Quito, Ecuador

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June 29th 2012
Published: June 30th 2012
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Quito 24th - 29th July

After arriving in Quito early evening from what seemd like the longest
flight in the world with the most irritating toddler in front of me, I got a taxi to what would be my place of residence for the next week. I
did arrange to be picked up from the airport by my Hostel but for
whatever reason they didn't (the taxi worked out cheaper than if I'd
have got the Hostel pick up anyway). The Hostel is a nice friendly place, although no-one speaks English what so ever, despite the many reviews I read saying how good thier English was. I don't expect everyone to know English but it just would have been helpfull arriving in a strange place with some advice I can understand. So, it's pretty tricky to get across to the staff what I want, but with my excellant array of hand signals I can normally get what I need. I was supposed to be getting a reduced room rate by staying in a dorm room with other people from the same volunteer organisation but only 1 other guy has turned up so far and I guess it's not enough people to warrant using a dorm. It's not so bad though as I have my privacy, double bed, cable TV etc.

So, my first evening in Quito was spend relaxing and finding somewhere to eat...KFC which wasn't a great choice but I didn't really know where anything was and just needed food quick! Besides, there would be plenty of opportunity to try out local Ecuadorian food.
Quito is at an elevation of 9,000+ feet, so it was no suprise I had a
headache for the first few days. I called it a day and went to bed early as I had the nerve racking task of sorting my visa out the next
morning. I was dreading this as I've read so many bad things about Ecuadorian visa stuff on the internet.

Turns out it was even worse than I imagined and the process was completely different to the instructions I'd written down from various websites, even the offical site! The visa building is quite small and there were more than 100 people waiting outside. An American woman was kind enough to show me where to buy a special folder that I needed to put all of my documents in (without this folder I'd be turned away and would have to rejoin the massive queue. There's no signage or instructions to say where to go or what queue to stand in, it's a complete free for all. After finding the right queue and being in it for a millenia, I got to the front desk to be handed 2 forms that needed filling out in Spanish before I could speak to anyone about my visa.
After walking out I met a guy from Washington who was much further
along the process than I was. He had a really high ticket number and
wouldn't be called for another 4 hrs or so, so we went for coffee so I
could fill out my forms. The coffee place is pretty damn good, it's
where I go to kill time now and then, it has $0.60 coffee and free
wireless...not to mention armed guards to help you feel safe! Rob gave me a good insight into Quito, where was dangerous etc and also what troubles to expect whilst sorting out my visa. After filling out the forms I went back to find they'd stopped issuing tickets for the day, it was only 11am and they'd reached thier maximum already. People queue from 3 in the morning to get a low ticket number, crazy!

I should mention what this visa stuff is all about really -

If I were here in Ecuador for anything up to 3 months then a simple stamp in my passport would suffice, at no cost too but as I wanted to spend longer than that here I had to get a special visa. I obtained the visa from the Ecuadorian Embassey in London with no issues but had to pay £150 for it. I asked the official if I'd have any problems when trying to register it in Quito without a grasp of Spanish and she assured me it would be fine. Seems a tad stupid that I've been granted a visa and still have to have it "registered" when in the country.The next day I tried again, got a high ticket number (241), and they say roughly 15 people get seen per hour! Eventually handed my documents in and was told to pick up my newely registered visa the next morning (Weds).

After queuing for half the day to pick it up I was told that it wouldn't be ready until the following Monday. When applying for this type of visa you have to get it registered within the first 30 days but I was leaving for the deep jungle for 3 months on the Saturday. Earlier that morning I'd met another volunteer at the Hostal called Rosie who needed to do the same thing, so through my experience over the last few days I could help her out, with the exception of my Spanish. The officials behind the desk said that as long as it's registered before we leave the country then that's fine. I was sick of wasting my time at that place instead of getting out and exploring the City so I was more than happy to leave it until I get back from the Amazon.

