San Cristobal & Isla Lobos – Galapagos Islands


The first day of our 8 day sailing adventure around the Galapagos islands. We booked our tour with Happy Gringos travel agency in Quito last minute with a 40% discount. There are a myriad of boats to choose from ranging from basic to luxury, 14 to 100 passengers, routes sailing around the East or West of the archipelago and a couple of days to a couple of weeks. We chose the mid-range Eden yacht, a 78ft boat accommodating 16 passengers, with an 8 day route taking us West across the archipelago. The route was the selling point for us as we got to visit such a variety of islands and in turn, the unique wildlife found there.

Here was our route:

Sailing route around the Galapagos

Day 1: San Cristobal Island & Isla Lobos

We got up at 4am in Quito in order to make it to the airport for our early flight to San Cristobal. We went through the airport smoothly paying our $20 transit fee and then $100 Galapagos park entrance fee on the other side. We arrived at 10:00am and had anticipated having to wait around until at least midday for other passengers on the next flight from Quito however we were pleasantly surprised when our guide Fabian showed up to collect us. We waited by the pier for the little zodiac boat to take us to the yacht in the marina and we saw our first sea lion completely unfazed by us sunbathing at the dock. The boat we chose was the Eden Yacht that holds 16 passengers, 7 crew and the Galapagos guide. We soon discovered however, that there were only 5 other passengers! We were shown to our cabin and we were a little disheartened to find bunk beds and our room being on the top deck. We had specifically requested a twin cabin on the lower deck so as to avoid sea sickness as we were both still scarred from the boats we had to take in Fiji! After unpacking, turns out there was a mix up and we did have a twin room lower down. We were so relieved as the motion is so much less down there, neither of us had to be on a bunk with no railing and we had so much more space to store our clothes/bags. We were happy campers as we met the rest of the people on board and settled down to lunch.

After a short 40 minute sail, we anchored by Isla Lobos. Lobos in Spanish is sea lion! Sea lions are easy to distinguish from seals as they have cute little ears. We got in to our wet suits ready for our first Galapagos experience of snorkelling. When we thought about going to the Galapagos, we never considered we would be wearing wetsuits throughout but the water temperature was cold, ranging between 18-21 degrees. That didn’t matter though because it was absolutely incredible and we got to swim with loads of sea lions! They were so playful, pirouetting in the water and blowing bubbles around us. We could not believe how close they were coming to us. It was such a magical experience. Out of nowhere, two giant sea turtles appeared too! Whilst we snorkelled, Frigate birds circled us over head and Sally Light foot crabs scattered along the rocks where we saw our first Blue footed Booby. We climbed back in to the little zodiac boat and as we drove back to the Yacht, we saw the crew trying to usher a sea lion off the back of our boat!

After an hour we had a quick change on the boat before heading back out to explore the island on foot. As we pulled up in the little dinghy, we couldn’t actually use the island’s steps as sea lions were sleeping there so we jumped along the side. As the island is made of volcanic rock, the surface was extremely uneven so we concentrated a lot on not rolling our ankles. We saw so many sea lions, quite a lot with their pups! We even saw one that our guide estimated was only 4 weeks old! The guide estimated that there were 250 just in the short stretch of rock and sand we were on! We also saw our first land iguanas, much darker in colour than the ones we’d seen in Guayaquil. Again we were lucky enough to spot a really small iguana who was only about 10 months old! All around the island, we saw Frigate birds floating in wind pockets in the sky barely moving at all. We also saw many of them nesting in tree branches. We saw many more females (white and black) than males who have a red neck. We were SO lucky to see one male Frigate bird doing the iconic puffed out red neck as a mating ritual. December is towards the very end of the mating season thus this was such a rare sight. Unfortunately it was a bit too far for a good photograph but we did see it with the naked eye. We got to see a few Blue footed boobies up close and personal too! The males are the ones that nurture the chicks and we saw one with a 3 week old chick! Apparently they did an experiment on the main land giving one bird the same Galapagos fish diet and the other bird a different diet. Only the Galapagos fish diet turned the feet blue, though it is also a sign of maturity as only the adults have the blue feet. The young are just fluff balls and honestly look like cuddly toys! As we walked along the island back towards our boat to head back for dinner, I turned to Dave and said that this might possibly be the best day of my life.

