Monday, 27 December 2010

Ecuador pt II

So, another night bus. This time back to Quito and for some unknown reason it was two hours quicker than going the other way. Consequently, we arrived back in good ol' Quito at 4am in a dodgy area of town where we got a cab to our - thankfully prebooked - hostel in the 'old town' district. We very tentively rang the bell.
We were greeted by a nice Eucadorian lady who showed us our room where we crashed out until the some hours later. Slightly wiped out we decided to venture out for brunch to a recommended cafe. we found it in the old part of town,it looked very nice indeed, always nice to go into a restaurent past a guard with a gun! Anyway we got a seat, we ordered, we waited... and then we nearly got robbed. Literally, a gang of 3 plus the armed guard we're working on us; anyway to cut a long story short, it was the last time Tim would be leaving his iPod and wallet on a restaurant table.

So, not a great welcome back to Quito from our most enjoyable time in Manta; but nothing like being dragged back to reality. By this stage we only had a few days left in Ecuador before we headed off to Peru and with our Lonely Planet bible in hand we had things to do, places to go, people to see... so we booked out of our hostel for a night and headed off to Otavalo where we had heard the markets were amazing. They weren't wrong.
Up early, we got the bus to the bus station to get our ticket, a bargain of $4 each, boarding the bus, we checked with the driver that it went to Otavalo (we didn't trust anything by this stage), he confirmed it did. So we boarded... and waited... in true Ecuador fashion the bus wasn't moving until it was full to bursting with at least 1 chicken on board... as you travel along people jump onto the bus selling all sorts of goodies: "mandarins, mandarins, mandarins...", "chocklo, chocklo, chocklo...", "chewing gum,chewing gum,chewing gum...". Even slimming pills and pens (the latter even having his own microphone, mini amp and demonstration samples. It was always fun to see what you're not going to be tempted to buy. So, travelling along the ticket man takes our tickets and rather inevitably informs us we are on the wrong bus and yes this does go to Otovalo but our ticket is for another company. After a long debate of us standing our ground refusing to pay for the ticket again (first 20 minutes spent pretending we didn't understand), feeling like we were being so ripped off, we eventually backed down when we we're told if we didn't pay we would be thrown off the bus (literally in the middle of nowhere and on a very precarious cliff road), we thought we'd cough up another $4 each, only to be informed that "our" bus was in front of the bus we were on. Note to self:- never belive a bus driver. He doesn't care where you are going as long as you are on board and can get money off you...gringo mistake #1.

Anyway, we eventually got to Otavalo and found a hostel, had a nice meal went to bed ready for an early morning as the animal market kicks off at sunrise.

So, up bright and early, walking through the streets following people taking their pigs to market. It was such an awesome combination of sight, sound... and smell.

We sat on a grassy knol watching the locals come and go, with all sorts of beasties. after taking lots of pictures and myself being photographed a couple of times too, (blonde!) we walked around the market.
We'd been warned about the apparent animal cruelty in the place and to a certain extent you have to park the British mentality for a while and remember that this is how these people live. So seeing baskets of Guinnea Pigs being sold by the sack-load, I'd like to think for pets but i think we know they were destined to become BBQ-cuy.

We also saw some lovely pigs, Tim spotted a big feller, we decided not to haggle for him in case we ended up with a huge pig, in hind-sight we could of taken it on the bus back to Quito, no worries. But no, we carried on walking round looking at cages of chicks and ducklings, then we came along a pen of puppies then kittens; I like to think that these were pets destined for good homes, but who knows?

After the animal-market we headed into the centre of town for breakfast. We'd been advised to try an amazing pie shop in the town square; alas it remained closed. We couldn't quite bring ourselves to try the ambiguous contents of the big pots in the market so instead ended up in a 'nice' cafe (by which I mean it was almost european and served delights other than dry bread and jam). When we walked in, it was like being greeted by old friends, very "old" friends, we had a round of applause then an old man asked Tim if he could have his photo taken with me! Not wanting to offend the locals we agreed and i'd like to think made his day.

After that fun, we headed to the fruit and veg market. The colours we're beautiful, and the women and children so friendly.
I was on a mission to get a lovely blanket, and with so many to chose from, haggling was going well (Tim realised the secret of haggling is to not want the item too much, so he haggled for the blanket).
Once we had invested in our new blanket it was time to checkout of the hostel and get a bus back to Quito.
Walking back to the bus station it was strange to see so many "gringos" had arrived on the buses from the larger towns, it made us glad that we had come the night before and got up early and experienced the markets without too many tourists (erm, like us).

Back in Quito we headed out for our evening meal which we'd found a couple of nights earlier. It was a local place where only locals go (actually full of police). It was like walking into someones front room with a kitchen in it, we looked around to see what other people were eating and decided on two balls of somethings: one meat, one cheese. Then we had some skewers of chicken, veg and rice, so nice to experience the food and it was good, very cheap and thankfully didn't make us ill.

Our final thing to do in Ecuador was to head to the equator line the Midad del Mundo. Another bus ride on a dull day (this time without drama), we got to the site which was nice if a tad touristy; there was dancing and singing going on in the centre, we did the obligitory photo straddling the equator-line (which isn't actually the equator line).
Predictably, it was heaving with herds of people all wanting the same photo, with all this going on we decided to check emails and get some food,
"I'm an auntie... again!"
and we're so glad we did as this is where we found out we had become aunty katy & uncle tim to new little Benjamin David White... we're still smiling:-) So this made our day so much better than it was. A very memorable day for us.

So for the final time getting on a bus to Quito, before getting our plane out to Lima the following morning, we had enjoyed Ecuador, our first taste of South America, we didn't enjoy the feeling of constantly being on your guard, and not trusting anyone and the feeling that we we're always about to be ripped off. But as we travel more we'll become alot more street wise on our journey. Next stop Peru.


  1. Sounds a bit 'hairy' but an experience. Gringos don't realise how poor these people are so it's no surprise that they take advantage. The chicken skewers sound tasty but then everything tastes like chicken - they were probably guinea pig! :D . At least NZ & OZ should be better - just watch out for the snakes & spiders! (Don't you just love your mother....)

  2. Strangely, South America will definitely be my favourite part of our travels (together with the helpxing)... just so very different.

    And the chicken definitely not guinea pig ('cuy') because chicken is a quarter of the price! maybe rat..?

    I think NZ is pretty safe... Australia has all the beasties!