Chicama – The Longest Left in the World

Dry, coastal desert surrounds the longest left point break in the world. Sandy, barren peaks make for an incredible backdrop while sitting in the water waiting for waves. A majority of Peru’s coast is dry and desolate. It rains only a few days a year.


Barren & Beautiful. 

For that reason, there isn’t much to do except surf. Luckily we arrived just as a swell was hitting. We got to the hotel late so we didn’t get our first sight of the ocean until the following morning when the fog cleared. As we were sipping coffee and eating breakfast, we gawked at the clean, peeling wave in front of us.


We couldn’t let it out of our sights. 

This lead to Arnie and I obsessing over the wave.

“Oh the beauty!” “That’s the prettiest wave I’ve ever seen” and “what’re we waiting for” were said often.


It’s safe to say Alaina lost interest pretty quick. Our meticulous inspection and constant conversation would leave any non-surfer bored. It was a near constant topic of conversation that caused me to dream of waves. 

We adopted the simple, tranquil beach life. Surf as much as possible, read, drink coffee and spend time relaxing together. The constant exercise, good laughs and incredible waves made time fly.


Cush life.

One of the great things about Puerto Malabrigo (Chicama) were the locals efforts to protect the ocean. This surf spot and many others have been made into a marine protected zone. We met a local restaurant owner who did his thesis in college on surf spots throughout Peru. All of the land (which is completely barren) surrounding the wave is now off limits. No construction is allowed and boats have limited access. The same restaurant/hotel owner also employs local single mothers working to support their children. It was refreshing meeting someone with so much drive for his community.


Arnie surfin’ like a BOSS.


Overall, the people in Chicama are friendly and welcoming. Locals in the water would cheer and applaud a good wave. Walking down the street people said hi and smiled. It was a friendly atmosphere with good vibes prevailing.


Backside is tough. 

Quilotoa Loop

Day One:

Starting from Latacunga we took a two hour bus ride to Sigchos. We stepped off the bus with 15 other tourists and asked the first person we saw for directions to the trail head. During our day of hiking we passed through farms, enjoyed spectaculars views of Toachi Canyon, and conversed with a 35 year old Swiss guy. We took breaks to chow on a pre packed lunch, rest in the shade, and to snap pictures. The Swiss guy, Samuel, explained that he was an engineer in a Toblerone chocolate factory. Crazy thing is we had met Samuel in Banos, Ecuador at a hostel and discussed a few treks that we both planned on doing.



Toachi Canyon

We arrived in Insilvi and on our way to the hostel I tripped and landed on my camera shattering the screen. I was crushed but thankful I hadn’t split my chin. Our hostel was fully booked and Samuel didn’t have a reservation so we said our goodbyes knowing we would see him on the trail the next day.


Hostel Llullu Llama is one for the books. An old farm house turned to cozy mountain home. With wood furnishings, comfy couches, fire places, and a view of Toachi Canyon, we were happy we planned ahead. We sipped cold beer, snuggled their massive Saint Bernard Baloo, and had a delicious family dinner with all the other hikers. We decided this is the cush life of backpacking. Who gets a hot shower, comfy bed, and a delicious 3 course meal while in the back country. It was pretty awesome.



Day Two:

We knew the hike ahead of us was only 4 hours so we had a slow morning sipping coffee and munching on what seemed to be an endless breakfast. With a kiss goodbye to Baloo we were back on the trail. Winding through farms, and up and down the canyon, we talked about how crazy the farmers are with their sheer cliff plantations and whether or not we could withstand the living conditions of some of the homes we passed.


We encountered kind herders that gladly allowed us to take pictures of their adorable goats and sheep. After a steep climb we were greeted by a eight month old, her mom, and grandma. The trio was full of love, kindness, and smiles.


Shortly after saying goodbye, we arrived at our next hostel. We spent the night getting to know six wonderful people. Kara and Vincent from Indiana, Stephen and Connie from England, and Nicole and Corinne from Switzerland.


Side note: when we arrived in Chugchilan we searched for a store selling our favorite snack, habas (a cooked bean that is a salty crunchy snack). The first store we walked into was owned by a friendly woman named Narcisa. Shocked that we spoke Spanish she asked if we would be willing to help her with a few business ideas. Narcisa’s dream is to open a hostel and is unsure what tourists look for in a place to stay. We spent an hour touring her house, answering questions, and coming up with ideas. We exchanged numbers and told her if she ever had any questions she could always call or text us. The next day we stopped by her shop, gave her a big hug, and wished her luck.

