Whitlocks Round the World - Travel Diary for Ecuador

Click here to read the latest newsThe diary of our trip round the world. You can view other diary entries by clicking the highlighted months at the bottom of the page or by clicking on one of the countries visited so far. Click our logo (on the left) to see the most recent news entries. We are adding new entries from Internet Cafés as we travel, so updates may be irregular. Please check back often to see how we are getting along.

Countries visited so far: UK Latvia Lithuania Poland Slovak Republic Hungary Romania Bulgaria Greece Egypt Tanzania Malawi Mozambique South Africa Swaziland South Africa (again) Argentina Bolivia Peru Ecuador Vietnam China Mongolia Russia England

15th - 18th April Ecuador
Loja - Cuenca
Cuenca, Circus lions on show - Click to enlargeThe bus ride to Loja took us through beautiful lush green hills. It was lovely and really different from any of the countryside in the Peruvian, Bolivian or Argentinian Andes that we have seen. It was as if the land is somehow aware of the rather arbitrary way in which we divide it into territorial chunks! It was so green, and there were amazing trees with fat, bright green trunks that bulged in the middle, whose branches were covered in beautiful blossoms. They were both strange and pretty. The people, too, were different. The bus stopped in many remote places - not really villages - where people got on or off the bus, and we wondered where they could have come from or be going to. They were dressed in very traditional clothing. The women wore big, colourful, pleated skirts with warm knitted cardigans and bowler hats. Generally their hair is worn in two long plaits. This was similar to the style in Bolivia, although here many women choose to wear styles which might be described as 'prettier'. Their skirts and blouses are often brightly embroidered with flowers. The style of the men was very different to that in Bolivia. They also wear bowler hats here and they have the most wonderful long hair, normally worn in a long thin jet-black plait at the back. The children, too, were often dressed in the same, traditional style, something we didn't notice a lot in Bolivia.

We finally arrived in Loja at about 8pm. It had been a long day. We took a taxi into town and tried to find somewhere to stay. We were unprepared for the prices in Ecuador to be higher than those in Peru, as we had thought the opposite would be the case, but Ecuador has switched from its own currency to the dollar in recent years and, we suppose, prices have risen as a result. The room we stayed in on our first night in Ecuador was among the worst, if not the worst, we have ever had to put up with! The room was dirty and shabby with little holes in the wall, through which you could see into the next room. The beds were saggy, broken and wobbly and the bathroom... Well, you can use your imagination!

We were glad to travel on to Cuenca the following morning. Luckily, in Cuenca, we found somewhere better to stay! The hostel, 'El Monasterio', in the centre of the old part of town, even had a nice communal kitchen, so I was able to prepare our favourite comfort food, pasta and cheese sauce, for tea!

We liked Cuenca and enjoyed wandering around its old colonial streets and its pretty flowery plazas. While there we visited a fairground, which was in town with a travelling circus. This gave us the opportunity to not only ride the dodgems and roundabouts, but also to look at the poor circus lions and tiger, caged outside the Big Top!

Before leaving Cuenca for Quito, on an overnight bus (but at least the last we will take on this continent), we visited the nearby small town of Baños, to bathe in the hot springs there. The hot water comes from a geological fault that can be seen, and climbed and walked along, from the village. The pool we went to had Turkish steam baths that were actually carved into the rock at the side of the fault. It was lovely!

2nd May Ecuador
Mitad del Mundo, North v South on the equator - Click to enlargeAfter a tiring and uncomfortable overnight journey we arrived in Quito, our final destination in South America, on a sunny Monday morning. Having crammed a lot of adventures into the last ten weeks, we had decided to make it our mission to find a nice apartment where we could relax for a couple of weeks before flying on to Asia. With this goal we went hunting.

It took until mid afternoon before we eventually found a place that was anything like what we had in mind. Quito’s tourist information service, and tourist police, didn’t turn out to be much help, and in the end it was by relying on friendly café owners and helpful taxi drivers that we eventually came upon Hostal Girasol. This hostel, which lets private rooms and apartments, is away from the center of town, but still close enough for everything to be easily accessible. That suited us fine, as it’s quiet and peaceful and very safe, and everything we need is close by, including two very nice parks within easy walking distance. Our little flat consists of two bedrooms with good, comfortable beds, and a kitchenette / dining area. Best of all, we have a reliable hot shower!

I am writing this entry after having spent two weeks here in Quito, and it has been great! I can’t really say a lot about the city, as, except on a couple of short trips into town, we have not made much of an effort to explore. In fact, I could say that we’ve made a particular effort not to! Our time here has been spent resting and recuperating energy for our long journey through Asia. We have also reflected a lot on our travels so far. It is hard to believe that these two weeks have been the longest period of time we have stayed anywhere since beginning our trip in August last year. Our trips into town have been mainly to the tourist centre of the city, Juan Leon Mera Street, to find books in English (of which we found a plentiful supply) and, last night, to eat in a very good Mexican restaurant, to mark the end of our South American travels. We had one walk into the Old Town, too, at the beginning of the fortnight, but, I have to confess, that’s it!

Of course, as with every rule, we had to make one exception! It would not have done to have stayed so close to the equator (which is just 25km north of Quito) without visiting it. We made our ‘journey to the centre of the Earth’ by bus on Thursday! The destination shown on the front of the bus was ‘Mitad del Mundo’, which means ‘middle of the world’, and it was just an ordinary bus, taking local people to and from work in Quito. To go and stand on the equator, you have to pay to enter the ‘Mitad del Mundo’ ‘town’. There is a very large monument on the equator line, and, of course, the line itself, marked by red tiles on the pavement. Tom was eager to see which way the water would run down the plugholes on each side of the line, and ran off to locate public toilets in the northern and southern hemispheres in which to carry out his experiment. He was not disappointed! The water to the north of the line flowed in a clockwise direction, while to the south, back in Quito, it had a definite anticlockwise motion! That done, we headed to a café for a sandwich and to write some postcards, and then to the kiddies’ play area, before catching the bus back ‘home’.

Some might think our two weeks here have been very ordinary and mundane by comparison, but it really was ‘just what we needed’. To be able to cook food for ourselves and to have a regular daily routine for a while has been fantastic. I hope I never come to take those things for granted again!

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