The South American Adventure Begins

Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Monday, July 31, 2006

The flight over to Ecuador was quite long, and we arrived in the afternoon, very tired. We stupidly watched the in-flight movies rather than sleeping and with a time difference of around 6 hours and with little sleep over the last few days we were in for a very long day!

We were surprised how small the airport was at Quito, and even more surprised at immigration when the booths were filled with about 5 women in each one as they checked the passports!

After immigration, we were quite happy to see the locals returning home to really big warm welcomes from their families (even with balloons!). It was a positive start! We got a taxi to the hostel, and while checking in we were suddenly pounced upon and greeted with big hugs and smiles from Glenn's brother, Jason, who had flown here 2 days before to spend a week with us in Ecuador, before seeing Peru and Bolivia.

It was great to catch up with our little bro again, and we had a wonderful time at dinner that night - like a family reunion on the other side of the world. We exchanged stories - our engagement, and his brave explorations of Quito - visiting some of the most dangerous parts which the guidebooks recommend only to visit with a taxi... he had, after all, just kept walking!

The next day was market day at Otavalo (a small town outside of Quito), and although we normally like to see a bit of the town we are staying at first, the markets at Otovalo were famous, so we were off! We decided to hike up to a main road that Jason had been before where the buses to Otovalo passed, rather than going to the other side of town to the bus station. It was a decent incline, good for testing our acclimatisation to the altitude here (2850m). We were suffering a bit - not yet properly acclimatised, but we made it close to the road and saw the remaining hill to climb... yes, very steep. Suddenly a bus came to a halt on the road and waited as we all clambered up... Otavalo? Yes! And on we jumped. Too easy! Great to be back in a country with these kind of laid back transport options.

The markets were interesting - the people there definitely the highlight, more than the goods. It was quite a sight - both Glenn and Jason armed with their cameras wandering around the market trying to get people shots. The markets reminded us a bit of Asia - they were definitely a big part of the life, and with the raw meat hanging around, being cut up as required, it sure brought back some memories. Still, here, the characters of South America as we had imagined were everywhere - the vibrant colours, big smiles and the wonderful panama hats, plaited hair and missing teeth. We had a ball just watching them.

Of course, our fun wasn't going to last forever - the rain came down! We felt a little guilty as the market stall owners scrambled to protect their goods from the rain as we retreated into a restaurant. We discussed other plans about exploring some of the towns nearby, but with the rain, we decided to return to Quito. This gave us a bit of time to wander around the old town, with Jason acting as a great tour guide, having explored the area a few days before. As darkness approached, we did, however, feel a little unsafe wandering around - just an element of "dodginess", which the guidebooks did warn about.

The next day, we decided to catch the "teleferiqo" (cable car) up Cruz Loma, one of the hills on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano. Unknown to us at the time (the guidebooks had little information), the cable car goes up to 4,050 m, above the city way down below at nearly 3000m. Jason had actually gone up this a few days before, but was greeted with fog so thick he could only see a few metres in front. It was a clear day, so we grabbed a taxi to the cable car.

Christie, as usual was not overly happy about going in yet another cable car (they are scary you know!). We had a choice of two tickets - normal or express, with express meaning that you could queue jump, but with no queue we didn't understand why you would bother, so we got the normal tickets.

Heading up the mountain, we realised actually how far up we were going. It was a great view - the beautiful green hills with the city sprawl below. At the top, we took the necessary photos, and then decided to hike up some of the trails nearby. Off in the distance was a snow capped mountain, which the paths slowly made its way towards, taking in the vistas over the city along the way. It was a beautiful hike, but after hiking for hours we were really starting to feel the altitude.

The volcano peak was getting closer, and Christie had decided to stop for a breather, while Jason and Glenn continued on, just a bit more... After reaching a sign posting before the volcano, quite a fair way up (over 4200m), we debated whether to continue on to the summit, but wisely decided to head down as it was getting cold and we weren´t really prepared for mountain climbing. By this time, Christie joined us ... she is amazing to keep up with us boys.

On descent, Jason started looking pale and wobbly; the altitude had got him and he was not looking good. Quite worried, we had a long walk down pestering him to see if he was getting worse and whether he was drinking enough water. After a long walk down (yes we had come a long way), we stopped for lunch and a hot chocolate before taking the cable car. This seemed to help him a bit, and the hot chocolate certainly warmed us up.

But to our horror, the cable car had a quite a mile long queue and it took an hour to get to the front... Jason looking green all this time. Oops, now we understood what the express tickets were for! Finally down, we caught a bus back to the hotel... Jason had improved, but needed to rest. Christie and Glenn both felt mild headaches too, but not so bad.

Lets hope he improves as tomorrow we move on! No time to rest Jason! (That's brotherly love!)
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