Tag Archives: beach

Victory!

Man versus kite: man wins.

Got up! With a bit of aggression the kite came under control and I was skimming across the surface of the water. Stoked.

None of these guys are me.

Its a surreal experience. I thought it would feel like wakeboarding but when surfing downwind the kite skims across the surface. It felt like I was on ice.

That's not me either, but he says hi.

Until, of course, the edge of the board clipped a waved and once again I was inhaling the Pacific Ocean.

Saskia enjoys the pool.

Saskia went for the sensible option and spent her time poolside. The resort, which hosts the kitesurfing business Ecuador Kite Surf, was our home for about a week. We spent the time chatting to locals and taking the occasional trip to Manta, 20 minutes north.

But for the most part we sat by the pool and enjoyed a beer in the sun.

That's me!

 

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Kitesurfing is Madness

Salt water stings when it is forced up the nostrils at 100 km an hour.

This is me (Mark) during a kitesurfing lesson in Santa Marianita, Ecuador. I was doing my best but a water kite is a powerful piece of equipment. It can produce the same acceleration as a jet boat, but without the surety of control. All it takes is one gust of wind…

Still, if it wasn't for the risk I wouldn't be interested in kitesurfing. I get a real thrill watching people tearing along the surface of the water and launching into the air. I dream of being able to do the same!

It is an exciting sport but it is devilishly difficult to learn. From previous experience I knew that kitesurfing has a steep learning curve so I committed to an eight hour course to give myself the best possible chance.

The reason I'm still sneezing salt is because controlling the kite can be counter-intuitive. When a strong gust of wind catches me by surprise my muscles instinctively contract and pull on the control bar. This causes the kite to instantly gain power and next thing I know I'm swallowing pelargic fish.

We had an adversarial relationship.

For those unfamiliar with the sport it may help to think of motorcycles. If you pull back on the handle you accelerate, so time needs to be invested upfront to learn how to control the vehicle in all situations. And so it is with a 12 m squared kite, which at worst could drag me on land and through all manner of solid objects.

Speaking of which, my mates love to remind me of a time when I was demonstrating how to use my new kite on the beach. I misjudged the wind speed and a gust of wind lifted me off the ground and two metres forward in the air. I lost control, ripped the emergency chord and watched my friends run back and forth across the beach, doing their best to tame the beast while trying not to spill their beers.

Despite the hazards it is good fun. With practice my kite control has improved and by the end of the lessons I'm hoping for results…

My instructor Pauet, a great bloke.

 

 


Isla de la Plata

The affordable alternative to the Galapogas Islands, Isla de la Plata is an exciting day trip off the south west coast of Ecuador. Supposedly named after guano from the bird population (and less likely, the hidden treasure of an English sea captain), Isla de la Plata has many of the charms of the Galapagos Islands, just not in a comparable abundance. We had a great time and recommend it, especially if you are at the tail-end of your holiday and running out of kish cash.

Mosh pit.

The above photos were all taken from the landing beach. Not bad eh?

A view of the island.

Frigate birds clustered on a tree.

The charismatic frigate bird. The males inflate the pouches to try and pull the ladies.

A baby frigate bird.

A popular reason to visit Isla de la Plata is an opportunity to see blue-footed boobies nesting. We were lucky to be there at the right time.

As a final treat we were visited by a bale of turtles (that's what a group of turtles is called, apparently). They were pretty big, jumping in the water did not seem like a good idea…

 


Montañita

After a long overnight bus trip from Mancora with very little sleep, we arrived in Ecuador. Montañita is a little oasis of touristy delights. Perched right on the white sandy beaches of the Pacific ocean, the town is full of western bars and restaurants to cater for the steady stream of backpackers and holiday makers.

By the time we arrived, we were pretty travel weary so we made good use of the hammocks and the sand. The water was unfortunately freezing, which was disappointing! Even though we were so close to the ecuator, it was far too cold to go swimming but we did brace ourselves and jump in for a quick dip.
While we were there, we had the opportunity to go whale watching and spend a day in Isla de la Plata, an island off the coast commonly referred to as the “poor man's Galapogos” because it has some of the same animals but without the exorbitant price tag. The day trip was fantastic and highly recommended! We saw so many whales! They were breaching and playing all around us, one even went right underneath our boat. It was huge! An incredible experience!!

In the next post we will share our experience hiking on the island.

 


Máncora

Our last stop in Peru after Lima was Máncora, a surfing destination close to the northern border with Ecuador. It is a popular backpacker spot but most importantly, it has a beach.

We decided to find somewhere quiet to stay and found a nice bed and breakfast just down the road from Máncora. Marcial and Cecilia were wonderful hosts, great cooks. We really enjoyed our stay there, some much needed seclusion.

Our room at Marcilia Beach Bungalows

Our hosts explained that at this time of year the humpback whales were travelling south along the coast. That afternoon, as the sun was setting on the horizon, we saw a humpback from the comfort of our deck. We rushed down to the beach and watched the creature launch itself out of the water, again and again. Magic.

After two nights of solitude we shifted to Máncora, where we stayed for three nights. Again, peace and relaxation were on the cards. Fortunately some friends from the dune boarding adventures were also in Máncora so we caught up with them. A friendly Irish lad also became a regular drinking partner.