Join us next time for day 2 of the cruise!

Sophie & Dave




Ep.27 – Ecuador


Our video from Ecuador where we saw the wild iguanas in the middle of the largest city, Guayaquil and climbed the 444 steps to the top of Las Peñas. We then moved to the capital Quito, one of the oldest world heritage sites in the world. Finally we spent a few days birdwatching in the Cloud Forest where there are over 15 species of hummingbirds, some who even ate out of our hands!

Thanks for watching and don’t forget to set to 1080p!

Sophie & Dave

Cloud Forest – Ecuador


We were glad to leave Quito on the penultimate day of their week long celebration of  independence. We booked on to a 3 day, 2 night tour with Happy Gringos to visit the Cloud Forest Reserve and stay at the Bellavista Lodge. On the evening before our departure, it was Noche de las plazas and given that we were staying right next to Plaza de Santa Domingo, it meant we were kept up by crazy loud performances and music going on until midnight when we had to get up at 5am. It was estimated that 70,000 people took to the streets that night to celebrate across 4 plazas in the city!

It was a short two hour drive from Quito with only 4 of us in the minivan. Along the way we crossed the equator several times as we meandered through the mountain range. For the last 15km of the drive, we turned off the main road down a bumpy, gravel path that led us deeper in to the cloud forest. We paused only to see a rare Andean Cock-of-the-Rock bird, a vibrant orangey/red colour, nesting near the road side. We pulled up to Bellavista and were instantly stunned by how beautiful it was. We were shown our room which was amazing and massive! We had only booked the ‘standard’, cheaper accommodation with the agency but there was a mix up and we were given a superior room with a spectacular mountain view looking out over the cloud forest. It was a very pleasant surprise as we were expecting it to be fairly basic and similar to the lodge we stayed in the Cambodian jungle where we had bucket showers!

After breakfast, we met our guide Luis ready for our first walk. We spent most of our time with just one other couple; Katherine & Philip from the Lake District who were lovely, knew much more about birdwatching than us and Katherine took the most amazing photographs! We later met another American couple, Dane and Libby, who had over 25 years of bird watching experience! When people are so passionate about something, it is infectious. Dave and I who could barely tell a pigeon from a sparrow were suddenly saying “oooh, what kind of Tanager is that?!”.

Anyway, this particular cloud forest rose over the Andes between 900 and 2500 meters above sea level. The subtropical rain forests contain extremely high biodiversity and Bellavista is renowned  for a huge presence of humming birds! We had been told that there are hummingbird feeders around the lodge but we were not prepared for what we actually saw. There were at least ten beautiful hummingbirds flitting around only a meter away from us, completely unfazed by our presence! We came to learn that Ecuador has the world’s highest number of hummingbird species at 132. The lodge has around 15 different species visiting daily. The wings of these birds beat incredibly fast, especially the Purple-throated Woodstar hummingbird we saw who sounded like a giant bumble bee! I could have literally stayed there for 3 consecutive days it was so fascinating.

The first walk was a slow one through the forest where we stopped to learn about different plant species and do some wildlife spotting. We saw butterflies, insects, frogs, a horned spider and a couple of birds from afar. We stopped at a lookout point where we had sweeping views of the dense forest whilst the clouds slowly crept across the mountaintops. We could visibly see the mist and clouds moving so quickly with the naked eye. We saw beautiful silver trees in the forest which were called cecropia and their colouring actually comes from a sort of spore coating on top of the naturally green leaves. The main purpose of the coating is to prevent the growth of epiphytes. Almost all of the other trees were covered with epiphytes, with some of the larger trees harbouring up to 200 different species of plants. From the lookout point, we were also able to spot two species of Tanagers in the distance.

We came back to a delicious three course lunch (something again we were not expecting) before heading back out again mid afternoon. We were able to hold the feeder containing the nectar that the hummingbirds drink in the palm of our hands. It was absolutely amazing and we were so amazed by how much more detail you could see when they were that little bit closer, not to mention feel the beat of their wings or the softness of the brush of their feathers. Dave filmed me whilst I had multiple hummingbirds on my hand and it’s so embarrassing to see my jaw literally dropped in sheer awe haha! We went for another walk through the forest before coming back for dinner.

