The End…

After the longest possible journey back to England… from Quito – Ecuador to Lima – Peru, to Bogota – Columbia, to Madrid – Spain aaaaaand FINALLY to Luton – England… I found myself back in my beautiful (and extremely spacious) house, with a take away curry, absolutely LOVING being home.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy travelling, on the contrary, I absolutely loved travelling and could have easily kept going for a lot longer. However, after nearly three days of “off one plane and on to the next” with a lot of running between connections, delayed flights and panics that i’d miss all of my flights and never get home, it was just so lovely to be in the comfort of my own house. (and the curry did make it even more appealing)

The other aspect of home that was amazing to come back to, was my bedroom. While i’d been away, this had been transformed from the almost junk yard – full to the brim with absolute rubbish – covered in posters, toys and every single possible shade of blue paint – to a stunning (and very grown up), chic, gold, cream and brown paradise. It’s very minimalist, with the puffiest and comfiest bed you’ve ever seen in your life – a god send after months of hostel bunk beds.

Then it was bath time! In hostels, you’re lucky if your dorm has it’s own bathroom, and if this is the case… don’t expect a lot. Normally the shower is nothing more than a dribble and you have to lean up against the wall to get said dribble to land on your head. However, you might get lucky and have a hostel with great showers, if this is the case, it’ll be because the power source for the showers is all in one place, meaning that there is a giant bathroom (or sometimes two) for the whole hostel. Let’s just say it was a much nicer experience bathing in my own house and only having to walk the short distance along the corridor to my OWN room, instead of running through the whole hostel trying to find my 8 man dorm, in a towel after my not-so-power shower.

In terms of summing up South America, it was definitely a once in a life time experience. From the minute we got off our plane from Sydney and arrived in Chile, we knew it would be completely different to anything we had experienced before. Even due to simple things such as the fact that we’d been in Australia, a country so similar to England, for the last two months and were arriving in a country where they don’t speak English! We couldn’t get off the plane and just ask “how do we get here” or “we need a taxi to this place” we had to stop, realise that actually travelling was about to go up by a whole new level of difficulty, and attempt to remember enough spanish to get us where we needed to go. That was the first of our many cultural shocks when we got to South America and obviously there were a lot more to come, including crossing the countries boarders on buses (and then witnessing people trying to smuggle goods across the boarders), having Argentinian men following us down the streets saying that they loved us (creepy), the south american food (absolutely no vegetables, all meat and potatoes), and then just learning about life in the villages while visiting them (including farming, weaving and living in dire conditions). It was an absolutely incredible experience, getting to know a whole new culture and by the end of our trip, when we were volunteering in Peru, we definitely felt like we were now a part of it – something we will be ever thankful for, as every single person who helped us with our south american experience, especially while in Cusco, welcomed us into their lives with open arms. To the children at the Kindergarten, we were “amigas” (friends) and to the staff at the spanish school, and Horti, the lady who looked after us, we were “hijas” (daughters).

The one thing that South America as a whole had to offer, that the other places we visited didn’t, were unbelievably spectacular views, scenery, hills, canyons, lakes, mountains, even roads. Every single place that we visited was beautiful – even if it was a run down old village – everywhere had something unique and special. I can now say that I have stood on the edge of cliffs and mountains overlooking the most beautiful images of countryside, huge rock craters, deserts and vast snow capped peaks. The views we have seen have put everything into perspective, and I one thing that I definitely miss the most, is just walking down the street in whatever South American country I was in, and if I looked up, straight ahead, behind the houses or the sky scrapers, there will be a line of beautiful mountains, looking over me.

Although it’s always hard to pinpoint a favourite moment when the last 8 months have been filled with such different activities, experiences and moments, however I think I actually can narrow it all down. Following the fact that every single place that we visited in South America was absolutely beautiful, my favourite and for me the most stunning country was Peru. Obviously being the home of the vast and spectacular Sacred Valley, then being lucky enough to hike for 5 days across the mountains and ending up at the unbelievably surreal Machu Picchu, it’s hard to make any sort of comparison to this incredible country. The Galapagos also has to have a mention in this section as it was honestly a life changing experience to be that close to the most fascinating animals, witnessing their natural lives as they are just not even the slightest bit bothered by humans and then actually sailing around these incredible islands that just sprung up out of the sea, well, nothing can beat it.

Out of the whole South America trip, I have two favourite cities. The first, obviously, being Cusco. The city that out of my whole 6 months, I stayed in for the longest. Cusco became almost a home away from home, we had a local cafe, a local bar, we had friends there and even a job! Plus it is a buzzy, friendly, atmospheric and very safe city that we always felt happy to be in. My other favourite is San Pedro de Atacama, the small town/city, right next to the Atacama Desert. It was unbelievably bizarre, with the floors and walls and buildings all identical, and basically you have no idea what room or shop or restaurant youre entering until you get inside and find yourself in North Face, or a buzzy fire lit pub with live music. There was always something going on in this crazy town, with friendly people, cool markets and stalls and absolutely DELICIOUS food.