I realise I haven't actually spoken much about Quito yet (mainly because all I'd experienced was the 4 white walls of the visa immigration office), so here's a bit about Quito -

It used to be one of the most poverty stricken Cities in South America
until a decade or so ago. I'm not sure exactly how it managed to pull
itself out of poverty but my guess is all the oil exploration in the Amazon had something to do with it. Quito is now quite a modern, up and coming City for the most part, still has it's share of crime but then again most Cities do. The Goverment is really trying to make it a safer place, especially for tourists and the amount of police and armed guards outside of shops and on street corners says they're certainly making an effort. For any battlefield fans (Lewis & Nat), I've seen my fair share of 870MCS shotguns!
Being in the Andian mountains in a valley surrounded by volcanoes,
Quito is actually pretty chilly at times. Saying that, the equatorial
sun can be a sneaky bastard when it does come out. I got burnt in a few hours waiting outside the visa office. Quito has a varied ethnic
diversity, some plain spanish looking people, people from the carribian and native indian poeple too. It's quite a friendly place and everyone I've come across has been happy to help (excluding the visa officials). Maybe a bit naive of me but I expected there to be a bit more english spoken. My lack of spanish won't really be an issue for much longer because when I go to the Amazon I'll be mostly surrounded by english speakers. I'll have the 3 months volunteering to brush up on my spanglish anyway so no problems there.

Thursday morning me, Rosie and a new addition to the team (Carl from Ohio) made our way to the edge of Quito to take a cable car up the side of a volcano. You couldn't tell it was a volcano, it just looks like heathland in the peak district, still beautiful though. The cable car takes you up another 1000mtrs making the total altitude around 3,900 mtrs. We all felt like our heads were going to explode but the views over Quito were worth it. Looking out over the city I realised how big it really is, it's only 3kms wide but about 20kms long. I'd trekked at the same altitude for 3 days straight before with no problems but I assume it was because I had longer to acclimatise before. I had 2 things that I wanted to accomplish in my first week here and that was the cable car and a visit to the largest park in the city to look round a reptile house. Well, Ecuador has more poisonous snakes than I thought but the chances of coming across one in the jungle were very slim though (relax mum). I made the most of my trip to the reptile house and asked to hold a boa constrictor.

It's now Friday as I'm writing this and we're all getting last minute
supplies before being picked up in the morning to head east into the
Amazon. The 3 of us are all a bit nervous about the volunteering thing. What's expected of us while were there is too much to get my head round right now. There doesn't seem to be much down time at all, I've paid a lot of money to do this so if I feel like slacking a bit here and there, then that's what I'm gonna do!

Probably won't be able to blog for another month due to the remoteness, so wish me luck and I promise there'll be no visa talk from now on!

Bye for now


30th June 2012

Hola Smithy! Que tal? That's the extent of my 3 years Spanish at school! Really lovely to have an update of how you are and know you're ok apart from major queuing. Glad you've met people and have done some fun things. Look after yourself, love from Natasha, Lewis, Oakley, squirley and Missy! Xxx
17th July 2012

Hello there! Thanks for messaging, how are you both? It's been a long day walking up hill in the rain and I'm so glad to be relaxing in a hammock now. It's all going pretty well, missing the basic necessities back home though! The food here is really basic - beans, rice & vegetables mainly, I really miss chocolate, cookies, cereal, cheese, bacon....hell...I even miss something as basic as buttered toast! I get a weekend off at the end of the month so I'll be going to the nearest large town to see if I can get any of the above! Good to hear from you both, Speak soon
2nd July 2012

Well done Sven, sounds like it's all going roughly to plan (in a chaotic and unpredictable way). So glad you got your visa just before you went. One big thing less to think about. You'll already be at the camp now, getting used to everything. I hope you do have some down time to chillax and stroke some scorpions. Can't wait to hear what the camp is like and what creatures are lurking about. Exciting times dudey... . . good to hear that their seems to be a good mix of other volunteers, always a good thing. Take care of yourself, wash behind your ears, etc. and don't cuddle the Fer-de-lance (bothrops asper). X

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