The next two days followed a similar format, although we had the additional bonus of an early morning walk at 6.15am to catch the birds at their most active. The highlight for me was a bird that I (very proudly) spotted! It was called a Masked Trogon and had a really vibrant red breast and green back. We managed to see such a variety of bird species during our stay including Montane Woodcreepers, a Common Potoo and the most beautiful Turquoise Jay. One of my favourite photos was the Turquoise Jay eating a grass hopper! Dave’s favourite were the two different species of Toucans. The Plate-billed Mountain Toucan has the most colourful and gigantic beak, while its cousin the Toucan Barbet is much smaller both in size and the shape of the beak – both of these birds are range-restricted and can only be found in climates like this Cloud forest.

Aside from birds, one evening after dinner we were lucky enough to catch a brief glimpse of a rare mammal called an Olinguito. It looks a little like a cross between a monkey and a weasel but is part of the raccoon family. We did however see a Tayra weasel the following morning.

Join us next time as we head back to Quito briefly before flying out to our dream destination, the Galapagos Islands!

Thanks for reading,

Sophie & Dave


Guayaquil & Quito – Ecuador


As we were struggling for time we decided to skip northern Peru and fly direct from Lima to Guayaquil, Ecuador. We were hoping to book on to a last minute Galapagos cruise before the Christmas rush. We had heard from some friends that it is quite common to get up to 50% off the original price for cruises round the Galapagos, providing you are flexible, able to shop around and play the multiple tour companies against each other. Given Guayaquil is the largest and most populated city in Ecuador, and also the closest major city to the Galapagos, we thought it would be easy to track down some tour companies and do just that. Upon arriving in Guayaquil, we inquired with the hotel staff regarding nearby tour companies and were surprised at their response that they didn’t know of any. We immediately started to doubt our decision not to head straight to Quito but wondered if the staff were just particularly unhelpful. More online research (that we didn’t do beforehand – oops) and a walk around the city, seemed to confirm that virtually all of the tour company offices are based in Quito. The distance from Guayaquil to Quito is only around 400kms though it is an 8-10 hour bus ride.

We were still able to enjoy a couple of days in the port side town of Guayaquil before moving on. One of the top rated attractions in Guayaquil is the wild Iguana park, which was conveniently located just two blocks away from our hotel. We weren’t quite sure what to expect but as soon as we entered the square, we were met with about 20 wild iguanas lazing in the sun by the side of a pond. They were absolutely massive, very surreal to see these prehistoric looking creatures in the middle of a bustling city. It wasn’t until maybe half an hour later that we looked up at some of the larger trees and noticed loads of iguanas up there, sitting with pigeons in peaceful harmony. They seemed completely unfazed by the other’s presence and we even saw a pigeon sitting on top of an iguana!

The following day we went to the board walk along the riverbank through the Malecon area. This area was part of an urban renewal project in the millennium and is now home to several parks, restaurants and bars as well as museums and galleries. As we were there at the start of December there were loads of festive decorations, including a gigantic Christmas tree and Santa’s grotto. Along the way we passed a group of young school children on a day out and were amused to seem them enthralled by a few geese whilst paying absolutely zero attention to the multiple iguanas spread out four-legged across the walkway. So strange to think an iguana is the equivalent to something like a common English squirrel to them!

The end of the Malecon board walk signifies the start of the area Las Peñas. Las Peñas is situated on a hill and is a beautiful residential area where all the houses are painted in the most vibrant colours. It reminded us quite a lot of our trip to Valparaiso in Chile some months ago. There are 444 steps leading from the riverfront all the way to the top of the hill, which has a lighthouse at the top. We were quite unsettled by the number of armed police, quite possibly the biggest police presence we have ever seen in such a small vicinity – this later seemed to be a common theme throughout Ecuador. The views from the top were nice but it was a long climb given the scorching heat to get there.

Despite Guayaquil being the biggest city in Ecuador, we found good restaurants few and far between. We were also quite shocked with just how expensive Ecuador was in general compared to other countries we have visited in South America. This may partly be due to the fact that the economy has never fully recovered from the hyperinflation in 1999 (estimated to have been around 300% in one year alone) and the subsequent dollarisation a year later. It is bizarre seeing the US dollar used as the primary currency.

