London to Quito

Trip Start Oct 06, 2005
Trip End Oct 04, 2006

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Thursday, October 6, 2005

After a very early start we caught our flight at 7.30am from London Heathrow to Quito, via Madrid. The flights were fine with only slight delays. For some reason we were sat in the area with loads of kids making loads of noise, making it difficult to sleep. The vast majority of the flight from Madrid was South American passengers who youīd think had never seen blonde hair before. This was to be the start of A LOT of staring! If any blondes out there need a confidence boost, come here they love it!

Landing into Quito was amazing as itīs 2850m above sea level and so we actually landed above the clouds! Bev and I noticed that as the pilot announced to the air stewards to "prepare for landing" everyone fell silent! We looked around and saw that about 90% of the passengers had their rosary beads out praying and were kissing photos of their loved ones! I have to admit on seeing that I popped up a few words to him upstairs too. As soon as we landed a passenger shouted "Ole!" and the whole plane erupted into cheers and clapping. Bev and I couldn't stop laughing so we decided the only thing to do was join in.

As soon as we left the airport I could feel the affects of the altitude on my breathing which was weird and took some getting used to. Quito is the capital city of Ecuador and is cradled in a high Andean valley. There are essentially two parts to Quito - the Old Town and the New Town. We stayed in a hostel in the New Town called Posada Del Maple which was nice but didnīt have many other people staying there.

Our first real day in Quito was on the Friday when we ventured into the Old Town for the day. Much of the day was spent looking around the main sites including the Catherdral, a Church called La Compaņia de Jesus, which is Ecuadors most ornate Church (seven tons of gold were used to gild the walls, ceiling and altars inside!) and the Basilica. The Basilica was the high light of Quito for me as we were able to climb up to the top of the clock tower to see great views all across the city. The climb up was a challenge as every time we climbed one set of ladders there was another set above. It was steep and no health and safety precautions at all just a shed load of ladders and us h and one or two randomly placed signs that said "take care"!

We also visited the Monastry of Sanfransisco which was an amazing sight. There was a service taking place when we went in so I stayed and listened for a while. Itīs an awesome place with loads of statues which my guide book informs me are examples of baroque carvings!

We decided to take lunch with the locals at Cafe Quiteņo Libre, which is in the cellar of a hotel. They have a popular 3 course set menu for $2.00 so we thought weīd order that like the rest of the punters! Well, as you can see from the attached picture the first course was soup, which tasted great, and I was happily enjoying it when I noticed something in it! It was a great big bone! We wondered if it might be the local favourite, Guinea Pig, but the waiter assured us it wasnīt is was just "meat"! What ever that means. Anyway, it was tasty and we ate it along with our other courses which consisted of more suspicious looking meat in a batter with rice and then a bunch of grapes!

On Saturday we decided to go to a town north of Quito, called Otovalo, to their famous street market. We took a taxi from the hostel and asked him to take us to the main road north of the city, where we were told to catch the bus. As we drove along the taxi started tooting at a bus along side us and flagged him down to let us on...there are no bus stops here, you just flag them down!

The bus itself was out of this world, literally! It was decorated inside with yellow velour curtains that swagged across each window and were given a special touch by way of a rim of cream tassels. It was like being inside one of those standard lamps your Granny used to have! Even the emergency light on the ceiling had a row of tassels! Man it was tasseltastic! At first I thought it was a shame that the curtains meant you had a restricted view out of the window, however, I was soon glad that I couldnīt see. Seriously, I think the bus driver must have been on a new staff incentive scheme where by he received a bonus for getting there in record breaking time. He drove so fast it was unbelievable. He was obviously an experienced driver because he knew exactly how fast he could take a corner and how far the bus could lean to one side without actually tipping over! Even I felt travel sick! We were then in for a shock when we realised that the bus the taxi driver had flagged for us didnīt actually go into the town it just passed the main highway near it. The conductor shouted to us to get off, which we did, and then we turned to ask which way the market was but the ever keen bonus seeking bus driver already had his foot to the floor and left us eating dust! Not to worry we did what any traveler in that situation would do... we got out our Lonely Planet guide and found a map!

The market was massive and full of vibrant coloured clothes to buy. I wanted to buy loads but restrained for two reasons - Firstly, I would only have to carry what ever I bought and I wasnīt sure I had the room in my back pack or the energy to carry it. Secondly, these type of things always look great when you buy them but then when you get them home you realise the extent to which youīve made a mistake. So no bright pink poncho and Panama hat to go out in York for me. Phew! The locals at the market were predominantly dressed in their traditional get up. The men wore long single pigtails, calf length white pants, rope sandals, reversible grey and navy ponchos and dark felt hats. The women were very striking, with beautiful embroidered blouses, long black skirts and shawls and then interestingly folded cloths on their head.

On the bus heading back into Quito we realised that Ecuador was playing a World cup qualifying match that evening against Uruguay, in Quito! We went to a local Mexican restaurant to watch it with the locals whilst eating Fajitas and drinking strawberry daiquiris! The crowds were very excited and just seemed to squeal like girls when ever one of their players got the ball. It was like watching a primary school team play when the mother of each child shouts for their son as soon as he gets the ball. The match was terrible and ended o-o. This was all Ecuador needed to qualify and so the party began. Cars drove around the city for hours tooting their horns. Crowns filled the street and sang with joy that they were going to Alemania! It really was an excellent atmosphere and a great night to be in Quito and experience the party.

As the night was still young and we hadnīt anticipated the affects of mixing alcohol and high altitude, we decided to go to a Latin dance club called "Seseribo". It was packed full of Ecuadorians wearing football shirts. No sooner had we ordered our drinks and sat down to pour them, were we asked to dance by two local guys. I wish now Iīd had lessons before I came as itīs not as easy as it looks! The general idea was that everyone got up and danced for about 5 songs and then everyone sat down for a rest for about 5 songs and so it continued. The Latin music was great and Bev and I just started to get into when suddenly the tempo changed and we were dancing to ...wait for it...Queen, The Eurythymics, Bonnie Tyler, Roy Orberson and many more. It was bonkers and they all kept trying to dance Latino moves, which Iīm sorry just wasnīt right. We had a good time dancing but decided to make a sharp exit when we realised that in Ecuador if youīve danced with a man heīs expecting more moves later and Iīm not talking about on the dance floor!!!!! No thanks!

We decided after that we were "finito with Quito" and so moved on the very next day!
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