Places we Visited in 2017 But Did Not Write About
At this time of the year, most travel bloggers publish an annual review of their travels. Here is ours, but with a twist: places we visited in 2017 but did NOT write about.
You might ask: why did we leave out some places we visited? Well, the reasons vary. Some locations never really inspired us; in several cities we didn’t spend enough time to write anything comprehensive (we’re just not ‘city people’); other places are so popular that they have been covered by dozens of websites – we didn’t have anything new to add…
The majority of places we didn’t report about, are in Peru. This might sound like we didn’t find much worth writing about. On the contrary: in 2017 we published 18 posts from Peru , but most are either very specific or cover our time in the east of the country – away from the Pan-Americana corridor.
The Coast of Peru
…is basically one big desert – with a few rare green spots around water sources. Last trip, in 2008, we mostly followed the Pan-American Highway along the coast, with only 2 detours into the mountains. Back then, we found the coast not only boring, but also very depressing and grey.
This time, we were earlier in the year, before the typical ocean mist arrives in late March or early April, which is responsible for the depressive atmosphere. The sun was shining, the ocean sometimes looked almost blue, and some of the sand and rock colours came out much more clearly. But, in general, we were still happy to get away from the coast as often as we could.
Yasha had planned to write a short gallery post about the coast of Peru – in the end we didn’t find it worth it. We encountered a few interesting places, like the Ité Wetlands . We also crossed a few green valleys full of agricultural crops like olives, rice, and grains – wherever there is some fresh water the nitrate-rich sand can actually produce unbelievable yields. The coast is also full of isolated beaches, many not safe to camp overnight. Hence, overall we couldn’t get very exited – once again.
Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Peru’s Capital Lima
For a long time, we were certain we wouldn’t go back to Lima. But then Yasha caught a really bad gastric bug she couldn’t get rid of, so we decided to drive into the capital city for its better medical facilities.
We based ourselves at the Hitchhikers’ Hostel in Miraflores, a more up-market suburb near the ocean front. Right around the corner was a large medical centre, which Yasha visited every morning for a check-up.
We met a number of interesting travellers at the hostel, so more time was spent with chats than with going out. We had explored most of the city’s sights in 2008 and weren’t overly keen to go back. Except for one museum, the Larco Collection , which we had enjoyed tremendously in 2008. What a nice surprise it was: since then the museum has been renovated, the entire collection has been reorganised, all exhibits are now much better labelled (in multiple languages), and the flow of the history is really easy to understand.
If you are looking for other things to do in Lima, all we can contribute is our post about the Pachacamac Archaeological Site south of the city – highly recommended. For more you will have to search the internet or consult a Footprint guidebook .
Coastal Tourist Attractions near Lima
Many tourists come to Peru for 2 or maximum 3 weeks – we spent over 6 months in Peru. Tourists often fly directly from Lima onward to Cusco to visit the Sacred Valley . If they have time to spare, some might decide to visit the famous sand dunes of Huacachina, or Paracas and Pisco. All these destinations are quick and easy to reach by bus from Lima.
By the time we reached these places we had driven well over 1000 kilometres through a similar looking barren landscape – without any popular tourist attractions and the accompanying crowds. So to us the above mentioned places offered very little appeal.
Yes, there are a few interesting archaeological sites near Paracas, the small museum at the park entrance has a number of nice exhibits – but nothing really worth writing home about (from our point of view).
The dunes we drove past in the south, were much more impressive. All they lacked was a small green oasis in the middle – the picturesque feature of Huacachina. I still remember being caught in traffic jam caused by smelly tourist dune buggies – not what I’m travelling for! That was when we decided to leave the coast and drive inland .
Popular Sights in Southern Colombia
Sanctuario Las Lajas
Almost every Pan-Am traveller stops off at the sanctuary of Las Lajas, outside Ipiales in the South of Colombia. In 2008 we actually didn’t even walk down to the church, because we couldn’t find parking for our truck camper. The car parking situation has now improved, so we walked down to the church.
Well, it’s a rather “kitschy” neo-gothic construction. For the locals the reported miracle is of much larger importance. You can read about it on Wikipedia . For us it is just another church, made more impressive by its location on a narrow cliff spanning across a deep river gorge.
Laguna de la Cocha
Some travellers visit Laguna de la Cocha outside Pasto, the second largest lake of Colombia. It’s a nice place with lots of picturesque little wooden houses around it, which almost remind me of Switzerland or Austria. It’s now a protected environment, but under pressure from tourism and farming. Trout farming and fishing are the main source of income; we bought some yummy smoked trout.
