● For full details on our route, transport info, hotel details, etc, look at our Google Maps page

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Fiji - Waya Island

24th – 31st July

After an overnight flight, we arrived into Nadi at 4.30am, and took a boat at 8am to the Yasawa islands. We were staying on Waya Island at the Bayside resort. It was one of the larger islands, but a very small resort, with only two beach huts and a deserted beach – just what we needed after the previous 4 months of chaotic travelling! With no electricity and a very basic hut we felt like Robinson Crusoe or Tom Hanks on Castaway!

With an amazing coral reef on our doorstep, and the beach practically to ourselves, we spent the week lazing around. Our snorkels were well used, although the water wasn’t as warm as Sam would have liked! We still were able to see some amazing fish and corals

Fed and watered 3 times a day with some great food, several couples stayed in the other beach hut over the course of the week. Trevor and Karen from Australia were there the majority of the time and we had many a good night drinking into the late hours…. well, as late as you can in Waya, which was around 9.30pm!

On one evening we headed over to the nearby village to see the locals do a short performance for us. They had already done the show once that evening for a passing small cruise ship, and by the time we were there most of them seemed to be having giggle fits.

We returned to the Fijian mainland after 6 days and spent the night in Nadi, which included a visit to Nando’s. We headed to the airport to head east again to ‘God’s Country’ and some time back in civilisation!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

23rd July 2008 - The day we didn't have!

23rd July 2008... or was it?

As we flew over the international date line on the 22nd July, it was suddenly the 24th July... where did the 23rd go?

As nothing happened then there is nothing to write about, so we won't say any more...

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Los Angeles - Hollywood!

18th – 22nd July

After several very wet days in Panama, we believed that LA would be the change we’re been looking for – California, the sunshine state, where the weather is fine and the bodies on the beach even finer!

Lots of people we talk too say that they hated Los Angeles, so we arrived not really knowing what to expect. Arriving late at night, we checked into the Santa Monica Motel, and got a some sleep before heading out the next day on foot to explore Santa Monica.

The notion of not driving a car while in LA is alien to most people. 6 lane boulevards where priority is always given to cars means that you can stand waiting for 5 minutes waiting for the green man to come on, blink and you’ve missed him and have to wait again. Contrary to what people will tell you, there are bus services, and we found them very cheap and very reliable.

We had no plan of what to do with our three days here, so it was a
combination of the free tourist guide and friends recommendations that led us to stay in Santa Monica. It was a great place to base ourselves – unlike Hollywood, the main tourist centre of LA. Santa Monica has a much more local feel to it. Being right on the coast, it has a seaside atmosphere and the pier reminded us of Brighton!

It was the first ever ‘Glow’ festival on the Saturday night that we were there. This was a 12 hour (7pm – 7am) extravaganza of light shows and entertainment around the beaches and pier. We made the schoolboy error of forgetting our ID so we were unable to get a drink all evening, bloody rules and regulations! Unable to make it through till 7am, we headed back home on the free night bus and were tucked up in bed by 2.30am!

The following day, we headed down to Venice Beach, expecting to check out the fit guys and gals of LA strutting their stuff. We were sorely disappointed! We showed them a thing a two with our ripped bodies, and went for a very quick dip due to the fact the water was freezing! On the promenade there are a number of cool cafés and bars, full of the Venice crowd.

We landed a very good table outside the Candle Café, which turns out to be one of the places to see and be seen! Just after we took our table, a guy in his 50’s who seems like he is a bit of a local celebr
ity, with a huge blue parrot called Rocky, sits down next to us. He was with a friend who had a canary in his pocket. Only in LA!

We enjoyed some great food and several pints of pear cider (our first cider for some time!) and watched the locals entertain us with all kinds of fun goings on!

There was a fight in the back alley between one of the waitresses beefcake boyfriends, and another meaty looking guy – all the time we are getting a running commentary from the parrot man and his friend, who seem to know everyone that passes. The parrot guy also has a loudhailer under the table which has a number of sound effects such as a police siren. He sets it off when a homeless guy comes up to talk to him ‘Quick Louie, it’s the cops… better move on…’ What a fruitcake!

We allowed ourselves one day to do all the major sights of Hollywood and the centre of LA. The only way to do this we thought, would be on a Harley. We couldn’t afford one, so we ended up with a lovely cream coloured scooter, called a Buddy, which as you can see from the picture suited me very well! Along with Sunset Strip, Hollywood and the Hollywood Sign, we cruised around Beverly Hills, down Rodeo Drive, and had lunch at the Farmers Market. We tried Pinks Chili Dog on the way home, thanks for the recommendation Darren!