Day Three:

The following day we woke up early, ate breakfast and got on the trail with our new friends. First, we got a little lost and a three or four year old girl came to our rescue to show us the way. Shortly after we met a pack of school kids who wanted their picture taken. Instead, Taylor gave his camera to the eldest of them, and he snapped pictures of everyone else.


After the last portion of our ascent (or so we thought) we arrived at Quilotoa Lake. A beautiful lake caused by a volcanic eruption 800 years ago, causing a massive crater. It’s a small scale Crater Lake and absolutely breath taking.


We oooed and aahed then took the first trail we saw to get to the small town of Quilotoa. What we didn’t realize is this trail is not the “normal” path. It’s a single track trail on a cliff side. With loose rocks and tired legs, one step misplaced and you’d be long gone. Senses heightened and adrenaline pumping, I felt like my toes were claws, trying to grip for my life. Scurrying over boulders and gripping to anything I could get my hands on was the most stressed I’ve been on this entire trip.


When we finally reached the top of the ridge where the “normal” path was I think all eight of us sighed with relief…safety at last. Just a quick fifteen minute walk from there and we were at our final destination.

Day Four:

Taylor and I decided it was necessary to feel the water that shined bright blue in all the pictures we had taken. We took a path down to the water, touched it with a toe, and I turned to Taylor and said jumping in was a must.


With a little hesitancy at first we stripped down and plunged ourselves into the ice cold water. We were unprepared for how cold the water was going to be. We sprawled like lizards looking for the warmest spot in the sun. The view from the shoreline was stunning. Steep peaks surrounding the turquoise and indigo lake.


What a feeling, with nature like this it rejuvenates you, gives you energy, you feel gratitude for life, thankful that there are places like this, places to encourage you to explore more. What a hike and what a place to end.


Tungurahua – What a hike

When you wake up and its dumping rain, your first thought isn’t lets go on an overnight backpacking trip. Only problem was, after a month on the beach, we were eager for a backpacking trip and weren’t going to be turned away easily. So we packed up our bags, threw on every piece of rain gear we had (garbage bag ponchos included) and walked towards the taxi take off point.

Baños sits right at the base of Tungurahua. On a clear day, the volcano stands tall and proud, rising into the sky. Unfortunately, the clouds decided this would be the week they hung right over Baños. Being the overly optimistic American I am, I figured it might clear up and we’d have an epic view at the top. Intelligently, Alaina had doubts at the beginning. Especially when we arrived at the Bus station and the off road vehicle wielding taxi driver incredulously looked at us like

you want to go up there?

Ignoring any lingering common sense we hopped in the truck while the driver shook his head. The drive up to the first ‘refugio’ was flooded and steep. From smooth pavement to rocky paths we made our way up until the refugio came into view through a wall of rain. Running into the reserve we were met by a ranger who immediately demanded our attention for an introduction to the park.

With professional grace the guide launched into a rapid set of warnings, advice and occasional tangents while we made our final preparations. He gave us the option of paying immediately or when we got back for staying in the second refugio higher on the mountain… we opted for paying later just in case we didn’t make it.

The scenery was beautiful when we started. 40mph winds, heavy cloud cover, and a river running down the trail were some of the first sights. This was of course after we walked around for a little bit trying to find the path, afraid that the small river was the only way up. The trail is understandably susceptive to flooding because its at a 45 degree angle running between pastures, making it the perfect waterway.


Alaina hiking up through one of the many tunnels.

Dirt walls rose up on either side of us forming tunnels at different points. We sidestepped ankle to knee deep mud on parts of the trail, basically crawling. I finally began to doubt my faith in the clouds clearing at the top.

Eventually, we had to question whether it was a good idea. Is it worth it to hike 6 hours in the rain? Of course not

Tungurahua’s peak lies at 16,479ft. Luckily we were only going to the Refugio at 12,600. For our unacclimated bodies, it was getting hard. Sometimes you just gotta push through. Luckily, as we neared the refugio, the rain let up and we could even glimpse the valley floor momentarily. It was just enough to get our hopes up and make us realize how incredibly beautiful it would be on a clear day (mental note to come back).


Isn’t it just stunning!

