We spent the first day in Quito using the local internet cafe for work purposes and not leaving the new city. Quito is said to be a city of two cities – the colonial old city in the south and the new city sprawling out to the north, not much more than a half century old.
Most of the tourist stuff is in La Mariscal in the new city and thats where we based until we were able to see the rest of the city.
The time on the beach was great, but we decided we needed a break from the intense heat. It was time to get to Quito. We were already this far north so we decided to go by the coastal route rather that head back to Guayaquil again.
We were told that the closest beach to Guayaquil was at Salinas and we made a bit of a mistake heading there. It wasn’t one of the famous beaches of Ecuador, but we didn’t know that until we arrived there. We did get a good night´s sleep in a decent hotel and a cooler ocean breeze so it wasn´t all a waste. It also brought us closer to Montañita now only $1 and a couple of hours away. We packed up and headed there.
Las Peñas used to be a very poor part of town – across South America the poor always live up on the hills. It has now been restored and set up as a tourist attraction, and the locals have set up a variety of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. We were very unlucky on beginning our 444 step climb to the lighthouse at the top. It was already 32c, but cloudy. From around step 50 the strong sun appeared from behind the clouds to torture us. I am sweating just thinking about it.
The journey was as expected – 18 hours from Lima, passing the famed and inviting beaches of Mancora, Punta Sal and Zorritos to arrive in Tumbes. The plan was to arrive here and take a taxi back to Zorritos to stay for a day and a night at the beach – before heading to Ecuador the next day.
But never make plans in Peru – something I know, but tend to forget.
We had taken a bus to Santiago from Lima which made crossing the border simple. On the return however, there was no such bus, at least for a few days anyway.
We were able to take a bus from Iquique to Arica easily and had a good journey. The 4 hours on the bus were interesting as we spent them watching hundreds of tornadoes sweeping through the distant desert. I tried to get them on camera but they just wouldn’t turn out. The two photos attached to this entry are the best I could do, and I needed to turn up the contrast to get to see anything, but they still don’t give a feeling for how it really looked.
There are over 400 geoglyphs drawn in the sand in the desert in the Reserva Nacional Pampa del Tamarugal depicting animals, humans and geometric patterns.
We arrive to see them as the sun was setting, when the sun wouldn’t bleach all the photos white.
La Tirana is a town of dusty streets and adobe houses with a church and a piece of history as its only attractions.
La Tirana is named after an Inca princess Huillac Ñusca. In 1535 Diego de Almagro, a Spanish conquistador, marched south from Cusco to conquer Chile. Only 500 Spaniards where willing to go with him to conquer these lands that they thought would be poor. So Diego de Almagro took with him ten thousand conquered Incas including the Inca princess and an Inca Prince. The party included, unknown to Almagro, a number of highly trained Wilkas (Inca Warriors) from the Inca Royal Army.
Perhaps the highlight of our trip to Chile, other than just being in Chiloé, was visiting the abandoned ghost towns of the nitrate mining era. Just 30 minutes from Iquique are Humberstone and Santa Laura.
The northern-most region of Chile is a land of barren rock and the driest desert in the world. One that has no recorded rainfall – ever. This inhospitable region is huge, towns and cities are hundreds of kilometres apart.
The entire region was once Peruvian and Bolivian territory until nitrates were discovered that could be exported at great value – so much value that Chile decided they wanted it and took it in the War of the Pacific, making themselves rich and subjecting Bolivia to poverty and landlocked status. The Chileans, who did not have the expertise to extract the nitrate, called on British and German companies to run the mines. The cities in the region grew when the mining towns were abandoned when the industry collapsed on the German invention of synthetic nitrates during WWI. Herein lays Iquique’s history.
The cold Chiloé weather and lack of money prompted us to start the return to the north. To do so we made a stop of in the southern vacation spot of Puerto Varas before taking the bus to Santiago and further still.
Puerto Varas is a tourist haven, thousands of Chileans and Argentinians come here each summer to spend some time on the crystal clear lake under the shadow of two looming volcanoes, Orsorno and Calbuco. We came here because we didn’t have the time or the will to visit Pucon in the Andes.
Chonchi was another beautiful old traditional town. It has managed to keep many of its original timber buildings (despite a large fire in 2002). Unfortunately almost all of its palifitos were destroyed in natural disasters. The colourful church is not original, the natural disasters didn’t spare it, but it has been restored perfectly.