Trip Start Jan 14, 2013
Trip End Apr 15, 2013

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Flag of Ecuador  , Pichincha,
Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Our flight to Quito from Cartegena has us lost in translation watching the earthquake news on the boob tube in the Bogota airport. Looked like it had centred around Cali, our next stopover before Quito. A little antsy for a bit but flights right on schedule and no serious issues from the quake.

When we decided to arrive in Quito on a Sunday we new the streets would be free of cars, bicycles only and street markets would be happening. We didn't realize we would be arriving on the first day of Ecuadors four day Carnival. The sun cooperated and we enjoyed a full day of street entertainment, excellent music and a parade through the old city streets. Carnival time is very much a family oriented event which means kids get to dress in costume, load up on foam canisters and fire at will at each other or anyone else in their path! It is also a time for families to pay their respects at the many beautiful churches and cathedrals. We came across a group playing traditional music that had drawn a fairly large crowd. An older gentleman ( we later find out he was 97 ) persuaded a gal to join him for a dance or two, obviously confident in his moves. They have the crowd cheering and in occasional laughter as they made their moves along the street. Mom and Dad would have fit right in on this dance floor. The parade procession was led by two policeman on a motorcycle who you could barely make out as they had been covered by a group of kids with the now obligatory foam canisters. The parade  was incredible with one well rehearsed group after another making their way along the main street with hundreds cheering them on while they received cheers and the foam bombardment from the sidelines.

Quito sits around 9000 feet and as in Bogota you feel the altitude change immediately, especially coming from the coast. Day two we decided to take on the gondola trip up the local "Telefrico Mountain" as it is listed as a must see. The trip takes around ten minutes heading in a fairly vertical direction. About half way up we eerily glide into cloud nine and reach the top in pea soup. This base is now 13,247 feet and yes we are finding it a wee bit difficult to breathe. Even though its a slice of foggy mountain pie we decide to take a walk and find it similar to walking slow motion in the pool with someone giving you a hugabug. The sun partially breaks through to provide glimpses of incredible views, so we press on...upwards...to find the fog again and a dozen or so guides with horses offering trips further up to 16,400 feet. I offer to strap Marg to my saddlebags but alas we decide to descend and decompress....We both have altitude sickness symptoms for the next two days, Marg a little more so and something that we are aware can happen, but when in Rome as they say. 

Finding a ATM open wasn't easy with the holidays on so I googled the old city to see what popped up. The first site I came across was a warning regarding "express kidnappings" in Quito where you are escorted to the ATM and politely asked to withdraw your cash. Surely this method would find us one that was open? Not to worry the article was from 2010. The police are now stationed at all ATM sites, banks, grocery stores, shoe shine corner, chicken BBQ stalls, all intersections and pretty much anywhere  else you might find a gringo. 

The ear busting thunderstorms that hit us remind us of home, just as loud and just as much rain but a little warmer at 15c. Our first test with our mec bullet proof rain jackets that pass with flying colours. We lick our Quito altitude sickness wounds, pack our bags once again and head for the bus station that will take us four hours south to Banos, the outdoor recreation capital of Ecuador.

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