Our luck continued to improve as we finally arrive at the refugio. Right as we got inside, the rain started dumbing buckets. Hanging up clothes, making coca tea (for elevation), and generally trying to stay warm constituted our evening until another adventurous pair of hikers arrived. Although the hike was slightly miserable, meeting two avid hikers from Quito made it all worth it.


View from inside the refugio.

Playing card games, making hot soup, and learning about our drastically different cultures rejuvenated our spirits. Listening to the rain hit the roof knowing we were warm and dry, in the company of newfound friends will simply make you grateful.


Switch it up. Set the tent up inside.

Waking up early and practically running down the mountain brought us back to the ranger station in under an hour. Soaked, sweating, with blood pumping from the exertion, we stepped onto the dirt road. Of course, we started walking and found ourselves traversing overflowing roads and muddy waterfalls cascading over embankments. At this point the rain hadn’t stopped for 16hrs and we were loving it. Embracing the rain filled boots we walked down the mountain until we hopped in the back of a farmers truck heading to Baños.

In the cold open air of the truck bed, I know that there was no other place I’d rather be than speeding down the flooded streets into Baños, Ecuador.

A Word on Surfing in Ayampe

The Ayampe surf life is simple. Eat, breathe, and ride waves. Most of the population has moved there in order to have consistent access to the warm, turquoise beach break. The small town public conversation usually revolves around the swell that’s supposed to be coming within the next few days or how damn good it was yesterday.


Every sunset was a different color in Ayampe. 

The surf culture in the states usually has a stigma of being “broey“. This is not the case in Ayampe. Acceptance is as warm as the water. “Que tal” and thumbs up is what you see most in the lineup. Drop in on someone’s wave and they may get upset but they won’t be screaming or beating on you (I’ve heard horror stories in California). Take off on the biggest wave of the set and you’ll hear hoots and hollers of joy as you fly down the line. It also helps that the beach is over a mile long with breaks all along it. There’s plenty of room for everyone.

As with any other beach break, the shape, consistency, and size of waves varies. From low tide to high tide, there’s anything from barrels to sloping wide open faces. I quickly had to get in good surfing shape, because battling against seemingly never ending white water requires endurance. The reward of catching a wave after using your last ounce of strength is worth it.


Surfing is notorious for its highly devoted clientele. A question I often hear from non-surfers is “why is it so addicting?”. I think the answer is simple; reward. Anyone who has tried to learn to surf understands how difficult the sport is. When you finally stand up on a wave, or learn the turn you’ve been attempting for weeks, exaltation abounds. Once that feeling courses through your veins, all you want is more. It sounds like a drug because it can become one. For this reason, you’ll find locals who have carved out a life in Ayampe in order to paddle out every day they can.

The unique combination of good waves and severe lack of tourism surprised me. The stretch of beach over a mile long only had a few people on it the first week we arrived. Obviously, as the holiday season kicked in, the crowds increased, but nothing compared to the popular town of Montañita just to the south. Ayampe served as a quiet haven, secluded from the usual rush of tourists during the holiday season.


The Ayampe lifestyle. 

The culture and beauty of Ayampe cannot be understated. From the incredible sunsets, to welcoming community, it is a wonderful place.  With a wide open beach that catches any swell, the waves are ever-present. It’s an underrated surfers paradise tucked into the coast of Ecuador that I won’t forget.



Budget Your Appetite on the Road

As a couple aiming for a year long trip through South America, we are on a tight budget. We are constantly looking for ways to save an extra dollar or two. Knowing eating out always costs more no matter what country you are in, we decided to find out just how much more. We spent five days recording all of our food costs cooking in hostels and compared it to just a few days eating out.

All of the following prices are in USD. Here is a breakdown of our five days eating in.


Coffee, pita bread, and guacamole. 

Day 1:

We decided to start our recording on a day of travel. When you are traveling and taking buses or planes you usually splurge on snack foods. On our first day this is exactly what we did. Each bus station we got snacks instead of meals that progressively got less healthy. 

Breakfast – Overnight oats $1.40

• Oats

• Banana (2)

• Cinnamon

• Mango (2)

• Milk

Lunch – Bus Station – $3.30

• Yogurt

• Nuts

• Crackers

Dinner – Bus station –  $1.60

• Arepas (thick corn tortillas)

• Cookies

Day 2:

For those of you who’ve never been to Colombia it’s relatively cheap. When it comes to food, legumberias (produce markets) are the cheapest option. In terms of savings, this is where you’ll find the best of it.

