Peter: What do you do back in England?
Me: I'm a Geography teacher
Peter: Oh that's good cos if you said you were a copper or worked for the
prison service Id have smacked ya.
He was joking but so went part of a very interesting conversation I had in a Quito prison
with a guy named Peter Trutton, a super drug dealer wanted in 7 countries from Gloucestershire of
all places! He was inside for another 10 years but was a really likeable
bloke. I went to visit him in the prison in Quito and spent a very
interesting afternoon chatting to him and other gringos about their lives
there. It was really shocking in some ways just how different it was from
prisons in England. He had a phone, great TV, as much drugs as he could
possibly want but the thing that me and the other guy I went with will most
remember was the prostitutes there. They cost $5 and were just amazing
looking, kind of hard to see how badly he was being punished.
Nonetheless the deaththreats and none too pleasant characters around him
didn't exactly make me wanna join him there.
Its been an interesting month in Ecuador having climbed the highest active
volcano in the world, had some gt nites out and most memorably going to the
Galapagos. Ecuador is the most densely populated country in South America
and its really noticeable just how much more developed the land is and how
much bigger "small towns" seem to be. Culturally its the most Americanized
country in South America which at times is bad (strip malls, horrible
freeways etc) but can also be good as it meant things like decent
(vegetarian) food after Bolivia and Peru.
After just travelling too slowly for most of my travels Ive had to really
ration my time left and found myself traveling pretty quickly through
Ecuador spending only about 2.5 weeks on the mainland.
I did a short trek in a moorlike national park that felt the North of
England but then quickly shot off to a great place called Banos which was
kind of between the mountains and the jungle. I did some great stuff there
including rafting, an incredible 60km bicycle descent onto the jungle known
as the route of the waterfalls but was perhaps most memorable for staying in
a hot spring for so long I passed out when I left the water. I had nothing
worse than a few marks but just felt terrible for a couple days. Crazy, I
then left to climb Cotopaxi the beautiful 5900m snow capped peak which is
visible over much of central Ecuador. I had to get up at 11pm to climb it
and as you cant walk in Zigzags because of the risk of avalanches its
probably the steepest mountain Ive ever climbed. With no parts where it
flattened it was 6 hrs of hard walking in the snow but was rewarded with an
incredible view over a huge area and a welcome cigarette at the top.
I then went onto the very attractive capital Quito, it has a beautiful old
colonial centre with great churches and a great sort of travelers ghetto in
the new town where the nightlife was wicked going out til the small hours
every nite I was there.
But the real highlight of Ecuador was the Galapagos. It really didn't go to
plan to start off with, I wanted to do an 8 day cruise but these were only
available in 1st class which I obviously couldn't afford and the 5 day option
was dreadful value for money (essentially 3 days) so ended up spending the
first few days just partying. Instead of staring at iguanas and sea lions I
found myself staring at pool tables and beer bottles with a Puerto Rican guy
I was traveling with. Eventually I got myself together and took a few day
trips which were just great. You really can go so close to the animals, got
to see the colorful birds, the crazy iguanas and the ridiculous giant
tortoises within touching distance. However, the undoubted highlight was the
snorkeling, I got to swim with turtles, white tipped and hammerhead sharks
and my fave the sealions. They come right up to you and sometimes touch you
in their curiosity. Really cute. For the last few days I went to the biggest
island Isabela and had a really relaxing couple of days there, first
climbing a volcano which has a ginormous 10km crater at the top and then
just going to the beach and chilling out. I almost missed my flight back to
the mainland and had a 35 hr journey to make it up to Colombia so am feeling
pretty tired but Colombia is just great so far.
As you can probably tell from the tone of the email I didn't have
particularly strong feelings about Ecuadorians or the culture. I found the
people very disinterested and not very happy which was a marked change from
Brazil, Argentina etc where the people were smiling so much more.
Ive always thought the conventional wisdom that people in poor countries are
friendlier than in rich countries is nonsense and I think in South America
that's been definitely true. The people have been much friendlier in the
developed Brazil, Chile and most surprisingly French Guiana and harder to
interact with in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, despite the fact my Spanish has
improved a lot.
As I said earlier I'm having to really ration my time left in South America
(boo hoo) so have only 1 month for Colombia and Western Venezuela which I
don't think will be enough. Am now trying to take nite buses in South West
Colombia, not exactly the most stable part of the world (so wish me luck I
don't get robbed) b4 I make my way up to the Caribbean coast and return to
Am having trouble sending the photos off but will try again in a few days.
Until then from Popayan,