Malibu is around 30 mins drive away from Santa Monica. We spent our last day by scooting up to Malibu beach, and hanging out there for the day. Not what we expected, but nice all the same, we were looking out for the Baywatch lifeguards, but the high cut swimsuits and fake boobs must have been a thing from the past!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Panama - Size 7

15th – 18th July

We arrived into the airport of Panama City knowing nothing about the place, apart from what we had read on a couple of websites. Famous for the Panama Canal, and a certain type of Hat, we wondered what else the place would have to offer. After being there for a couple of days, we discovered the tiny country reminded us of a mini America, with lots of rain, and lots of rich tourists!

On arrival at the airport we were told the only way to get to our hotel would be by taxi, costing $35. When we explained that we didn’t have $35, the arrivals tourist information seemed puzzled and didn’t think that there was a bus into the city… ‘everyone takes a taxi’ she said! Some airport workers we spoke to suggested that there was a local bus, but we’d have to walk a while to get to the stop!

2 minutes later, we were at the stop… it was just outside the airport gates, but it was hardly the Inka Trail! A man waiting at the stop helped us determine which bus to get – by now it was dark and they all looked the same – we were assured that it would take us pretty close to where we needed to be.

An hour and a half later, we’d seen most of the suburbs of Panama City, the nice and not so nice. We had told the friendly driver that we wanted the old town, and as the bus pulled into the dodgiest street so far of the journey, he gestured us to get off! We paid our fare, 25
cents each, and set about finding our hostel. After 10 minutes of back alleys and pot holes, we were advised by a policeman of the safest route to walk. Finally, we found our hostel, dumped our bags and set about finding some food.

Panama City Old Town is a real mix of contrasting things. The Presidential Palace in one street, a brothel in another, a flash restaurant then a derelict old building. The tourists that visit Panama now are more interested in seeing the Panama Canal, then being whisked away to the huge out of town over air conditioned shopping malls to bag some bargain designer gear. It looks like the government has forgotten about the Old Town and this part of the city has been left to fall into disrepair, which is a shame as there are some amazing buildings around.

We decided to push the boat out, and went to the flashest restaurant that we’ve been to in months, and when it came to pay the bill, Ady ended up running back to the hostel to get another credit card, as the one we had was declined!!! This isn’t the first time the anti fraud teams have blocked our cards – they can’t seem to grasp the concept of people travelling through different countries over the course of the same week!

The following day, after some research, we found it was possible to get a bus up to the Panama Canal visitors centre at the Miraflores Locks…just after we’d arrived the heaviest rain the we have seen so far on our trip arrived, and stayed the whole day. It turned out to have been one of the wettest days of the rainy season! A combination of a hitched lift from one of the lock workers and a local bus saw us back in the city centre without too much of a soaking!

The buses in Panama City are worth a mention, as you’ll see from the photos. Each one is owned by the driver, and many are decorated with elaborate designs on their bodywork. Public transport is very cheap but it is difficult to understand where each of the busses are going. We managed to survive and didn’t get that lost…!

In our short time in this city, we got to see the Panama Canal, but there wasn’t much else worth noting. The rain didn’t help, but from what we hear, it’s the rainy season for 9 months of the year!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


14th – 15th July

One night in Quito before flying on to Panama, we quickly found a place to stay, dropped our bags, and headed into the old town.

After looking round the usual sights, Cathedral, Plaza etc, we noticed that there were large crowds gathering and lots of important looking people milling around. When we got back to the Plaza, two men were standing on the balcony of what looked like a palace type building making speeches to the crowd. We presume one was a president, of either Ecuador or some other country, the other we are not sure! They then started singing and all in all it was a very surreal experience!

It’s also worth mentioning the two lunches we had while in Quito, both at the same restaurant, Chez Alain. This small popular lunchtime place is run by a French guy, and the 4 course lunch was fantastic both times we had it – highly recommended if you find yourself in Quito! See our recommendations for a link!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Riobamba and the Devil Nose Railway

11th – 14th July

After Guayaquil, we thought that Riobamba would take us back to what we had seen in the smaller towns of Peru and Bolivia. The journey was certainly bringing back some memories. Twisting mountain roads, crazy drivers and a lunch stop at a roadside café where you have to keep a close eye on the driver to make sure he doesn’t head back to the bus before you do!

