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ECUADOR     13-28/9 1997 DIARY 1 

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A report from the real life: How does two Danes manages, on the other side of the world, without language skills, without a guide, only equipped with plenty of adventure hormones and two kilograms of baggage, ?

I've have loured Jesper to a South America tour, specifically Ecuador. It is of moderate size. The government is stable. The army was in control half a years ago, when the former president was declared insane, and both vice president and chairman of parliament said they were the new president. The army announced a democratic election, people's favourite was elected, and the army withdrew it selves again.
The climate is changing; along the coast, it is tropical, on the double mountain range (Andes), which cuts through the country, it is relatively dry and cold. In the hinterland, it forms Amazonas backyard, and here are hot and tropical rainforest.
The country lies right on the equator, and offers among others; the world's most active volcano, Galapagos Islands, the world's largest flying bird, cheap accommodation and ---

13. Scheduled flight from Copenhagen to Heathrow, England with SAS, but here, the chain feels of  for Avianca, the Colombian respectable air company, which we have entrusted the rest of our travel. The plane to Bogota / Colombia is 3 hours delayed. We get a food ticket for a sandwich and coffee, and shop around in the large and rich Committee airport. Finally, we head on, and 11 hours later, we reaches Bogota. They have even kept our flight to Quito / Ecuador back. We run over to it, along with a lot of others, are in the air, the captain tell us that we are landing in Quito in about 1 ½ hours, and we go to sleep.

14. I think it takes an eternity, but we have also been on the road in 19 hours, the 14 in the air. Finally we land, rush out of the plane, but get halt back in the arrivals hall. Must wait, we don't know for what. The other passengers rush past us. We wait a little, then decides that the other can wait for their suitcases, while we take a taxi to the Hotel Grand.

During the empty custom, show the passport and the handed-out visa form. We are just not allowed to pass. We are laboriously explained in a correct and easily understood Spanish (or is it Portuguese?) That we have the wrong visa form. For crying out loud! Then, the fly-guy have given us the wrong form, when it was distributed out to us, and those who would continue the flight to Peru. We ask if we can not just get a new one, so we can get out to Quito, and find a hotel. "Quito? - You are in Lima / Peru!"

I would not rule out that we look a little bemused, in 1 ½ seconds which elapse, before we rush back to the transit hall. No hurry, the plane is only about 5-6 hours. When we left Bogota, we were told we flew to Quito, first, and then to Lima. Then it just started to get windy in Quito, and then we flew just a few hours to Lima. We can not fly back now; the airport in Quito closes at 24.00. There will be arranged for a small sandwich and Peruvian coffee. It is not recommended!

We spend a very long night in Lima, talking with an English telephone installer who left his wife and two children at home, while he sees South America. Wise guy.
We finally fly to Quito / Ecuador, and landing 12 hours late. The inflight is fantastic. We pass 5-6 kilometre high mountains and a huge blue alkaline lake in the bottom of a perfect crater. I ask just for safety's sake 3 random people, before passing through passport control. Thence to Avianca office to get flight moved forth 2 days. The clerk is sympathetic, but is not authorized. We must enter the office in Quito tomorrow. Sitting in the office along with a few girls who have gotten to Quito, but not along with their suitcases. We are listening party, but notes that we have only hand luggage. We have travelled before, and know that you have water in most countries, so you can wash clothes.

We did actually plan to arrive at 22, go in to a hotel to sleep and then today: Out and see Mitda del Maodo. Apart from the hotel and sleep, is went quite as planned. From the airport, cross the street and into a bus running directly to the place where someone for the first time realised where the equator was (and is). A large monument and a red line. A lot of local people, but not a single foreign.

Outside we are negotiating with a bunch of taxi driver, getting a good price on the trip out to Cochasqui, which is today’s second sight. 90 U.S. $ will eventually, after much discussion end at 30$, and we are running with an old tattered car. The driver has been little misinformed of his colleagues, who, big-smiling, watching us drive off.

