraz

Bike ride to see sea lions and then the spicy burger challenge!
+ Woke up earlier than we would’ve liked for the free breakfast only to be disappointed since it was only 2 slices of toast and milk.
+ Avoided the hottest parts of the day by staying in the room and working on our to do list, only leaving to have a tipico lunch at a beachfront restaurant. Since it was a Saturday, the beach was packed with locals and visiting Ecuadorians. The water was almost completely flat since it was in a harbor, but neither of us felt like swimming so we skipped it for today.
+ An hour before sunset we rented (very old and crappy) bikes from the hostel and went riding to check out the 2 main view points along the coast.
+ The first was called La Loberia and was on a rocky outcropping overlooking a bunch of sea lions that were hanging out on the rocks below. It was a cool looking place that reminded us of San Diego’s coast.
+ Then we rode our bikes on the wooden beach path another mile or two out to the westernmost point of Ecuador (and second most of all of South America)! This had a great view of the sunset as an Ecuadorian Navy ship cruised by.
+ By the time we got back to the hostel it was dark and after returning the bikes we walked back to Fiddlers Green for Corey to try his hand at the hot burger challenge. We learned no one had ever succeeded before and the last guy only got 3 bites into it before giving up. It was modeled after the 4 Horseman burger in Texas that was made with the 4 hottest peppers in the world, except this one was even hotter since he added in some extra fresh peppers. The burger was four 1/4 pound patties injected with the extracts and hot sauce and you had 30 minutes to eat it (without the aid of napkins or water).
+ While the cook was cooking the burger, he had to wear rubber gloves, goggles, and a mask to protect from the fumes. Not only that, but the smell from the kitchen literally drove all the staff and customers from the bar all the way to the other side of the restaurant (or even outside in some cases)! That should’ve been our first (or 2nd, or 3rd) sign about how seriously spicy this burger was going to be.
+ We learned that a fresh jalapeño is about 8000 Scoville units, while the hottest habanero comes in at 800,000 on the Scoville scale. This burger? It measured in at 18 Million!!! The hottest the owner knew about in the world!
+ When the clock started, Corey downed the first patty, then the second. His mouth was on fire and he was dripping sweat, but he was otherwise alright. He finished the top bun (which was used to soak up the pepper juices after cooking) and the third patty. By now his stomach was feeling awful and the burger was really starting to take it’s toll. But he continued and bit by bit ate about half the 4th patty before he literally lost feeling in his hands and arms! He also felt so incredibly ill that he didn’t want to even move or take another bite. With time ticking down, he decided it wasn’t worth trying to finish when he already felt like he was gonna die.
+ So he threw in the towel to receive a vinegar soaked towel for his hands and finally drink some milk and water. The owner gave him an ice cream sandwich and a bar patron was nice enough to go buy Corey a whole half gallon of vanilla ice cream to sooth the heat in Corey’s mouth and have the dairy help settle his stomach.
+ The next hour he just sat at the restaurant and ate ice cream (and some tums) while his body slowly digested the food. We also talked with our friends from our hostel who had planned on trying the burger themselves until seeing the look of agony on Corey’s face and smelling the intense spiciness from 5 tables away.
+ When we started to leave the restaurant, Corey made it 20 steps outside before falling over in pain. We decided a taxi was needed to avoid the 8 block walk home. The taxi could only take us 7 though so when we got out to walk the rest of the way, the same thing happened and Corey crumpled over. With so much pain in his stomach, he decided the best course of action was to throw it up and get it out of his system.
+ Although he was in pain before, it was not nearly as intense as what followed after he threw up. It had him writhing on the ground, rolling around in the dirt moaning in agony. It was so bad locals passing by stopped and wanted to call an ambulance. Luckily Liz was able to get out of Corey that no, he did not need to go the hospital. After a while Corey was able to get up and make it back to the hostel room before collapsing again on the bathroom floor. Then he laid completely still with cold washcloths on him while Liz occasionally gave him Tums, Pepto Bismol, and Saltine crackers. After a few hours alternating between sleep and moaning in pain, he finally had the rest exit his system (from the other end – just as fiery and as it was coming in) and was finally able to lay down in bed and go to sleep.
+ The owner/cook who made the burger didn’t tell us until halfway into the burger, but the last people who tried it texted him throughout the night while “laying on the bathroom floor saying they wanted to die”. Very similar to Corey. Oh, and they had their symptoms for 3 days afterwards. Great.
+ Overall not only was the pain absolutely not worth the potential feeling of victory, but knowing how tantalizingly close he was to finishing (about 85/90% finished) made it that much worse. Still though, how much more damage would that last amount have done to his body? We definitely didn’t want to find out.