For Australia and Thailand, again I could probably narrow it down to two places. Australia my highlights were the crazy, vast Sydney that lived and exceeded every single rumour, story and expectation, and then the stunning Fraser Island, with absolutely no one on it, a butterfly shaped lake filling the middle of the island, and a 75 mile beach, obviously I was going to be impressed. Then Thailand, following a tiny little man with a machete as he chopped our trekking route through the jungle, cooling off in waterfalls, riding elephants, sleeping in thai villages and bamboo rafting all the way back to civilisation, made the three day Jungle Trek my absolute highlight. The other being the beautiful Koh Tao, my favourite island and the place where I learnt to appreciate the huge ocean and it’s wonders, completed my padi and chilled on huge bean bags in the evening, right on the waters edge while watching fire shows down the beach – absolute bliss.

All in all, it’s been a life changing trip. People always ask if I found myself on my gapyear and I have no idea what this means. As for life lessons, I definitely found my independence, my bravery, my love of languages and discovered unteachable cultural lessons, differences and styles. I am extremely thankful for tiny little home comforts (even as small as the fact that we can put our toilet paper IN THE TOILET and we don’t have to pay an arm and a leg just to get some peanut butter) and I know for sure how incredible my life is, to have had this experience and to be able to share it with all of you.





































When we arrived at the hacienda, Hacienda Cusin, we were shown to our rooms, and then we went for dinner. The whole place is a converted house and stables, it’s unbelievably colonial with catholic paintings and statues and in the dark with absolutely no one around, candles lot and some music playing, it reminded us all of the haunted house ride at Disney, very creepy. However the staff came into the dining room and gave us some menus, they were so friendly and the food was absolutely delicious so we felt a lot better after eating. When we arrived in our room, we had hot water bottles in our beds, fires lit in our rooms and comfy beds waiting for us, for a good nights sleep.

The next morning we woke up to sunshine beaming through the windows, we got up and dressed for breakfast and headed back to the dining room, this time seeing the hacienda in day light and realising how beautiful it is, (the dining room was also a lot less creepy in daylight) for a delicious breakfast of eggs and fresh fruit. As it was such nice weather, we then went and put some deck chairs out in the beautiful garden area behind our rooms and a mat for lounging on, on the floor, but then of course then sun decided to go in and the clouds rolled over and we were left in shade. Change of plan needed, so we all dressed up warm and decided to go for a walk to explore the surrounding country side and the big lake. After walking through not very nice streets, just general third world town scenery, we arrived at the lake after about an hour and along with it came beautiful images of the surrounding country side. If you looked past the piles of rocks randomly left and the houses falling apart, the lake was absolutely stunning and looked over huge vast hills and mountains, covered with colourful houses. There were woman washing their clothes in the river leading into the lake, and men right by the chopping down huge reeds and making them into bundles; apart from that there was literally no one around and the lake was completely empty. We then decided to hike a bit up the surrounding hills to get a view of the lake from above. On the way up we passed fields with cows grazing and corn rows and every single house we passed, dogs would run to the gate or door or even straight at us if there was none of the latter, it was really scary, especially when they came really close barking and then basically followed us until they got bored. Once we were high enough we had absolutely stunning views over all the farming fields, the town and the huge lake, the sun came out and we were all sweating (not sure if it was from the hot sun with all our layers on, or nervous sweat from fear of the dogs.)
Eventually our walk through the fields and along the hills took us back to the main square, where we then walked back to our hacienda. When we arrived back, it was lunch time, so we sat in the outside terrace and had some lunch while the sun shone down on us. Because of the heat we decided to spend the afternoon back in our garden spot, relaxing in the sun however ofcourse the clouds came over and we were left in shade. Determined that it was a hot day, we all stubbornly sat there with our books until about half an hour later when the clouds had moved on and we were left in sunshine for the rest of the afternoon (well on and off but who can complain). After book reading, napping, scrabble and tea in the gardens, the air became cold and it was time to go in. The entrance way to my parents room is a little living area shared between two rooms (the other one isn’t occupied) and so we all got comfy on the big leather sofas, with our complimentary popcorn from renting the film, and watched Super 8.
This took us to dinner time, where the dining room wasn’t new to us and this evening was filled with guests and full of life. Dinner was, once again, delicious and then it was time for bed.

This morning when we woke up the sky was filled with clouds. We ate our breakfast and then headed down to the hacienda stables for some horse riding! Unfortunately Charlie is very scared of horses (more so than me and mummy) and so she didn’t come but the four of us were given our horses with huge South American saddles, and then we started our journey. It was a two hour horse trek, with the horses starting off quite skittish but they soon relaxed and got into a rhythm in the tranquility of the mountains. We climbed actually quite high into the hills and had amazing views of the farm land, covering huge areas, until soon it was time to make our descent. Riding horses like this is easy enough as we actually didn’t have to do anything except sit on them, not even steer, but soon we all had the numbest bums in the whole world, and with the horses walking steeply down hill on rubble for a good half an hour, I think I have the most bruised bum too!
After arriving back at the hacienda, the sun had decided to appear just in time and we lay out on our blankets in our little garden area, and enjoyed our last day together.

The hacienda:







The lake walk:






Horse riding:










And now I start my long journey home! After leaving the Hacienda yesterday at 4.30 for an 8.15 flight that is two hours, the flight way delayed and then took longer that stated and I landed at 11.15. There was then the longest queues EVER for passport and I was at the back, yes literally the last person. Luckily I didn’t have an luggage to collect but in Lima all bags have to then go through scanning, even hand luggage and there were huge queues for that too!