We stopped by a grocery store on our way home to grab some dinner supplies and were shocked at the results. After comparing receipts from the legumberia and the grocery store we realized what was breaking the bank….snickers bars. Not really but the cost of items like candy, nuts, and granola add up.

Breakfast – Legumberia – $2.60

• 4 eggs

• 2 Onions

• 3 Carrots

• 3 Tomatoes

• 1 Pumpkin

• 1 Pineapple

• 2 Bell Pepper

Lunch – Groceries – $3.50

• 1 (large) Arepa

• 1 Avocado

    •       Garbanzo beans (for hummus)
    •       Bread

Dinner – Grocery Store – $10.30

• Coffee

• Tomato Sauce

• Ahi (hot sauce)

• Granola

• 2 Yogurts

• Peanuts

• Snickers

Legumberia – (Prep for the following day) – $1.60

• 4 Bananas

• 2 Beets

• 2 Onions

• 1 Cucumber

• 6 Litres of Water


Homemade beet, carrot, avocado, hummus, quinoa and sesame seed salad.

Day 3:

While recording cost of food, we were in San Gil which has a large farmers market everyday from 7am-1pm. Every morning we had breakfast at the market and got our produce for the day.

Breakfast – San Gil Market – $4.20

• Fruit Bowl

• Smoothie

• Arepa (large)

• Empanada

Lunch & Dinner & Snacks for 2 weeks – Groceries – $22.46

• Almond Milk

• Bag of



sesame seeds

sunflower seeds



• Spices –



• Large bag of grapes

• Broccoli

• 4 Onions

• 2 Carrots

• Pineapple

• Eggplant

Day 4:

Breakfast at the market usually cost between $3-4 USD, for both our meals. Being Californians we have so much access to good food. Every grocery store is packed with international sauces, spices, and yummy varieties of food. One of the most difficult aspects of cooking while abroad is getting creative with what is available.

Breakfast – San Gil Market – $3.25

• Arepa

• Fruit Bowl

• 2 Empanadas

Lunch – Overnight Oats – $3.00

• Oats

• Cinnamon

• 2 Bananas

• Almonds

Dinner – Homemade Avocado & Arepas – $3.60

• 2 Avocados

• 4 Arepas


Typical Colombian meal: Lentils, rice, and platano.

Day 5:

Leftovers become extremely handy when you’re trying to save money. Our large shopping spree two days before had left us with plenty of food for the following days. But of course, we had to have breakfast at the market.

Breakfast – San Gil Market – $3.75

• 2 Large Smoothies

• 1 Empanada

• 1 Medium Fruit Bowl 

Lunch – Grilled Vegetables – $2.25

• Broccoli 

• Onion

• Carrot 

• Quinoa 

Dinner – Pre-made for the road – $3.00

• Pasta

• Tomatos 

• Onion

• Broccoli 

We started eating out more in the small town of Salento which is very similar to San Gil. The popular backpacker restaurant Brunch de Salento became our go-to spot. For the two of us, Brunch de Salento cost approximately $15.  A typical backpacker restaurant costs between $4-7. In comparison, a typical Colombian meal in a restaurant is between $2-4. We concluded from our  experiment that a healthy meal cooked at the hostel for two people costs approximately $4.

Even though its the cheapest option, we still encourage experiencing new cultures by having a meal out. Every country has a unique taste and you don’t want to miss it.

Ayampe – A Small Beach Town in the District of JipiJapa

A tiny ocean-front town with some of the best waves in Ecuador. We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon after three full days of travel from Colombia. In the last hour of the bus ride our bodies were tingling with excitement. Excitement to see where we would be spending the next month but mostly to be free from confined spaces. I couldn’t wait to see the beach where I could run like a free animal.



We had done little to no research about Ayampe. Just heard it was nice and google searched a few images. We were in for a surprise. This town and the apartment beat all of our expectations. The apartment is on the third story of a beach front long-term hostel. It’s bright, airy, and the breeze we get every afternoon is divine. All the front facing windows overlook the ocean. It’s small but functional and a perfect place to unpack for awhile.



