Christmas & NYE in Cuenca

Dear friends & family,

First of all, Happy New Year! 🎉 I hope that 2017 will be a year of discovery, new adventures, unforgetable moments, lots of fun and of course full of love for you 💕 Keep following your heart and believe in yourself 😊
That’s what 2016 was about for me. The year that I focused more on myself, living a healthier lifestyle and finding out what my dreams were for that year. It was a year that changed everything! Just because of one question my mom asked me: “If everything was possible, what would you do?” I knew that I still had the desire to travel for a long time once in my life. So thats how I started, dream big and then from there I narrowed it down. Here I am, 4 months traveling already (Uff, time flies when you’re having fun!) and I’ve experienced already so many great things, saw beautiful nature and met lots of lovely people! And you know what? There is even more to come 😍 What a great way to start the New Year 🎉 I’ve no idea what this year will bring me, but I do believe that it’s going to be another year full of discoveries and adventures ❤
The way how I spend the holidays here on the other side of the world, was exactly what I needed and hoped for. After leaving the Amazon I went more south and ended up in Cuenca. As I mentioned before, I heard a lot of great stories about this place, so I was looking forward to explore the city and fall in love with its beauty like many people do. However, once I was there it didn’t do much with me. It was a nice city, but the special feeling I didn’t really get. What I did get was a great vibe from the people in the hostel. I went for a hike to a National Park close by together with a French girl and it was a beautiful scenery with high mountains and lakes. It was dry when we started, but while walking it began to rain and even hail. Brrrr… it was so cold and wet! Once we were on the top we could barely hold our cameras to take pictures. On our way back it was super slippery and muddy so not a surprise that I fell a couple of times and even made a big slider into the bushes!! I couldn’t stop laughing and between my laughing I asked for help from my friend, but the only thing I could here from her was her giggling as well 😂 haha! Finally again a hike with somebody I had lots of fun with. I missed that! That makes a tough hike so much better. and a great way to connect with people 😉
By then I didn’t knew yet where I would end up for Christmas. The girl I was with was going to a Yoga Hostel more south and I wanted to join her, but there was no space left for me. The vibe in the hostel I was, called Mi Casa was really nice and they were already making plans of having a big dinner all together. There were 4 volunteers and the owner, a woman from Brazil. I asked them kindly if I could join their Christmas dinner and the answer was yes 😊 Some more people stayed and at the end, including some friends of the owner, we were with 15 people from all over the world.. The next morning there was a parade going on in town with regards to Christmas and baby Jesus. When I visited the big Cathedral the day before, I saw a big Nativity scene, but no baby Jesus! Turns out, the day before Christmas, the local people have a whole parade with local music, dances and everybody dressed up where they honor Baby Jesus and bring him to his manger. Really nice to see! Later that afternoon the cooking for the dinner was starting. So much food and deliciousness!! 😍 Christmas Eve is the most important evening for Christmas in Ecuador. We started the dinner at 10PM, way later then I used too! They don’t celebrate Boxing Day. It was the first Christmas in my life I spend away from my family, a bit a strange feeling I can tell you, but I was happy I found a nice place where I didn’t feel that homesick. The hostel itself had such a homey feeling with some couches, a big tv-screen, a family table and a huge kitchen. Together with another girl and 2 guys on the guitar + violin, we had a short performance singing some Christmas Carols for the people after the big dinner. It was really nice and the night ended while singing lots of other songs with everybody! 😄 Definately a different Christmas experience then back home. The next day we had round 2 of all the food what was left and spend the whole day on the couch watching Christmas movies!! 😍 It was so cozy and nice. Home Alone, Love Actually, The Holiday… My favorites!
The people from the hostel asked me to stay until NYE and celebrate it with them. My plan first was to go to Peru and celebrate NYE at the coast under the palm trees 😎🌴 but again everything was full and way more expensive then normally. To go somewhere else in Peru I didn’t want, so the decision was easy. Stay another week in Cuenca! During that week I didn’t do much.. It felt like holidays from my travel life 😅 haha. Walking around the city, running along the river, a quick refresh of salsa, salsa night, skyping a lot with family/friends and hanging around with my hostel friends. One afternoon I went to a SPA with one of the girls and did the thermal bath ritual where you first go into a nice warm swimming pool and then into the hot thermal bath, 47 °C. You alternate the heat with a very cold bath and this ritual you repeat 3 or 4 times. Your whole body tingles! 😍
NYE was a great day and night! In Ecuador they have some pretty interesting traditions with NYE. The first is Año Viejos – The Old Year. They make masked dummies stuffed with sawdust or paper + cardboard and dress them in old clothes. These puppets represent the misfortunes of the past year. They are set on fire at midnight and must be burned completely, or else it is believed that any bad situation of the previous year will return in the new year. The masks are mostly faces of political figures, movie caracters, sport stars and animals. As you can imagine, Donald Trump was a true favorite of a lot of people to burn at night 😅 Some people had gone over the top and were mocking the whole political situation of the country or the world. After another delicious meal with all the hostel people, we went out at a square in the city to witness the big fires of all those puppets. On our way there I bumped into the 2nd tradition they do here in Cuenca for NYE, the “Viudas” (=widows). Really brave -or really stupid- men dress as women to represent the widows of the ones who are burned that evening. The men run like crazy through the streets and beg for money to buy beer! It’s hilarious to see 😂 The rest of the night was really nice, people started to jump over the big bunfires and we lighted some fireworks. A great start of 2017! 🎉
So, new year, new month, time for a new country! After 2 weeks being in the hostel I knew it was time to leave. I really had a great time there and as I said, it gave me exactly what I needed ☺ We had a really nice last meal together and then it was time for me and another guy to get the nightbus to Peru. We were all a bit sad to say goodbye.. One of the guys from the group in particular inspired me a lot. He was already traveling for 2.5 yrs on his bike! He started in Prague and went all the way to China. From there he took a flight to Canada and went even with his bike into Alaska to go to the Magic Bus of the Into the Wild movie/book. His stories are incredible and I asked him lots of questions to understand better how he got to where he is now. To get from Panama to Colombia he rowed for 3 weeks on the Caribean Sea in a blowed up canoe with his bike on top of it. He stayed the nights in his hammock on different San Blas islands and continued his way to Colombia. Unfortunately a big storm and high waves capsized his boat so he lost everything! However, he still continues and has now one big wish and that is to row through the Amazon from Ecuador all the way to Brazil. This will take him about 6 months 😳 Yes, I know what you think, he is crazy!! And he is, but he is also so humble, doesn’t feel fear and follows his heart. If you like to read more about him, here is his website – http://icycleast.cz/en/ It’s remarkable what kind of people you meet while you are traveling. Each and everyone I spend a bit longer time with, shows me or learns me something new. Or when I talk about myself, I realize things which I hadn’t been thinking about for a long time, mostly things about my past.
So here I am, in Peru. My first stop is the small but nice beach town of Mancora in the north of the country. Nice beach and a very chill hostel with beautiful looking cabañas over looking the ocean. Such a different surrounding then my time in Ecuador. It was a really nice country to explore and I’m happy I didn’t skipped it because its definately worth a visit eventhough you don’t do the Galapagos!
I’m looking forward to explore Peru as this country also has lots and lots to offer! I’m curious how long I stay here as I temped to stay longer in the countries then I expected. I’m 4 months traveling and so far only seen Colombia & Ecuador! Haha. Well, I go my own way and like staying a bit longer at places. I’m a Happy Slow Traveler! 😄
How are you guys doing? Back to work after the holidays? Already some great plans for the new year?? 😉
Hugs and kisses for you all! xx 😘
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