We learn why, after 1 hour. There is a sign pointing to Cochasqui, and we rattles 15 meters on the main cobblestone-sized sealing. The driver stops and says "Si?" We say "No!, Pyramides". It turns out that he does not recognize what a pyramid is (not in Spanish either). Every time we have run 500 meters, passing a corner, or survive a big hole, with subsequent complaint sounds of car and driver, or watch one of the great views, he says "Si !!!!?" We say "No!"

We will see the 15 major grass overgrown pyramids. Finally after about 10 kilometre, they pops up. We are thrilled to leave the steamy car and driver. These large manmade soil piles for up to 500 years ago, worn sun temple and the like. As we round a corner, we find out they are now more for llamas than humans. The llamas grazes peacefully, and turns out to be quite friendly.
We absorb impressions, photographs, enjoying the magnificent landscape, and walk back down to the cold car and semi-cooled driver. Home tour to Quito is fine until we crossed city limit. A sudden bang, and the driver is half dead, the car completely. We leave him with $ 40 in his hand, but he still mutters about his broken clutch cable.

I walk 10 meters across the sidewalk and ask a little lady "Quito Centro?". She just says "Si," and jump into the bus that appears in the same moment. We do the same, and beware; we go straight the centre, and it costs only 1 cent.
We find a hospitable hostel / hustler of which the receptionist is a little hot blooded Colombian girl. She finally leaves, after she has been most of my bag, introduced her "girlfriend", followed us all the way to a pizzeria, told his life history and I do not buy her a drink. There are just some people who don’t taking a NO! for an answer, although it is said 50-60 times, in many languages. It is only 20.00, but we head the  beds – alone: The door can be locked inside.

15. A good night's sleep, a real cold bath, and we are fleeing. Discover 20 meters from hostel that I have left my Scottish cap and my sunglasses, later Jesper discover his shampoo is gone. But go back voluntarily, we do not! Find one morning restaurant where we get buns with cheese and Nescafe. Had really expected a great and good coffee, but it turns out not to hold any thought. The scones are good and we buy more of a bread shop on the way to the Avianca office.

Jesper spend a long time, and especially his excellent English skills on the bimbo at the front disk. It ends with, we can wait 2 extra days to fly home (there was no vacancy, when I tried to book from home). We must just pay U.S. $ 100 each for the amendment. Then my impatience explodes. They changed our itinerary and we got more than a lousy night in Peru. My language skills are perhaps not so good, but I can speak loudly, and I know some of the words you do not press in English! I end my monologue by asking her boss.

She sits behind, in her office. We go, waiting neatly on her to completed her phone call, and I politely explained our errand. After some parliamentary back and forth, is it all in place, she just need SAS’s acceptance of the change from Frankfurt to Paris, who is take-over airport. The nice lady considers; it would not be a problem. I have a feeling that my little speech at the front desk has done its part; she could not avoid hearing it.

We take a taxi out to a highway, where the bus to Amaguaña is said to stop. It comes within 2 minutes, and we are going to Pasochoa National Park, a small NGO, located in the oval crater of the extinct volcano of the same name.
We get off at the main road, in the middle of nothing. However, there is a sign that shows at the park. There are 7 kilometres up to the entrance. It is an extremely fertile area, mainly in black spotted dairy cows. While we pass a cottage with an old lady, we buy something to eat and drink. We are in good 3000 meters altitude, it can be felt! We loses breath when one goes up the most steep parts of the road. On the other hand, no problems with altitude sickness. There is said that is hereditary, and we have not have it.

We reach the entrance, pay, park our backpacks, get a map and go out into the breathtaking scenery. The temperate rain forest with lots of orchids and epiphytes. Some hummingbird are seen by the many blooming shrubs and trees. We make a tour of all the routes. Part of the time, we walk along an aqueduct. It is only open in a few places, most are a 1 meter high tunnel, with a half meter openings for every 5-10 meters. It is certainly made of an ancient culture of people, but is still maintained.

Good tired, but with some fantastic panoramas in our memory, and camera, we return to the office for the backpacks. There is a local outside with his pick-up, and he agrees to drive us down the road, in the back of his truck.
We are waiting patiently (for 1 minute) on the bus to Tambillo. Here we wait again 1 minute, and continues with a second bus to Machachi. We jump off at the square, goes directly into a restaurant, given today's special and find the road map. Tomorrow's home-planned trip to Cotopaxi National Park is rejected, because I can see on the map; they have similar geography and climate. We are just jumping on the bus to Latacunga. On our left side; views to the Cotopaxi. With its impressive 5897 meters, is the world's highest active volcano. Other smaller mountain peaks passing on both sides of the bus.