We decided to brave the bus to Quito early the next day as neither of us were particularly looking forward to a rough nights sleep on an overnight bus or the prospect of staying longer in Guayaquil. Unknowingly, we arrived in Quito at the beginning of their festival of independence. The Quito festival is a 6 day event, starting on the 1st of December and finishing on the 6th, the anniversary of the city’s founding in 1534. We had booked a hostel on the edge of the Santo Domingo plaza in the historic quarter which is one of the main places the festivities occur. As we arrived, preparation work seemed in full swing and a huge stage was being erected ready for the main performances later in the week.

Quito is the capital of Ecuador and is also known as la mitad del mundo (the middle of the world), due to the fact the edge of the city extends to within 1 kilometre of zero latitude. According to Inca legend, Cusco was the centre of the universe and Quito the centre of the world. How they knew that many centuries ago is mind boggling. It also has huge historical importance, with the old town one of the largest and best preserved in the Americas. This is partly due to the fact that, along with Kraków in Poland, it was declared the first World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978.

We arrived in Quito late in the evening on Friday and had hoped to begin our search for a heavily discounted tour to the Galapagos the following morning. Unfortunately, our bad luck seemed to be continuing as the large majority are shut at weekends. We did however, manage to get quotes for two different 5 day cruises, although we had heard that in order to get to the more remote locations you needed at least 8 days. We decided to do some more online research so we were prepared on Monday morning to visit all of the tour companies. We spent the next couple of days meandering through the old town, admiring its beauty along with the beginnings of some of the festivities such as local dancing and brass bands. The weather had other ideas and it was amazing to see how quickly the main square emptied out as the downpours began.

On Monday, we spent virtually the whole day going between different tour companies over a 7 kilometre stretch. At first it was looking increasingly likely that we would have to settle for a 5 day cruise. However, the last two agencies we frequented both had 8 day cruises available and we decided to go with the latter through the agency Happy Gringos. We had under a week before the cruise began so we decided to book onto a jungle tour. Unfortunately, going deep in to the amazon seemed unlikely given our short timeframe so we opted to visit the Bellavista Cloud Forest instead for a 3 day, 2 nights tour, that is located a short 2 hour drive away from Quito.

Join us next time as we admire countless hummingbirds in the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve.

Thanks for reading,

Sophie & Dave


Ep.26 – Peru


This has to be one of our favourite videos from this year! We took the amazing luxury train from Puno to Cusco, visited the wonder of the world: Machu Picchu, explored the volcanic white city of Arequipa, nearly died riding a crazy sand buggy on the dunes of Huacachina, admired the incredible wildlife of Paracas and watched the sun set on our Peruvian adventure in Lima.

Don’t forget to watch in 1080p!

Sophie & Dave

Paracas, Islas Ballestas & Lima – Peru


We left Huacachina in the early evening and after a short hour and a half bus ride, we arrived in Paracas: a lovely, small, seaside town.

Paracas is the departing point to visit las Ilas Ballestas. They are a cluster of islands 20km from the shore that have an abundance of wildlife and so are nicknamed ‘The Poor Man’s Galapagos’. The Eastern South Pacific Ocean is one of the most rich, bio-diverse areas in the world. The tours last around two hours and we booked through Peru Hop for $15 (a lot cheaper than a cruise to the Galapagos). The islands are all protected, meaning you cannot walk on them or swim with the wildlife, so all viewing is done by boat. On the way to the islands, we passed another drawing in the rock similar to the Nazca lines with speculation ongoing regarding its origin. This one is called the Candelabra, stretching 150 metres. The key difference from the Nazca lines is that you don’t need altitude to see the drawing as it is visible from sea.

When we actually arrived at the islands, it was absolutely incredible. Never have I ever felt more like I was in an episode of Blue planet or in one of Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries. We saw more birds in that hour than in our entire lives combined! We managed to see a couple of Humbolt Penguins hidden within the thousands of other birds. We saw lots of Booby birds which actually migrate from the Galapagos islands; though they are not the iconic Blue-footed specie. We saw Peruvian pelicans which I must say, were my favourite! I don’t think I’ve ever seen massive pelicans like that; their beaks are so colourful and they are such majestic birds. We saw Inca Tern birds who perch along the steep rocky formations and also red-headed vultures. We saw loads of sea lions napping on the jagged rocks and red crabs loitering where the sea meets the rock. The most spectacular part was that one of the islands was literally covered with thousands and thousands of Cormorant birds. It was the most surreal sight, almost like the island was covered in a black carpet that was alive.

