Trip Start Aug 31, 2012
17Trip End Apr 30, 2013
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The following three days hiking seemed to get progressively more difficult. This was in parts due to: The hardships of 'downhill’ and the joints (Knees, ankles, heels and toes, heels and toes) not being what they used to; the grinding gravitational pull against ‘uphill’; the worry over our maps being hand drawn by local hostel owners (presumably after so many idiot hikers just never found their way to the hostels – there are many paths in those hills), and so always feeling like we just weren’t quite sure enough that we were on the right tracks, but hoping that Jesus, Maria, or Pachamama would eventually lead us the right way; and of course, upon then finding ourselves a little off the right track and feeling sure – or at least verbally reassuring ourselves - that all roads lead to Rome, discovering those “paths” we were “walking” on were clinging to the sides of vertical cliffs like a week-old dusty plaster clings to an elbow (i.e., not much), and we must have lost count of how many times we found ourselves edging across crumbling sand (yes, sandy cliffs) with naught but the welcoming hands of an abyss to catch us the second the rest of this “path” just happens to slide gently away on a breeze into oblivion (I know that usually you can rely on my sense of over-dramatising, but I want you to go through the same ordeal I did – sorry panicky parents, but…)
I think the views of those days more than made up for the ordeal. We passed through hills, mountains and valleys that would have made Heidi weep. We saw flowers every step of the way, mooed at enough cows to crowd an English moor, and even met Kerri’s first Llama. The smells of Eucalyptus and pine hung everywhere, the sky was always a child’s paintbrush-blue, with clouds that seemed unmoving, yet always changing. I think it will take a lot to beat that experience for me. Even my lungs started to appreciate that ever-squashed feeling. Kerri is glad to be at the beach now. She’s sunbathing under a sky that’s not quite blue, while I take one of the many hammocks around our beach hostel. The birds don’t know how to use their indoor voices, the breeze is making the palms dance lazily, and we’re allowing the muscles and joints their well-earned recovery time
Before the hiking (ordeal?) holiday, we had had to stop a night in the local town of Latacunga, famous for two things: Being a good starting point for doing the Quilotoa Loop, and the Mama Negra (that’s right - ‘black mama’) Festival, which we just happened to arrive in time for! What a stroke of good luck! This was a two-day (all day, and into the night) parade, performed by what seemed to be thousands of locals, playing music (the same easy breezy two-note melody, foot-stampably 4/4 beat played all day on saxophones, trumpets, snares, bass drums, trombones etc) that we can still hear in our heads, twirling, dancing, and handing out shots of methylated spirits flavoured with fruit schnapps for the general merry inebriation of the crowd, all of them dressed in the most colourful costumes and masks. We have shown a few of the pictures here to try give you a sense of the plethora of colours we were treated to this day.
And before that little surprise fiesta, we spent four days camping in the hills north of Quito, a place called Otavalo, famous for having the largest outdoor market in South America, which we perused on a Saturday, dazzled by the miles and miles of piles of Alpaca shawls, scarves and jumpers it is possible for one small town (and apparently some neighbouring villages) to make. As impressive as this was, I am almost always finding myself hearing the wisdom of Socrates in a place like this, ‘As I wander round the market place, I find myself amazed by the vast amount of things that I just don’t need’. Maybe I’m just a tight-fisted Yorkshireman. Certainly tight-fisted enough that I am always happy when we’re offered a free place to stay for a couple of nights
“Coca leaf tea, Too high to care your teeth are green!”
And, “Snickers, The snack the best backpackers pick!”
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