The town is similar to our apartment, small but functional. There are two very small stores, one being the size of a walk in closet; a few restaurants that offer local to international cuisine; and  various places to stay. The dirt roads are lined with colorful homes, friendly faces, and baby chicks.


Every morning we wake up to the local vendors shouting “camarones, dorado, aguacate, coco!” Shrimp, fish, avocados, and coconut. Fernando, our friend, drives a red truck filled with crates of fresh fruits and veggies. Almost everyday, we chase him down to get the freshest ingredients for our home cooked meals. Every Wednesday and Sundaywe buy warm bread, not just any bread, amazing, gooey, and flavorful bread made by Juan and Mou from Argentina. Our two favorites are their garlic bread and cheesy tomato filled delicacy (its essentially a pizza without sauce).


We are living a pretty rough life here; wake up, run or surf, yoga, cook, read or nap, surf again or walk the beach, watch the incredible sunsets from our balcony, and in bed by 9pm.

Ayampe Apartment

Beachy apartment

From Christmas to New Years the town filled up with tourists from Quito and Guayaquil. Now its back to sleepy Ayampe, never more than 15 people on the beach at a time. It’s a paradise.


Last Sunset of 2017

Spreadin’ the Love

Loved. Fortunate. Inspired. Grateful. Bonded. A few sentiments we’ve been reminded of lately.

Traveling gives you perspective; perspective on others, the world, and yourself. It’s not like yesterday we woke up and realized how loved, fortunate, and grateful we are. These sentiments are more or less consistent throughout our lives, however we wanted to take this opportunity to remind the people we love that they got us here. 

We can not begin to thank you enough for your endless support, encouragement, and care. Without you guys we wouldn’t be where we are today. We wouldn’t have the curiosity to explore new places, the drive to learn about others and ourselves, and the motivation to get outside of our comfort zones. Our entire lives we’ve been surrounded by such loving and inspiring humans. 


Thank you for not getting too frustrated on calls when the wifi periodically drops and learning how to download Skype just so you can see our faces. It is a reminder you always have our backs. You are ready to help us if we fall, or push us when we need a good shove (a loving shove of course).

We love and miss you everyday. Words can’t describe how appreciative we are for everything you’ve taught us; your selflessness to always put us first; all the goofiness and laughs; and the support even when you may not want to give it. 

You guys make the sun shine on a cloudy day. Peace and Love.


Colombias Very Own Burning Man

You never know where you’ll find yourself on the road. It’s one aspect of traveling I enjoy the most. Expecting one thing and getting another teaches you to release control of things outside yourself. I’ve learned repeatedly that I can only control how I react to each situation I’m in. Better to accept the unavoidable changes of destiny and make the most of them.


Somehow in the past week we found ourselves helping set up for Colombia’s Burning Man. The legendary festival from the states found a long-lost brother in Colombia and we arrived just in time to help him get ready for the party. We got lucky volunteering with some amazing people.


Coco building benches in our makeshift work area.

We spent a majority of our time painting signs for the festival. Anything from “First Aid” to koi fish circling each other. Each day all the volunteers ate meals together, wolfing down food after a long day of work. Breaking bread with Colombians never gets old. There’s always jokes, laughter, and good conversation.


Daniel center-right.

The festival is held in a pasture on Daniel’s property (he puts on the festival). As the week went on, the festival grounds slowly started to take shape. Grass was cleared, showers put up, and eventually, two stages were installed. Long, hot days left people exhausted. We were lucky to be staying at Daniel’s house on the property which had a pool and a plethora of beds.


Every evening we watched the sunset and the fireflies light up the grass from the patio. One of the volunteers, Mark, became a good friend of ours. He shared some wild stories about riding his horse solo from Colombia to Peru. 


Santi(ago) escaping from the heat.

Before we knew it, Friday had arrived. As we scrambled to get the last of it set up, folks started arriving. Music thundered from the stages and we could feel the bass a hundred yards away in our room. We could tell it was going to be true Colombian party.


Huge trees hung over the two stages which mad a great backdrop.

Throughout our travels we’d learned Colombians love fireworks. As we watched the Man burn that night they proved their love again. With music blaring and neon lights flashing, hundreds of fireworks were shot into the sky and at the Man


When we signed up to volunteer we figured we’d be helping at a hostel with daily maintenance duties. In reality, we signed ourselves up to help put on Hombre en Llamas. We met amazing people from around the world, danced our asses off through the night, and had an experience we’ll never forget. Colombia surprised us in ways we couldn’t have imagined. 