We joined in on the free tour offered by Peru Hop which takes you to the National Paracas Reserve. The local Quechua translation of the word ‘Paracas’ means Sandstorm, so as you can image, it was quite windy. We did three main stops on the tour, mostly just to admire the beautiful landscapes. The first stop was to see a Cathedral rock formation in the sea, though unfortunately, it was severely damaged by an earthquake causing the archway to collapse. So really, it was more just a stop to admire the Pacific Ocean. The second stop was to a view point where you could see the ocean on both sides of the reserve. Finally, we stopped at the red beach. The sand is sort of a rusted red colour and the contrast with the turquoise of the water is very striking. The colour is apparently due to fragments of rock brought by the waves from the Santa Maria headland which is made out of the igneous rock, Pink Granodiorite.

Our onwards bus to Lima was not until late in the afternoon so we just had a relaxing last day in Paracas, mostly revolving around food. We went for lunch on the outskirts of the little town where all the fancy five star hotels are. We had a little snoop of one of the hotels as the restaurant we were headed for was part of it. The restaurant, Chalana, was in the most beautiful setting, alone out on a pier! The restaurant only has a couple of food options because they only deal with the best, fresh catch of the day. We both had the ceviche which was pretty amazing. Ceviche is a really popular raw fish dish in South America though we have often been skeptical of trying it for fear of food poisoning with the raw element, but we figured we were safe at Chalana! After being so taken with the pelicans the day before, we spent our last afternoon pelican spotting. We saw a man with a sort of pet pelican (though he wasn’t trapped), the man was tossing food so that tourists could take photos with it. Though I really wanted a photograph of a pelican with it’s mouth open, I wasn’t going to let that be the photo I took. Fortunately, near the restaurant we found some sitting on the pier and though I didn’t get the mouth open shot, I did get some of them sleeping with turquoise waters and boats in the background that I was happy with.

We left Paracas around 5pm and headed for Lima, a 6 hour drive away. Peru Hop did a little detour to give a free tour of the former slave tunnels in Chincha on the way. It was a giant Manor House dating back to the 17th century, called Casa Hacienda San Jose, situated 17km’s from the coastline. Following first the taxation on slaves and then the abolition of slavery in Peru, the tunnels were created as a method to avoid tax and smuggle mostly African slaves into the estate to work on the farmland. There are storage rooms underneath the house where the slaves would often have to wait weeks, sometimes up to a month, in the pitch black with little air circulation before the doctor had assessed them for medical diseases.

We arrived around midnight in Lima and we stayed in the district of Miraflores situated on the coast. We only had two nights in Lima before our flight to Ecuador so we didn’t really venture outside of Miraflores, the main tourist district. We felt really safe walking around Miraflores and it reminded us quite a lot of Vila Madalena, where we stayed in Sao Paolo. We spent the day walking along the boardwalk towards El Parque del Amor (love park) which is situated on the cliff edge overlooking the sea. Paragliders jump off from there and though we watched for ages, the gliders couldn’t get the parachutes to stay up so they didn’t jump. We did see beautiful sunsets by the water though and we even found a statue of Paddington Bear (in darkest Peru)!

Thanks for reading and join us next time as we head to Guayaquil in Ecuador.

Sophie & Dave

Huacachina, Peru

Arequipa, Nazca & Huacachina – Peru


We decided to buy passes with the Peru Hop bus service to visit a few places in Southern Peru on our way to Lima. It’s similar to the greyhound bus that we took in Australia – set route, pre-arranged daily pick up times but with flexibility on dates. We were struggling for time so, even though it was more expensive than getting local buses, we thought it would be a great way to quickly see lots of places, especially as Peru Hop offered both free and paid tours in each destination.