Luckily mummy had booked me into the Costa del Sol Ramada hotel which is literally right in front of the airport and actually really lovely and so check in was super easy and at midnight I was in my huge room with a choice between two double beds, and a huge bath calling me this morning.
Three more flights to go until I’m home…

A Galapagos goodbye

Our last full day on the Galapagos was absolutely incredible. The weather started out grey and cloudy with rough waters and meek mist, however the air was still hot and we remained optimistic as we drove to our boat for the day. Our first activity today was scuba diving, and despite the weather and not very appealing water temperatures, we all kitted up into wetsuits and jumped off the little dingy boat into the freezing water and started snorkelling. Immediately we saw a seal, playing at the edge of the water. It was trying to cool down by floating in the water, with it’s flipper in the air to catch some wind, as it’s flippers act like radiators. It being the Galapagos meant we could get so close to the seal, we actually swam right up to it and it didn’t even move away or notice us as we watched from the water. We then decided to leave the seal in peace and carried on snorkelling, amazed at the hundreds of fish beneath us, schools of snappers, and parrot fish and huge shining blue fish. Soon we came across more seals, jumping in the water and swimming around us. We carried on all along the rock line, until we’d seen millions of fish and the temperature of the water was reaching us through our wetsuits, and then we clambered aboard the dingy and motored back to our big boat.





On board there were showers with fresh warm water, so we rinsed off, got dry and dressed and drove forty five minutes to South Island for our second excursion. The waves were so rough as we sailed to this island with water splashing all over be place, so while we stayed dried under cover indoors, Henry lay out in his swimming trunks on the sun beds that we’re getting absolutely soaked, while sea water sprayed all over him. He actually even fell asleep there until one huge wave completely covered him and he swiftly woke up and came indoors, dropping wet and freezing cold.
When we arrived at South Island, the sun had decided to come out and was shining brilliantly. As we climbed off the dingy onto the dock, there was a seal right in front of us, almost blocking the path, and soon we realised there were loads underneath us too. We walked onto the island and as we were walking down the rocky path, there was a sudden realisation that there were no birds. We questioned this fact but soon we discovered why. As we walked to the edge of the island, that was raised high off the sea level, we felt seriously strong winds hit us, these are winds off the sea that are lifted up by the sheer and steep edge of the island, but never reach the island as the cliff edge just takes them upwards. As we looked down over the edge we saw thousands, if not millions of birds, swooping through the wind current, being lifted high up into the air by the strong blows, or just floating on top. They were swooping in and out of the cliffs as their nests are in holes in the cliffs and it was absolutely incredible to watch. Moreover if you literally took two, even one and a half steps back from the cliff edge, the wind was no longer there and you felt the beating heat of the sun, then step forward again and the winds hit you, tee shirts blow up and hats fly off.





As we moved further down the island, we found huge lone sea lions that had used their strong upper bodies and flippers, to climb all the way up the steep cliff edge to then lie on the edge of the island and have the strong wind hit then, so that they could cool down. There was one that we saw that was absolutely humongous, the largest sea lion I’ve ever seen that was lying so close to us. He sat up and watched us for a while, showing off his huge body, before deciding to slide all the way across the rocks in front of us. He then found a path to slide down or climb down with his flippers, all the way down the steep cliffs before finding an entrance into the sea and diving in.
As we walked back to the dock we saw so many baby sea lions, playing in the rocks, we even saw one feeding from it’s mother. We also, sadly, saw a lot of skeletons and dead sea lions, as it is drought season and the sea lion pubs wait days and days for their mums to bring back food and in this time a lot of the end up starving to death.






We arrived back at the boat with a delicious lunch waiting for us, as we sailed all the way back to our main island in the beautiful sunshine, then got the bus back to the hotel.
After delicious dinner and some rushed packing, we turned in for an early night.

The next morning the hotel staff took our luggage to the airport while we boarded the bus for our last morning’s tour. We arrived at the Charles Darwin research centre and saw how they breed and monitor the baby giant tortoises, until they are 5 years old and ready to be released into the wild. There were hundreds of them and they were absolutely tiny, it was so sweet. We then went to the area that Lonesome George was kept and learnt all about the different attempts to get him to breed with other tortoises similar to him, as he was the last one of his species, but all attempts failed – Lonesome George just wasn’t interested! So they thought… Until one of the female tortoises had babies, however tortoises can hold sperm for up to 16 years so these might not have been George’s babies, however they were born prematurely and all unfortunately died. Scientists are just waiting and holding their breaths now for another 14 years (as George died two years ago) to see if the females will eventually give birth.



We also stopped at huge sink holes, that have randomly appeared in the island as the solid lava underneath had just given way and collapsed.

Then we arrived at the airport, where we were all checked in with our luggage all ready on board. We got our boarding passes, got on the plan, had a long four hour turbulence filled flight, then landed in Quito – where we were met by our guide and driven to our hacienda, Hacienda Cusin.