Rest Day in Salinas and bus ride out of Ecuador.
+ Thankfully by the time morning came around, Corey felt much much better (probably thanks to throwing most of it up). After more Tums and crackers, he felt good enough to walk outside and drop off laundry at a nearby laundromat.
+ Then we extended our check out time a few more hours and used the rest of the day to do work on the tablets and call family members (it was Liz’s mom and dad’s birthday!). We got some pizza for lunch and eventually took a short stroll on the beach while tossing the frisbee.
+ After we ate some delicious ice cream from one of the literally 100 different ice cream shops/stands lining the beach and went back to the hostel to pack up and check out.
+ Rushed for time, we caught a taxi back to Santa Elena (no time for the city bus this time), then a bus 2.5 hours to Guayaquil.
+ Along the way the bus was stopped and everyone got off and had their bags and bodies searched. No one seemed to know why and to top it off, when we got back on the bus, someone had pooped and peed their pants right there in the seat! We didn’t know who but the smell was awful and soo it was clear it wasn’t one of the babies on board. People sprayed perfume and cologne to try and cover the smell, but it was something powerful and lingered for the whole ride.
+ By the time we got off, the culprit was found to be some drunk guy sitting in the row directly in front of us. Plus with the bus starting and stopping, his pee had gone up and down the bus getting people’s bags wet (including ours). Disgusting! With no apology, the guy slipped off the bus and walked away seemingly unashamed and very possibly drunk.
+ Although we had been looking forward to eating at the large food court in the huge Guayaquil bus terminal, every actual restaurant was closed (since it was about 10:45 at night) and we had to eat a questionable looking sandwich from a little stand.
+ Then we loaded onto our bus that was departing for Peru and settled in for our 12 hour bus ride heading south over the border.
+ Goodbye Ecuador! Perhaps the most peculiar country yet, it offered impressive alpine mountains and glaciers, waterfalls and rapids, and beautiful beaches filled with blue footed boobies! Yet at the same time, due to the earthquake a few weeks earlier and it being slow season anyway, the country had by far the fewest amount of tourists we’d seen and most of the hostels were almost completely empty. Not only that, but with these weird bus pat downs by police (and sometimes the drivers themselves) and odd bus rides, sometimes Ecuador was quite puzzling. Still, we enjoyed our time and hope to return someday to hike volcanoes that had been closed (due to activity) and of course to visit the world-famous Galapagos islands!

Arrive in Chiclayo, Peru and wait for another night bus to Chachapoyas
+ We thought that we would be crossing the border in the day time, but we were surprised to be woken up at 3 am when we arrived at the border at a different point than where we thought we’d cross.
+ Being the wee hours of the morning, there were no other tourists, only 3 grumpy workers who got everyone through in about half an hour. Then it was back on the bus to try and fall asleep again.
+ We arrived in Piura, Peru around 9am and then quickly caught a taxi to a different bus station for a bus down to Chiclayo. In Peruvian cities, it is apparently very common for all the bus companies to have their own station and for them to be spread across town to make it as difficult as possible to find out information on what companies go where and at what time. Luckily, our taxi driver knew what station we needed and we got the last tickets for a 9:30 bus to Chiclayo.
+ Only 3 short hours later (of which Liz slept and Corey watched shows on the tablet) we arrived in Chiclayo. A taxi driver took us to a company he thought departed soon for Chachapoyas, but they weren’t leaving for about 8 hours. So we took our backpacks out of the travel packs and put them on and hiked around town to different stations looking for buses to Chachapoyas.
+ Turns out all the buses left at night so we settled on a company where we got first class seats for the 10 hour ride for only $18/person! This would be our first time taking first class in anything!
+ Because we had the rest of the day to just wait for the bus, we chose to store our bags at the bus station and then found the mall of Chiclayo.
+ We were surprised at the amount of stores and choices in the food court. There was even a Starbucks! These malls always seem to appear out of nowhere. Even the smallest city can have the most elaborate mall.
+ For dinner we opted for a taste of home and went to Chilis! Corey got a gourmet burger and Liz got the quesadilla explosion salad -one of her favorites! This was the 1st Chilis we have seen on the trip. Wonder why they chose Chiclayo of all places??
+ After dinner we caught a tuk tuk back to the bus station. Shortly after boarding, the bus staff passed out dinner to each first class passenger. We didn’t know the 1st class tickets included dinner! That makes them an even better deal! Since we were stuffed from Chilis, we saved our 2nd dinner to eat for lunch tomorrow and settled in to get some sleep.