Given altitude and I had not been the best of friends, I was quite excited to descend to lower altitude (Arequipa is at 2,300 metres) as we had been at over 3,000 metres for nearly a month! We left Cusco in the early evening on an overnight bus arriving in Arequipa around 5am. Thankfully the hotel we were staying at had the option of an early check in, as neither of us had got much sleep on the bus. We stayed at Casa de Arenas which was one of the discounted accommodation deals offered through Peru Hop. The rooms were situated around a beautiful square courtyard/garden. They had a Spanish school within the grounds and you’d often see one to one lessons being conducted in the garden – it would have been a beautiful place to learn the language.

Arequipa is the second most populated city in Peru (but definitely didn’t feel like it) and is often proclaimed to be the most picturesque city in the country. It is called the White City as it is practically all constructed from sillar, a white volcanic stone. Arequipa is surrounded by three volcanoes, with the tallest just shy of 6,000 metres. During the day it was quite smoggy so they were barely visible. However, as the sun was setting, the sky seemed to clear and the peaks were Illuminated with a soft, pink hue. We didn’t do too much in Arequipa other than explore the old town and nearby market as I was still recovering. Dave got a hair cut at a really fancy spa recommended by the receptionist but it only cost £6, so a bit of a bargain. It was located across the river and gave us a chance to wander round a different area of Arequipa with the best views of the volcanos we’d seen yet. Later that afternoon we went to Mundo Alpaca, a free museum demonstrating the various processes of the traditional alpaca and llama wool weaving. They had animals there though we much preferred the wild llamas we saw roaming Machu Picchu.

After a couple of days relaxing in the beautiful city of Arequipa we caught the 5.45am bus to Huacachina, a brutal 10 hour day bus journey with a brief pit stop in Nazca along the way. The Nazca lines, like Machu Picchu, are another one of Peru’s mysteries. Some say aliens made them although it is widely accepted to be Inca tributes to the Gods as they hoped for more fertile lands for their crops. Some of them are as big as 12km which is insane to think how they knew what they were drawing. When the Spanish first invaded, they thought they were pathways leading to far away villages and they weren’t properly discovered until commercial aircrafts started flying over them. Unfortunately, the highway was built right through the middle of one. We climbed the rickety three storey high observation tower (though it felt more like scaffolding than a legitimate viewing tower) single file. We could only see two of the drawings, the tree and the bird, out of over a 1,000. We were a little disappointed by the limited views though still glad we had the free stop included with Peru Hop. You can get a 30 minute flight over the lines for only $80; however, while I was looking on the UK Gov website for medical recommendations, I noticed that they do not advise flights on safety grounds. A little online research highlighted quite a few fatal accidents. After one in 2010, the Peru government finally decided to enforce a higher standards of aircraft, resulting in only 7 out of 48 aircrafts being cleared after inspections! Although, only a month later, accidents started happening again. We met a lady on the bus who showed us the photos she’d taken on the flight. Some looked more distinct and clear than others but definitely not worth risking your life over.

After a long day travelling, thankfully we arrived in Huacachina an hour early meaning we were able to catch the gorgeous sunset over the gigantic sand dunes. We’ve been so lucky to have seen such a variety of landscapes this year, yet this place still made us gasp as we looked out the windows on arrival. The dunes were up to 250 metres high, which in real life, is just jaw dropping. Huacachina is the only desert oasis in South America and is a tiny village with just 100 locals, though accommodates many more tourists flocking for an adrenaline rush. Water stopped seeping into the lake in the 1980s due to locals reducing the water level through over welling. In order to preserve the unique environment, local businessmen set up a scheme to artificially pump water in from a local farm in 2015, raising the height as much as 3 metres and now they are looking for a more sustainable method.

We had booked a sandboarding tour through Peru Hop and paid $15 for a two hour tour heading out late afternoon so we could catch the sunset before jumping back on the bus towards our next destination. Unfortunately the sand boards weren’t of a high enough quality to physically stand up on so you could only go down on your belly. You could pay more to hire private boots and skis/ snowboard although we weren’t aware of this until it was too late. We were grouped into buggies, with each one sitting 9 plus the driver. From Huacachina you set out up the sand dunes at an electrifying pace and my god it was truly terrifying! It was basically a rollercoaster ride without the safety of tracks, with our driver flying down these 200 metre sand dunes like a mad man. While we yelled and screamed expletives I won’t repeat, our driver pushed the battered buggy to its limits. In hindsight it was easily one of the most stupid, wreckless and dangerous things we have done this year/ever!

