Sunday, 23 August 2009

Flickr Link

click on this link to see our photos from Otovalo and all our pics up til now:

23.08.09 - Otovalo Sunday Market

Our Kumuka co-tourers are Emer and Mark, Ruth and Sharon, Nathan, Janelle and Heidi is our guide. Emer and Mark are Irish, Ruth and Nathan are Australian, Sharon's South African, Janelle's a Kiwi and Heidi is Canadian. So we're the only Brits. Heidi buys our bus tickets to Otovalo, a town north of Quito, famous for it's handicrafts, particularly textiles. The food area of the market buzzed with locals stocking up on fruit, veg and meat but it was the handicrafts stalls on the next street we were more interested in looking at for ourselves. Alpaca wool jumpers, multi-coloured woven blankets, embroidered blouses, traditional Ecuadorian hats and beads dominated the souveniers on offer. However, we realised most of the products were similar, if not exactly the same from one stall to the next, so although it was all authentic Otovalan, an element of mass production was going on. Tomorrow we journey to the Amazon jungle so unsure of when we'll next be able to blog.

22.08.09 - Quito Museum

The first settlers in Ecuador probably came from across the Bering Strait from Alaska and journeyed south. They populated the coastal regions forming small villages and farming the land. Even the earliest civilizations used the craft of pottery to represent the important members of the community through moulding their portraits on to the front of jars, adorned with jewellery and detailing. As the population grew, so did trade between communities and ritual practising. People began to migrate inland into the Andes and Quito was founded, in it's infant state, with some villages in the valley floor. This continued until 1432 when a small group of pioneering Incas from Peru started their campaign to bring together all the communities and build an empire. In less than one century the Inca empire stretched from North Ecuador all the way down to Peru. They built roads and introduced more sophisticated irrigation systems, so they perhaps caused the collapse of some valuable communities but also brought many advances to the area. Then Columbus arrived to colonise South America. It began as a fairly happy marriage between indigenous and new Spanish, then epidemics including influenza, brought from Spain, killed many local peoples. The Spaniards introduced a 'hacienda' system where power was given to landlords, which heralded the beginning of the end of the happy marriage. There were volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the 17th century and the poor conditions suffered by the indigenous people caused them revolt against Spanish rule. In 1809 Simon Bolivar heralded the beginning of a new movement for Independence from Spain. Although at first there was not enough patronage, he led a revolt years later and Ecuador and surrounding regions gained their inependence.

Flickr Link - Rafting 19.08.09

click on the link to see our rafting videos and photos:

Friday, 21 August 2009

21.08.09 - Puluhua Crater, Mindo Zip-lining and Cloud Forest Cascadas

Angello, our driver for the day, takes us north out of Quito to Puluhua Crater, the only volcano crater in the world, in which people live. It last erupted 2,500 years ago so it’s dead now, but the rich soil continues it’s life in the form of providing useful farmland for growing corn and other crops. The inhabitants bring their produce to market on donkeys up the steep crater walls. Angello tells us of 60 volcanoes in Ecuador, 15 of which are on Galapagos (one is continually active on the island). Banos, a resort town in the south, had to be evacuated only 2 years ago when it’s neighbouring volcano erupted and Quito, itself, was covered in ash 3cms deep, in 1999, when Cotopaxi blew. Angello said the city was closed completely for 1 and a half months.

Mindo is an ecological reserve town with many rainforest lodges offering the chance to see exotic flora and fauna. Angello believes through conservation projects the forest will escape being chopped down. He invites us to try zip-lining through the treetops. We are harnassed up and clipped on to the first of many zip lines crisscrossing the forest canopy 100s of metres above the forest floor. A Quitorian family of excited girls and their dad join us and we successfully communicate through a series of miming, laughing and pointing and screeching at each other as we swing across the sky. The zip line guides offer a ‘superman’ or ‘butterfly’ optional extra which means leaning forward with hands splayed and flying upside down and back to front respectively and, of course, it would be rude not to accept!

Once back on firm ground, Angello does his jungle guide bit and takes us on a trek through the cloud forest to secluded waterfalls. The path is precarious in places as we descend down the mountainside to the river bed. The waterfall splash pool is used for bathing as the water is so clear, but alas we haven’t our swim gear. Greg does get his feet wet though, risking life and limb for that perfect waterfall shot.

20.08.09 - Teleferiqo – Quito Cable Car

This morning it is not too overcast, the clouds which most often fill Quito valley are on the move, so our views from the top (4,100m) are more or less unhindered. In the café at the top you can fill up on pure oxygen, $5 for 15 mins. Quito city stretches for around 20 miles (population only 2 million) across hills and valleys protected by an amazing backdrop of volcanoes 360o, including Cotopaxi, which is snowcapped year round.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

19.08.09 White Water Rafting on the Rio Touache and Rio Blanco

Start Quito 7:05am Arrive Santo Domingo 09:30
As you can see from the map, we drove through the Andes, descending all the time, from Quito, until we reached the valley floor. The Andes are spectacular- no other word for it. Covered in lush vegetation, they rise out of their cloud collars, peak after peak into the distance.
Stage 3 Rafting is classed as intermediate- now, seeing as I’ve only done it once before! Anyway, best not to think too much on the prospect of drowning or being washed away, on to our adrenalin filled day of white water rafting. Diego had us sign our lives away before giving us a full on safety briefing- particularly how to pull me back on the boat by my life jacket if I should fall in. You’d think rafting with five men would make me feel safe but I felt like I might let the side down with my paddling! But, once we got going I realized I wasn’t too bad after all and didn’t fall in once. We named ourselves the ‘Touache Pirates’ after the River, and when we’d made it through each set of rapids we’d put our oars in the air, shout “Touache Pirates!” and smash them on to the water- all about the team-building! You felt a real rush though when you were faced with a wall of white water coming straight towards you. Then we had the unique opportunity to jump off a massive rock into the deep water below! Great fun!