Planning Day in Chachapoyas
+ We arrived in Chachapoyas around 6am. We walked to a few hostels looking for availability but everything was booked up! It turns out there was an international bird watching meeting here in Chachapoyas of all places and so many hostels and hotels were completely full.
+ We finally found a room at Hotel Kuelap that was available for an early check in. We decided on the only room available and then decided we definitely needed a nap before we could explore the town.
+ After our wonderful nap, we woke up feeling rejuvenated and headed out to check out the town, look into different tours, and book bus tickets.
+ When those tasks were completed, we hunkered down in a little restaurant Liz had read about and used their wifi while sampling new coffee drinks and craft beers! It was nice to sit and relax after being on the move for a while.
+ At night we found another cafe/restaurant where we got some delicious quesadillas, a salchipapa mixture and a hearty chicken dish. This place also had even more new and different craft beer from Barbarian brewery in Cusco. So far Corey liked these small Peruvian towns and obviously the people could appreciate a good beer (as opposed to some countries like Belize that had none). Even Peru’s national beer came in 5 different flavors/styles!
+ Eventually we headed back to the room and tried to watch a movie but Liz fell asleep so that didn’t work out.

Gocta Falls
+ The loud honking and city noises from right outside our room woke us up even earlier than we needed to be for our tour that day, so we started the morning off a little grumpy.
+ A deli right next to the tour office made us some sandwiches to go and then we rode in a bus about an hour out to the beginning of the hike. After some confusion, we broke into 2 groups: one that would only hike to the bottom of the first falls and one that would hIke to that and the bottom of the second, much larger falls. We were in the latter group and wanted to see as much as possible on our hike, even if it meant much more intense hiking (which it did).
+ The initial hike was about 2 hours and once you reached the falls you could walk up close to the base if you wanted and get soaked in the process (which Corey did). The hike passed by big green hills while walking along cliffs and then through a more humid cloud forest where we were completely encompassed by cool looking trees and vines.
+ After that the groups split and we had a 90 minute steep descent to the bottom of the 2nd part of Gocta Falls. This waterfall was the 3rd highest in the world and even standing a couple hundred feet away you could still feel the powerful misty wind it created. Liz stayed in a (relatively) dry zone while Corey again hiked as close as possible, again getting completely drenched. The wind near the bottom was so intense it was blowing him over and sounded like he was standing next to a jet engine!
+ Afterwards we had a tough 2 hour mostly uphill hike out to a town where the van was waiting on us to return. We were happy that all of our rest breaks provided one magnificent view after the next and we eventually had to stop ourselves from taking more and more pictures because they never do the actual view justice anyway (and I’m sure our friends would be snapchatted out anyways after all our posts).
+ It had been raining off and on since we split from the other group so we were happy to make it back to the van and head back to town.
+ By the time we made it back into town the sun had set which meant a significant drop in temperature and we were still in our cold wet clothes. So after a nice hot shower we headed out for dinner.
+ We chose a steakhouse Liz had read about and ordered 2 dishes recommended by the purely spanish speaking waiter and they both turned out to be huge and delicious! Liz’s had 3 big chunks of pork, chicken, and steak, along with fries and a salad. Corey had a big steak covered with some local cheese sauce and the same sides. It was the best steak they’d had since the fancy restaurant in Bogota and hit the spot after a long hard day of hiking in the rain.
+ Since the wifi at our hostel still wasn’t working, we went back to the cafe from the night before and used their wifi again. Liz got another yummy coffee drink while Corey tried 2 new kinds of craft beer! We did work and research on our phones until the cafe closed at 11 and we went back to our room to lie down and rest our wary legs for more hiking the next day!