Yet again we were surprised as we arrived. The first sight as we walked out of the bus terminal in Riobamba was a huge KFC! 15 minutes walk later, we were in the centre of the town an had found a place to stay.

Riobamba is the start of the Riobamba to Sibambe railway, the main tourist draw in the area. A journey that includes the ‘Devil’s Nose’, a set of double switchbacks which see the train descend 800 meters over only a few kilometres.

Local markets on Saturday are one of the main events in the Riobamba week, where thousands of indigenous people head to the town to buy and sell their wares. We explored the market and saw how Ecuadorians buy there weekly shop, as you’ll see from the pictures, it’s a little different to Tesco!

On Sunday we were all set to ride the Devil Nose railway, but discovered that due to a track problem, the train would only be running over a short part of the route. From Riobamba, we had to take a bus to Alausi, annoyingly, this was back the way we had come on the bus the previous day. At 6am we left for Alausi, and when we got there we had to queue for about an hour to get a train ticket. It was so busy that the next train we could take didn’t leave for a couple of hours, and to cut a long story short, we ended up in a second carriage which didn’t have seating on the roof, the whole point of doing the trip really! We still got some good pictures, but weren’t overly impressed with the day out.

Friday, 11 July 2008


9th - 11th July

Way back when we booked the flights for our first RTW leg we arranged the flight between Lima and Guayaquil for free, through airmiles. The two hour flight flew by in the blink of an eyelid, so used as we are to these long hours on the road. In hindsight we could have probably managed the 22 hour bus ride across the border without too much stress!

We arrived in Guayaquil on a Wednesday lunchtime, knowing very little about the city, or indeed about the country, other than we planned to travel from here to Riobamba to do the Devil's Nose Train and onto Quito for a flight to Panama. At this point I'll consult the guide book…!

Guayaquil is hotter, faster and brasher than the capital. It is Ecuador´s largest city and the country´s chief seaport; an industrial and commercial centre, some 56km from the Rio Guayas outflow into the Gulf of Guayaquil. The Puerto Maritimo handles three quarters of the country´s imports and almost half of it´s exports. Industrial expansion continually fuels the city´s growth.

Having found a place to rest our heads and baulking at the price of the room (Ecuador currency is dollars and a far cry from the Boliviano and Sole we were used to) we set out to find the tourist information office. The agents there were immensely helpful on the attractions of Guayaquil, but we struggled to glean information on the Devil´s Nose Railway. The train leaves Riobamba three times a week and heads south to Alausi where you travel the Alausi loop and can experience the Devil´s Nose. The train then returns to Riobamba. We wanted to know if it was feasible to join the train from Alasusi, part way down the train track, just 3 hours from Guayaquil and thus travel the route (with our packs) on the loop and then onward bound to Riobamba, 5 hours away. Our concern was that even if it was possible to buy a ticket in Alausi, would we be able to board the train? This was a very popular tourist attraction... We also needed to decide whether to take the Friday train or the Sunday service.

Reluctance to head back into the Andes so soon after leaving (the balmy temperatures of Guayaquil did little to help!) we settled on taking the Sunday train and decided to stay in Guayaquil until the Friday morning. From here we would go the further distance to Riobamba and not risk being unable to ride. Having two days to spend in a large city is usually very easy.

Guayaquil is home to numerous museums, public buildings and a picturesque promenade on the river front, known as the Malecon 2000. This wide, tree-lined avenue features gardens, fountains, monuments and views across the Rio Guayas. There are cafes and a number of upmarket restaurants, an Imax cinema and another couple of museums. To the north of the promenade is the colonial district of Las Penas, a cluster of narrow cobbled streets and brightly painted wooden houses. You can walk through here, upwards by means of the 444 steps to Cerro Santa Ana, the lighthouse on the headland from where you can see the cityscape and the river below. The whole area is full of cafes and restaurants and numerous art galleries, giving an arty, bohemian feel to the place.

Unfortunately on the day we decided to hike the steps, as ever in search of some lunch at the other end, practically everywhere was closed. This seemed to be the general theme to most of our stay in Guayaquil, at least where eating and drinking was concerned. T
he city only really swings into action on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. We had been looking forwards to eating at one of the famous crab restaurants, but instead descended empty bellied and disappointed. A butterfly exhibition on the promenade cheered us up.

