From Sao Paulo to Quito

Trip Start Oct 29, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Ecuador  , Pichincha,
Sunday, November 13, 2011

So following on from my 10 days in Sao Paulo I began my adventure proper in South America by heading off to Ecuador for four weeks. The plan was to focus on two main areas in Ecuador – the Avenue of the Volcanoes and the Galapagos Islands so I booked a couple of trips with a company called Exodus who I had travelled with before.

Ecuador (which literally translates to the Republic of the Equator) is a republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border with Brazil. The country also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) west of the mainland. The main spoken language in Ecuador is Spanish. Ecuador straddles the equator, from which it takes its name

So on Thursday 11th November I took a couple of flights via Panama City to Quito. For some unexplicable reason I managed to get a business class flight cheaper than an economy one so I rocked up at Sao Paulo and checked in via the 'Executive Class' queue. I was about as ‘Unexecutive Class’ as they come, with a large red North Face (obviously) kit bag and a large rucksack, dressed in jeans, a fleece and a pair of walking boots. When I boarded the plane I think the cabin crew were about to make an attempt to send me back to where I belonged in Economy but I managed to hold my own and persuade them that yes I did belong here. I think it helped that I was sat next to an American Businessman who was nearly as casual as I was.  Was doing really well with it all until I fell asleep and then woke up to find I’d dribbled down my lovely black fleece. Was surprised they didn’t make an emergency landing in the middle of the Amazon to eject me from the flight based on the look I got from one ofthe cabin crew. Now before the flight I was extremely excited as I was flying with Copa Airlines. Was a little disappointed with it all though. Food was lovely, good choice of alcohol (always important to have a few drinks before flying into an airport at altitude!), even had a bit of Harry Potter (had to close my eyes for half he film due to the big snake). But where was Barry !!!! I expected that when you boarded you would get at least one rendition of Copacabana – if not the 12 inch version (yes I have looked it up – there is one) on a continuous loop for the entire flight (although actually that could be a little excessive). The least they could surely have done was to ensure that members of the cabin crew were called either Tony, Rico or Lola. But sadly there was nothing.

So I arrived in Quito on the Thursday night and then pottered around the new town area for a couple of days waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. This served me well because I basically spent the two days wondering around a 2.5km squared area of city. When some of the rest of the group arrived the next day and we went to dinner I proudly showed off my expert knowledge of the Quito area. Little did they know that this was because I had spent the previous two days doing round in circles trying to find a supermarket, when if you actually turned left out of the hotel rather than right it was just there about 100m away (if only I had a couple of geography degrees !).

So come Sunday morning all of the group had arrived (some with luggage, some without ! – Good old Continental via Houston again Lianne).  We were 16 in total, a mix of couples and people travelling solo. So we began the first day’s getting to know you period – which is basically all about where you come from, what job you do and what other trips you have been on. We were also eagerly trying to suss each other out about prior mountaineering experience, just to check we weren’t actually withSir Chris Bonnington or Bear Ghrylls.  I got very excited as usually I end up travelling with a load of teachers but due to the time of year there were none in sight. Instead we had among us a G.P., a surgeon, two pathologists, a nurse, a guy in the merchant navy , and two air traffic controllers (one who works on the flight simulators).  I was so excited as it was all my favourite TV shows combined – Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Silent Witness, the Onedin Line (yes Bill I know I used to cry when the music came on – I was only 4 !) and the Krypton Factor – could it get any better ! (Ballroom dancers perhaps?)

We headed off to get kitted out with the mountaineering that  gear we would need for later in the trip and then onto a city tour of the old Colonial part of the city. Quito is the second highest capital in the world at a height of 2850m about sea level (La Paz in Bolivia being the highest), set high in the Andes, amidst mist-covered peaks and packed with historical monuments and architectual treasures. The Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage Site full of picturesque plazas and magnificent churches (yes of course I have directly lifted this from the Lonely Planet). We visited (see photos) first of all the El Panecillo (the little Bread Loaf Hill) which is topped by a huge statue of La Virgen de Quito. Then we headed off to the Plaza of San Francisco. Following on from this we visited La Compania de Jesus (Church of the Society of Jesus) which is is a blend of Baroque and Quiteño art, and is considered by many to be one of the most ornate churches in Latin America. Inside the church is covered in gold leaf – even I was impressed. After this we headed off  to the Plaza Grande, which is the city’s main square and houses the Palacio del  Gobierno (Presidential Palace).  

Even I have to admit that the city is quite impressive and it did manage to maintain my interest for at least half an hour. My favourite element though, was that whilst the rest of the group was interetsed in it all and probably did have a longer attention span than me– the most important consideration of the day for most people seemed to be about when we were going to have lunch. Then from chatting to people I also realised that there was a pretty similar outlook throughout the group on it all. One of,  ‘that’s all very nice – but now can we go and see some mountains please’ – I knew we all going to get on fabulously ...
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Mum on

I have just answered a question on Eggheads as Ecuador is now my specialist subject. Can't wait for University Challenge!

Claire on

You should do this travelling and blogging lark as a job, I am hooked! This is good stuff!

Sandra Hughes on

Hi Liz Your mum forwarded us your blog, which I am thoroughly enjoying reading. You sound as if you're having a wonderful time - you've made me smile and you've made me cry, but what an experience for you! I'll look forward to the next installment. Much love Sandra xx

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