Los Nevados: Part 2

My mind was consumed by the steep peaks surrounding me. “Where am I?” I thought to myself several times. It felt like the wild west. The occasional rough lookin’ cowboy whipping his donkeys carrying heavy loads, barren tan hill sides, and rare sightings of wild horses. But then BAM, 15,000 foot peaks with permanent glaciers on top.


Thankful the trail was mostly flat, I felt like I could actually soak in my surroundings. I wasn’t carefully placing my foot to avoid sink holes or stopping every 50 yards to gasp for air. It was a nice stroll through the middle of no where. Nothing around but steep mountains, frequent streams, and endless valleys.


The wind was strong and the air was brisk. Our noses were running, cheeks red, and fingers numb. We tightened our hoods, layered up, and never stopped for more than a few minutes. We talked about how lucky we are to experience all that we have, how much we miss spinach and blueberries, and our dreams of travel beyond this trip.


Lago de Encanto

After approximately 9 miles of pure bliss, a steep ascent lay ahead of us. We had a mile and a half and then we got to soak our bodies in hot springs. “We’re almost there” we said to ourselves over and over again. I counted steps to distract myself from the steepness. We climbed closer and closer to Nevado de Tolima. We couldn’t see it because of the thick clouds, but we knew it was there.



With the last of the climb behind us our pace picked up, it was practically a run when the hot springs came into sight. I don’t think we have ever set up camp so fast. The tent was up with all the bedding laid in a matter of minutes.

We quickly submerged ourselves into what felt like scalding hot water to our numb bodies. Sweet relief. My feet have never been so happy with me. The therapeutic water relaxed all our sore muscles and put us into a dreamy state. It was 4pm and I was ready for bed. After at hot meal and a mellow sunset, to my sleeping bag I went. We competed in a few games of cribbage before turning the head lamps off and drifting into a sweet sleep.


Termales de Canon

The night was cold but the morning was colder. Below freezing outside, we were snug and warm in our sleeping bags when the alarm went off at 5am. Reluctant to get out of our cocoons, we couldn’t have been happier we did. The sunrise from a nearby look out point had us hootin’ and hollerin’. The sun rising from the east lit up the three snow capped peaks surrounding us. Tolima which seemed close enough to touch, Nevado Isabel far but stunning, and Paramillo del Quindio that lay majestic under the nearly full moon.




With each minute that passed by we couldn’t believe our eyes. Each ray of sunlight lit up the layers of the valleys, the crevasses of the shear peaks, and odd plant life that lives at this elevation. Before descending back to camp we said a quick thank you to the mountains for all the beauty and joy they brought us.

We packed up camp quickly, soaked our numb toes whilst eating hot oatmeal. We knew we had a long day of hiking ahead and wanted an early start. After a quick goodbye to Hernandez, the man who lives in a small shack next to the hot springs, we buckled our hip straps and headed out.

Words can not describe the clearness of this day. The sky was a perfect blue, no clouds, and the mountains were crystal clear. I felt like I was wearing special glasses that saturated everything with color.


The downhill began within a half of a mile of the hot springs. Ooosh and I mean straight down. Loose rocks, saturated mud, and frozen puddles made up the majority of the trail. Looking behind us was like a picture from National Geographic. Something you’d never dream of seeing, yet here it was right in front of us. We dropped down into incredible green valleys with grazing cows and crystal clear streams.


After getting a little off track, we stumbled upon a small house where we asked for directions. A kind man pointed us straight up the nearest ridge. He reassured us this would be our last ascent, “everything is downhill from there” he said. We took it slow, our muscles and lungs protesting every step of the way. Once at the top we looked back at the valley below and got a little sad.

One thing about traveling to such remote places such as this, is its pretty likely you won’t be back any time soon, if at all. Los Nevados is such a magical place with such rejuvenating energy and we couldn’t be more grateful for our time there. With a quick blow of a kiss and a mental picture on top of the thousands of pictures we had taken with our cameras, we turned our backs and began the real descent.


Five hours of nothing but downhill. Wooden logs placed as stairs, jumbled rocks, and mud destroyed by horses that frequent the trails. We transitioned from dry crisp air with hardly any vegetation to warm humid air and jungle like forests. We were descending into a steep, lush, and vibrant green canyon.


