Currency is US$, 1GBP was about $1.75 when we arrived
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13/7/05 Rita writes
We cycled round the town before catching a 5 hour trip to Quayacil the newly designed, trendy tourist place on west coast. We passed through poor villages on the way, where every so often vendors would jump on the bus selling anything from apples, Piguino- lollies, peanut toffee, small trays of chicken wings and chips with obligatory mayo, (yes its here too) and more desperately, sad stories of terminally ill relatives needing expensive life saving
operations, or the man with the real hard sales pitch, selling cure all magic formula that also cures liver disease. I am sure some if not many of the sad stories are true. Natioanl health service in Ecuador, I dont think so!
What a great place this is too, Guayacuil committee decided to tidy up the dirty filthy, seafront area some years ago and replace it with a well designed front with tourist appeal cafes, bars, childrens areas, cinemax, concert area,
gardens, trees, with botanical and vulgar names, galeries of shops, waterfalls, statues of heroes and more. It was finished recently and is clean and very pleasant to "promenade" in the sun from one end to the other, the huge sprawling market in the south to the gigantic Christ statue in the north. Near here is the huge Catholic cemetery which comprises of humdreds of huge white marble mausoleums including the largest of the 1st president of Exuador, vincent rocafuerte.
Also in the south of town is the Parque Bolivar where land iguanas are the main attraction, there are at least a hundred in a park about the size of an acre. We saw none anywhere else in the town.
Outside the town some 16kms away is the Cerro Blanco National park which we took a trip to, hoping to see all sorts of endemic and rare species of animals, plants and birds, sadly, we were unlucky except in the area of many unusual trees, the great Ceiba being one of those, which we had first seen on this trip at Angkor Wat!! But I did see a Darwin web address and wondered if he had actually been in this area too!! so just to make this interesting I have downloaded a short extract from Darwins expedition on the B.....? in 18..? 4th May, particulary appropriate since Paul is a Cornishman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
4th. -- "Finding the coast-road devoid of interest of any kind, we turned inland towards the mining district and valley of Illapel. This valley, like every other in Chile, is level, broad, and very fertile: it is bordered on
each side, either by cliffs of stratified shingle, or by bare rocky mountains.
Above the straight line of the uppermost irrigating ditch, all is brown as on a high road; while all below is of as bright a green as verdigris, from the beds of alfalfa, a kind of clover. We proceeded to Los Hornos, another mining district, where the principal hill was drilled with holes, like a great ants'-nest. The Chilian miners are a peculiar race of men in their habits. Living for weeks together in the most desolate spots, when they descend to the
villages on feast-days( remember Calama!!!), there is no excess of extravagance into which they do not run. They sometimes gain a considerable sum, and then, like sailors with prize-money, they try how soon they can
contrive to squander it. They drink excessively, buy quantities of clothes, and in a few days return penniless to their miserable abodes, there to work harder than beasts of burden. This thoughtlessness, as with sailors, is evidently the result of a similar manner of life. Their daily food is found them, and they acquire no habits of carefulness: moreover, temptation and the means of yielding to it are placed in their power at the same time. On the other hand, in Cornwall, and some other parts of England, where the system of selling part of the vein is followed, the miners, from being obliged to act
and think for themselves, are a singularly intelligent and well-conducted set of men."
After Several days relaxing in Guayacuil in the Hotel California, catching up in various internet cafes, bumping again into Helen and Lucy on the new river front the Malecon, and being approached by many street kids begging, we decided we would move on to Quito on Monday 18th July giving ourselves time to get a laundry done and stuff prepared for Galapagos trip.
I must just mention the fine Italian restaurant where we ate excellent Brochetta of Fino de Res- beef and huge ensalata mixte! Fresh veg and fruit are also scarce here, very limited selection, so I was delighted to find
lettuce, tomato, cucumber (sliced,peeled and pipped),french beans(albeit tinned), radish and avocado in this salad. Very pricey by our measure at 16 dollars, well out of budget, but in desperate need of veggies.
