Published: July 1st 2006July 1st 2006
It's hard work, this blogging lark. No sooner do you commit to keeping an online diary of your travels and cheerfully tell everybody about it than you disappear into the sticks for two weeks, where they don't have hot water let alone email. So apologies for the lengthy radio silence. Here's what we've been up to...
The first thing I did (this is Rob, by the way) after posting the last blog was have my wallet expertly pickpocketed on the tram: quite possibly a new world record, because it was all of five minutes into our first real bit of travelling. The lucky villain only got away with $15 and two swiftly cancelled credit cards, but I felt (a) like a bit of a tool and (b) that everybody in Quito was out to get us, like you do. So it was kind of a relief that we were on our way out of the capital at the time to begin three weeks of intensive Spanish school at a place called Shishink, which is about three hours out of the capital in the central highlands.
Shishink is absolutely lovely: a 500-hectare eco-tourism project in the middle of cloud forest
Butterfly? That's more like a bat!!
with its own 40ft waterfall, and it is every bit as good as it sounds. We are, however, the only people staying there, which feels both strange (not least because we signed up for group Spanish and the complex has rooms for 70 people) and not a little lonely, as Shishink is, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere - a 5km dirt-track ride in the back of a pick-up from the nearest village, the hilariously misnamed Puerto Rico. And you've guessed it, THERE'S NO BLOODY TELLY AND WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A WORLD CUP - although Luis Ernesto and Jenny, the fantastic couple who run the gaff, did rustle one up for the England v Sweden game. Given the way we played, I rather wished they hadn't.
Splendid isolation does mean that we've made lots of progress in espanol. It has to be said that this is largely down to our teacher, the infinitely patient and good-humoured Juan - a mild-mannered Quiteno who must rue the day he agreed to this particular assignment. Highlights of our 'progress' so far include me calling the revered local indigenous tribe 'hotdogs' and Adele solemnly asking Juan when was the first
Another large night in in the jungle
time he entered his wife... God knows how he copes with five days a week of nothing but us, but we haven't broken him yet.
Given our hard work, relatively speaking, in the week, we have taken the opportunity to scarper at the weekends. First time out we headed north-east on a four-hour bus journey to soak up the football at the beach, in what turned out to be a holiday of two halves. The first town we stayed in, Atacames, was like a third-world Blackpool, and we didn't help by staying at a hotel that, had it been marketing itself as a 'sh*thole', would have been done under the Trade Descriptions Act. It was, however, perfectly suited to the people next door, who stayed up until 5am playing their cocking guitar. We swiftly moved down the coast to a small fishing village called Sua, which was the complete opposite: quiet, friendly and pleasantly warm, although nothing compared to Blighty on the temperature stakes, by the sound of things.
We stayed there for the England-Ecuador game - something we were both excited and a little nervous about, given the madness that was gripping the nation here. The whole
country came to a standstill when 'La Tri' qualified for the second round, and we were a bit worried that a few over-zealous locals might be waiting to give us a whack up the bracket if England won. Happily, none of them decided to watch the game at the same hotel as us, and even if they had, another relentlessly average performance from our lads would surely have ground them into submission. Instead, everybody we met was unfailingly cheerful and friendly, despite being absolutely gutted.
Since then we've put another five days of Juan-bothering under the wheels - and (you'll like this, Bob) have both had our first dose of Montezuma's Revenge. Fairly seriously so in Adele's case, to the extent that after leaving Shishink yesterday she went to hospital in Quito for a check-up after the Shishink lot started circulating rumours of bacterial infections. The details, suffice to say, are not worth repeating here, but there's nothing like a nurse approaching with rubber gloves to make you realise that you can speak Spanish on demand and with deadly effect. Suffice to say, that Adele escaped 'unscathed' and is fully on the mend now.
With all that behind
Beach wasn't all bad
us, I'm writing this from a town in the central highlands called Otavalo, a three-hour bus ride up the road from Quito. It's a beautiful place surrounded by hills, but the big draw is the Saturday market, which begins with a 6am cattle auction (which we're thinking of going to), turns into an indigenous craft fair and ends with a 6pm cockfight (which we may pass on). Typical: you come all this way and it's exactly like Guildford.
Anyway, that's quite enough from us. More verbal diahorrea and pics in a week or so. Next stop: the Galapagos Islands. Yipeeeee!!!
PS Don't worry, I haven't killed Adele or anything (yet): she's on the machine next to me wrestling with the concept of being an absentee landlady at several thousand miles' distance. She's going to write the next one, you will be relieved to hear.
PPS I would also like to point out that the picture at the top of this blog is an old one, so you can all stop writing about me having a bloody beard. I won't be growing one again, either, because my skin is so sensitive when I do that it
makes the Singing Detective look like an Estee Lauder ad.
Hasta luego *Juan will be proud*!!