That being said, once at the top, the landscape was truly stunning and something so unique even though we’ve been to three desert landscapes; most of Egypt, Florianopolis and San Pedro this year. We all jumped out, waxed our boards and started descending head first down some reasonably large dunes. We did 3 at a time, with the driver meeting us at the bottom and then heading onto the next set. The dunes kept getting bigger and bigger, and after watching one of the guys fly off I decided I was content for one day and sat out the last huge dunes. Check out our video of Peru for some POV action! The tour finished with the sun setting over the dunes before flying back to town in order to catch our 6.30pm bus.

Thanks for reading and join us next time as we head to the sea side town of Paracas!

Sophie & Dave


Cusco & Machu Picchu – Peru


We weren’t sure what to expect of Cusco as a city, we assumed it would just be a huge tourist trap. To an extent, it was, but we were also pleasantly surprised by what a beautiful city it was. Cobbled streets carpeted the old historic centre and mountains dotted with tiny houses surrounded the main centre of the Plaza de Armas. We went to Cusco with very low expectations and we had sort of already told ourselves we probably wouldn’t get the chance to go and see Machu Picchu. We’d been continuously told that everything must be booked extremely far in advance. If you want to do the Inca trail trek, you should book 6 months in advance as there are only 500 permits available per day on the trek. If you want to visit by train, even then, we’d been told to book in advance as there are only 2500 entrants permitted per day to the citadel; let alone the limited and expensive seats on Peru Rail. To top off the seemingly unattainable attraction, from the 1st of July 2017, further restrictions were implemented to try and reduce the human impact on the ancient wonder: so you can only visit during the morning (6am-12pm) or afternoon (12pm-5.30pm) slots!

That being said, booking the train and entrance to the citadel for the following day was a breeze for us – albeit an expensive breeze! We rocked up to the cultural ministry, and opted for the afternoon slot costing us S$150 or £36pp. We then went to the Peru Rail ticket office and booked an early morning train from Poroy (near Cusco) to Machu Picchu that would arrive at 11am giving us time to catch the bus up to the actual citadel before our afternoon entrance. The return got back to Cusco around 9pm at night. Fortunately, there was even a 25% discount on Peru Rail trains for this time, we were lucky not to be in peak season. Still, the train cost us a staggering $163pp or £117 for just a 3 hour journey each way! While the train was comfortable, it was hardly luxurious like the Puno to Cusco train we took.

We awoke early and unfortunately I had a relapse of my illness from Bolivia. It was touch and go as to whether I would actually be able to make it out (on one of our most expensive outings this year). In the end, I decided I could not miss it so I battled through the day extremely weak having only eaten a banana. We knew before going that Machu Picchu is located amidst a tropical mountain forest, but the train journey and the bus up the mountain were just absolute madness and we were in such awe. Never would you expect something of that delicate craftsmanship to be somewhere so remote on an Andean mountaintop. Peru’s national treasure, Machu Picchu, is located 2400 metres above sea level. To this day, the exact origins and purpose of Machu Picchu are unknown, they say it was built in 1450 for the Inca emperor called Pachacuti. When the Spaniards invaded Inca lands, Machu Picchu was abandoned around the year 1572. However, the Spanish never found the citadel. It lay forgotten until its re-discovery by Hiram Bingham, the American explorer in 1911.

The 20 minute winding bus ride up the mountain was horrific and nausea inducing. But as soon as we disembarked and actually entered in, our jaws dropped at the site of Machu Picchu. We must have seen thousands of photographs of Machu Picchu (every billboard or company seems to use the iconic image in their advertising), yet we were still unprepared for the beauty of the world heritage site. We had an amazing time wandering through the pinnacle of the legacy of the Incas and even met some wild llamas, seemingly all with babies, on our way round! We were also extra lucky because we had glorious sunshine! The day before, there had been torrential downpour in Cusco and even hailstones in the night! We went to Machu Picchu armed with a waterproof bag for the valuables, coats and even waterproof trousers! Turns out we actually just needed sunglasses, a happy error for once!

Join us next time as we head to Peru’s second biggest city; Arequipa!

Sophie & Dave