Galapagos – North Seymour and Santa Cruz Island

At 7.45am our names we’re read out on a list with another family, we met our new tour guide and set off to the little boat. We boated across the harbour, for a bus and drove all the way to the South side of the island, with our tour guide showing us changes in plantation and temperature and different interesting facts of the Galapagos along the way. Because the island is pointed, only one side of the island gets any water and life and the other side, the dry side, is left in drought, but it is also a few degrees hotter. We saw this change and soon we arrived at the port where we boarded our boat for the day, The Sea Finch.
On board we sat in the sun and enjoyed our surroundings for about half an hour while we waited for other people in the group to arrive. Immediately we saw huge, 3m or more sharks underneath the boat, swimming in and out of our engine currents, it was amazing! Soon the other people arrived, and we were off.
After a short boat ride in the beautiful sunshine, we arrived at North Seymour Island and went to explore. It was absolutely boiling and the whole island was filled with life. It honestly felt as if we were in an episode of Jurassic park, or that there was someone behind a bush letting the animals out of cages in front of us as everywhere we walked birds were flying over head, nearing right next to us, screeching to parents for food or making nests, it was unbelievable. We even saw birds flying down to their young in the nests, the young with their beaks would hit the parents beaks, who would then open wide and the young would stick it’s head into it’s parents mouth and eat all the food out of it. The whole island was overgrown with cactus and covered in bird poo and we actually didn’t know where to look as there was something worth seeing, everywhere. We saw baby finches, male and female finches, land iguanas, marine iguanas, and the most famous bird of the Galapagos: the Blue Footed Boobie. These are absolutely fascinating birds and once we came across one, we came across loads. They actually have bright blue feet and the brighter the feet, the more powerful they are as their feet turn bluer when they have eaten more. To find a partner, the male screeches while the female grunts and then they do a dance in front of each other, stomping around on the ground, and lifting their feet up high to show them off. It was absolutely hilarious and extremely interesting and we stood there for so long guessing the Boobie that would win the dance off and therefor get the girl. We then came across the Red Chested Friggots, whose chest can be blown up and takes months and months to fully deflate after. It looked so uncomfortable, like a giant red balloon stuck on it’s neck, but to the bird it’s a sign of wealth and attractiveness and the Friggot was just sitting on his perch, red chest out, waiting for the ladies.









After a few fascinating and amazing hours watching the wildlife go by, we all boarded the boat again for an absolutely delicious lunch of fresh fish, vegetables and banana loaf, made for us by the crew onboard.
After lunch we sailed to a nearby snorkelling spot, took the dingy boat up to the beach, left our things on the shore line and went for an explore along the beach. It honestly felt like we were on paradise island (except we were being eaten to death by horse flies that were actually drawing blood!!!) there were beautiful birds flying over head, iguanas crawling at our feet, clear blue sea beneath us filled with fish and bright blue sky above us. After our beach walk, it was time to snorkel! We kitted up in snorkels, masks and flipper, everyone ditching the wetsuits, walked backwards into the icy water and explored.






We then relaxed for a bit on the beach, before heading back to shore and then the hotel. On the bus on the way back to the finch bag hotel, I suddenly became desperate for the toilet. It was about an 40 minute journey and with bumpy roads and actual road works that we had to drive slowly through, I was beginning to panic. It got to the point that I actually couldn’t hold on any longer and so our tour guide spoke to the boat crew and the bus driver and soon we were makings detour down windy streets with shack like house, until we reached their local laundry! I jumped out and ran in and the lady in charge showed me to the toilet – THANK GOD. An absolutely hilarious end to the day… Well for everyone else who wasn’t panicking like me.

To the Galapagos we goooo!

Yesterday morning we were picked up at 7am and taken to the airport for our flight to the Galápagos Islands. There was a whole section in the airport just for people like us, with a sign saying Galapagos Passengers, so we joined the queue leading us to a scanning machine where all our bags were xrayed, in order to be checked for fruit, vegetables and other items which aren’t allowed to be taken into the Galapagos.
After we’d cleared the scan checks, we stood and waited for about two minutes while our tour guide checked us in and collected our boarding passes and other forms that we needed to fill in (easiest check in ever). We then walked to our gate and joined the queue to board the plane.
When we got to the front of the queue, we realised it actually wasn’t our flight (idiots) and sat for half an hour before once again joining a queue and boarding our plane… For real this time.
The plane stopped off somewhere else in Ecuador after literally about 25 minutes, before taking off again and landing a couple if hours later on one of the Galapagos Islands.
We were given stickers to show our hotel and along with all the other sticker wearers, we were met by two tour guides from our hotel who told us to leave our luggage and board the bus to travel to the hotel.
We had a short five minute bus ride, another shirt journey, but this time on a small boat, and then we boarded our main bus to the hotel. On the way we had two stops…
Our first was to a lava tunnel. When the volcano on the island erupted, the lava flowed down the side and across the island and when this happens, the outside section of the lava cools and dries up while the inside keeps flowing, the cooled section forms a tunnel shape. In the tunnel we were exploring, the roof of a part of it had collapsed, leaving and opening and space for the inhabitants of the Galapagos to build stairs down to it where we could then climb down and explore. It was absolutely amazing, quite damp and unbelievably huge! We could only walk half way down it as some of the roofing had collapsed further down making it impossible to explore the whole thing without crawling, but it was extremely interesting.
While we were standing in the lava tunnel, we also had a history lesson about the Galapagos, it’s age and how the animals came to be inhabited here as they are natural islands that rose up from the sea. Most animals over time either got washed up here by sea currents, flew here or were blown here by sea currents.
Our next stop was at a field absolutely full of giant tortoises, no one knows how they came to be inhabited on the island as obviously they can’t swim or fly here however there are thousands of them that roam around the different islands freely. They are said to live up to 200 years and survive solely off grass and so can pretty much live anywhere, which is exactly what they do on the Galapagos, plod very slowly around wherever they want. The only time they ever have a place to go, is to the coast to lay their eggs as the main land is too humid.
We were then served fresh fruit salad and an empañada before getting back on the bus to drive and then boat to our hotel. The Finch Bay Hotel is absolutely stunning, right on the bay with a hue swimming pool where Galapagos animals such as ducks also swim. We were greeted with smoothies and snacks before being shown to our rooms. We then spent be rest of the afternoon swimming and playing cards, until dinner time where we had a dinner themed with fresh fish caught off the coast of the island before turning in for an early night.




