Posted by: Bert and Tania | December 3, 2011

Ecuador… the Land of Volcanoes, Camera Thieves and Boobies with Blue Feet

Hasta luego Mexico. Hola Ecuador. We arrived into the capital, Quito on 4th October in style, business class style. Yes, thats right… during the internet-based flight buying process we somehow managed to get a business class flight to Ecuador for $150. We had proper cutlery/crockery, sparkling wine, salads containing 2 different types of sun-dried tomatoes AND asparagus AND being called Mr and Mrs Beagley-Brown. Nice. I was especially excited by it as it was my first experience out of the cheap seats.

Ecuador made it onto our destination list for one reason. The Galapagos Islands. So our stay in Quito was really just long enough to get a feel for the place and try and book ourselves a last minute (and hopefully therefore cheaper) tour. Bingo. We managed to get ourselves a great deal on an 8 day tour round the Northern Islands (although actually they are more like the West islands) including the islands of Genovesa, Isabella and Fernandina. It was fantastic, so fantastic in fact that it deserves its own post. So stay tuned for that.

Our time in mainland Ecuador was short and split between Quito and another town called Latacunga. In Quito we initially stayed in the New Town which was very touristy. Lots of bars and restaurants and tour agencies. We spent our day and a half there looking for Galapagos tour deals and trying to keep Bert out of the chori-pan (Argentinian sausage sandwich) restaurant we found there. Latacunga however was where we chose to spend the rest of our time before our Galapagos trip, about an hours bus ride south of Quito. WARNING: Never put your bag on the over head shelf on a public bus in Ecuador, no matter how strongly the ‘nice’ bus conductor man suggests that you do so. You will end up with fewer belongings than you started with. I am now camera and 5 weeks worth of photos less. Bum.

We went to Latacunga to trek the Quilatoa Loop, a 3 days circuit of rural villages and spectacular scenery. Alas, I got ill and spent 3 days lying in bed and… well I’ll spare you the details. Bert however boldly trekked out in my absence and made a day trip to see the Quilatoa Crater (see panorama pic) with a lovely Dutch family we met – Meret, Pepijn & Felin. In the meantime I completed 3 levels of Angry Birds (all with 3 stars I hasten to add), so it wasn’t a complete disaster. Besides, nothing could dampen our excitement about our Galapagos tour which we went on next.

We returned to Quito and stayed a few nights in the Old Quarter. A much more characterful part of town. We climbed the Basilica… a crazy building with absolutely shocking build quality. We’re talking 2 inch gaps between the clock tower and the main building. Thats more than just careless. Climbing steps followed by a spiral staircase or two and then ladder we reached the clock towers. Each clock tower had 3 clocks. All of them (thats 6 in total) displayed different times. Ah, but that wasn’t the end. From the clock tower you crossed the narrow planked gangway to another rickety ladder leading to a thin iron stairway up to the lookout tower which offered pretty good views over Quito. Not quite as good though as the views that we got the following day by taking a cable car up one of the big volcanic lumps of rock that form the valley in which Quito sprawls along. That was pretty impressive and we got to see almost all 45km of Quito spread out below us. Quito is BIG.

We also finally got to open the little envelope (only to be opened whilst we were in Ecuador) that we have been carrying for over 2 years now. Its contents allowed us to buy his’n’hers authentic Panama hats. Thank you Ollie for a really thoughtful and fun wedding present. I have to admit I hadn’t actually realised that Panama hats originated in Ecuador.

The rest of our time in Quito was spent:
– in or trying to find the correct police station in which we could report stolen cameras,
– discovering that all of Ecuador’s best cocoa gets exported (mainly to Europe) and so chocolate in Ecuador doesn’t actually taste that bueno unless its been made by Europeans,
– eating THE tastiest corvina (seabass) in the local market (the closest we’ve come to fish and chips in almost a year)
– selecting a pair of custom handmade Ecuadorian boots. For someone with massive feet, this is very exciting,
– visiting Otavalo Market to browse the overwhelming array of ponchos and other knitted items and
– looking at shrunken heads and trying to balance an egg on a nail at the “Middle of the World” actual equator line.

We had the pleasure of Rosie and George’s company for much of our time in Ecuador and fine company it was too and had been since we first arrived in Mexico. So it was all quite strange and sad to be waving goodbye to such bueno travelling companions as they headed off to enjoy their remaining days in Latin America and we prepared for our flight to Buenos Aires. Rosie and George, we salute you. You have been SUCH good fun and a joy to be with. Thank you.

So there it is, a brief insight into our time in Ecuador. Next stop… BUENOS AIRES and our grand return to our Southern Hemisphere home after more than 7 months away travelling.

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