If you want, you can continue along the same road to eventually visit the tombs of San Agustín . For this you have to drive the infamous Trampolino de la Muerte . Don’t worry: it’s not that dangerous!
Along this way you come past the provincial centre of Sibundoy, where the unpaved Trampolino de la Muerte begins. We highly recommend veering off the main road and visiting the central plaza of this small town! It’s filled with amazing wooden statues, carved from tree roots and nicely painted. They are reminders of the indigenous heritage of this region. These statues, and some of the murals, are a precious, unexpected find!
The economic and political centre of the south is the city of Popayán. It’s a clean city with a beautiful historical centre, full of white-washed houses. But one thing you have to realise: most of these colonial buildings were meticulously reconstructed after Popayán’s devastating earthquake in 1983 .
Our Stay in Medellín
But we spent over a month around this city – so that can’t have been all! Or?
Well, in a way, that was all that we found worthwhile writing about. You see, our first week was taken up with medical appointments, for which we stayed with friends in Envigado – at the edge of the city. If you’ve been on the road as long as we have, check-ups like this have to be scheduled along the way.
Then we ran around (or drove in taxis) to get our Colombia visa and vehicle permit extended – more days without sightseeing. And honestly, the most interesting sights in the centre of Medellín were covered by the walking tour. Although, I might add another dedicated street art post for the inner city.
But we made an effort to see a few attractions outside the centre. One day we went to the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín (MAMM). But our timing couldn’t have been worse as all temporary exhibits were closed for replacements. (Why? Why can’t this be staged so that only one at a time is closed?) Let’s just say the small permanent exhibition left us a little underwhelmed…
Our overall impression of Medellín: it’s big, very big. And the hills are steep, very steep. That’s because the city sits in a narrow valley. And its buildings are tall, very tall! Well, at least in many parts of the city. The majority of Paisas (the citizens of this state) seem to live in apartment buildings, often 30 floors tall. This is partly for the added security such buildings offer. Only our friends Nicole and Guido lived in a row house in a gated estate, with their own small garden in the back.
But there’s no lack of green in this city! That’s one thing I commented on repeatedly. Most vegetation is very tropical: large, moss-covered stems, broad leaves, lush green. Major arterial roads are often lined with such old trees, new subdivisions and housing projects seem to leave at least a few mature trees standing and surround these with densely planted tropical garden beds.
Getting into cities with our large truck is always a little difficult, to park it safely even more so – hence we spend a lot of time well outside the city limits. For most of the time we were at “Al Bosque”, an overlander meeting place. We chatted with fellow overlanders, published our new “Butterfly Calendar” (thanks to excellent WiFi at the campground), and caught up with photo sorting and blog posts.
The Time I Did Some Gardening
We also met a really inspiring woman in Medellín: Lucana! She’s a solo-overlander who drives a classic 1961 Mercedes 180B sedan. We featured her in our first post What inspired you to travel the Pan-American? .
Anyhow, Lucana invited us to stay at her ‘finca’ to the west of the city, near San Jeronimo. At Al Bosque we’d been always cold because this campground is at over 2,600m. Lucana’s place is much lower. We stayed over 10 days, in which time I offered to plant a garden around her newly constructed waterfall feeding into the swimming pool.
The hill for the waterfall is really steep, so the work was rather difficult and back breaking. In the end I didn’t get to finish the whole project because I discovered that part of the waterfall, the rock edge, needed to be re-concreted. Unfortunately all her workers were too busy getting the second storey of her new house finished in preparation for the roof, which was going to be delivered two weeks later…
I envy Colombians: beautiful helaconias cost here less than $2.50 for a healthy plant – big enough that you can divide it straight away! At home they are close to $20 each.
It’s likely that I forgot to include one or another place that we visited in 2017 and didn’t write about. But if I don’t remember them, then they are probably not really worth mentioning… We still have to catch up on more posts from 2017, the next one will be a summary of the things we did in 2017. Then we’ll write about our two weeks in Bogotá and its amazing – really amazing – street art! But by then we’ll be well into the new year, possibly at the coast of Colombia…
Disclaimer: the link to the Footprint guide book on this page is primarily for illustration purpose; it is an affiliate link for Amazon (where we get a small commission but you don’t pay more).