The Trip 2013 – Montanita to Huaraz

Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album Trip 2013 – Montanita to Huaraz. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like.


Continuing on my South American travels next up was some nature watching at the “Poor Mans Galapogos” of Isla de la Plata. To get there we took a boat from Puerto Lopez for an hour. On the way we were fortunate enough to see some whales splashing about



The main purpose for visiting the islands tho was the birds, including the famous Blue Footed Boobie



Unfortunately they weren’t the most intelligent birds and often built their nests on the walking paths then would freak out when people walked past and abandon their eggs:


There were a few types of birds on the island including one our guide named “A Tropical Bird”


After the hot and sweaty walk around the island we took a dip in the water before heading back




After Puerto Lopez we started to make our way towards Peru. We made a couple of stops along the way, one of them was Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador.


We had a couple of nights in the city which we spent wandering around down by the waterfront.


On the way we came across a park that was infested with iguanas for some reason



The next day we headed to Cuenca, a small town in the southern Ecuadorean highlands. Along the way we saw the remnants of a bus crash with a lorry.


We were only in Cuenca for one night and neither of us were feeling very well so we didnt do a lot there. The next day we took a long bus journey across the border into Peru and the famous beach town of Mancora.


We spent a few days there waiting for good wind conditions so I could go kite surfing once more. Finally on the last day the sun came out and I finally got my chance.



Thankfully I hadnt forgotten everything from my 4 days kiting in Ecuador and even improved, managing to surf for a good 20-30 seconds at a time.


Sadly we had to leave Mancora and move on down the coast to Trijillo the second largest city in Peru. The main reason for going there was to see the famous ruins of Chan Chan.


Its an impressive structure constructed over a thousand years ago and is huge. Incredibly it is just one of 10 similar structures that the ancient Chimu people built out in the (what is now) desert.


We visited a number of other ancient structures and museums while we were in Trijillo such as the temple of the moon belonging to the Moche people.


Around some of the temples there were the very strange looking hairless Peruvian dogs.


We had a slight transport hickup in Trijillo caused by a misscommunication with the hostel owner which mean we missed our intended bus to Huaraz so we were forced to spend an extra day in Trijillo. It wasnt all bad however as we spent it down the beach.



Eventually we managed to catch our night bus up to the mountain town of Huaraz high in the Andean mountains.


We had spent some time at altitude in Quito and didnt suffer any altitude sickness. Well Huaraz was quite a bit higher and it was really noticeable. Every time you stood up you would be dizzy. Walking just a few meters up a hill would result in a loss of breath. It made hiking up to the Llaca lagoon tricky, but totally worth it.



The final day I decided to do a bike ride high in the mountains with a man called Hulio who had been taking people up there for 20 years. It was an incredible ride of single and double track down challenging gradients and conditions.


We rode all the way down to Huraz from the top passing through a number of small villages, remembering to say ‘Hola’ to the locals. It was incredible to see how these mountain people still lived and farmed. At times I felt like a some sort of future cyborg whizzing past the mud and dirt hovels on my mountain bike fully kitted out in gear.


Anyways I had a great time in Huaraz, it made a nice change of scenery to all the beaches and gave me a tase of what its going to be like when doing the Inca Trail in a couple of weeks!



Trip 2013 – Bucaramanga to Montanita


Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album The Trip 2013 – Bucaramanga to Montanita. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like.

Its been a while since my last update, since then I have crossed into Ecuador from Colombia and traveled hundreds of miles. After my two weeks spent learning to Paraglide in Bucaramanga I was keen to get back on the road again, I had less than a week to make my way over to the coast of Ecuador where I had booked some Kite Surfing lessons.

It would have taken some 50-60 hours if I was to attempt to make the journey in one go so I broke it up with a few stops. First up was a return to the capital city of Colombia, Bogota.

On the way there I experienced the first motor accident on my travels:


The bus only clipped the front of the taxi so it wasnt too bad. Im just surprised I havent been in more considering how mental some of the bus and taxi drivers drive over here.

The second time around in Bogota I managed to do all the things I didnt first time round such as visiting the museum of gold and El Monserat on top of the hill.



After Bogota it was a long 15 hour bus journey to Popayan where I had a brief one day stop just enough time to check out some of the wildlife.



Then it was back on the road again this time it was 8 hours to the border town of Ipiales. I decided to stay the night here rather than brave the 5+ hours it would take me to get to Quito (Ecuador) from here. It helps that I made some frends with an awesome Swiss & German couple on the bus.


Before making the border crossing the following day we made a quick stop off at a famous church that lives in an impressive valley between the hills.



After another 5 or 6 hours of bussing I was finally at Quito, only briefly however as I left early the following morning for my destination at the coast, Manta.


Over a month ago my SCUBA diving instructor Alejandra told me about a kite surfing school in Ecuador (her home country) called Ocean Freaks, I was keen to give kite surfing a go so I looked them up and signed myself up.


