Monday, March 20, 2006

Ecuador: PART THE ONE

Aha! At last! Pictures! Now you'll be sorry...

...or at least I was, a bit, to discover that all my photos make it look like a wet weekend in Bournemouth (no offence to Bournemouth, obviously. I said NO OFFENCE TO BOURNEMOUTH DEAR. IS IT TURNED ON? I SAID IS IT there you go). What would happen was we would come along, I would take a picture, then the sun would come out. I'm not saying it wasn't warm, I'm just warning you that it won't look it in the pictures...

Right. Brace yourselves. this will be neither educational nor informative. Or even funny. Party tape. Here we go!

We started off the trip in Quito, where I hooked up with the lovely Lady D. But only after much flying shenanigans with American Airlines, who didn't want to land in Quito as the airport was closed. We flew to the coast where they made us sit in the plane until the airport had reopened, we had refuelled, and the flight crew had swapped various flight horror stories ("Shurrup! Just shurrup!"). We took off again, only to circle over Quito while they closed the airport again. We were a bit miffed by now, and more miffed when we got back from where we had taken off from to discover the ENTIRE WORLD going through customs. Okay not the ENTIRE WORLD, but it felt like it.

But then lovely American Airlines put us all up in a five star hotel for free. Ahhh. Great place to recover from jetlag, I tell thee. But I am almost word perfect on their safety instructions video.

SO. Next day, after meeting a few cool Ecuadorians, I eventually made it to Quito. Much flapping and yelling at airport on meeting D.

Quite a lot of the city is overlooked by this lady - The Virgin Mary. You'll note she has wings. Apparently this is quite rare. But there is a reference in the Apocalypse chapter of the bible about the Virgin coming on wings or something. Poor Quito. She looks like something straight out of Gotham City if you ask me. And she is stabbing herself, but from certain angles it just looks like she has a bad stitch, and is waving the rest of the cross-country running team on. Oh dear. I'm going to get got by the Biblicals among us now.

We used the capital as a base a lot, as Ecuador is quite tiny-wee, and it made a good base. We also used to get most of our cultural ‘fix’, taking in museums, architecture and churches – as demonstrated by this picture so of La Compañía:



South American churches are decorated in outrageous fashion – lots of gold, sky blue, bleeding hearts, gory depictions of the Christ and kitsch doves – all very Baz Luhrmann - but don’t get me wrong; I’m not really into any organised religion, but these churches felt used, important, and miles warmer than stark European ones. So nix on us silly cynical travellers cluttering up the space. The Cathedral was also good. In 1877 some poor Bishop got done in with strychnine in the holy wine during the Good Friday Mass!

Bet he didn’t see that coming.

During our few days here this time (oh dear. I’m being pants. Honestly, you’re not even getting the edited highlights. Look, just insert your own hilarious conversations, surreal moments, drinking fun and fun here… go on… I won’t mind), and the other times we used stopped off at the city, we stayed in the Old Town at the excellent Secret Garden Hostel. I can safely say it was one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in. Tarquin (silly name for an Oz guy) and his crew were ace. Though not least because within about 45 minutes of being in the city I developed a bit of a crush on one of the volunteers at the hostel. Who I then proceeded to behave like a prat in front of over the next two weeks. Fantastic.

We went on a trip up an active volcano – Guagua Pichincua. ‘Guagua’ is pronounced ‘Waawaa’ and is the indigenous word for baby – obviously. Baby or no, it was still 4,794m upwards, and even with a 4x4 ride most of the way, was bloody hard going near the top. We were lucky though – as we reached the peak, the clouds cleared and we got glimpses of Quito below us, the mountains around us and the crater – with smoke coming out of it:



We also travelled 45 minutes out of the city to check out the Equator. Which – hilariously – when they used GPS they found they had misplaced by about 200m. Nice monument – shame it’s not in the right place. But, luckily for us touristy types, the real equator passes through a museum on the indigenous population. So we got a bit of culture, history, and a load equatorial malarkey. Such as balancing eggs on a nail, thusly:



Our guide said he hated this bit of the tour, coz he always mucked it up – but it worked. They also did the plughole thing, and some weird stuff with muscles on the equator. Flatmate Mat has tried hard to discredit all of this since I got back, but I was there and I saw and felt it myself. Yaarboosucks.

But all that aside, the tribes of Ecuador in this region believed the thumbs were a great place to absorb positive energies – which I can somehow believe.

Quito is great, but could be almost European city. After a few days it was time for something different, so after a beast of an all night coach journey (no, we don’t really stop in the town you want to go to, we lied) – which D and I are getting used to, especially for her with six months in South America – we hit Canoa for a few nights by the sea. We pitched out wee tent in a small hotelly thing, on the sand right on the beach. Sun. Brill. Cocktails. Better (bring back the cocktail hour institution). Pool table on the sand. Hammocks. Ace. Listened to Peach Trees by Rufus while swinging under palm trees, sipping something wicked. Just wonderful.



Quite surprised actually, as D is not normally into doing nothing on the beach – but it was really nice. Factor 35. Still burnt to buggery. Blast.

Headed north up the coast on several coaches for carnival time at Atacames. This actually turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Ecuadorians piled into the place, and played different-but-still-awful Raggatron tracks very loudly in bars that were right next to each other. And it rained. And if it was daytime, and it wasn’t raining, they were doing organised aerobics classes on the beach. Weird. Or throwing water at each other.

TO BE CONTINUED…

(when I get round to it)

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