A tropical garden was engulfed in huge nets and we ducked inside to take a closer look at the six or seven different varieties that were fluttering around. Needless to say we took a few hundred photos trying to catch the perfect image, but the butterfly in mid-flight eluded us. We also spent some time in the Parque Bolivar, home to a gothic cathedral and a number of iguanas (some of whom were three feet long!), giving rise to the more common name Parque de las Iguanas. Check out the pictures! Next stop Riobamba and fingers crossed a ride on the Devil's Nose!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Passed Peru!

Finally we've had some time to write up the last months worth of posts... here's the chronological list... click any of the items below to go directly to the story. We've also uploaded all the photos to Picasa.

The highlight has to be the trip to Machu Picchu, you can read about it and see the pictures here.

17th - 19th June - Copacabana
19th - 21st June - Puno
21st - 28th June - Cusco
25th - 27th June - Machu Picchu
29th June - 1st July - Arequipa
3rd July - Nazca
3rd - 5th July - Ica and Huacachina
5th - 6th July - Paracas
6th - 9th July - Lima

We're almost done with the Andes, Ecuador, our final South American destination is our current home, and we move on to Panama this week.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


6th - 9th July 2008

We had only originally intended to spend a day or so in Lima, Peru's capital, before flying to Ecuador. It's reputation as a run down city and the mugging capital of South America didn't entice us much, and though we had travelled untroubled through the continent for the last three months we didn't want to count our chickens…

Continuing in the theme of our trip so far, Lima wasn't what we'd been expecting at all. Sure, we possibly would have been mugged if we'd been waving our camera and wads of cash around, but the same can be said of most large cities the world over. The central Lima area surrounding Plaza de Armas does need some TLC, but cleaning has already started and many colonial buildings have been restored. Having spent 90 minutes on a bus into the centre (you think London traffic is bad!!) we whirled around the main attractions on a whistlestop tour. Of particular interest are the 17th century bronze fountain in the plaza; the Palacio de Gobireno; the Cathedral and the Archbishop's Palace standing next door. The church of San Francisco is worth a look, as is the Casa de Jarava just opposite. Lima also has a large Chinatown district – well worth a visit, preferably with an empty stomach!

Upon several recommendations we sought out a place to stay in Miraflores, a suburb south of Lima along the coastal road. Together with neighboring Baranco and San Isidro, Miraflores is now the main social centre of Lima. Together with the usual amenities of any nice town; a well tended park, a nice cathedral and a handful of museums, Miraflores is also home to Centro Commercial Larcomar – a very modern, hip shopping centre, (even by international standards) cut into the side of the cliffs. We're not in the habit of talking with enthusiasm about such places, but when you´ve spent the last two months up a rather large mountain range, this was an exciting return to civilization! Here we found expensive boutiques, numerous cool cafes, a couple of clubs and loads of restaurants, all with an impressive panoramic view of the ocean, 100 meters down. There is a 12 screen cinema including one with a cine-bar and a bowling alley. Sam wanted to go to the piccies (to watch Kung Fu panda)! This was definitely not the South America we had become accustomed to…we could have been anywhere in the world and likened the place to both Cape Town (at the waterfront) and Ipanema in Rio (behind the beach).
We bumped into Gustavo (our friend from Bolivia and Cusco) on our on first night in Lima, walking along the promenade. It turns out that he and Annie were both staying for a few days and had just arrived from Arequipa and Nazca too. We arranged to meet the following night for drinks and tried to contact Sarah, another friend whom we knew was staying in the capital. We spent the night in a Cuban bar, Ady dancing badly to the salsa music and Annie desperately trying to teach him the steps. You'd think after three months he would have got the hang of it. Sam was using a sore ankle as an excuse not to join in, but in truth still preferred the old English tradition of propping the bar up! Unfortunately Sarah couldn't join us but we met for lunch the following day and then spent the afternoon in true traveler style (nursing one drink for several hours) in a rather cool, but very pricey café, making the most of the comfy leather couches!

Before I finish our Lima story, our hostel deserves a special mention, for when we return to next to the city or for anyone else that plans to go. The 151 Backpackers B&B on Colon opened just over two months by a young Peruvian guy who spent time in the states and thus speaks perfect English. The room was spotlessly clean, towels and toiletries were provided, free internet use, use of the kitchen and BBQ, TV and dvd's… infact free run of the whole house. This in itself isn´t so unusual but he went out of his way in every way to make you welcome. We had eggs and fresh fruit for breakfast, alongside the usual bread and marmalade, but the bread was fresh from the bakery. He also makes homemade pizzas and almuerzo, for a small extra price. For cat lovers there is the most adorable kitty; ginger and white, just 9 months old but really huuuge and so playful. We were happy guests and were sad to leave Lima, vowing to return to Peru in the future.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Paracas - Islas Ballatas

5th - 6th July 2008

Along the coastal road 15km south of Pisco, a town still massively affected by the earthquake of August 2007, is the small bay of Paracas. Boats from the jetty at El Chaco, the fishing port and beach next to Paracas village can be taken early each morning to the Islas Ballestas, a spectacular set of islands, eroded into numerous arches and caves and home to seabirds and sea lions. Sometimes described as the "poor mans Galapagos", it is possible to see dolphins, penguins, pelicans, flamingoes and of course sea lions.

