Bright lights big city
Our departure from Santa Cruz was another early one. We were picked up at 7am for a 10am flight. Hard to fathom when we were on a seemingly small island and weren't flying internationally. Alas though ahead of us was a 45 min car ride over the highlands and to the other side of the island where we boarded a ferry across to the island of Baltra (seemed close enough to have warranted a bridge) into a bus and then another drive to the airport. So three modes of transport before we even get on the plane! A nice airport too - and apparently had been used as a US air force base in WW II hence being the reason it was on the other Island.
We have 5 nights in Quito and are staying back at the "It's a home apartment" Our one night here wasn't the best with only sun filter blinds instead of curtains on the windows and us being on the road front of the 6 lane highway.
After speaking to the booking agent he said he would make sure our next stay we would be in a better location away from the noise. Mmmm well that didn't quiet work out. We were put on the 11th floor instead of the 4th to reduce the traffic noise but still no curtains. During our 5 nights here the first 2 were on Friday and Saturday. We can safely say it's the worst sleep we have ever had. Max of 4hrs a night. Rach - I can add that it's so noisy I have dreamt most nights I've been run over by a bus! At least with the number of sirens the ambulance doesn't ever seem to be too far away. There are so many police in this city and my theory is that they turn their sirens on every time they don't want to wait in traffic or to go through red lights. It's a bit like the car horn - it is not used here in anger - it's just a "hi I'm coming through" or instead of indicators to turn. The roads are insanely busy but they are all pretty courteous to each other. Not unlike Nelson! Many of the shops have security guards too - it does make us a little nervous though that they all seem to have a gun and a large baton. After two experiences one at the "Home like Home" and then the "It's a home" we've come to realise that anything with "Home" in the name is going to be far from it! All good though we've luckily had a good mix of accommodation from very comfortable to grotty. One thing we do appreciate is being able to do our laundry. A bit of help from Mr Google and taa daa - clean clothes - one of the best things you can have when you're travelling. So nice not having to take all your dirty washing to a laundry too - that's always a bit of a gamble. Will I ever see it again / will I ever fit it again or as we found out in Vietnam - whose laundry will we end up with.
The view from our lounge window
The view from our window with the curtains pulled!
We are also having to deal with the altitude. We are back at 2800m in Quito and It's hit Matt the hardest again. headaches and being short of breath all day and night makes for a tough time. Its not much fun panting like a dog for breath at night. Altitude does funny things too - the kids had a bag of chips for on the plane when we got here they looked like a helium balloon. It was also hilarious when Matt took the top off his roll - on deodorant and the ball exploded off it across the room!
However its not all doom and gloom because the city has loads to offer and we have had some really cool experiences.
On the day we arrived we decided to check out the Telefonica which is the gondola ride taking you up to 3900m. It was a stunning view going up to the top but for Bella and I was a bit more of hold on to the seat and smile. I appreciated the teasing from the others.
Burpees at almost 4000 metres above seal level!
The next day we had a day trip to the Equator line and then a tour of the old town. To be honest the Equator tour was a bit naff but hey when in Rome! The demonstration at the Inti Nan museum of the Coriolis affect was fun to watch though. How the water moves in different directions from the northern and southern hemisphere.
Right on the equator - apparently!
We also enjoyed the tour of the old town. Some beautiful buildings and cobbled stone streets.
We had a great couple of hours wandering around where I (Matt) managed to buy a Rolex watch for $7! Bargain of the year until the strap broke the following day. I will be writing a letter to them when I'm home! During that day our guide Freddie mentioned a football game on the next day in Quito. Sounding like a great opportunity I asked what the chances of moving our next day trip with the same company to Tuesday and us going along. A few hours later with a big smile he said "My friend it's all organised. Tuesday you go on a tour, tomorrow you watch football"
A little of what's on offer at the local food market
Football Ecuadorian style!
Holly, Toby and I headed to the football on our "Free Day" while Rach and Bella were content doing some shopping and have "girls" lunch. We got picked up early by Freddie our guide from the day before who also moonlights as a taxi driver! As we didn't have tickets we needed to buy them at the stadium. Freddie kindly helped me with this which was not an easy process. Eventually though we had our seats and were ready to experience what South American football is like.
I prepped the kids for what it would be like but I can't of done a very good job because they spent the entire game with either mouths wide open or in hysterics at what they were witnessing. The noise from the supporters with drums and the singing. The antics from the players on the field and then the conflict with supporters and the passion they demonstrate. Then the police and security presence. From stadium security, police, military police and riot police - all with different levels of batons, guns, riot shields. It was often chaos as something would set off some supporters and the security would rush to the area and often inflame the situation. The riot police were needed at the end of the game though as the referee was pelted with objects as he tried to leave the field. The shields the riot police have were used as a roof to escort him from the field safely. The game finished Barcelona 2 Aucas 1 with the winner in the 93rd minute. It was 2 hours of fantastic entertainment which the kids were in awe of - South American football at its best!