Kuelap Ruins
+ Yet another morning of waking up early! After checking out of our room, we turned in laundry and grabbed some breakfast pastries from a Panderia. We got 6 different items for only about $1.75! Panderia’s are the cheapest places on earth!
+ Then we boarded our shuttle bus headed towards the preincan ruins of Kuelap and settled in for our 2.5 hour curvy ride through the mountains.
+ Kuelap is actually older than Machu Pichuu and it’s people were pre-Incan. Although it is situated on the top of a ridge on a big mountain, we only had to hike about 30 minutes uphill from the parking lot to reach the ruins. And while they weren’t the most impressive ruins we’ve seen on this trip, they definitely had one of the most majestic settings. Every direction you looked provided miles of stunning scenery with mountain tops, rolling hills with checkerboards of crop fields and zig zagging roads that looked like they were in a painting.
+ We hiked through the ruins being led by our guide for about 3 hours while he explained in multiple languages the history of Kuelap and it’s people. The houses were unique because they had sectioned off areas for where the family used to raise guinea pigs (before eating them)! The architecture was smaller and different from other ruins we’d seen, but the main thing that made these unique were the random Llamas roaming around! They were much more hairy than ones from the U.S. and when they posed just right, it provided the most quintessential photos of exactly what you’d picture when thinking about Peru.
+ After the tour was finished, we stopped off at a restaurant in a small town for a very late lunch. Although tempted to order the guinea pig, we stuck to meals we knew would taste good without it’s cute, innocent, dead face staring back at us. But we did have a good laugh when, as the waitress was taking names and orders, she thought when Corey said his name he had said Cuy (guinea pig) and we had to correct her. But we still think she thinks Corey’s name is Cuy.
+ We did get to try another popular Peruvian dish though called Lomo Saltado which is basically like a beef stir fry dish and it was huge and really tasty!
+ By the time the bus got back into town it was 6:15 and our bus out of town was leaving at 7! So in a mad scramble we went to the hostel, got our laundry, changed clothes and packed our bags, got money from an ATM, and walked to the bus terminal. All with 10 minutes to spare!
+ We settled down into our first class seats again for our 10 hour ride back to Chiclayo. During the ride we got served our dinner, drinks, and even a dessert soda later on! These first class seats are so worth it!
+ Before falling asleep we watched 2 movies – Huntsman: Winter’s War and 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Jumping from bus to bus until we made it to Huaraz
+ Our overnight bus was very comfortable with it’s 180 degree reclining seats, but for some reason neither one of us slept very well. We didn’t feel very tired during the night, even though we should have.
+ At 5 am we arrived back in Chiclayo and immediately hopped on a different bus for 4 hours down to the coast to Trujillo. This bus wasn’t quite as comfortable, but we did manage to sleep most of the ride.
+ We had been hoping to catch a bus straight from Trujillo to Huaraz, but from what we had read and heard online that was only possible overnight or early morning and we had missed it. But there was supposedly a later one from the next city down the coast.
+ So we caught another 2.5 hour bus down to Chimbote and literally as we were pulling into the station there was a bus starting to back out that was headed towards Huaraz. So Liz quickly hopped out and got us space on the bus while Corey grabbed the bags from underneath the bus and transferred them to the Huaraz bus.
+ Once we climbed aboard we realized the bus was pretty old and crappy and thinking we were in for an 8 hour ride we were not looking forward to it. Liz tried to sleep most of the way to ward off the coming car sickness from the mountain roads. Lucky Corey watched Dragon Ball Super episodes and the Goosebumps movie on the tablet.
+ The drive to Huaraz was very impressive with the scenery changing from the rocky coast to flat desert landscape to rolling sand hills and finally to bigger and bigger valleys and mountains topped with snow!
+ We were happily surprised when we pulled into Huaraz after just under 5 hours of driving and it was still daylight. So we walked around the city looking for a hostel (we had researched ones we liked and starred them on the map but didn’t book anything since we were unsure when exactly we’d be getting there). Unfortunately our Chachapoyas experience repeated itself and everyone claimed they were full. But we finally found one that had space at Hotel Universal.
+ Worn out from almost 24 hours straight of travel again, we relaxed in the room for a bit using the interwebs before heading out to find dinner.
+ Although we liked the hotel, it was situated right in the middle of the town market and outside the hotel were hundreds of different street vendors selling anything and everything and we were forced to weave and sidestep our way through the giant crowds. We both agreed we like the tranquil towns a little more.
+ A few blocks south we managed to stumble on a cool park area that was surrounded by a bunch of cool restaurants and even breweries! We were excited to be here for multiple nights and get the chance to try out a few different ones.
+ We ate at a place called La Rotunda, a reggae themed place that had delicious Mexican food and pasta for pretty cheap. Then, with both of us yawning, we chose to save exploring more of the town for another night and headed back to our hostel.
+ After some wonderfully refreshing hot showers, we did some catch up work and talked to family back home using the excellent wifi here.
+ Relieved to have a comfy queen sized bed for the first time in about a week, we pretty much passed out the moment our heads hit the pillows.

Click here for more photos of Ecuador and more photos of Peru!


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