So here we are in South America. It's a continent we haven't been to before so we are excited, nervous and totally underprepared in speaking the lingo, Spanish. Yes everybody knows 'hola', 'uno, dos tres' and 'grassyass' but that is the extent of it for us!
We left Emma's parents fending for themselves in LA while we caught a 6am flight from LA to Miami then onto Quito, Ecuador.
At LA we used the self check-in machines which then needed assistance. The lady was meant to check our ticket out of Ecuador, which we didnt have but legally should, but somehow missed the text that popped up on the screen saying just that!
LA is the worst airport we have ever left from. Granted, it would have helped if we knew who we were flying with, but we can't keep up with who we fly with as we fly all the time my darlings! After we checked in though, nothing was open - the baggage, the security and it was all done in an arse about face way!
It would have been nice to land at Quito airport in the day because its surrounded by the city which seems way too close to the runway, the runway is too short and its one of the highest airports in the world (2800 metres), situated in the Andes on the Avenue of Volcanoes. Therefore, I guess it's not surprising that they have a lengthy accident list! Hence a new airport is opening soon. It was handy though as we were at our hostel in 10 minutes. The first encounter with people from a foreign land is always an interesting one as you don't know the local customs, whether they like the gringos (us), do we tip, will the taxi man rob us?! So we got in the taxi with all these thoughts and he took us to the hostel no problems.
The hostel was a good one with breakfast, bar, tv, pool table, although we are now in dorms, due to the cost, this one being a 6 bed.
We met a couple (Matt and Kate) on the first night at the hostel so had a couple of beers before going to bed. They left the next morning so we said our goodbyes and we thought about venturing outside.
We decided to venture to the old town and vigorously followed our route as drawn by the hostel owner. I say that because we have read and heard about robberies in Quito so on our first day just wanted to stay in the busy areas.
We got to the old town and were pleasantly surprised how nice it looked. That is due to colonial buildings built by the Spanish. The area had a nice feel to it with people sat around the squares, having lunch, bit of shopping. Even though we had not picked up our Spanish book since we arrived we decided to goto a cafe with no menu.
We received our coca-cola and agua sin gas but lunch didn't turn out as expected. We (thought we) ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and a ham tortilla. Well neither of these arrived, and instead we were looking at an omlette and a toasted sandwich! We realised at this point we would be up against it on the language front. In Asia if they own a restaurant, hotel or tour shop they have to speak English because we can't learn 15 languages. But here not many speak English so we need to learn fast!
We continued our walk and came across a library type exhibition centre. They were photos from world events in 2011. Some photos were very graphic, including a bloodied picture of Gaddafi, complete with a size 10 footprint on the side of his chest.
Sensing that it was getting quiter we headed back to our hostel without dramas. On our return we saw Kate and Matt. They were back because Kate had her bag slashed and they stole her passport, money and cards from inside her rucksack. This was not good news as Matt had his wallet pic-pocketed in Panama City a week earlier. The audacity of the people that did it is unbelievable. They think it happened when Kate was asleep and Matt got distracted by them. She had the rucksack on the floor of the bus between her legs and they still did it! They had to come back to Quito to goto the British embassy which was closed for 2 days. That evening we played cards and had a few beers.
We (well more Kris) has learnt numbers 1-20 and 'how much' - followed with a finger pointing at the item!
Next day and time to get some cash out so we head out with nothing but our cashcard. Our routine is one that works, Kris scouts out the area and walks upto the cash machine if appropriate. Emmas keeps watch whilst Kris puts money from machine to pocket as fast as humanly possible, collects receipt and walks away as if the ATM denied the transaction!
We decided to book ourselves onto an Amazon jungle trip! Its a 4 day 3 night trip but wouldn't leave for a few days so we had some time to kill, luckily for us, unfortunate for them, we knew a couple who also had time to kill.
The next day we decided to goto 'Mitad Del Mundo', the middle of the earth or as we know it, the equator. The lonely planet which we love and hate didn't expand on how to get there - 'at the entrance get off the bus'. Now we had been travelling on a bus for 1 hour and 30 minutes so it wasn't that easy to spot the entrance WHEN YOU DONT WHAT YOUR LOOKING FOR! We reached the end of the bus route so had to get off and get the next one going the other way 5 mimutes later.
This is where Kris tried out his latest Spanish:
'Donde esta Mitad Del Londo'
'Where is the middle of the world'
The bus driver luckily understood and he dropped us off right outside. The buses here are so cheap. The 1.5 hour journey cost us 40 (US) cents so about 25pence. Since 2000 Ecuador has used the American dollar currency. We are not sure how that works, whether they print their own money or USA give to them?!
The 'Middle of the World' was pretty good for a pretty uninteresting attraction which is essentially a white line on the floor that marks the equator. They had exibit halls, shops and restaurants. We had a really good lunch before watching the traditional dancing. As that sort of thig goes it was really good. We sat there for about 30 minutes while they performed various dances in traditional dress. As we were leaving we saw a couple of guinea pigs being cooked on a spit. Mmmmm yummy. It was worth a visit for the $2 is cost to get in. We got the bus back with no problems and walked back to our hostel.
That evening the card monopoly and uno came out but unfortunately the masters were whipped by the newcomers (Kate and Matt).
We ventured out to find some lunch with Matt and Kate when it started to rain a lot. We jumped into a restaurant which did combos. Combos are popular in South America which usually involve a starter, main and drink for cheap cheap. We orderered 2 of each soups and 3 meat and 1 fish mains. We wait a while before the starter has arrived.
Kris was the first one to dig in. The others were greeted to a shriek from Kris followed by a what....is that?! A chicken foot. Yes the meat in Kris' soup was a chicken claw. The other 'meat' in it was carcass. Meanwhile Emma was digging into her 'green ball' soup which we assumed was vegetarian but no, it was a green ball containing some sort of meat.
A quick note to Emmas sister who is coming to meet us in Peru... You better learn the Spanish for cooked mushroom and raw pepper! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
The mains turn up and 3 have fish and 1 meat so completely wrong. We are still off fish and the meat is anyone's guess so it was all pretty gross.
It was still raining a lot so ran across the street to a small market which was pretty good. When it eventually stopped raining we headed to McDonald's to fill a hole that the combo meal should have done. More cards and drink followed that night.
The next day we spent getting supplies for our Amazon trip. Kris also bought an FC.Quito football short for cheap.
We were caching an 8 hour nightbus for stage 1 of 3 in our journey to the Amazon that evening so we had our last drinks with Matt and Kate before catching a taxi to the bus station.
Quito has been a good first stop. For all the horror stories we have read and heard we have rather enjoyed it but we have been extra careful. The only annoying thing was that the hostel was quiet appart from the first night we arrived when we wanted to goto bed! We have not walked where its quiet or out of touristy areas after dark. There are a lot of police in the main restaurant/bar area as well as other people that seem to guard the streets where hostels are on so if you stick to what is advised it seemed ok.
Anyway next blog will be back to basics Tarzan and Jane style as we head to the Amazon jungle!
'Que hora' - 'what time'
Use as is and hope for a response between 1 and 12. Or use at the bus to query the arrival time, length of journey or arrival time or neither!
We did want to take a lot more photos but only got the camera out in very touristy areas. When we did get it out in a quieter area, a policeman told us to be careful showing it!