Some days are better than others

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Saturday, January 16, 2010

The last few days have had their ups and downs, and it's not the bumpy roads I'm talking about.

We arrived at our Galapagos airport to the news that our flight would be delayed by two hours, and this of course subsequently turned into a four hour wait. It may not seem that long, but as I'm sure you can imagine, Baltra airport isn't teeming with entertainment opportunities.... quite a few souvenir stands, though almost identically stocked. But after the first hour or two and the sweltering heat, the wooden iguanas & stuffed boobies did become quite tempting (hey, can't pass up a perfectly good boobie quip).

We eventually completed our flight back to Quito only to discover that our pre-arranged transportation had given up and left, leaving us to find our own way to the hostel. It also meant that we were too late to be able to phone the UK to wish Great-Granny a Happy 90th Birthday....still, I think she was just as happy to hear from us the following day:-)

On our last full day in Quito we decided to ride the Teleferiqo, the second highest gondola in the World, riding it from the edge of the city up the side of Pichincha Volcano to a height of 4200m. Much of the excitement of the ride was lost on the kids as it was "much slower than the gondola at Sunshine" (our regular ski resort). The views from the top were fantastic, looking out over the city of Quito.

Next stop (via local bus) was "Mitad del Mundo" or the "Middle of the World". Just to the north of Quito is a very large and splashy official monument marking the equator; resplendent marble with obligatory painted line running through the grounds to mark the equator. We stopped long enough for a quick lunch and to take the mandatory photos with a foot in either hemisphere. Just around the corner was XXXX, announcing the true 0'0'0" (as calculated using military GPS) and located just a few hundred metres to the north of the official monument... so we grudgingly paid our second entry fee for nominally the same attraction, but were pleasanty surprised as the locals did a much better job of entertaining the tourists than the Government version (so what's new!). They provide a guided tour of various Ecuadorian historical and cultural exhibits, including the how and why of shrunken heads and a typical home complete with real, live Guinea Pigs in the corner (an important source of protein in several South American countries, though Lauren was insistent that these must be pets....). They also did a variety of demonstrations to "prove" the equatorial effects (draining water rotating in opposite directions etc), and while we're pretty sure these were faked, it was lots of fun.

The next morning, while Derek worked, Sarah & kids ambled around the district of Mariscal, buying postcards, browsing through various bookstores (where we managed to trade in some of the books that we have finished for new books for the kids) and generally feeling quite comfortable and enjoying the city. Our warm and fuzzy feelings for Quito were to be short lived.....

After picking up Derek from the hostel we all set off to walk to the Trole (that's "trolley" not "ogre") bus stop to go to the old town. As we walked along the street in broad daylight, a well-dressed man started talking to Sarah in Spanish and gesturing at Sarah's pants. After a bemused interchange, we realised he was pointing out that there was something spilt on her pants!?! He then, very kindly and somewhat fortunately, produced a packet of napkins to help clean off what we now realized was mustard. Since there was an unfeasibly large squirt of the condiment up and down Sarah's rear he gestured that we should step to the side in the shade to clean up, maybe even into the lobby of a darkened building (we didn't think that part was a good idea). He then drew our attention to the mustard on Sarah's backpack and that she should remove it so that he could clean it. Sarah refused and Derek started to clean it, but as he did so a few more kind passersby stopped to offer to help, all with napkins at the ready, and then it became apparent that Derek had also become a human hot dog with mustard up and down his backpack and pants too. There were more gestures to step inside the building to get clean, which we firmly refused, and as they quickly realised that we were wise to their tricks, it was "down napkins and scarper" whereupon we were suddenly all alone again, save the omnipresent sweet-yet-spicy aroma which was our constant companion all the way back to the hostel. Upon hearing our tale, the hostel staff informed us that this was unfortunately common, and that most people do not come away as fortunate as us and usually lose their valuables (usually backpacks) in the process. Having survived the attempted "mustard mugging" or "condiment caper" we hastily bid farewell to the Travellers Inn and Quito and caught the next bus to Otavalo, a small market town two hours north of Quito.

The bus to Otavalo was quite fascinating. As we drove through the outskirts of Quito, every time the bus stopped for passengers, for traffic congestion or for traffic lights, one or more vendors would hop onto the bus going up and down the aisle selling their wares and then hop off at the next stop. (When I say "sell" I mean repeat the name of the merchandise as loudly and many times per second as possible... brings another meaning to "sales volume"). The variety of items for sale was fairly broad; fruits, ice-cream, nuts, chips, candies and even jewelery. However, Sarah was even more intrigued by a lady passenger who had a young child (probably about one year old). Shortly before reaching her destination, she positioned the child on her back, and then with a flurry of activity proceded to throw a sheet over/under/across and neatly tying the ends together (think tasmanian devil meets the Generation game) to fix the little body fast and safe, then (probably after a Spanish "taa-daa"), picked up her bags and departed the bus. Why didn't anybody teach Sarah how to that when our kids were young?

We arrived in Otavalo and were soon at our hostel - not the fanciest accommodation we've ever stayed in, but what it lacked in quality was made up for in the affability of Roberto the owner. We headed into town and found a restaurant where for $10 we got four bowls of soup, a large roast chicken, rice, fries and salad for 4 people! The surprise came when Lauren went fishing in her soup bowl, bringing up a whole severed chicken's foot. Good training for China!

Next morning was an early(ish) start, since the reason that we had come to Otavalo on a Saturday was to witness the livestock market which is only held from 7am-9am on Saturday mornings. Otavalo is a market town and is the largest handicraft market in South America; artisans come from all of the surrounding communities to sell their wares. Many of the artisans also pedal their merchandise to tourists at smaller markets during the week, but Saturday is the big market day. The livestock market was a sight to behold; predominantly filled with locals the market area was thick with the hustle and bustle of people trading livestock. We saw cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, kittens, puppies and of course, cuy (that's guinea pig to most of us). Aside from the guinea pigs, it wasn't so much the variety of animals that are of interest, but the way that people do business and transport/contain the animals. It seems that chickens are usually carried away from market with feet trussed and tucked under the arm of the customer. Guinea pigs tend to be shoved into large sacks - not sure how many are usually in a sack (probably more, the longer you leave it), but the vendor or customer reaches in and lifts them out around the neck apparently to facilitate a guesstimate of weight and/or meat content. All animals seem to arrive and depart market very much alive. Larger animals such as cattle, pigs, goats and sheep have rope harnesses and are walked (or dragged) away from the market. The recipients of the gentlest handling are the puppies and kittens, presumably as these are pets not food, right?

After the excitement of the livestock market we perused the artisans market and felt good about our bargaining skills (isn't that the intent?) as we purchased a panama hat ($7 from $15) and an alpaca wrap ($5 from $9). Roberto kindly drove us to the bus terminal and after a quick lunch ($1.50) we were on our way back to Quito airport for our flight to Lima. Next update from the City of Kings....
Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • You must enter a comment
  • You must enter your name
  • You must enter a valid name (" & < > \ / are not accepted).
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address


Kevin Sorensen on

I was always amazed at how cheaply I could eat while on my travels, if you are willing to forgo the tourist traps. It's a nice bonus. Glad you folks are doing well and avoiding the real traps.

Zuri on

Ecuador is one of the most beautiful countries of South America. Nothing compares to the landscapes of the Highlands, the lush of the Amazon Rainforest, the exotic Beaches of the Coast and the mystery of the Galapagos Islands. Hope you have enjoyed your stay.

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: