Waterfalls of Huancaya, Peru

By Erin Hancock

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Peru has it all – mountains, waterfalls, deserts, highlands and everything in between. One Saturday morning – bright and early- we (my European volunteer friends – Heather, Eliyse and Marius) hit the road from Huancayo to Huancaya. Along the way, we enjoyed some beautiful scenery. Huancaya is directly east of Lima in the Andes mountain range.

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Huancaya offers a series of waterfalls. From a distance they are something to marvel at. Up close, they’re even better.

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There are some stunning canyons along the road toward Huancaya too.

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We hit a hail storm which sounded intense and awesome on the van roof on the drive back to Huancayo. The hills were dusted in white. Although we were at high altitude, we weren’t expecting snow and hail, but we got it. Again, Peru has it all!

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If this interests you, check out Adrenalina Tours. More on Peru coming soon!

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Medellin, Colombia

By Erin Hancock

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Medellin is perhaps best known for the notorious Pablo Escobar. However, these days, Medellin has cleaned up its act and is a relatively safe and enjoyable place to visit. There are lots of great tours to choose from. They are popular, so book ahead. You won’t see me reporting on any here because….well, I didn’t book ahead. Also, keep in mind most things are closed on Sundays so Sunday is a good day to walk around but not much else.

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Botero, one of Colombia’s most famous artists, has his work featured in this magnificent park. There are so many sculptures that the sheer number, as well as their notable curves, are worth visiting.

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There is a lot of other great art to see in the Museum of Antioquia as well as lots of Boteros. There is even an interactive “kids” section” where you can put on costumes and reenact the paintings. You don’t have to ask me twice.

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If you want to get a better understanding of the city’s geography, take the cable car up the hill. The city is sprawling.

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The little village “Pueblito Paisa” at the top of the hill features craftspeople, folks doing traditional dances and a few neat restaurants.

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The gentleman selling jewelry made from old watch pieces had some great stuff (top right).

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There is an organic market in El Poblado, one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods. I spoke to a guy from California there and he said it’s the only place in the city where you can buy kale. So if you’re traveling and have a hankering for kale – this is your spot. At most restaurants you can get the bandeja paisa (either with meat or vegetarian) and it’s awesome – arepa (rice pancake of sorts), rice and beans, eggs, cheese, avocado.

If you want to see more of Colombia, check out previous posts:

Small Town Colombia – Mica

Cute Cartagena, Colombia

Colombia’s Sunshine Coast: Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park

A Colombian Gem: Salento

Bogota on a Budget

Thanks for tuning in!

Small town Colombia: Minca

By Erin Hancock

Minca is this charming little town -and I mean little- located in the hills of Colombia southeast of Santa Marta. If you want to find a milder climate and you don’t mind leaving the beaches for a short time, Minca is a neat place to visit. Below are a few highlights. Spending a couple days there is probably sufficient to get a taste of it. If you want to take it slow, enjoy a relaxed pace of life and do all of the hikes, a week would likely be more than enough.

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You can’t do Colombia without doing coffee. Colombia produces arguably some of the world’s best coffee. Of course, getting good Colombian coffee is often easier outside of the country as most of the best crops and beans are reserved for export. A lot of the coffee is farmed and processed through producer co-ops, hence the international co-op symbol -the twin pines logo- on the bag of coffee (above right photo).

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We visited the Finca Victoria (finca = coffee farm), although there are several fincas in town to choose from. This one uses some equipment from 1892 which seems to still be in pretty good shape, along with some more modern equipment. The coffee was delicious and made for an energized walk back down the hill to the town, despite the high heat and direct sun.

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Beside Finca Victoria is a micro brewery called Nevada Cerveceria which has two core beers: Happy Jaguar and Happy Tucan. Both were delicious served cold on a hot day. It’s hard to say how they would taste on any other day, but all was good.

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Minca has lots of hiking trails available. Starting early is probably a good idea and incorporating a swim at some waterfalls would also be helpful to mitigate the heat. It may be slightly higher elevation than the coast so naturally a little cooler, but it sure doesn’t feel that way when you’re hiking up a mountain.

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Cascades Marinka is a lovely little nature spot. Like all places listed in this blog that are up the mountain, you can get a motorcycle ride at least partly up so you don’t have to endure the whole walk. There is a canteen that rests on the mountain overlooking the falls. You’re in a little fold in the mountains so it’s a nice little spot to just enjoy the immediate scenery, reading or conversations with your travel mates.

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Pozo Azul is a popular spot to swim for locals and tourists alike. The water is refreshing. You might find little worms on you after but they are harmless (we later found out after heading straight back to the hostel for a shower).

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Hostal Mirador has a great view (above left photo) of the mountains all the way to the Santa Marta coast. You can get some drinks and eats in the big open-air lounge as the sun sets. After dark, head back to the center of town for a little night life.

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The town is pretty cute too with a disproportionate amount of fun for its size.

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The animals volunteer themselves to be served to you in Minca…right into the fire.

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Hotel tip: The Green Emerald Guest House came recommended to us by Canadians who had traveled to Minca previously. It’s run by an Irish guy who really makes you feel at home. He’ll give you all the info and advice you need to make a great stay in Minca. You’ll probably also share a few drinks. It’s really well run, very clean and you can count on a great night’s sleep.

More Colombia adventures to come so stay tuned!

Cute Cartagena, Colombia

By Erin Hancock

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Cartagena is a tourist’s dream and nightmare. Firstly, the colonial architecture – especially within the old walls – is spectacular and creates a wonderful atmosphere for vacation. The warm weather and plethora of activities for tourists makes it a great destination for any single’s, couple’s of family’s needs. From salsa classes to art galleries and boat trips to beautiful beaches, Cartagena is a must-see. That said, on the flip side, tourists are constantly bombarded to buy, buy, buy. And the culture around customer service is atrocious in most cases: long lines, waiting for minutes or even hours with no explanation why things are delayed, servers forgetting about you, etc. However, if you take your vacation in stride and park your first world customer-service expectations at the door, you are bound to make great memories in Cartagena.

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The streets are alive day and night. There is so much foot traffic in the city, so it always feels lively.

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Be sure to enjoy a meal at some of the great restaurants surrounding one of the many town squares inside the old walls. There is likely to be music and/or dance to entertain you while you chow down.

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And don’t just watch dancing…do it yourself. Join in. If you aren’t yet confident in your moves and need a little edge on your salsa skills, you can attend a short class at Crazy Salsa, Salsa School. Cafe Havana is a great place to enjoy Cuban salsa music, dancing, and a yummy mojito. Get there early if you want a seat (but really, a seat is overrated when you can just dance).

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Take advantage of the heat during the day and hit the beach. Playa Blanca is a short bus ride away from the city. If you really like the wind in your hair, though, take a boat ride from the downtown docks instead. You can also go to a nearby island for snorkeling. Ask your hotel or tour guide for more information.

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Art abounds in this beautiful city. Be sure to check out one or many of the galleries such as NH Galeria.

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They love gold in Colombia. It seems like every city has a gold museum. There’s one in Cartagena too. If you like shiny things and/or care about mining, this museum is free to visit.

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Over and out (Erin @ the Russian bar, KGB Bar)

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