Quito, day 2

Quito has 1,8 million inhabitants. It is stuck between two mountain ranges and it can therefore only expand to the north or to the south. Hence is like a long corridor 30 miles long and 3 miles wide.

Traffic here is a major problem although we did not have to suffer too much from it because we are saturday and morover still during the christmas holidays. Most quiteños will resume work monday and have left for the country.

Ten years ago one family out of three owned a car. Nowadays there is more than one car per family. This is the reason why the government is pushing the construction of the first public underground line and I bet it’s direction will be north/south.

After a huge breakfast with a delicious coconut juice, we undertake to visit the city but we soon realize we should not be too ambitious because the jet lag made us wake up at 3:00 am and the altitude disease is still there.

So at 9:00 we leave in the direction of Mitad del Mundo which is a kind of information centre located exactly on the equator line.

We learn that French engineers came here in the 19th century to determine where the equator line was crossing the country but since they had no proper instruments they missed it by 200m compared to the proper location recently determined with the help of GPS.

We tae the classical photo (missed and therefore not published :-)) of us with our feet on both sides of the line. It reminds me of a picture we took in the London borough of Greenwich with our feet east and west of the meridian.

Of course it got me thinking of where is the place with 0°0’0″ N (or S) et 0°0’0″ E (or W) coordinates where in theory you could have your hands in NW and NE positions and your knees in SW and SE. And yes, it exists, but if you go there don’t forget your life jacket because it is the middle of the Atlantic, nof far from the Gulf of Guinea.

sans titre-24

We move along to different viewpoints crossing various part of the city and its suburbs which remind us of other south american towns such as Lima. Although it is not as wealthy as European towns, there does not seem to be any misery there and don’t see any shanty town.

People don’t look as stressed as Europeans and life seems to go on at a more leisurely pace than on the old continent.

The town centre is absolutely charming and is quite large. It has the style of old colonial spanish towns but the population is quite mixed : there are very few totally white people but mostly mestizos, or indians (called here “indigenous”) and also a small number of black people.


There is music everywhere, for the most part traditional melancholic music with guitars, accordeons of rondador (the local pan flute) but also cumbia originated in neighbour Colombia, a very rhythmic and dansy music, without forgetting the music of the coastal black populations with lots of songs mixed with drums.

Although we are very tired, it is a real pleasure to walk along these colored streets with all these smily and friendly people.

Now it’s time for lunch. We find a quiet and shady terrasse and decide to live dangerously 🙂 and eat ecuadorian. We first share a “locro de papas” a heavy and tasty soup based on potatoes. I then try a “seco de chivo” which is kind of mutton stew (although chivo means goat in spanish !) served with rice, cabbage and a spicy dressing. Gaby goes for a ceviche of palmetto sprouts and plantain bananas. Everything is delicious.

sans titre-25

We resume our walk in the old town and visit Calle de Ronda, the Presidential Palace and various plazas.  But we’re gettiong tired and although the temperature is only 23°C the sun is hot since it is directly above our heads. We have to walk in the shade and wear a hat.

It’s 4 o’clock. We’re dead. We ask Luis to take us back to our hotel where we shower and collapse. We won’t have dinner tonight. At that time we’ll be fast asleep …

Quito first impressions

El Universo - Ecuador

 Now the real thing starts, we’re in Quito !

In fact our trip was an easy one, except it was very long, but almost everything worked out as planned.

Our friendly neighbour was there on time to take us to San Sebastian airport, which in fact is in the back of our backyard  🙂 , his car didn’t have a breakdown, checking in was smooth, the plane was on time, the tight connexion in Madrid went fine, the exit seat I had booked to allow me to stretch my long legs was indeed to my name and the Iberia crew was as expected … not very smily (and I’m not the only one to say this).

In fact the trip went so well that thanks to strong tail winds, it was a bit shorter (10:15hrs versus 11:15) and we arrived one hour early.

Quito has a brand new airport, less than two years old, and everything there is quick and efficient (forget the clichés about South America) : immigration was swift, luggage didn’t get lost and arrived quickly and we saw nothing of the customs guy except his wide welcoming smile.

So we were out 40 minutes before the time we had announced to our guide and he was not there. So we had to wait a little while but he soon was there, running and panting. Somebody must have told him the plane had arrived early and he had done his very best.