Quito City Tour

Yesterday when we woke up, we’d had small lie in and were feeling a lot less exhausted from our flights the day before. We were picked up at 9am by our tour guide and a minibus, ready to start our city tour of Quito. It started with a drive out of the city and up the surrounding hills which are actually volcanoes! We drove up the non active volcano closest to the city and stopped at a view point with a huge aluminium statue of the Virgin Mary right in the middle. This Virgin Mary is special as she has wings and is standing on top of a snake, representing evil, on top of the world. We walked around the view point seeing views of the whole vastly spreading city, before getting back into the bus and heading into the city.



Our next stop was a cathedral with intricate design on the outside. Each side of the cathedral had different animals engraved into the walls and statues of the animals hanging off the top section. There was a Galapagos side, with animals from the Galapagos such as tortoises and birds and there was an amazon side with alligators. The cathedral inside was absolutely beautiful, with amazing stain glass windows and huge paintings.

Then we visited the main plaza, something which made the city of Quito a lot more attractive in my eyes. It was filled with people sitting on park benches, reading newspapers, having their shoes shined and just relaxing in the outdoor sunshine.


Right on the edge of the plaza is the presidential palace, a beautiful white building with a grand entrance guarded by two guards in uniform. The presidential palace itself was also beautiful inside, although we only saw a bit of it through the gated entrance, as a lot of it’s interior decoration was either bought or given as a gift from the palace of Versailles.

Our next stop was an education centre in the most beautiful building of all. It used to be the university and home of the Jesuits, where they lived, studied and prayed (as it’s connected to a church) however when they Jesuits became quite powerful, the Spanish government at the time didn’t like it and banished the Jesuits, making their beautiful building into a prison (probably the nicest prison in the world). It was soon transformed back into a university before becoming what it is right now, a cultural and education centre.

We then visited the connecting church which is probably the most ridiculous and insane thing I’ve ever seen. The whole of the interior church was covered from head to toe in gold, the floors, the walls, the ceiling, you name it. It was absolutely beautiful and I can see now how the Catholics take such pride in their churches, but it was an insane amount of gold, everywhere.
Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside…
We then walked through La Ronda, a street with a huge walkway and open space leading up to it, as when the volcano erupted in 1999, the lava wiped out this section of the city, and it’s never been re built on. It did, however, give us a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. We walked down the open space and then into La Ronda, which is a very old street full of little artisinale shops (handcrafts) and games all down the road. We played a game where you have to throw coins into a golden toads mouth and another where you have to spin round five times then throw hoops onto bottles. We met a man who hand carves and makes spinning tops, and makes a living out of it, and soon we were at the end of the street. We walked to our last location which was another open plaza, this time with a band on a stage setting up and doing some sound checks, and a beautiful church over looking it all. As we entered the church, we realised a wedding was happening. We sat and watched for a bit, feeling very sorry for the poor couple who we’re getting married with the annoying sounds of trumpets and drums doing a sound check, and a man that kept shouting Hola down the mic every two minutes.

We then parted with our tour guide and headed back to the hotel to get jumpers, as it had gone colder, and then to a restaurant for lunch. We wee enjoying our meal when suddenly the lights flickered, a clock that was no where to be seen started chiming very loudly, the lights went out and a masked figure dressed from head to toe in purple gowns entered the restaurant with two smoking plates in his hands!!! He set them down in front of some people, the lights went on, the music started and everyone resumed their meal as normal! When it came to desert time, we’d been advised to share the ice cream and so ordered three to share and waited for our good. Suddenly the lights flickered, the chimes started, the lights went out, and the hooded figure arrived again with three smoking plates filled with ice cream! Apparently that’s how they serve it there, it was the carbon dioxide smoking when reacted with the water in the bowl beneath the ice cream bowl and it kept the desert freezing cold and made the whole experience so hilarious, slightly embarrassing and very special.



After a wonder around the plaza, daddy got his shoes shined by a young boy, completed filthy with all the ink from his busy shoe shining day. We took in the bizarre Quito city and tried to make sense of it all – a city that basically still lives as if it were 50 years ago. With shoe shiners on the street, material shops as people make their own clothes, shops filled with sewing machines, laundrettes and pharmacies with queues coming out of the door.
At about 4ish we went back to the hotel for a relax, which with our family means a couple of intense and long games of scrabble, before getting changed and heading back into the city a couple if hours later. We had dinner on the third floor of the archbishops plaza, in an Ecuadorean restaurant with a live (absolutely amazing) saxophonist. Dinner was delicious and we were back at the hotel by half 9, ready to pack and have an early night for our early start this morning.


