We arrived in Baños with zero expectations, possibly the best way to discover a new place. We hopped off the old, worn out bus and walked through the streets with childlike wonder.
Where are we??? I silently asked myself.
The small town was centered in between lush mountains and one massive volcano sitting at 5,023 meters above sea level. All around, you could see waterfalls sprouting out of the sides of these mountains. It was fantastical, enough to make anyone giddy with the excitement and joy of being alive.
Within twenty minutes, we’d both found a hostel and walked the circumference of the cozy town.
Ecuador’s Adventure Capital
Baños is the perfect town for a few days of embracing your inner cheesy tourist. I walked around, camera in hand, shamelessly capturing images of everything and everyone. No longer was I bothered by locals approaching me about tour packages. Zip lining? Where?! Water canyoning? You have my attention…
Every activity seemed equally enticing, but we eventually settled on a day-long rental of an Adventure Jeep, which was obviously infinitely better than a normal Jeep.
We walked into the tour agency’s office to sign the contract and these types of formalities. An underamused, overstressed woman greeted us in between aggressively yelling at her four small children, who were running around the office, slapping each other in the face.
As charming as this musty office was, once the Jeep pulled up, I was out the door. We zoomed off and headed toward the open road. It was apparent we were on the edge of the Amazon rainforest. Colorful mountain views flooded our vision. With the wind in my hair and the radio blaring, it felt like freedom.
Choose Your Own Adventure
We spent the rest of the day asking only “left or right?” and stopping only to admire the views. The Adventure Jeep provided its fair share of adventures for the day, leaving us fantasizing about traveling through South America by camper van.
Baños, thank you for the adventures. Adventure Jeep, you will truly be missed.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to share this post, and don’t forget to follow The True Bravado on Facebook!
Greetings from yet another bus in South America!
November has been full of movement. There have been countless adventures, big challenges, heartwarming connections, and the realization of some lifelong dreams.
For those of you who haven’t been following the most recent journey, my lover and I have been backpacking through South America since October.
At the beginning of November, we were in a village called Vilcabamba in Ecuador. This area is also known as the “Valley of Longevity” because the residents live to be extremely old (and happy)! It must be something in the water. Or it could be the gorgeous mountain views and ridiculously easy-going lifestyle.
After Vilcabamba, we took a bus down to Peru. After a long night bus, we spent one week volunteering at Casa Fresh, a beachside hostel in Huanchaco, Peru. The exchange was simple: free accommodation for 5 hours of work a day with 2 days off a week. Our work included helping the front desk with guests (check ins/check outs), working the bar, and refreshing the décor by painting the walls. It was a great experience! Thanks Clare and Casa Fresh family.
During our time in northern Peru, we also visited archaeological sites Chan Chan and Huaca del Sol y Luna from Peru’s Moche and Chimú civilizations. A must-see when in this region.
Before we knew it, we were packing our bags once again. Next, we spent time in Huaraz where we completed the Santa Cruz trek, a 4-day hike through the Cordillera Blanca mountain range.
Next up, we headed along the coast until we arrived in Huacachina, a picturesque oasis in the middle of the Ica desert. It looked like it could’ve been straight out of a movie scene. We did some sand boarding, dune buggy riding, and bodega touring. It was awesome.
From there, we took a cozy 12-hour overnight bus ride further south to Arequipa, a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and volcanoes.
And now, I’m sitting in yet another bus en route to the highest navigable body of water in the world, Lake Titicaca, which sits pristinely at an altitude of 3,812m!
Phew. That was a lot, right?
The highlight of this month has to be hiking the Santa Cruz trail in Peru. Check out these incredible views!!
The biggest challenge of this month was the utter foreignness of some of the places we visited. The main thing that comes to mind is the environment in the markets in South America. There were animal corpses and intestines left and right, guinea pigs roasting on a spit, awful smells, piercing stares. It was traumatic! Those were the moments I wished I were back “home”, wherever that is.
I’ve been on the road now for about six months, and it’s been incredible. I am extremely grateful to be able to learn and grow through traveling the world. Yet I’ve realized that even with all the adventures, eventually I want to be a part of community and work with a company I truly believe in. Maybe that means starting my own 😉
There are some things in the making! Now I’m just waiting for everything to fall into place as it always does. Just remember, we are here in this life to make the most of our gifts and talents, and if we’re feeling “stuck” or unhappy, we just have to dig a little bit to uncover what lies beneath and believe we have what it takes to succeed! You got this! Do what excites you, what inspires you the most.
The first half of December, we’ll be exploring Peru’s most famous region: Cusco. Then, I’ll be in Fort Worth, Texas visiting my best friend for a week. After that, Christmastime with the fam! After two years of spending the holidays without my family, I’m very excited to reunite with them once again.
How was your November? What were the highlights, challenges, and insights? What are some of your intentions for the upcoming month?
We were only two hours into the bus ride from southern Ecuador across the Peruvian border and I’d already nearly lost my mind. We had six or seven hours to go, and the overnight bus was anything but comfortable.
Grumpy old men were yelling at the driver about who knows what. The guy next to me was in a heated conversation about politics with the guy two rows back. Neglected babies crying at piercing octaves.
Turn after turn along dark mountainous roads, the combination of terror and motion sickness left me feeling even more anxious. As if things couldn’t get worse, the silent farter was slowly suffocating everyone in the bus.
I put on my headphones, turned the volume up, and moved back the window curtains to observe what was going on out there.
Midnight blue skies gave way to the golden warm glow of streetlamps. The full moon hung low beneath over the jagged silhouettes of mountains in the distance. A thousand stars dotted the sky.
And just like that…a change in perspective. I sat in silent awe and appreciation of the pure, great bliss of this moment in time and of the world passing by me through the view of a bus window.