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Published: February 8th 2010
Quito at night
View from the Penecillo
We arrived in Quito on 15th October, we were met at the airport by Dario a one armed man with a taxi, well not really one armed, just one was in plaster.
We were driven to our homestay which was in the centre of the Mariscal Sucre in Quito, we were in a sixth floor aprtment with a family consisting of Mother, Father and adult son of about 30ish. Also staying there was a girl from Prague by the name of Martina. This was not what i had envisaged when told we would be staying with a local Ecuadorian family, but never mind, the language school assured us it was safer than staying in the hostels.
The first day we were there we had free, so we spent the day exploring the area and getting our bearings. On day two our Spanish lessons started, four hours a day, from 9 until 1pm. These proved to be good fun and i think we learnt a bit. We asked about volunteering and were told about a school in the north of Quito who would like us to go and volunteer for a weeks or so. So from day three we were
Amazing skies and amazing grace on this city of thieves
busy with lessons in the morning and then in the afternoons helping out at the school which was good fun, the kids were nice even if a few were a bit dim. We had a bus journey to the school of about 45mins which proved to be an interesting experience as it seems you get to see all of life on a bus, especially one that costs only 25cents for any length journey.
On day five our time in Quito took a downwards turn, due to the fact that a large amount of money went missing from a hidden place within my belongings, funnily enough this was only half the money I had, so I guessed that it was an ín house job, i was so angry as the school had supposedly ¨vetted¨all the families students are put with, and secondly the mother had impressed upon us that we were not to take more than 20 dollars out with us due to theives, and that it was safe to leave personal possesions in her house. When we talked to her about the missing money, she said it had never happend before, that there must have been a break in,
etc etc. She didn´t want me to tell the school or Martina, which i didn´t for a day, then Martina was about to go off to Galapagos and leave some of her things at the apartment, so i didn´t want her to have anything stolen so i told her what had happened to us, well she was shocked as a couple of days before we arrivced the same thing had happened to her, and only half of her money had gone, she went mad and amazingly the money was returned to her...lucky her, i just wish she had told us before. I had to go to the police to report the theft, which took up several hours of one of our days, meaning we had to let down the kids at the school we were helping in.
Whilst in Quito we visited the local artisans market, which was a splash of vibrant colour with people milling about everywhere, all trying to sell you their goods,. We visited the old town of Quito which has fantastic old buildings, the architecture is amazing. We visited many of the old churches, and went up into the roof and onto the bell towers
of the Bassilica. We walked in two of the parks, the Carolina and the Metropolitan, visited the botanical gardens, the Panicillia and wandered in many of the streets of both the old and the new town. Quito is lovely ,it is just such an assalt on your senses, the people, the noise, the constant shrill of alarms going off and police and fire engines, the clouds of black smoke from the vehicles, the polution in the air, and the aggresiveness of many of the people. It seems that you are eyed up and down to see if you could be their next victim, and when you go to the police the first thing they ask is is you are insured, it seems that as a tourist you are fair game, as your insurance will payout. We ended up being fairly paranoid about everyone on the streets, but i think with good reason, as to add to my theft during our stay in Quito, Ram had his wallet picked out of his zipped secret pocket!! and we had three attempted muggings, the most serious of which was whilst we were walking along a quiet street early in he evening, I noticed
two men walking seperately in front of us, strangely we seemed to be getting closer to one of them, and all of a sudden the one who had been furthest away and on the phone turned back....this alerted me and i nudged Ram to signal i was not happy...there was no other soul around.....the two drew up to us and grabbed at Ram and felt his pockets, they then started shouting that they wanted our money, they were robbing us, and one started to make actions as if he were going to stab us......I am not sure what happened to me, other than i saw red, but i just went ballistic and started shouting at them and waving my fist, i am obviously fairly scarey when angry as they took the hint and scooted off, leaving Ram and i bewildered and shaking. With hindsight i am not sure that i did the right thing, sure these two went off, but so many of the muggers in Quito carry knives and guns, i think we were very lucky and thank goodness. A few minutes later we came upon a partol of two police officers with two armed guards, we told them
what had happened and we all set of at a run to try and find the two muggers, sadly for two unsuspecting guys walking along the path they fitted our description and were set upon by the police until we were able to tell them that these were not the two muggers, i have to say after this incident, i would not like to get on the wrong side of the police either. By the end of our stay in Quito we were nearly on first name terms with the local police due to all the unfortunate incidents that had befallen us in this lovely but violent and seemingly lawless city. When the time came to leave i have to say we were not sorry, if our trip continued in this vane i could see us being home before the middle of November, it was such a releif to get on a bus out of the city heading for a place called Otavalo.
Otavalo was a large town that is everything that Quito was not . The pace of life here is slower, the people are friendly and try to help you, there is less polution, in genereal it
The nice face of Quito
Grandad and Grandson build a table footy together
is just a cool place to be. On the morning after we arrived we had to be up and out by 5am as we had signed on to do a local walk that happens yearly. Apparently it is normally held over two days, but for the first time it was to be over the one day only, 48km and about eleven hours, god we must be mad. Well we made it to the meeting place in one of the squares in Otavalo, we then boarded buses to take us to the start of the walk in Josephina, about and hour or so´s drive away. Then the walk began, what a shock, the first two hours seemed to be straight up a muntainside, it was high, with narrow paths with a sheer drop, so as you can imagine i was pretty damn petrified. Despite this, we carried on, we walked and walked, the views were stunning, the skies ever changing, we walked through little villages with children sitting on the roadside giving us blessings. We saw very hairy pigs tethered in fields, the local shop arriving with the fruit and veg (a pick up tuck loaded to the gunnels with all
fruit and veg you can imagine). The first three or four hours were good, the day was bright and sunny, after the assent the walking was good, but then it started to rain and get cold as we moved steadily up the mountain side, god it was cold, it then became really tough to keep going, the altidtude was also having an effect. After about 30km we got to the lunch stop, wow, hot chicken, potatoes and rice, the best food i have eaten for a long time. We were sitting on the side of the lake Mojanda, the views were fabulous, the rocks rising out of the ground, grass covered, like statues, but the rain continued un abated and i just got colder and colder, the organisers were getting a bit concerned about the weather and the time it would take to get all the walkers off the mountain if they walked, so it was decided that most of us would be taken down by truck, i have to say, i was not that upset about this. We were herded into the backs of trucks, vans and lorries and carted down the mountain for about a three quarters of
an hour to the town where we were met by loud music, and a party atmosphere in the pouring rain, we were all invited into a local bar/resturant where we were given hot drinks and popcorn, it was warm and dry and a huge relief to be back in the town.
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