Out of Quito and into the deep end

Trip Start May 01, 2005
Trip End Mar 25, 2006

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The potato may have been discovered in the Americas but a commodity yet to be unearthed in Atacames, a resort on the northern coast of Ecuador, is any kind of taste in beach wear by the Ecuadorians holidaying there. You have to wear sunglasses to shield your eyes not just from the sun, but also from the brilliant glare bouncing off the ultra-shiny spandex teeny-weenies worn by every man over 40. Truly a distressing sight. I ventured there from Quito and stayed in a hostel just outside Atacames with a private beach. No speedos allowed.

Another awe-inspiring sight is the Basilica in Quito. On a clear, smog-free day you can see brilliant views of the sprawling city from the top, but watch out for the very steep ladders and don't wear a skirt, unless you want that party of schoolboys to catch sight of an altogether different view not mentioned in any guidebooks outside of Bangkok. My final excursion in Quito before I left was to watch the Independence Day military parade. I counted 6 helicopters, 3 jets, a 1940's car, a division of goosestepping soldiers and some horses. I wouldn't put money on Ecuador in a scrap with Peru.

In my first month here, it's been interesting to meet so many people from different countries and have my assumptions about them either confirmed or completely smashed. I'm sure, for example, that the Belgians I met in Quito aren't representative of their nation, because to say that they had no social skills is like saying Mount Everest is a wee bit high. I've also met some great Americans who are nothing like their stereotype abroad (except of course for the 18 year old who, when told she couldn't use her hands in a game of footy, said "I can do what I want, I'm from America". Oh dear). I've made some great friends - hello Nari, Signe, Bob, Nell and Desi! - and will no doubt meet heaps more people on my travels.

So here I am in Baños, after a month of Spanish lessons, homework and exams in Quito. Baños is a lovely little town famed for its hot springs and surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and one very active volcano. The journey here was interesting. When taking the bus in Ecuador, you have two choices. (1) sit up front where it's not so bumpy and there's less chance of dislocating anything vital, but where you have no choice but to witness every aspect of the driver's ability to induce a near-death experience every time he takes a blind corner trying to overtake two men and a donkey at high speed, or (2) sit at the back where you can enjoy the ride in blissful ignorance of the driver's death wish, but where bits of your bones will slowly be chipped off. Of course you could sit in the middle of the bus, but that would be a combination of the two choices above and only Kiwis would do that. I may have to take back everything I said about London transport.

I'm staying in a great hostel with a roof terrace where we can watch the rain and mist in comfort. So far I've conquered one of my fears and spent a day white-water rafting in class 3 rapids. It was excellent fun, especially for the others as they watched me catapult out of the boat as we hit the first huge rapid, a consequence of me being half the body weight of everyone else in the boat. We had one scary moment when the boat in front completely flipped over and we couldn't see the occupants, only realising a few moments later that they were under our boat. I decided against horse riding up the mountain, I think overcoming one fear per week is enough, don't you?

¡Hasta luego!
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