After our cute evening round the fire with scrabble, pizza and also a game of dominos designed for four year olds, we were met at our hotel at 6.30am by our guide, who walked with us the short distance to the train station. Our PeruRail train to Machu Picchu left at 6.45am and it was actually a really pleasant journey, despite the early start. The seats were big and comfy, there were refreshments on board and we were all very excited. (Also because it all felt very Disney like, with the magic train full of excited people, with Disney commentary the whole way through) There were also huge windows on the roof, so as the train made it’s way up. we could see the vast mountains towering over us.
When we arrived, we actually weren’t at Machu Picchu but at Aguas Calientes, the town below it and from here we had to join a massive queue, going all the way up the street, for busses to the inca site. Finally we arrived and there were crowds and crowds of people hustling and bustling to get in, all just as excited as us. We checked into our hotel, dumped our bags off there with the staff and headed into the site. It’s quite a walk up steep steps through the trees until you actually get to a point where you can see the postcard shot of Machu Picchu, but being the fit fam that we are, we were there quickly and found ourselves a perfect spot for photos.
We spent the rest of the morning with our tour guide, being shown around the whole inca site, learning about customs and temples and uses of different rocks, nooks and crannys. It was an absolutely incredible tour and we all felt we knew the ins and outs of Machu Picchu personally.
At about 12pm we headed out of the site to say goodbye to our tour guide and to relax after a strenuous morning. We had a lovely lunch in our hotel (which is literally right next door to Machu Picchu), actually went to our beautiful rooms and just relaxed as the crowds passed through the inca ruins. At about 3.30pm we went back into the site and this time were even more pleasantly surprised. The millions of people had left or were leaving for the day and we were left with a wonderfully empty Machu Picchu. As a family we explored the whole site once more, playing games, running up inca built steps, climbing to different points and trying to find something undiscovered by anyone else. Eventually we were exhausted, and we’d exhausted Machu Picchu enough for one day. Back at the hotel we had some drinks, played scrabble, relaxed, had a really scrummy dinner in the hotel restaurant, and then called it a night for our early start the next day.
On this morning our alarms went off at 5am and because we’d had such a lovely nights sleep on ridiculously comfy beds, we were all up, ready and rearing to go. We had an early morning snack before joining the queue from the first earliest train of people, to get into the site. The gates to Machu Picchu opened at 6am and we ran in, finding ourselves the perfect spot to watch the sun rise. We discussed where we thought it would rise, waited, discussed some more, blocked people who were trying to be sneaky from stealing our space and waited some more… For half an hour until the tiniest bit of sun light, lit up the very tip of the opposite mountain. At about 7.30, an hour and a half after the sun was meant to rise, a bright light rose from the v in the mountains and slowly and gradually lit up the whole of the already stunning inca site, one wall at a time. It was spectacular, we were hit by the sunlight before Machu Picchu, and watched it to light up as we stood glowing in the newly risen sun. Once it was risen, our early morning start was complete and obviously we went back to the hotel for the most important part of the day… Breakfast.
After we were refuelled and once again ready to explore, we were back in Machu Picchu and this time with a mission: to hike all the way up to the Sun Gate. (This is the entrance that I came through when I completed the inca trail, and gives you an absolutely stunning view of the inca site, from above and far away). It was a strenuous, hour long uphill hike but it was SO worth it. When we got there we were blown away, not only by the sun gate itself (which was beautiful) but by the views we received of Machu Picchu. Obviously the journey down didn’t take us as long as it was down hill, and soon our time at Machu Picchu was over – absolutely incredible for the second time.















After bussing back down to Aguas Calientes, we found a cute little lunch restaurant right next to the train track and opposite a live Peruvian band. We are our lunch absolutely defend by the music as we soon discovered how loud it was, but still all buzzing off our Machu Picchu experience. This was then made even better back on the train as one of the train hosts dressed up in a creepy traditional animal costume while loud Peruvian music echoed through the train and he picked people to dance with him down the isles. Then the other two train hosts and hostesses performed a fashion show of different alpaca clothing, down the isle of the train, while we all clapped and wolf whistled, it was all very bizarre but we were absolutely loving it.
We were met off the train by our non English speaking bus driver, who, when discovering that I speak Spanish, chatted to me the whole two hour journey home. He was very sweet but by the time we arrived back in Cusco, my brain hurt from all the translating!
We went back to Uchu, the hot stone steak restaurant, so that mummy could experience it herself and it was absolutely delicious as normal. We were all completely exhausted and tired and drained that we collapsed into bed, just after quickly setting an alarm for 5.30am the next morning.

The alarms went off and we dragged ourselves out of bed, sleepily packed and headed to the airport for a flight to Lima followed by a flight to Quito in Ecuador. It literally took up the whole day, especially since our transfer bus didn’t arrive for an hour and a half after we arrived and so, back at the hotel we relaxed, played scrabble, enjoyed our free drinks, and then went out for a delicious meal in the Quito theatre restaurant.

So here I am in Ecuador, a new country for me, and this time I didn’t have to bus here, cross boarders by foot, or stay in a hostel. We flew, are staying in a beautiful little quaint hotel and are all tucked up in bed ready to have a good night’s rest before our city tour tomorrow.

Sacred Valley with the fam!

When we started our journey to Machu Picchu three days ago, we were up at 6am, ready and waiting with one bag between the five of us and warm jackets. On the way to our first destination, we pulled over at the side of the road so that everyone could take in the breathtaking view of the whole of the Sacred Valley and the Urubamba river.