Luis, that’s his name, is a young man (maximum 30), speaks perfect English and no doubt Spanish :-), he drives a Kia 4WD and his a former history teacher. Luckily he’s a charming guy because he’s going to be our family for two weeks.

On the way to our hotel we got our first impressions : the roads seem to be in good condition, the cars not too old, the housing not derelict and everything seems quite organized. But of course these are very first impressions which need to be confirmed.

We arrived at our hotel around 7:00 pm and it was already night. The sun rises at 6:30 and sets at 7:00 year round in Ecuador.

The hotel, Anahi is its name, is located not too far from the city center but in avery quiet area. It has been refurbished in 2010 and is quite modern and pleasant with a walk in shower and high speed internet (I hope this lasts).

The person at the reception could not find our booking but I luckily found in the chaos of my backpack the USB stick where I keep a copy of all the mail exchanges made while preparing the trip.

He excused for this but did not hesitate to charge us in advance. Well that’s life.

We were too tired to have dinner and only took a pill of diamox against altitude disease which we suffer from but to a lesser extent than in Cuzco three years ago.

So we have asked Luis to have a more leisurely programme today. He must be waiting for us in the lobby at the moment so bye for now.

Oh I forgot, if you are interested in knowing what’s happening around here (in Spanish), just click on the newspaper header at the top of this article.

To be or not to be … vaccinated ?

When we went on our round the world trip three years ago, we completely neglected to get vaccinated although some of the places we went to were known danger zones as far as malaria was concerned, notably the Kruger Park region in South Africa.

Maybe were we lucky but we did not suffer from any infectious disease during the whole trip, the only thing that bothered us (quite a lot I may say) was the “soroche” or altitude disease.

In fact it is very difficult to appreciate danger and risk from the comfort of your armchair.

Official website (Ministries of Foreign Affairs in France, the UK or the US) open a wide umbrella and recommend to get vaccinated against every possible disease.

But if you read blogs of returning travelers you always read about fabulous adventures and beautiful places and very seldom of health problems.

However, the countries were we will be traveling in are the usual suspects for malaria, dengue, typhoïd, yellow fever, rabies, hepatitis A, not to mention a nice import from the French Indian Ocean islands the now famous chikungunya. I must be forgetting some  🙂

This is what it takes to make you dead scared, just kidding …

Curiously none of these countries require any specific proof of vaccination at the immigration counter unless … you come from an infested area, which is best translated as if you come from the neighbouring country !

Although we’ll be spending most of our time in danger free regions, either because of the high altitude (Andes) or because they are deserts (Baja California, Northwestern Mexico) we will nevertheless stay 3 or 4 weeks in coastal and/or tropical areas, warm and humid and favorite breeding places for the dreaded mosquitoes.

So after pondering for a long time, weighing in pros and cons, after taking a lot of advice, we finally decided to get vaccinated first against typhoïd and hepatitis A (a combined shot) and then, ten days later against the yellow fever. It was too late for rabies which requires 3 separate shots. So we’ll be very cautions with stray dogs, monkeys, jaguars, panthers, iguanas ( 🙂 ) and the rest of Noah’s Ark !

In France you can only be vaccinated against the yellow fever in specific centres specializing in tropical diseases and the closest to us was the Public Hospital in Bayonne, half an our from home.

In my whole life I have never seen a doctor with such geographical knowledge. After asking us where we would be going he could almost tell us, village by village, what were the sanitary dangers !

Hopital de Bayonne

Hopital de Bayonne

Although these vaccinations are doubtless necessary and useful, they had the immediate effect of making me sick : after the first one I caught a bladder infection which I hadn’t had in years and after the second I got fever, a permanently running nose and hurting joins. I’m still not completely over it and we’re leaving tomorrow !

So we’re leaving with all kinds of medicine which will allow us to face all minor health problems which may arise and also what they call “soroche” or altitude disease which can be pretty awful (some die of it) and which I experienced in a bad way when we first went to the Andes, flying from sea level (Lima, Peru) to over 3500 m (Cuzco, Peru) in just one hour. Quito, our first stop is at 2800 m.

Okay, writing is pleasant but I must leave my keyboard and go and fix myself a grog which is a good excuse to practice drinking rhum 🙂 although we’ll be rather staying in tequila countries.

Speaking of tequila, and to end this post with a merrier touch, you may enjoy listening to this French song. It’s title is “The tequila lover”

Ciao and talk to you later !