February. January came and went in the blink of an eye and before I knew it, February was over too. Time is flying and I really can’t believe that at the end of May I’ll be making my way back to the U.S. February was an awesome and exciting month in which I reunited with a few friends and visited some incredible places in Ecuador and Peru.
My time in Peru will be over in the next few days and I will have spent just over a month in this beautiful country. Here’s what February looked like through my eyes:
I swam with sea turtles in the Galápagos!
I really wasn’t sure if I was going to visit the Galápagos Islands because of the exorbitant cost. In the end, I decided that I had to go. I resolved that it’s not every day that I’m in Ecuador, and the Galápagos is known as one of the most beautiful places in the world. I took a 5-day tour including seeing giant, 100+ year-old tortoises, snorkeling with sea turtles and sea lions, and trying diving for the first time with a guide. The trip was exhilarating and a little exhausting, but I would do it all over again if given the chance. This little corner of the world is absolutely amazing.
I sprayed foam on a bunch of people during Carnaval in Montañita.
When I arrived in Montañita, Ecuador, I was hoping to get some sun and catch some waves as I’d been itching to get back on a surfboard since my blissful two weeks in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans in mind; it was pouring rain and muddy the entire time I was in Montañita. On the bright side, the dates I was in Montañita landed on Carnaval and the beach town was full of Ecuadorian families and travelers dancing, drinking, and spraying foam canisters on one another. I have no idea where this foam phenomenon came from, but I’d seen it in Colombia as well and had been sprayed by innocent-looking children in Baños as Carnaval approached, so I knew I had to buy some. The mud mixed with the foam made for a few dirty days and I think I spent more money on foam canisters than drinks, but I had a blast wreaking havoc on the town with my hostel friends. Carnaval in Montañita was hands-down one of the best celebrations and parties I’ve been a part of in Latin America.
I explored the “white city” of Arequipa, Peru.
I skipped ahead down the South America map to Arequipa, Peru to meet up with one of the darling Australians that I traveled with in Colombia. As my first city in Peru, I loved Arequipa although we didn’t do much more than go on a walking tour and pay the overpriced entrance fee to the old monastery in town.
I spent Valentine’s Day hiking Colca Canyon.
What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than to go on a hike? We awoke at 3am to head on a 2-day, 1-night trip to Colca Canyon. The trip included visits to a viewpoint to see condors, another place to see llamas and alpacas, and a few small pueblos along the way. I wasn’t quite ready for Colca Canyon; it wasn’t too difficult, but it was my first hike in a long time and I was embarrassingly sore the next day. I should be in better shape than this! Regardless, the mountain views from the canyon were really breathtaking and I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on this hike. I quickly realized here that there was much more to Peru than Machu Picchu.
I went sand boarding in Huacachina.
With only a few days in the Paracas/Ica area, we decided to head to Huacachina to go sand boarding and check out the only oasis in Peru. We jumped in a dune buggy with a bunch of Peruvian tourists and went for an exhilarating, roller coaster-like ride through the dunes before stopping to slide down some sand dunes on wooden boards kind of similar to those we used when volcano boarding in Nicaragua. It was a lot of fun for a quick, two-hour excursion in the desert and it was just nice to be back in the midst of beautiful sand dunes. It reminded me of my trips to the Sahara Desert and Maspalomas in Gran Canaria last year.
I took it easy and hung out in Cusco.
Cusco turned out to be one of my favorite places that I’ve visited in South America. Albeit very touristy, I loved the charm of this city. We went on the free walking tour, visited the Incan ruins of Saksaywaman (pronounced kind of like “sexy woman”. How great is that?), and bought a few unnecessary items like my poncho, sweater and scarf. As if my backpack wasn’t already insanely full, I just couldn’t help myself. The weather was pleasantly cool and often rainy while we were in Cusco, but the unexpected bursts of sunshine brought this city to life. Thinking back, it doesn’t sound like we did much, but it was just nice to have a place to slow down, hang out, and drink a few too many coffees and beers. And yes, I did go to Machu Picchu, but that’s a story to save for March!
I’m well aware that I’m WAY behind in blogging about any of my time in South America. As in, I haven’t written anything…yet. I said in my January roundup, I truly have had so much fun and prioritizing the limited time I had with the friends I was traveling with, and I have zero regrets about that. Now that I’m on my own again, it’s time to sit down and write it all out – a task that exhausts me just to think about it! From playing paintball in one of Pablo Escobar’s houses in Colombia, exploring the Galápagos in Ecuador, hiking Colca Canyon in Peru and having a hilarious time at Machu Picchu in the rain, I can’t wait to tell you about all of it. I promise the stories are worth the wait, and I hope you can’t wait to read them.