Our first stop was huge inca terraces, we drove along windy roads all the way up the mountain and when we got to the top, as we’d gotten up so early, there was absolutely no one there. I actually had already been there on my inca trail tour but this time it was so peaceful and calming as literally we were the only people there.


We walked around the vast terraces until we got to an inca cemetery. If you didn’t have a guide you literally wouldn’t know, to the obtuse it just looks like a mountain with a few nooks and crannys, but on closer inspection you can see that they’re actually millions of perfectly formed holes in the wall that were tombs for the incas. Unfortunately when the Spanish invaded, they looted the whole cemetery and took all gold and pottery that was buried with the incas. We then climbed all the way to the top of the high inca ruins (so exhausting) to take in another view of the sacred valley.

On the way back down into Pisac village, as the inca ruins we’d just visited were filling up with bus loads of tourists, we stopped off at a local Pisac market, filled with silver factories. Peru is famous for the silver that it mines, and Pisac is becoming famous for it’s silver. Obviously we went into a little silver shop and met the owner and creator who showed us the skilful and very fiddely way that they sand the rocks down to the perfect size for the bracelet or pendant template.
As our bus climbed back up the mountain, on the thinnest and scariest roads, we began to see the huge valley below us. However this time it wasn’t a normal valley, it was filled with huge salt pans! It is so bizarre to have salt pans in the middle of the mountains but this is because for a bizarre reason, the river running down this particular mountain is salt water! The incas believed the sun god cursed them with the salt water but they soon realised it was a blessing, and created vast salt pans to collect salt at different thinkness and colour.



We then arrived at our lunch spot, it was about 2pm and we’d been driving all over the mountains all day. There was a tiny little market set up and then at the back was a wooden table and bench which we sat at with our boxes lunches of sandwiches, vegetables and lots of little snacks. All the snacks we didn’t eat, daddy then gave to all the little children in the market and they were so happy!
We literally walked about two minutes on from the market and came across three huge circular terraces, spiralling down to a much lower centre. There were three and the smallest and medium ones hasn’t been restored so the terraces were falling down in sections and the grass had over grown. Henry and I ran down to the centre of the smallest and back up and it took us about 2 minutes max. We then went over the biggest which was absolutely huge. These spiralling terraces are used to acclimatise plants as it’s much colder right in the centre in the middle than in the upper spirals. We climbed down the huge spiral, using the floating steps that the incas built into the walls of the terraces (these are surprisingly far apart, considering incas are very small people) and when we got all the way to the bottom, we had to trek back up to the very top – this took a lot longer than five minutes!
That was the end of our sacred valley tour and when we arrived at our hotel there was a pen with a family of llamas in, which obviously amused us a lot!


We then sat in big comfy seats around a roaring fire, ordered pizza and played scrabble for the rest of the evening.


Exploring Cusco… WITH THE FAM!

Yesterday we woke up very early and Charlie and Hen were super jet lagged after 24 hours travelling and then the 6 hour time difference. Juliet came and met us at the hotel for breakfast, which was amazing – so different to our 1sole croissant or quinoa cereal we’ve been having. There was scrambled eggs, sausages, pancakes, fruit, cereal, juice, yoghurt, croissants, cake, everything you can imagine and we were in heaven. We then set out into the town to explore. Juliet and I thought that there would be a big parade in the plaza like every Sunday but this week because of the independence parades all through the week, there wasn’t one – so annoying because I wanted to show my family the hilarious marching. Instead we walked up to San Blas, which Juliet and I have only seen in the miserable weather, and it was clear blue sky so we had a wonder around the markets, art galleries, water features and took in the beautiful view before having a wonder down alpaca poo alley, then swiftly turning back around.



We then took the family down to Avenida del Sol so that they could see the sun temple that later we would explore and just generally see a little bit more of Cusco, a sunnier side. We went to the cute cafe that Juliet and I love and the family tried empañadas, fresh Peruvian juice, and Hen spoke a teeny bit of Spanish at everyone’s pushing (I’ll definitely be making him speak more!). Then we headed back to the hotel to get our things together for our afternoon tour.
At 1.15pm we were met by our tour guide Alcinda who was taking us on a private tour of all the amazing ruins, artefacts and architecture of Cusco. At first we drove up the windy mountains (I route I know very well) to Saqsaywoman but instead of visiting the big white statue of Jesus, we went to a huge fort with two sides and a huge landing strip of green land. It was a fort built by the incas and although the incas used it for worshipping – it was the place where the Spanish and the Incas fought.

We then visited ruins of the puma temple, a place of worship for the incas, then the snake temple. This just looked like a huge rock but there was an opening inside it leading to a cave with a huge worshipping table inside. Next was the water temple, with huge terraces and the incas had redirected the river flow through it, so there was a natural waterfall all the way down. There were two men practically standing inside the last fountain with scrubbing brushes, cleaning the fountain. We then climbed up the the highest point which we discovered was the same height as my sky dive! It’s crazy to think that when I jumped out of that plane at 1400ft I felt so high and Australia was so far below me, and here I was at the same height standing on a hill!