Kimbas Bungalows

Máncora was a good stop but we were surprised by how austere the landscape was. Much of the Peruvian coast is arid and desert-like. Máncora was an orange, rocky expanse with a beach. If it wasn't for the surf break it may not have become a destination in its own right. We had heard that Montañita in Ecuador was better so we packed our bags, gulped down some ceviche and said goodbye to Peru

 

 


Isla del Sol

We ended our time on Bolivia with a visit to Isla del Sol, the Inca's mythical birth place of the sun and the god Varacocha. It is from here that the first Incas are said to have journeyed to Cusco to found the Inca empire.

The island can be found in Lake Titicaca, the largest high altitude lake in the world. To get there we took a boat from Copacobana, a small town on the eastern edge of the lake.

This was our first time getting up close with a significant Inca site so we were pretty excited. We opted to stay a night on the island to catch the sun set and sun rise, which as you can see above turned out to be a great idea.

Yumani Village, Isla del Sol.

Things got off to a comical start. We stayed at Yumani Village, one of two main drop off points on the island (the other is Cha'llapampa). Our hostel was on a ridge but we hadn't realised how steep the hike up would be…

Old Inca terraces used for agriculture.

At 3,808 metres altitude the hike, with all our bags, had zero appeal. We retreated to a nearby café and tried to work out what to do. Saskia in particular has a hard time with altitude and was a little distressed.

As we waited and took in the view we saw several herds of donkeys being shepherded down the slopes. We found out that the donkeys carry supplies up to the restaurants on the ridge…the answer to our problems! So, we paid six dollars for two donkeys and headed up the ridge with our pack animals in tow.

Isla del Sol features several sets of ruins and minor sites but the two main attractions are arguably the terracing and stairs at Yumani and the Chincana complex to the north. These sites are linked by a picturesque half day walk along the island's ridge line, which we tackled the next day.

The stairs, known as Escalera del Inca,.

We really enjoyed the walk, although the thin air made minor slopes feel like hills! The views are sensational. It actually looks remarkably similar to the Taupo region in New Zealand and Mark had to keep reminding himself that this was a serious Inca site.

A small village on the ridge line.

Looking south towards Copacobana.

Piles of stones. In the background you can see the Andes, which pass on the east.

The big draw for Chilcana is the sacred rock, the site where the sun is meant to have emerged. The site also contains a small ceremonial plaza and dramatic ruins that once housed the priests and caretakers of the rock.

To be completely honest we thought the rock itself was a disappointment. We walked straight past it several times and it was only through deduction that we worked out which one it was. They really need to put signs in there, but regardless we couldn't understand why that piece of the landscape was singled out.

What's the big deal?

Opposite the rock is a small patch of cleared ground with a ceremonial table. Not sure whether the area has been restored but that was slightly more interesting.

The ruins a few metres north were far more interesting. They are a small, labyrinthine complex that provided accommodation and food storage for the priests. Perched on the edge of the hill, they look down onto a tranquil beach and provide a good view of the lake.

Note the wall insets in the left. These are actually very common in Inca architecture and apparently are where religious artefacts would be placed, as well as mummies.

After a bit of a rest here we headed down to Cha'llapampa to catch a boat back to Yumani. It's a nice spot with am interesting museum. Apparently there's an underwater village just north of the island. Not sure how old it is but they've recovered pots etc and put them in the museum. Worth a visit while you wait for the boat.

Kids pretending to go fishing.

One thing we really loved were the boats made out of reeds. They look like old viking boats. The locals on the Peruvian side actually make islands out of the reeds as well as boats. We considered paying them a visit but heard the area has become heavily commercialised, so we skipped it and headed to Cusco instead.

And so ends our trip to Bolivia. We have one more dispatch on Death Road but it will take awhile to pull together (Mark has an hour of footage). All in all we really enjoyed our five weeks in Bolivia. The altitude got the best of us in the end but it was definitely worth the time. If pushed for time make beelines for Rurrenabaque and Sucre, they are great places to stay and offer plenty to do in the region. Don't linger in La Paz, it's not worth it!

The next posts will be a series on the Incas, including trips to ruins, museums and general stuff we learnt. Will mark them all with the 'Inca' tag so that they are easy to pull up for those interested. Looking forward to going back over the material.

As always thanks for reading. We've clocked up over 450 subscribers, which is both flattering and humbling. We get a real buzz looking at which countries our readers are based in, very cool! This blog has exceeded our expectations and we hope everyone else is enjoying this as much as we are.

Kind regards,

Mark and Saskia.

 


Beetle Mania

So the VW Beetle lives on in Brazil. We spent an afternoon 'papping' the cars in Paraty for a laugh…

 


Paraty

Paraty is a cute old colonial town on the coast between Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. The old part of town comes complete with cobbled streets, horse drawn carts, cafes and bars with live music. It is a little touristy, but it is really quite stunning!

We stayed here for four nights, which was perfect. We had time to relax on the beach with a few caiparinhas, spent a day on a boat cruising around the islands, and another day exploring the beautiful rainforest and waterfalls in the surrounding hills.

Ten kilometres out of Paraty is a small town with a few cachaca distilleries, waterfalls, and a rock slide. One guy stood up and surfed down the rock, which seemed a little suicidal to me, but most people had fun just sitting down and sliding into the pool below. Mark had a go, but there was no way I was doing that!

Prahna, near Paraty

This is a beautiful part of the world, and well worth a visit!

Saskia