Arrive at dusk to Latacunga, leave backpack at a nice hotel and go out into the vibrant city. None of the stores here seem to be built in this century. The products are a mix between now and past.
On the way back to the hotel we encountered on a saint-marches. A Maria figure is carried around the individual houses in each street. Here is a small table with cut flowers and cakes. I seem to remember that there is a girl of 12-14 years of age, with a beautiful dress in each house, perhaps it is no confirmation anything. A lady singing psalms in a megaphone, both when stationary and when they walk. Around her are 50-60 people + those who are a little further from just looking at.

16. Hot morning bath, light breakfast and then out into the city. There are several squares in the city, some with clothes, other with food. We find a bank that will exchange our U.S. $  at a 4,090 rate, we buy half a million Sucres. On the way to the bus, we buy small buns, cakes and colas. The bus is here now, but we wait for half an hour before driving. We sit and look amazed out of bus windows. 3-4000 meters high lava ash hills are cultivated from the river to peak in small fields.

After 1 ½ hours, we reaches Zumbahua, a small town, but we manage to get coffee and  contract with a local, who transport us out to the blue crater lake Quilotoa. We are on the back of his pick-up in a half hour, passing the one view after another. In some places, white lava-sediment are swept across bottomless canyons.
Finally we end up in a small opening, at the end of the long gravel road. We look a little puzzled at each other. Several times on the way, we have been convinced; "this is it", but now, it looks like nothing at all. We are crawling over low hill, and a huge hole reveal themselves to us. It is enormous; the diameter is 10-12 kilometres. Down at the bottom of the perfectly formed crater, maybe 600-700 meters vertically below us, some small white " birds" turns out to be sheep. What's on the other side of the alkaline lake, only the gods knows? The air is crystal clear, but 12 kilometres is at the limit of my eyesight.

According to the guide book, there would be a restaurant serving guinea pigs near the crater edge. We are looking for it a bit, and end in one of the 10-15 huts in the area. Indeed, the little dear creatures are hopping around under the masonry stove. There is a tot grass and they can hide in the wood beside it. Unfortunately cooking takes 3 hours, and there is nothing else to do in the rather cold and wind swept area.

We crawl along with the driver in the cab, and start the bone braking trip down to Zumbogua. Suddenly, the sound of a loud explosion, and we stopped. The last layer of canvas in tire is worn through. While we find it equally worn-out spare tire, the driver blocks the car up, borrow a spade from the near-living peasant and dig a hole under the wheel. At home we usually lift the car, not decrease soil. Well, it does the trick, and we continue. 20 meters from the bus stop, a familiar loud sound and we will continue on its rim.

The bus is only supposed to pass in about 1 ½ hours, so after a quick cup of coffee, we walks towards it. The terrain is wild and rough. It lends itself almost exclusively to sheep and llama teams, but here and there, there is still found room for a small fields. Almost all fields are harvested, but they bear traces of corn and beans. All work are carried out by hand, by the small people who are shy, but waves smiling at us. Most will easily stand under my outstretched arm. The truck-bus passes us on the way up, but we keep walking, counting on the return drive. Nevertheless, after 2 hours stamping, I say: "Now my feats wants’ a bus," and in the same, it pop up behind a fold in the mountain.

The road goes back over the 4000 meter high passes. We can see up to 100 kilometres in each direction in the clear mountain air. Soft hills with small fields, deep gorges with rushing rivers and rugged, barren basalt mountains. The 3 hours of fascinating transport costs 2$.

It is dark when we arrive in Ambato, so we will go directly to the selected hotel. Then out of the city, where almost only eating places are open. We get something to eat, and walks around in the less enlightened and almost empty streets and alleys. Unlike Latacunge, these people go home early, and so go we. The legs actually need to rest a little anyway.

The diary continues with more adventures in Diary 2



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