Hello Ecuador!

Dropping down through the clouds after 11hours in the air, our first view of Ecuador induced a sense of deja vu – the grey skies, rain, and green landscape looked like home.

Our lonely bags at Heathrow T4 - best when it is empty

Our lonely bags at Heathrow T4 – best when it is empty

But fear not, the mountains were a giveaway, we had not been going around in circles. Our 19 hour journey was nearing its end. We’d begun at 4am, Heathrow T4, where it was raining. Never seen it so empty, even the shops were closed. 18 hours later, via Amsterdam, we”d cleared immigration and customs in Quito nice and easy, and our ride to the hostal awaited us.

Rather jet lagged, with stiff legs, we settled into the back of the cab and even managed a basic chat with our driver…football was a topic he was keen on. What followed was a 70minute white-knuckle ride through the rush hour of greater-Quito. The brand new airport is only some 20+km outside the city, and the first 10min on a new 3-lane highway was easy-peasy. Then it dropped to 1 lane…..

The tarmac quality dropped, the roads became steeper, and narrower, buildings teetered on steep hillsides above us, and only the bolshie drivers got anywhere quickly. Ours did and more than earned the $30 fee. About 6pm we arrived at our booked hostal in the barrio of San Blas, on the edge of Quito’s historic old town, overlooked by Parque Itchimbia.

Our online booking worked, we had a double room, with a cloud-shrouded mountain to the west. A friendly Irish guy, with good Spanish, showed us around. We decided to take a quick stroll as darkness descended, to stretch our stiff legs. The local streets were now quite empty, the buildings a mix of newish, old, very old, and almost-falling-down. They were also rather steep and we experienced the impact of the altitude difference at 3000m.

We went back to the hostal, had a beer & smoke, and hit the bed. It was 9pm on 22 January Quito time, but 2am on the 23rd for our body clocks, we’d been on the go 23hours and we were shattered. But we’d made it at last!

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Packed and ready to roll. Almost.

The other day, a week before we go, we had our first ‘pack’. Not too bad! We’ve narrowed it down to just a medium size rucksack, a large holdall, and a bike-courier style shoulder bag, which should come in well under our permitted baggage allowance.

We’re not taking a tent, nor sleeping bags, nor cooking gear. The tricky bit has been trying to pack items that’ll collectively cover us for the various weather seasons we’ll encounter. Mind you trying to memorise multiple login details, passwords and pin numbers is proving harder. Time will tell if we got it right…

We need to think about the weather…

As our trip to south America gets ever closer, we’ve been giving some thought to the weather.

We know that, particularly on the pacific west coast, it’s possible to experience several different weather systems in one day due to the geography, and depending whereabouts you are. So we’re ready to ‘layer up’, or down, each day. But recently we’ve been keeping an eye on the bigger climate picture.

Fires raging near to Santiago (Foto by Robert Antezana/Facebook, published online in the Santiago Times)

Fires raging near to Santiago (Foto by Robert Antezana/Facebook, published online in the Santiago Times)

Whilst we’ve been saturated in the UK, the east coast of north America has experienced a polar vortex, then down south in parts of Brazil into Argentina there’s been a major heatwave. There’ve been killer floods in Mexico, and contacts in Ecuador suggest it’s been wetter then usual up in the mountains. Australia too is having serious heatwaves, whilst in major asian cities such as Bejing there’s been a killer smog. Less reported have been forest fires raging across central/southern regions of Chile, which allied with serious hot weather in some parts have led to toxic smoke & health warnings in places such as Santiago.

So what’s going on? Is it just a case of technology telling us faster and in more detail of variations in the weather, or is the weather generally becoming more unstable? And if so, why? Now we arent weather specialists nor environmental scientists, but we can’t help but conclude that humanity’s impact on planet earth is making things worse. If we continue to cut down forests, concrete over huge swathes of land, dig/drill/blast our way down into the earth, pollute the land/seas/atmosphere, then this has to be having some impact.

Yes, we know, we're flying there too...

Yes, we know, we’re flying there too…

The absolute failure of western dominated ‘agreements’ to reduce emissions and ‘green ourselves’ is evident to all. But what impact does this have on the less-developed countries, and what are the responses from the peoples there? We’e started to read around the matter a little in a south American context, which takes time (and isnt helped by our lack of other language fluency), but we have come across a few interesting pieces.

Perhaps most intriguing so far has been this blog/pamphlet: Space for movement? Reflections from Bolivia on climate justice, social movements and the state (Building Bridges collective, 2010). Which reflected on the ‘World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth – CMPCCC’. Well worth a read online, and also has a good brief summary of recent Bolivian history.

We’re intrigued to see what local responses we might come across as we travel around, and indeed what the weather is gonna be like?

Ah Grasshopper!

Knowing our love of insects, a friend sent us this photo of a grasshopper swarm in Guayaquil (Ecuador) last Friday.
Apparently it’s not uncommon to find grasshoppers on sale as food in south American street markets. As vegetarians we are aware we may have to adopt our diet in the coming months, but when it comes to walking around we think we’ll be adopting a ‘mouths shut’ policy!
Guaya_ghoppers

Feliz Ano Nuevo! Hola 2014!

January 1st…just over three weeks from today and we’ll be landing at one of the world’s highest & most dramatic airports – Quito in Ecuador.

our first hostel awaits...

our first hostel awaits…

So to celebrate we logged on yesterday, and booked in to our first hostel, where we’ll be staying for a good week in Quito. We’ll be taking our time in Quito – to get used to the high altitude, the cultural differences, a change in diet, tune into ‘el lenguaje’, and of course explore the history of this fascinating old city. Then we’ll be off to the south west coast in Guayas to briefly catch up with a family member. Thereafter we’ll be going south.

We are pretty close to being ready to go. We’ve got sorted the flights, insurance, vaccinations & malaria tablets & anti-mosquito creams (and mosquito net), money, rucksacks & day bags, waterproof footwear & clothes, thermals & shorts, guides & maps & dictionary, camera & tech, and a few other useful bits & pieces. So before we go there should even be time to redecorate the bathroom, rebuild the conservatory, and have a serious last drink with friends.

Tom Dunnill RIP

Tom Dunnill RIP

Sadly the end of 2013 has been marred for us by the tragic death of Tom Dunnill, a mighty fine friend and comrade. Tom died soon after his 61st birthday, having endured a short and nasty illness. Tom was seen off by some 150 friends & comrades, who joined his grieving family at the West London crematorium. Flags were flown and fine words spoken about Tom’s life and ideals. The after-party was one Tom would have been proud of! Tom will be sorely missed, and will remain in our thoughts during our trip. Hasta la victoria companero, siempre!