On our way back down the mountain to Cusco, we stopped off at the huge white Jesus statue for a quick selfie before jumping back in the bus. Our next stop was the temple of the sun, the huge temple that we’d eaten lunch infront of. Our tour guide told us all about it and it’s importance to the incas, we climbed the steep inca built stairs and saw how the incas pieced together the huge blocks to form a wall. Once she pointed it out, it was also clear to see where the Inca building stopped and the Spanish built on top. We saw inca communication channels dug on the floor of the rooms and also windows to place statues and mummy’s. It was also incredible to see how every window is built to exactly the same size, even though they are just holes within rocks, and some of the rocks have over 14 corner, the incas really did piece their walls together like a puzzle.
Our next stop was the huge cathedral in the plaza de armas. It is Spanish built and is a huge Catholic cathedral with two churches within. I’m not sure what I thought about the catholic touch on the church, with every item filled with gold and huge statues of Jesus covered in blood. What was interesting was that the cathedral in cusco is the only Catholic Church or building to have mirrors everywhere, which is normally something forbidden in the catholic culture. We also saw a huge painting of the last supper, but Peruvian style with guinea pig on a plate in the middle and Chica as their drink instead of wine! We also saw a huge display of gold and silver with a huge Jesus figure on top that on the Incan new year on the 21st of June is normally carried around the plaza. However, the clever Peruvians have glued the whole display to a car, covering the car, and placed the huge Jesus and the vase for the wine on top, meaning that someone can just drive the car out of the cathedral and around the plaza – hilarious. After the cathedral we went back to the hotel to have a relax before our evenings activities. We planned to meet Juliet and the Museo del Pisco for drinks before dinner. When we arrived we were greeted by the same hilarious man from last time who kissed each of us on the hand (obviously not the boys) and told us he would make the evening special. We ordered our cocktails and a few nibbles and then one of the pisco connoisseurs came over and told us that as it was pisco day, they were going to give us a pisco tasting and tell us a bit about pisco. The cocktails were already very strong and after trying four different straight piscos, everyone was feeling the alcohol! We then went to our restaurant for the evening for a meal of Peruvian food, nearly everyone had alpaca, before collapsing into bed back at the hotel.



The Big REUNION!!!

Yesterday when I woke up I was so excited as it was the day I was going to see my family! Juliet and I went for our very last breakfast in Basilica and this time even broke the norm and had a quinoa cookie as well as our croissants. We then went back to the house to finish up my packing when Horti arrived to say goodbye. She then helped us get a taxi and I said goodbye to Mariscal Gamaras and hello to my new HOTEL. Juliet then went back to the house and she wanted her reunion with my family to be at dinner, so I checked in and enquired as to whether the rooms were ready. I must have looked so bizarre as I was literally pacing backwards and forwards in the hotel lobby, to keep checking if a taxi had arrived with my family in it. My check in actually took ages and soon I went to find out what was going on, I discovered that only one room was ready and after explaining that that was fine, I just wanted to dump all my belongings there, I got my key and a porter picked up all my bags… just as my family arrived!!!! He quickly dropped the bags and I ran to the door to hug everyone and say a huuuuuuge hello after 6 months away. It was so nice to see them and literally within minutes it felt as if id never even left them.
We had a briefing by our tour guide for the next few days, the rest of the Parrott clan checked in, we headed to the room to dump our things and then went for a drink and present opening ceremony for both daddy’s birthday and all of the presents that I’ve got everyone while travelling. For daddy’s birthday, as I know he gets really bad altitude sickness, I bought him lots of coca things! (Making sure he knows it’s actually illegal to take them back to England so they’ve got to be used here!) including, coca tea, coca chocolate, coca sucky sweets and some Florida water which is this strong smelling liquid that you rub on your hands and smell and it stops you feeling sick. Then it was other presents including jewellery, a crocodile hunter DVD, scarves, tee shirts, alpaca jumpers for the whole fam, some silly presents, a beautiful (if I say so myself) table cloth and a tapestry that I bought off a cute little lady on the reed islands. It was so so nice to see them and they were all so happy with their gifts, apart from the fact that Henry my little brother is not little AT ALL any more, he’s actually a lot taller than me (!!!) nothing has changed.

I was so happy I couldn’t stop hugging them and we all went off to the room to get our things so I could show them Cusco!
First stop was obviously lunch and where else to take my family than Jacks Cafe! We queued up outside the cafe and of course the queue went down quickly as the staff are quick and the chefs are fab! We got seated on a very small table and because of the language barrier we ended up with a table filled with water bottles and no space for food! But of course we did actually order food and as expected for Jacks, it was absolutely delicious, big smiles and full tummy’s all round!
We then headed towards the plaza as the sun came out and everyone was amazed by how beautiful the plaza is and the surrounding mountains. I showed them my favourite streets and places to buy alpaca scarves (which ofcourse we bought loads of!)



We then headed back to the hotel for a snooze, as my family had been travelling for over 24 hours and I’d given them a very full on afternoon.
For dinner Juliet and I had planned down to a tee what we wanted to happen. We’d booked the table for 7pm and planned that Juliet would be there early to check that everything was ready and waiting. We arrived at the table, set with 6 champagne glasses and a Julie waiting to see everyone. It was such a lovely meal, everyone chatting and happy. As requested we had specially prepared tapas to share and to start with and then all of our main meals (Juliet and I normally have the smallest dinner so we felt as if we would explode), followed by an amazing desert. The desert was again specially created by the restaurant on our request, a huge two levelled chocolate brownie cake, topped with vanilla ice cream, drizzled with chocolate sauce and for added excitement, a candle on the top and we all sang happy birthday to daddy as I missed his special day. It was a great evening and an absolute fab end to my first day with the fam.