On the grey morning that we visited the island by speedboat, we were lucky enough to see all of the above, and some Nazca-like lines etched into the hillside of the peninsular. We had stayed the night before in a small hotel in Paracas, the Santa Maria, and enjoyed lunch, an evening meal, a comfortable nights stay, and transport both from Ica to Paracas (via Pisco) and onwards to Lima for the price of a one day tour with an agency from Ica/Huacachina. Hail the independent traveler!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Ica and Huacachina

3rd - 5th July 2008

Ica, 70km southeast of Pisco, is Peru´s chief wine centre. About 5km from Ica, round a palm fringed lake and amid amazing sand dunes is the oasis and summer resort of Huacachina. It’s green sulphur waters are said to be curative and thousands of visitors come to swim here.

By midday of the same day we arrived in Ica from Nazca, and hopped in a taxi to nearby Huacachina. After checking out the usual few hostels we settled on one set in the corner of the resort, backing onto one of the massive sand dunes. One of the main tourist attractions in Huacachina is to take a ride in a dune buggy and go sandboarding. To clinch the deal for the room, our hostel owner offered us a third off the room bill if we were to book the buggy/boarding package with them. We agreed and booked the tour for the following afternoon.

After a lazy afternoon around the pool, a real pleasure after two months in the Andes, we took a wander around the "resort", which was very much a resort and aimed directly at gringos and wealthy Peruvians. Prices were somewhat of a shock after real Peru, but we decided to go with it in a bid to have some fun as, well, tourists I guess! Having said this, the resort still featured the obligatory "Chifa", a Peruvian version of a cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurant. So of course we headed straight for it – Ady’s stomach is currently a much diminished version of it's former self and this was a good excuse to fill his boots!

In the morning we took a taxi into Ica, in search of a combi to take us to the wine region. It was almost lunchtime before we figured out how to get there, so we lunched on "almuerzo" and jumped into a collectivo to El Catador, one of the wine bodegas you can visit. We were introduced to a guide who immediately presented us with the biggest avocado ever, grown in one of the nearby allotments by one of the workers. He took us around the small estate and explained how they produced Pisco, their specialty drink, a little like grappa that is produced alongside wine. The highlight of course was the tastings; we were offered five different varieties of pisco, and one sweet desert wine. The undoctored pisco that goes into making a Pisco Sour cocktail is pretty revolting by itself, but we did buy a bottle of the wine and a bottle of pisco crema, a blend of pisco, cream and figs, giving rise to a tasty chocolatey flavor.

At 4pm we headed back to the hostel to await our white-knuckle, rollercoaster ride through the sand dunes. We boarded a 15 seater dune buggy, arranged through our hostel the day before. Not quite what we’d had in mind though - most of the buggies owned by other hostels were much smaller and designed for fewer people and as a result probably much faster. Better still, we really wanted to hire our own buggy and make havoc on the dunes ourselves, but maybe the authorities had restricted this as none were to be found. Anyway, as two individuals with a higher than average adrenaline threshold we were fairly unimpressed by the whole ride, and behaved like two very underwhelmed English people throughout, a stark contrast to the squeals of the girls behind. At this point I feel the need to add that anyone who has experienced riding on a motorbike, off-road with Ady, or in a 4x4 with Sam’s Uncle Andy would also be unimpressed!

Sandboarding was included as part of the tour. Not much fun for one poor soul with a post-Machu Picchu swollen ankle (still), until the guide showed how you can wax the board and go down on your belly, head first! Much more like it. Some of these dunes are colossal, several hundred feet and really quite steep. Still, Ady wished he was boarding on snow rather than sand and vowed for us to book that week skiing in NZ in August.

