When we first began planning this amazing year-long honeymoon, we planned to spend 7 months backpacking through South America. After only 4 months, we’ve decided to cut our trip short. Here’s why.
On our first day in Mendoza, while tasting 21 wines, paired with 9 carefully matched courses of food, and touring 4 gorgeous wineries, we may have accidentally fallen (or drunkenly tripped) head over heels for wine! But surprisingly, it wasn’t the copious wine or the amazing food that made this tour one-of-a-kind. It was a sort of quirky, twisted historical edge that we’ve never encountered before in a wine tour.
From the creepy clown trash cans (seriously, Ecuador, WTF?) to Cheese Soup to friendly llamas to the Galapagos Islands, we had a fantastic time during our month backpacking in Ecuador! Here are 30 things no one told us about before we visited Ecuador….
Lima, Peru is the top foodie destination in the world , and it’s fortunately located in a continent – and a country – known for growing high quality coffee. Our list of the best third wave coffee shops in Lima, Peru is a labor of love (and many very jittery afternoons).
Ceviche and Pisco Sours: we have Peru to thank for these two iconic South American creations. So during our visit to Lima, we were thrilled to discover Lima Gourmet’s classic Ceviche and Pisco Sour cooking class. In one short hour, we went from boring average Americans to masters of Peruvian cooking! Lima Gourmet’s class is fun, easy, and affordable: we think it’s an absolute must-do when visiting Lima.
Staying gorgeous while traveling isn’t the easiest task. After months of backpacking, I’ve found the best makeup for travel plus skincare and haircare beauty tips for backpackers! Makeup for travel is the trickiest thing to get right on a long trip. You need products that are multi- functional; that won’t break, melt, or fall apart while you travel; are packaged small enough to carry with you; and won’t slide off your face while you have amazing adventures. It’s a lot to ask. Luckily, I’ve found a few makeup products that I swear by for travel and backpacking!
We’re sitting in a restaurant in Aguas Calientes. Around us are five couples, two solo travelers, and two tour guides. All fourteen of them are tired, dirty, and covered in dried sweat. They just finished the 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and experienced a life changing experience, one that brought them together as a family to experience a once in a lifetime physical and mental challenge. As we watch them drinking celebratory beer, retelling stories, and soaking it all in, I’m reminded: this was supposed to be us. But instead of having a spiritual pilgrimage to Machu Picchu, we had an expensive failure on the Inca Trail.
Baños, Ecuador was one of our favorite places on our entire 4-month trip to South America and we would go back again in a heartbeat. The town is situated in a valley at the base of an active volcano. It’s unique location is in the perfect spot to take advantage of the varied environment, complete with mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and hot springs. The town is known for two things: naturally heated thermal baths – the namesake of Baños, Ecuador – and its many adventure opportunities! Here’s our complete guide to what to do in Baños.
Packing for long term travel: some people leave it until the last minute, but I spent months planning, researching, test-packing, and even in some cases, weighing every item for our trip. You’re probably not shocked to hear that there were spreadsheets and diagrams (If this was Harry Potter, my patronus would be a spreadsheet.) But even though I researched, re-researched, read countless blog posts about packing for long term travel and background checked the authors of the Amazon reviews I trusted (ok, that last part is a mild exaggeration), there were bound to be mistakes. I wish I’d known a little bit more about what not to pack for long term travel!
Jeremy and I are less than a week away from the biggest challenge of our entire trip: hiking the 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It’s not just the lack of Netflix and Instagram for four days that scares us (although … shudder) but the incredibly difficult high-altitude hike. This morning I walked down the street in Cusco and it felt like walking through sand… on the moon. Yikes. We’ve been searching high and low for tips about visiting Machu Picchu that will help us to feel less terrified and more excited. And one of my amazing friends went above and beyond! Angela is a brilliant lawyer who also happens to be Peruvian, and she’s been visiting Peru regularly for years. Who could be better to get Machu Picchu tips from??
There are fluffy Siamese cats. Old ginger cats. Feisty cats. Shy cats. Cats that love attention. Cats that just want to stretch out in the sun and nap. There is every variety of cat. We felt like Willa Wonka when he first walks into the chocolate factory: all around us were THE BEST THINGS and we wanted to touch them all, but we weren’t sure we were allowed to (this park is, after all, the property of the Kennedy Park cats). Plus, one time I went to a cat cafe in Oakland and the poor over-stimulated kitties lashed out at me. Literally – I got a claw through the hand just from walking too close to them. It’s the cat equivalent of turning into a giant blueberry and rolling away: the reward isn’t worth the risk.
If you’re going backpacking in Peru, chances are you’ll hear a lot about Macchu Picchu, something like “don’t spend any time in Lima” (we disagree), and some generic advice about acclimating in Cusco for a few days before doing anything athletic, like getting out of bed or walking up a flight of stairs (we agree). And that’s about it. We arrived in Peru with very little idea of what to expect. After a month of backpacking in Peru and figuring it out as we went, we’ve cobbled together some observations from our very gringo perspective, with varying levels of usefulness and in no particular order.
Laguna 69 sits at the base of a giant glacier in the Cordillera Blancas. Its elevation is at approximately 15,000 feet, which beats anywhere in the continental United States by a good 500 feet. Somehow, no one in Huaraz seemed to be impressed by this.To give you an idea of how incredibly high Laguna 69 is, once Lia and I jumped out of a plane to skydive from the highest altitude they were legally able to fly us, and it was STILL lower than Laguna 69. I knew this would would be no walk in the park, but I had no experience hiking at such a high altitude before. I was about to get a crash course.
Sometimes travel makes you miss things that you never knew you appreciated before. Like the immigration kiosk at the airport. You hop off a plane, hand them a slip of paper, answer a couple questions, then you’re off to enjoy a new country. Sure, you might wait in a long line, but at least you’re not scrunched in a van next to a rooster careening along a cliff at 80mph while the driver talks on his cell phone.
We may have packed up all of our belongings and flown to South America, but we left our hearts in San Francisco. Over the 7 years Jeremy lived in the Bay Area and the 4 years I lived there, we amassed a wealth of knowledge about the best things to do and see in San Francisco. This walking tour covers 8 unique neighborhoods in 6 miles. Plus, get a FREE San Francisco Walking Tour Printable Map and Directions!