18.08.09 -Café Mosaico- Rooftop View of Quito City

As recommended by our very kind hotel receptionist, we ate at Café Mosaico this evening, arriving in time to get the best seat in the house- along the balcony overlooking all of Quito. We could see right past La Panecillo (little bread) hill to the sprawling mass of the suburbs which run till the edge of the mountain range in which Quito sits. The sun threw rays of god-like light over the city Cathedral and I couldn’t help thinking that the Inca’s had something when they worshipped their sun. As previously mentioned re: sun setting, sure enough at 6.30pm it started and by 6.45pm the city was a twinkling mass of streetlights, very romantic.

18.08.09 - Fundacion Guayasamin

Oswaldo Guayasamin was born in Quito and is renowned for his contribution to the plight of the ethnic man in South America through his paintings depicting the torture and pain which these indigenous groups have had to suffer. It was his aim to bring together the ancient cultures of Maya, Aztec and Inca together in the form of a unification of all South American countries into one alliance. He designed and built Capilla del Hombre, a monumental exhibition space based on the Inca Temple of the Sun, which we visited today along with his house, which also holds a pre-columbian artifact and colonial art exhibitions.

Click on this link to see us at Capilla del Hombre;

Monday, 17 August 2009

Quito Old Town

Although the combination of less oxygen mixed with exhaust fumes, loud car horns and screeching traffic is enough to make any self-respecting British tourist feel a little under the weather, Quito old town at dusk is a sight worth seeing. Dusk only last 10 mins however, so you have to be quick if you want a piccie. By 6.30pm it was almost pitch, which suits us this evening as we're still nursing the effects of long haul.

17.08.09 - First Experience of Quito Street Life

Ecuadorians are small, flat-nosed and friendly. The indigenous people are noticeable in their traditional garb and bowler style hats, some carrying baskets of fruit on their backs. They are not, however, social outcasts. The ninos are very cute in their fabric slings on their mothers' backs. I'd like to note that we were not stared at or harassed on our walk through the old and new towns. I felt much more intimidated when I visited Barcelona last year. There are, however, armed policemen and women on virtually every street corner and outside every bank and important building. Greg even noticed a security guard carrying a machine gun as we left the local supermarket. In this sense, it's a little different to the UK!

Room at the Hostel Santa Barbara

17.08.09 - Chillin' at the Hostel Santa Barbara. The room was once the library in this colonial mansionhouse. (wooden parquet floor, solid wood furniture and wrought iron light fittings)

08.08.09 - Beforehand

If you want to see me struggling with my case and its contents click on this link:
We'll be uploading photos to this flickr page also.

17.08.09- Hostel Santa Barbara - Quito

06:09am (12:09pm UK time)
When we arrived at Hostel Santa Barbara it was time for a nap, which turned into a 10 hour sleep fest. It’s 6am but it’s not light yet and last night it got dark at 7pm. Must be the equator effect- and we’ve noticed the coriolis effect in the loo! (the force which is exerted on mass due to rotation of the earth- just to add a little science). We’re contemplating getting up … Greg’s just asked me, “does the room always spin the same way when you’re drunk, no matter which hemisphere you’re in?” oh dear, I think the altitude sickness is kicking in. We’re pretty high up here- 2,800m. And we’re surrounded by mountains including volcanoes.

Hostel Santa Barbara - Quito

This was taken from our cab on our video camera as we entered the courtyard on our arrival.

16.08.09 - Our Journey Begins

Depart London Heathrow 07:25 (alarm goes off at 04:10)
Transitting Madrid, connection to Quito, Ecuador.
Halfway through the flight, digesting suspect plane food, I wonder whether I’ll ever not feel tired again. I become a little ratty in this state and unfortunately Greg tends to bear the brunt. Oh well, he’s used to it. Iberia airlines is a little tatty and with me a little ratty, it’s not the best combination. However our pre-prepared entertainment – IPOD with specially selected ‘World’ playlist, mini laptop with ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ downloaded and Footprint South American Handbook to gen up on, we are successfully passing the time without too much boredom. I’m sure that once we land in foreign lands I’ll perk up- I don’t do very well on two nights of sporadic sleep. Looking forward to Hostel Santa Barbara with it’s, hopefully, comfy bed and the knowing that the first leg of our journey is over and we can begin to enjoy. I have to say though that it does feel odd knowing we’re not ‘coming back this way’, so to speak. From here on in we’re travellers of the world!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Our Route Around the World
16th August - London Heathrow to Quito, Ecuador (via Madrid)
Touring South America from Ecuador to Chile, including Inca Trail.
October - Santiago, Chile to Easter Island
Stay on Easter Island for a few days.
Easter Island to Auckland, New Zealand (via Santiago)
Touring New Zealand.
Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia
Touring east coast Australia.
Brisbane, Australia to Singapore
Touring Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
Bangkok, Thailand to Beijing, China (via Hong Kong)
Touring China.
Shanghai, China to London Heathrow
Hello, this is the first blog we've created, so bear with us. We are about to embark on our world trip starting next week and wanted to set up a blog so that we can log everything we get up to while we're away and to load up many, many photos.