We arrived after our overnighter in Quito as we had around 9 years ago, very early in the morning at the bus terminal which I will have cause to describe later. We were more expecting it this time and after a little deliberation we plumped for the Grand Hotel, in calle rocafuerte in the old town. It was a short trip and soon we were in bed after a sleepless night. The great thing about overnight coaches is you can get over 24 hours in a room for the same price as one night, if you can understand my meaning!
Quito is at around 2,800 meters, and takes some acclimatising to as in San Pedro de Atacama and El colorado resort in chile, and I need more than two days to do so, which is a problem since we are off to Galapagos in 2 days.
The hotel which turned ot to be under modernisation is comfotable and has hot water and is spacious and light so we are ok there. Plus there are numerous cafes, cyber cafes, and tourist sites in the area, quite apart from the lovely old spanish residences and churches. The Plaza Santo Domingo is just 2-300 yards away and is the hub of this area of the city which has a population of about 2 million.
Most tourists tend to stop in the new town area as there are plenty of modern cafes and trendy backpacker type accommodations there and it is easier to eat what you want.
the local food comprises, sopa- soup, casuela - casserole, empanadas- pasty type meal, Corvina in all its forms, arroz - rice and papas fritas. Ihave found the food quite bland and spiced up only with the aji- garlic/piquante salsa which is usuallly present on the table.
Paul has done some research though and found not only an indian restaurant or two in this town but also a traditional english pub (allegedly) selling real ale on draught - I dont believe it!!
We picked up our tickets for our galapagos trip and were happy that all had been properly arranged by Columbus travel, whose office was over in the new town a trole bus ride away for around 20 cents.
And blow me the english pub was over in that area too. At 5pm when it opened we were panting at the door. On our arrival it was empty bar one european looking femal who turned out to be a Canadian called karen. We got into conversation with her and soon found she had spent her last two years in a village near Bangalore, India and worked installing local radio there.
She was interesting and the evening disappeared. They served a reasonable chilli although the portion was small/petite.
After dark in this new town area as tourists we are advised not to be out on the streets, so at around 9 we returned to old town by taxi for around 3 dollars. Karen told us that she had seen someone shot in the street only the night before!!!!she was new to the city herself.
Underdeveloped countries as I may have said before have an abundance of internet cafes since very few can afford their own pcs at home, so it is much easier for us to drop in to a cafe at any time to do a bit of updating in countries like this at often only a few cents per hour.
The following day was highlighted by a lunchtime trip to the Chandani Indian restaurant, in new town again requiring another trole bus trip. We both ate hot meals and felt the flavour was pretty authentic, especially since we havent indulged for some time.
What Rita failed to mention was the generous donation of approximately $80 i made to person or persons unknown on the trolle bus on the way to the Indian restuarant. I thought I had my wallet, which was in my trouser pocket, covered by my backpack, which I had slung over one shoulder and pressed over my pocket by my arm. But, after 2 or 3 minutes on the trolle, I shifted to a more coomfortable spot and then realised my wallet was hanging by its chain outside of the pocket. All the cash had gone, but not the credit card or any of the other bits of paper that had been in the wallet along with the cash. They obviously were only going for cash.
I was lucky. The chain stopped the wallet being lifted alltogether, and they did not get my credit card. Although I was still peeved (to put it mildly) that I had let them do it to me, especially when I thought I was being so cautious. No point in crying over spilt milk, theres no point claiming on insurance as we have to pay an excess which is probably more, and reporting it would probably take hours. So I will just pretend I gave it to them, what a generous fellow I am. (Sometimes)
(Back to Ritas idlings)
When we came out of the indian there was a large old woman nearby in a wheelchair with emormously ulcerated legs, fully exposed, poor thing with a very young child begging on her behalf.
There are many beggars in the new town as there are plenty of rich tourist visiting this area.
In the old town there seem to be more of the indigenous andean people, who continue to wear traditional costume of velveteen full pleeted skirts with sequined borders, hand printed blouses with alpaca shawls and bola or trilby type hats. These were allegedly copied from the hats of people on a visiting british ship, more than 100 years ago but Paul believes this to be an urban myth!! It however seems unlikely to have come about by accident that these hats are so like the bolas and trilbys of uk.