We spent our second and final evening in the tourist trap that was Huacachina enjoying our most expensive meal of the last three months. Still, the food was amazing. Tomorrow it’s back to reality and onwards to the coastal town of Paracas.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Nearly Nazca

3rd July 2008

Three days spent as couch potatoes was as much as two normally active people could handle, and conscious of our forthcoming flight out of Lima we decided to move on to Nazca, Ica and Huacachina. Nazca is famous for the nearby Nazca lines, a series of enormous geometrical shapes including designs such as a dog, a monkey, a spider and a tree, cut into the desert. There are numerous theories on why the lines were created and by whom. Latest thinking is that they were created by three different groups – the Paracas people (900-200BC), the Nazcas (200BC-AD600) and the Huaris (AD630). And why? The most popular belief is that they represent some sort of astronomical pre-Inca calendar, although many others would argue differently. The best way to see the lines is from the air, by means of a small 4 seater Cessna plane.

We arrived as usual from an overnight bus journey, at some ridiculously early hour of the morning, 5.30am and spent the next two hours by the side of the road (in the shelter of a hotel foyer) waiting for the sun to rise and the airport to open. By the time we arrived at the airport the thick early morning mist that had surrounded us since 5:30 seemed reluctant to shift. We waited in the lounge of one of the airlines, which at the time we mistook for the main departure lounge itself…and waited. After some time, one of the agents approached us and told us that due to adverse weather conditions the price to fly would increase to $70 from the usual $50, due to fewer passengers wanting to take a flight that day. At this point Ady scoffed and said he wanted to check out some prices with other airlines. We were promptly thrown out onto the street, backpack and all and left to hike up and down the airstrip in search of somewhere more reasonable. We did actually find a couple of very helpful companies but both were fully booked for that day. As the thick fog still showed no sign of lifting, flights already booked for that morning would be shifted to the afternoon slots in hope the sky would clear. No use for the likes of us though; having rocked up without a reservation at all. As seemed to be the nature of our trip at the moment we decided to knock the Nazca lines on the head and travel to Ica, both more than a little disappointed at not being able to ride in the cool little planes…

Tuesday, 1 July 2008


29th June - 1st July

We finally made it out of Cusco on the Saturday night and took the overnight bus in an effort to while away the ten hour journey. The bus was comfortable enough, we paid just 30 soles (less than 6 quid) for a semi-sleeper, with front row seats on the top deck. Unfortunately the TV with it's sole speaker was right above our heads and turned up full blast, and a small child in the seat opposite was desperately trying to compete. Thank god for ipods!

The city of Arequipa, 1011km from Lima, stands in a beautiful valley at the foot of El Misti volcano, a snow capped perfect cone, 5,822m high, guarded on either side by the mountains Chachani (6057m) and Pichu-Pichu (5669m). The city has fine Spanish buildings and many old and interesting churches built of sillar, a pearly white volcanic material almost exclusively used in the construction of Arequipa.

We checked in at the Los Incas hostel, a place recommended to us by friends in Cusco. The only rooms available were the more expensive ones in the main house, but we soon saw why. The room was huge, even with two large beds in it. Floors were wooden and highly polished, the ceilings were high and a massive window let the morning sun flood in. The bathroom looked like something out of a boutique hotel and the shower was to die for! Hot, hot water from powerful jets, you know the kind of shower normally only found in some fancy spa! Lets just say we decided to stick around for a few days, a wise decision given that Ady awoke the following day with the strange malaria-like fever Sam had experienced two days before (on route home from Machu Picchu) and spent the day in bed, whimpering!

Our time in Arequipa probably won't be the most memorable of the trip. The last few months on the road had caught up with us and after both having been sick with some malady or another, we just couldn't seem to find the energy to wander far from the hostel's TV room. We'd had plans to visit the Colca Canyon, a canyon twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, situated 5 hours away at Cabanaconde. The itinerary set by the tour operators seemed to focus heavily on the Colca valley and it's various ruins, rather than the canyon. Having been unable to find any photos of the canyon in it's glory we reckoned it probably wasn't so impressive to see, especially after the stunning ravines on the road to Machu Picchu and gave the idea up.

In a rare burst of energy we did at least make it out to the city's prime attraction, the remarkable Santa Catalina Convent. Founded in the 16th century, it covers an area over 29,426 square meters within central Arequipa – a city within a city. As many as 450 nuns lived in total seclusion, except for their women servants. The monastery was opened to the public in 1970 allowing visitors into the sunny maze of cobbled streets and plazas, decorated with brightly coloured flowers. Today, the few remaining nuns live in just a small section of the convent, continuing with a very traditional life…and baking the most delicious cakes for the visitor's cafe!

Visitors Since 19th May 2009...