The second half of our too-brief stint in Guatemala took place in Panajachel, the biggest town on the shores of the Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala’s largest crater lake. The enormous blue expanse, ringed by cloud-topped volcanoes on every side, was impressive.
There’s no end to boat trips, hikes, kayaking trips, and bike rides you can take from Panajachel (locals call it “Pana”) around the Lago de Atitlan. There is also an endless street of craft stalls with (allegedly) the cheapest prices in Guatemala. We took advantage and shopped a lot!
We definitely didn’t have enough time at Lago de Atitlan! Next time we’ll have to explore the smaller villages surrounding the lake. It was a great short visit though!
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The Quilotoa Loop is an amazing dirt-road route stretching from Latacunga to Laguna Quilotoa and then back. It’s full of tiny villages, breathtaking views, and authentic markets. Traversing the loop involved a few buses and lots of hiking!
We stayed one night in Latacunga at the beginning of the loop, and also left our big bags there so we wouldn’t be saddled with them while hiking. The most remarkable thing about Latacunga is that it has been destroyed no less than THREE times by Volcán Cotopaxi. We found this interesting because Latacunga is a lot farther away from Cotopaxi than Baños is from Volcán Tungurahua. And the people of Baños say it can’t be destroyed, ha!
The first day of the Quilotoa Loop we took a bus 20 minutes to the Thursday market in Saquisili. Lots of fun stuff in the market there!
After the market we caught a bus three more hours (plus one more for a flat tire) to Isinlivi, where we stayed at the amazing Hostal Llullu Llama and made great friends with the only two other people there! A wonderful start to the Quilotoa Loop!
This post is about the Lima barrio of Miraflores, which literally means “Look! Flowers” in Spanish. Miraflores does have many parks full of beautiful blooms, and is the most upscale, cosmopolitan neighborhood in Lima. It’s where all the classiest hotels and restaurants are located. Wandering through Miraflores almost gave us reverse culture shock because of how similar to the U.S.A. it seemed. While not cheap, it is a beautiful area with great shopping and great food. It’s definitely one of the places that people who stereotype Peru as entirely rural, old-fashioned, and impoverished need to see.
Perú is a country packed full of foreigners with huge packs, long hair, and scruffy beards. When you throw your life into a backpack and run away to far-off parts of the world, what do you bring along to wear? There is no real consensus on this subject, but rather a lot of different ideas about what a “backpacker” should look like. Here we will highlight a few groups of backpackers and how they dress: Backpacker fashion 101.
Backpacking Fashion 101:
1- The People Who Brought Too Much Stuff
These people have different, fashionable outfits for every day of the week, make-up, hats, accessories, and multiple pairs of shoes. They usually look very well put together, but when they get into town they are usually physically unable to carry their backpack farther than from the taxi to their hostel.
2- The People Who Always Wear The Awesome Local Stuff
These people show up with a proper-sized backpack, but once something gets a little dirty they ditch it and buy something handcrafted and awesome from the local markets. Sure you can find cheap goods, but the extra cost adds up. When the vendors see these people coming, they all run into the street and hound them for cash. We pretend to dislike these people, but really they just make us jealous because we wish we could afford that much stuff.
3- The People With One Pair of Clothes
These people are generally a little bit grungy, with patches in their jeans and scratches on their sunglasses. They grow a beard or long hair to add to the feel of it. Usually these people aren’t hassled as much by the pushy merchants.
4- The Ones Who Aren’t Really Backpackers
These people sneak into your hostel with several large suitcases, hide them in their private room and call themselves a “backpacker.” Watch out for these fakers. Signs include brand-name, impeccably clean clothing and an unwillingness to eat local food!
We definitely fit into backpacker fashion category 3. We only brought a few outfits each and we’re trying to make them last. As much as we want to buy EVERYTHING we see in the clothing and jewelry markets, we’d rather save our money to travel farther! However, we did recently purchase one item which is just the bee’s knees. I present to you, the AMAZING TECHNICOLORED DREAM PANTS!!!!!!!!!!!
These pants, which come in every color pattern known to man, would clearly be considered pajamas in the U.S., but in South America they are perfectly acceptable and highly-fashionable for backpackers. Locals don’t wear them in public once they are over they age of five, but who cares? We’re traveling; we’re allowed to be outrageous and comfortable! Why NOT wear pajamas down the street, out to dinner, to the club, etc.? Carrie and I have wanted some since Colombia, but we held out until recently, when the price was right. We bought this one pair to share, and they are amazing and ridiculous. You know you love them. Dig our backpacker fashion?
Of course, some people are very good at what they do and have small packs and look like real people. Also, people backpacking in their own country or continent generally fit in a lot better than the rest of us. After awhile you can start to tell where people are from before they even open their mouths. Almost every backpacker from the States has a pair of trusty Chacos (nearly indestructible sandals). They make us stick out like a sore thumb to other Americans and are always a good conversation starter. Aussies and Kiwis, without trying, show up looking like the cast of Wayne’s World (apparently this is a trend down under?) and always carry a tube of Vegamite (gross yeast extract that they put on everything). The Irish and British spend maybe a little too much time in the local pub, and the French and Germans smoke far too many cigarettes. The Chinese have the biggest cameras, and, in general, hang out in crowds. Of course we know these are stereotypes and don’t apply to everyone, but let’s have a laugh at the expense of others once in awhile! All in all, when you don’t have to show up to work every day, you can dress however you want. One thing I have never seen a backpacker wear is a suit and tie. I think we all set them on fire before we left home.
Otavalo, Ecuador, was my absolute FAVORITE place on our trip so far. It was just indescribably cool. The main attraction is the Otavalo Market. It is a massive Saturday crafts market – supposedly the biggest in South America! Tons of traditionally-attired Quechua locals take over the streets of the whole town center, selling beautiful artwork, handicrafts, livestock, clothing, anything you can imagine! We also LOVED the food market, and all the great but cheap restaurants around town. In general, Otavalo struck me as a excellent place to chill and enjoy a small-town atmosphere, while simultaneously soaking up indigenous Ecuadorian culture in a beautiful environment! I wish we could have stayed longer. Really though, the pictures have to do the talking!