Just a little security at the game
Cotopaxi Volcano - (Rach) despite my reservations about travelling up to higher altitude and cold and then adding in biking Matt was determined this was a must do activity. So off we went picked up in a big old 4WD jeep we set off for the 1 1/2 hour journey up the volcano. Travelling sideways in a fumey truck wasn't so great - by the time we got there we were all looking a little rough and keen to get some fresh air. A quick stroll to warm up round the lagoon and then it was on the bikes. The bikes were not flash Tob's one had to be replaced in the first 10 mins as the pedals weren't making the wheels go round. It was pretty tough riding in the sand with a head wind but luckily there was the option to bail and jump in the truck which was one Bellie took after completing the first section of the ride. The rest of us hung in there and had fun in the sand and very rutty road. The scenery was amazing with beautiful vistas of the glacier covered volcano. A fairly large part of the the park is closed currently after an eruption last year. However we were a week too early as they had just learnt that it was all going to be open again next week. After lunch the next section of the ride was a long ride down the mountain on a sealed road which while pretty tame was a real buzz for the kids. Hooning down the highway with sweeping bends and a lovely cycle lane in no time we had covered our 15km.
A warning sign about volcanic eruptions at the starting gate.
Yip that high!
Our last day full day out in Quito was out to Mindo to the Cloud Forest. This is in area not as high in altitude as the rainforest and is often the area between the rainforests and the coast. On the way we stopped off for an hour walk through some bush to get to a waterfall. It was a lovely walk with lots of different butterflies and humming birds buzzing around. The hummingbirds make quite a noise as they fly past. Even though they are tiny in size the noise their wings make by moving so fast is quite impressive. Next stop was in Mindo at a Butterfly farm. The kids had a ball here. The enclosure had many different species with the most impressive the Owl Butterfly. It was the largest and had beautiful markings. The kids ended up with butterflies all over them.
A Hummingbird up close
Butterflies, butterflies, butterflies
The last activity was Zip Lining. I was slightly apprehensive about this as the safety regulations are not quite NZ standards. Hoping we would be able to do the shorter 2-3 lines we were all round shut down with the kids insisting the 10 line was the way to go. This gave us 10 different zip lines travelling over 3km in a circuit over the forest. It ended up being a great choice as we all had an absolute ball. Their lack of fear is something I envy! We zoomed over the canopy of the forest with butterflies, squirrels and even the odd Toucan as company. It was an amazing hour and a half. The kids even got to do tricks on the lines with the guides. Doing the "Superman" and also hooked in upside down which was called the "butterfly". The rest of the time you are harnessed in one at a time. It was long day out by the time we got back to Quito but an adventure packed one we all enjoyed.
Look hard and you'll see Rach flying along the zipline
Bella does the "Butterfly"
Kids all hooked up together to tackle the fast line. They got to do this with the guide as you had to used your gloved hand to steady yourself on the line eeek!
Rach - Big city life is certainly an eye opener for the kids. Walking home one day we saw a couple of kids climbing in a rubbish skip to collect the plastic bottles to sell. It's a great reminder to them as to how good there lives are. There is apparently no welfare here so pretty much everyone has a job and that may be window cleaning or juggling at the traffic lights or selling or oranges or bags of sweets. Poor old Bellie got quite upset seeing a man who we've seen a few times with huge deformities to his legs meaning he walks on his buckled up knees. She had insisted we gave him some money which she took up to him, then walked away and burst into tears - " he just shouldn't be on his own Mum" A really hard life lesson.......
They've also been fascinated with the culture and religion - asking many questions which are at times hard to answer. I laughed the other day when they were taking a look at a small virgin Mary shrine set up in a glass case outside a dairy which is not an uncommon sight. She had a metal halo behind her head. Our ever so tactful third child suddenly exclaimed I think she's a bit dizzy - obviously has seen too many cartoons.
We left Quito with mixed feelings. The city and surrounds has so much to offer and our experiences were amazing. We got to see a South American football game, mountain bike on the side of an active volcano at 3900m, zip line through a cloud forest with Tucans watching us. It was well worth the time we spent here. The down side is the altitude. Its so tough to handle. Mentally and physically draining and there's no respite. Ultimately 5 days was enough and I don't think I would look to travel to such high cities in the future.
Its confirmation that the beach life is for us, and guess what as luck would have it next stop RIO!