The indigenous people sell on the streets anything form strawberries in season to mate de coca leaves(for altitude sickness), hand crafted wooden ornaments, traditional scarves and shawls or even home made empanadas. They are mostly short stature. their hair is jet black, often long and plaited, noses striaght and cheeks rouge with intense andean extreme sunburn. At Quito the sun seems to beam down on top of your head all day long.
I have tried the mate de coca but not found it effective, although Paul insists he can feel a sensation on his tongue, and to be sure the locals andeans use it widely.
The street kids in old town are real likely lads,most seem only around 7-12 years old, and invariably carry the tool of their trade a little black box of shoe shine materials. (Some of these little boxes are so well made I wonder if they are passed down from father to son)I have yet to see how they can polish our walking boots, but you cant blame them for asking to try.
The old town also has some of the oldest buildings in the city and the large tiles of the spanish rooves are in amazingly good condition. All the tourist trade has migrated to the new town over the years, sadly as it is such a pretty area with old overhanging balcnies with cacti and geraniums hanging down and staircases with carves balustrades. But the government has seen fit to invest some money to bring the tourists back to this area, with many of the hotels undergoing refurb it will be great to visit again in a couple of years to see the progress. Though i have heard Equadorianos are not the fastest workers in the world, one iglesia in the city having been under refurbishment since 1926.
We have been moving around at a very slow place to avoid the altitude sickness and for the most part Paul has survived but I got another dose of it and was glad to be flying out to Quayacuil and on to Galapagos at low altitude since my head was pounding by thursday 21st the day of our departure. We had transport arranged to take us to the airport after pick ups from our hotel and Nancy and her daughter Cathy at the magic bean hotel in new town. Nancy and Cathy are from Reno, Nevada. Our flight was delayed by about three quarters of an hour.
We worked out eventually that there has been a rescheduling of flights going into and out of Galapagos, via Quayacuil since the airport of the islands is being improved over the main tourist period - how barmy!?!
Continued on new page in.....
Monday 25/7/05 (Paul writes...)
Arrived back from our fabulous Galapagos trip in mid afternoon. Shared a taxi from the airport into the New Town, Mariscal, ith two fellow passengers from our trip, Nancy and Cathy. Returned to the Grand Hotel, not only becuase it was cheap ($12 a night with private bathroom) but we had left half of our luggage there, so it made sense. Had a quiet evening around the old town, quite tired after several nights bouncing around our cabin beds (because the boat was moving!)
Tuesday 26/7/05 (Paul writes...)
A quiet day spent around the Old Town sights. Nice lunchtime meal in a posh hotel on Plaza Santa Domingo, restaurant on the top floor overlooking the activities on the plaza.
Wednesday 27/7/05 (Paul writes...)
Our last morning in Quito, spent some time in an internet cafe contemplating how we should approach writing up our Galapagos diary.
Nipped down to the New Town for lunch at our favourite Indian restaurant, something not quite spot on about the vindaloo, but the naan breads are excellent, and we left quite contented.
Had a close call on the trolle bus on the way back to the hotel, we were told that it as only going half way back, due to some obstruction (our Spanish doesn't stretch far enough to understand any more) but in the trolle carried on all the way. Good job, as we were cutting it a bit fine to get to the airport for our 15:40 flight.
Taxi to the airport was a bit expensive as expected, $8, you're always at heir mercy when in a hurry and especially from and to an aiport, although Rita id get the price own from $10.
The internaional terminal is a bit more user friendly than the domestic, but there is still a lack of information. We arrived at 1430, checked in with no problem (our checked in luggage has gone down to 46KG from 52KG on our last flight, must be the scales because we haven't got rid of that much stuff) then proceeded for a little liquid refreshment in the bar. At 3pm, a guy came around and asked if we were on the 1540 flight to Bogota, then hurried us alon to the departure gate. Not sure what the rush was about, although everybody else seemed to already be aboard, (the flight had come from Peru), we were in our seats by 3:20pm but we didn't take off until 4pm.
Continued in Colombia