With every switch back we got closer to the river at the bottom of the canyon. Nothing felt better than a quick five minute foot soak in the ice cold water. We refilled our Camelbaks and were back on the trail.


After 8 hours total of hiking we reached the small town of Juntas. It consists of one street with a few small stores, a restaurant, and buses going to Ibague. Not knowing what Ibague was we were shocked. After 3 days of complete solidarity we entered a city of 553,000. It was bustling with traffic, street vendors, and prostitutes on the corners.

Long story short, to our surprise there were no buses back to Salento. We hopped on a crammed van to Armenia that arrived 45 minutes late. We got two hours into the drive, waited for an hour while hundreds of semis passed on a one lane road and arrived in Armenia 4 hours later. A little too late for a bus to Salento we exited the terminal to find a hostel and just as we spotted one across the street a guy in his taxi yelled “Salento”. Taylor and I locked eyes and asked each other “should we do it?”. We just wanted to be back, we wanted a hot shower, our clean clothes, and a place to lay down.

We hopped in the taxi and an hour later we arrived in Salento. The kind man took us to our hostel and wished us a great trip. It was 12:30 am. That day we woke up at 5 am, hiked for 8 hours, and then traveled by bus and car for another 8+ hours. And you know what, we wouldn’t have changed one minute of it!

Los Nevados: Part 1

The alarm went off at 5:30, we zipped up our bags, chowed down on some eggs, and were out the door. We began the hike in Cocora Valley (9000ft), famous for the 60 meter palm trees. We asked a few last minute questions, lathered the sunscreen, and shed a layer. The sun was bright and warm.


Cocora Valley

The trail starts mellow, winding through fields, eventually heading into a dense rain forest. We crossed a small creek several times via sketchy wood planks. The climb was comfortable at first. We were in the shade, the air was cool, and we were full of energy.


Let’s just say the trail is consistent… consistently straight up. It’s like doing the stair master on the slowest speed with a 30-40 pound pack. When we arrived at Estrella de Agua, we were happy to shed the weight. Estrella de Agua is essentially a ranger station. We gave the park employee our information, our destinations for the next few days, and in return he gave us some information and wished us well. The family living in the very rustic house next to the ranger station was serving up lentils, rice, and plantains to their family. They quickly offered us a bowl for $1.50. Worried that we hadn’t packed enough food, we couldn’t deny the hot meal.


The family’s home and sleepy guard dog.


With full bellies, we felt like slugs back on the trail. Lesson learned, no heavy meals before a steep climb. We navigated through thick mud, winding up the mountainside. After a few hours, we reached the tree line and entered into the paramo. Full of odd shaped plants, brush, and fog coming as quickly as it was going.


Destroyed portion of the trail.

We had heard horror stories about the fog getting so thick you can’t see more than a foot in front of you. Of course, that’s where my mind goes, so I picked up the pace. The adrenaline was pumping and I wanted to arrive at the campsite before we were one of those lost hikers. No I’m just kidding, but I did get a second wind and the eagerness was real.

We caught up to three French men hiking with a Colombian guide which was a relief to know we were still on the right path. Our destination was Finca Primavera, a small house with a few rooms and a place to pitch a tent.


Final descent down to Finca Primavera.

As we started the final descent, the clouds slowly started to clear exposing Tolima, a snow covered peak. The guide explained that the snow at the top is a permanent glacier and can be summited with the proper equipment. Bucket list. By the time we reached the Finca, the clouds had cleared completely giving us incredible 360 views of the mountains and the valley below. What a reward after 10.5 miles of climbing.


We set up camp while snapping shots of the sunset. I think my body was a little in shock and an intense shiver took over. I layered up, got in my sleeping bag, and boiled water in the tent. Once the sun set, the wind picked up, and Taylor was soon next to me in his sleeping bag fighting off shivers. We moved around like worms warming up our bags and our bodies.



A clear night and nearly a full moon.

A hot meal and a cup of tea put us into a coma. We snuggled up and fell fast asleep. We awoke with the sun rising. We had a slow morning watching the sun light up the peaks around us. While packing we conversed with Colombians who were on an eight day trip through Los Nevados. They invited us to join them at the end of their trek to summit one of the peaks. We exchanged numbers, said our goodbyes, and were back on the trail headed to Termales de Canon.


Tolima and all it’s beauty.