I spent the first day on the beach learning how to control the awesomely powerful kite which was a whole bunch harder to control than anything I had attempted before. Just trying to keep the thing in the air was tricky but by the second day I was in the water with the board which added a whole bunch more complications.



By the fourth day I thought I was starting to get the hang of it, I wasnt quite surfing yet but I was standing up for a few seconds at a time, not bad I thought considering. Big thanks to my awesome German instructor Lucias


After that short 4 days at the coast I made my way back to Quito where I was due to meet Kelsie who was flying in from Austrailia. I had met her her LA many months ago when I started my central american adventure with Trek America. We had travelled together all through Central America together before she was forced to return home to Austrailia. We travelled well together and I really enjoyed her company so I was really excited to have her back again.


We had three days in Quito before moving on. We spent it both catching up and seeing the sights. One of the highlights was catching the cable car up to the mountains that overlook the city.


Quito is one of the highest cities in South America at 2800m, the cable car ride added a further 1300m ontop of that. The plan was to hike up the final 500m on foot however at that altitude you really have to work hard. Take 10 steps up a light hill and you are huffing and puffing like its the first time you have ever put one foot in front of the other. After just 150m or so we decided to call it quits and just sit down and admire the views instead.



After Quito we took another long bus journey over to the beautiful mountain town of Banos.


Nestled in the vally of several large hills the smallish town is really rather scenic.


I took the opportunity while here to do some rock climbing. I havent done any in ages (excluding the climbing wall in Bogota) and forgot how much hard work it was on the forearms.



I only managed a few climbs to the top of what our guide considered ‘easy’ runs before my arms gave up on me.


On the final day we hired a couple of bikes and took a very scenic 20km trip down the valley.



All along the way there were ziplining stations and cable cars that took people across. The views were pretty spectacular.


The next and final destination for this leg of my trip was the famous surfing town of Montanita.


We spent the 4 days there chilling out and enjoying the town. I spent one day falling off my surf board before switching to body board to mix things up a bit.




As it was out of season the weather wasnt particularly great most of the time but for the last day we were blessed with sun.




Despite the poor weather most of the time I had a great time in Montanita but as usual I was eager to get moving onto out next desination of Puerto Lopez.


Think Twice Before Getting an STA Travel Cashcard


Want to know how to loose 10% of your travel spends very fast? Get an STA Travel Cashcard.

I was sold the card by the agent in the STA highstreet store, to be honest I was a little stupid and didnt do a whole lot of research into it assuming it will be good value for money, oh how wrong can you be.

I am half way through my 8 month journey now and have just decided to check my finances to see how im doing and how much its costing me every time I withdraw money here.

The above image is a quick spreadsheet I have put together from my online bank statement for the Cashcard and data gleamed from As you can see im getting well under the official exchange rate when withdrawing money using this card.

Okay I thought, well perhaps thats just how much it costs to withdraw money here. So as an experiment I withdrew 700,000 COP from exactly the same cash point using my VISA debit card on the 6th of September, the result was it cost me £230.76 with fees of £10.34 making a total of £241.1 which is still far shy of the £259 that I was being charged by the STA Travel Card around the same date.

Obviously I was pretty angry when I saw this so I emailed STA which forwarded me onto Tuxedo LTD which is apparently the company that manages the card. After 5 emails of me insisting I get a proper answer to my query I get the following:

Dear Mr. Cann,

Thank you for your enquiry regarding a deeper explanation into our exchange rates.

Having provided you with the way in which our exchange rate is calculated we have been doing some research regarding what we have referred to as ‘market mid-rate’.

These are the findings from looking at our competitors exchange rates online based on 700,000 COP

(These are taken from the 26th of September 2013):

Post office cost in GBP: £257.32 exchange rate: 2720.36

Thomas cook cost in GBP: £266.06 exchange rate: 2631

STA cashcard cost in GBP: £252.79 exchange rate: 2769.07

Having investigated our competitors’ rates it is clear that we are working closely to the other companies on the market and are cheaper than the Post Office and Thomas Cook.

We appreciate that the VISA debit card you hold is charging you at a lower rate. With the debit card belonging to a bank rather than a travel company this may affect the way in which they calculate and maintain their exchange rates.

If you would like to return the funds from your STA cash card to your debit card please advise of the bank details you wish the funds to be deposited in and this can be arranged for you.

We hope this resolves your query regarding the way in which our exchange rate is calculated and set.

I have put in bold the key lesson here they they themselves are admitting, the STA Travel Cashcard (or other travel cards) cannot compete with a regular bank card, i.e. they are a total sham and should be avoided at all costs.

My recommendation for those people thinking about getting one is DONT. If you are worried about having too much funds in the account (like I was) then just open another account and ask for it to have no overdraft ability then just put however much money you need in there at a time. Make sure you check the rates that the account offers BEFORE you leave!