Location: Quito, Ecuador
Well, last entry before I head back home. It´s been great & I´ve had the best time ever. Worked hard, played hard & also some serious relaxation.
The last few days in Puerto Lopez were really relaxed with just a little work.
The work, I taught in 1 of the day nurseries for a couple of hours. That was fun. Almost impossible to keep the kids attention. Taught them how to say "my name is....", numbers 1 to 10 & some animals (more bad drawing from me), as well as singing "heads, shoulder, knees & toes". Thanks to Jackie´s lessons in Tambohuayllo for those ideas.
Pedro showed me round the town on the back of his motorbike. Who needs a helmet anyway, the´re for wimps!!! & the roads aren´t really that covered in potholes. I have drunk a few cervezas, jugos & some batido mora (blackberry smoothies mmmmm). The beach is really clean & I have walked most of the length of it, as well as dipping my toes in a few times.
I´ve said goodbye to sun, sea & surf (actually very little sun, which is why I´m still as white as ever) & now back in Quito. Spent a bit of time in a couple of museums. The Museo de la Catedral which had loads of nice art & stuff, but seems such a waste all that ornate gold & silver stuff when resources could be used for better uses. Then to Museo de la Cuidad, which was a bit boring apart from the last bit about the 20th century which was about a priest Monseñor Leonidas Proaño & the changes he had witnessed in his lifetime & how he had made a difference in his province in Ecuador, he made such a diffence to the locals lives that he was called the Bishop of the Indians. So a bit of a contrast of religion.
Heading home early tomorrow morning & back in UK Sunday.
See you all soon. I will put the last few photos on when I get home.
Location: Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
Arrived in Puerto Lopez after a 2 hour taxi ride & straight to breakfast with David & Jackie at a Columbian place. Jaibel lives here who helped after the accident in April, but he wasn´t about due to a big night the previous night. Really good coffee here & have been here a few times. Also good cos they have the olympics on.
Puerto Lopez is a really cool place, easy to chill. Everyone is really friendly. There´s a little bit of hassle from the guys selling whale watching tours but not too bad.
David & Jackie had already arranged a whale watching trip for the day after I arrived so off we went on Friday. It was great, at first we saw 2 humpbacks & they breeched (jumping out of the water) a couple of times before they dived down. Then we sped off a bit further out & we saw a group of humpbacks (not sure how many, but maybe 3-5) & they spent ages breeching & waving their fins. I´ve got some photos, but not great cos the boat wouldn´t get too close. In the end we had to leave before the whales were finished cos a few people were seasick. There was a bit of a swell, but it wasn´t that bad. A shame for 1 guy cos he was so sick he didn´t even get to see the whales. After the whales we stopped near an inlet & I went for a swim. A few went snorkelling, but I wasn´t that bothered. The water was just about right for swimming, not too cold.
Although I thought I was on holiday, David had me doing some work. I helped to plant the memorial garden for the girls who died in the accident. We went to a couple of nurseries in the back of a pickup to get the plants & then planted them the next day. I think it looks really nice. Work nowhere near as hard as Tambohuaylla.
The VentureCo house, where I am staying, is good. Flushing toilets, showers (cold) & a kitchen. Pedro looks after it for VantureCo (he also helped in April) & he has 3 small boys who are a bit boisterous. I spent yesterday morning playing with them, football, basketball, volleyball & snakes & ladders. On David & Jackie´s last evening, before they went to the Galapagos on Sunday, we had a BBQ with Pedro & his family. Fish, chicken, shrimps & veggies all bought at the local market the same day. Delicious.
Today Pedro took me around some of the VentureCo project sites. 5 different day nurseries. Some were open & had kids in. Very interesting. I saw how VentureCo groups had built kitchens & toilets for the nurseries. Up to 50 kids aged up to 5 or 6 with up to 6 mothers looking after them. A bit of an eye opener, but the kids all looked happy & were really sweet when I was taking photos. Felt a little strange going to see the projects, especially the 1 that I was supposed to work on in April. I hope I get the chance to come back to work on a project here.
I somehow got talked into teaching some English at 1 of the nurseries tomorrow. Wonder how that will go....
Location: Quito, Ecuador
David & Jackie arrived in Quito Friday afternoon & we all went out for dinner with Paulina, who had arranged my flights to Manta, & some of her friends. A Mexican restaurant called Red Hot Chilli Peppers where they served excellent margueritas which kept coming all night while we watched the 20km walking in the olympics. Funny taking the mickey out of the walking techniques, but very important for Ecuador as their entrant had won 2 previous gold medals, so very exiting, especially at the end. He came 2nd which isnt bad considering the winner was 14 years younger. After dinner we went out to a local salsa club. Really small with loads of atmosphere & spent the night dancing away.
Next day I decided on a restful day in Quito before attempting Cotopaxi. I went to a large park & chilled out at the botanical gardens & then to the vivarium to check out the reptiles. A quiet dinner & then a quick drink with Stuart, David & Jackie & an early night.
Up next morning to say adios to Stuart as he flies off to the Galapagos & then I head off to get my transfer to Cotopaxi. At the agency met 2 other trekkers, Kristina & Blanca, her mother. Kristina thought I was the guide! Then our guides arrived. Jose & Byron. In a small town on the way to the national park our car broke down. Hoped it wasnt an omen as when I was with the group when we went to Cotopaxi before the bus broke down & we were late starting off, so missed some acclimatization and nobody made it to the top. Anyway after 1 1/2 hours a new car & driver arrived. With left Byron with the other one to get it fixed & continued to the park.
About 1pm we stopped to go on a 4 hour acclimatization walk from 3,700 to 4,000 metres & back down again. Quite easy after the trekking in Peru, but Blanca found the uphill bits hard. We walked to the cabins for the overnight stop. The same place as the last time, but this time in a cabin instead of sharing a 2 man tent with 3 other guys. Jose had to then go up to Cotopaxi as he was covering for a friend who had been in a car accident & so would be climbing that night.
Overnight there was loads of rain where we were & Cotopaxi was now covered in a lot more snow. It didnt look promising for the climb next morning. (Found out later that only 4 people, including the guides, had made it to the top that night) We drove to the carpark where met Thomas from Denmark (he has climbed Mont Blanc) who is also going up & got our extra equipment, crampons, boots & iceaxe and also extra food to carry. Suddenly my pack which had felt light in Quito was feeling a lot heavier, especially as we now had to walk up to the refugio. 50 mins later & very tired. Unfortunately Blanca couldnt make it so Byron took her to a hostel for the night & brought Kristina up later.
Had some lunch & rested up for the afternoon before ice training. Kristina turned up just in time & then off we went to the glacier to try out our crampons & ice axes. Pretty much same as the last time. Crampons feel a little awkward but really secure on the ice. Then dinner & to bed about 7.30 to try & get a bit of sleep before we are woken at midnight.
Kitted up & after a big breakfast where I forced myself to eat as much as possible to make sure I have the fuel I need to do this, I set off with Jose about 1.10am. A good steady pace not too fast & soon at the glacier to put on crampons & get roped together. Up & up we go, I start to remember how tough it was last time & I begin to question my sanity at trying again. Some of the snow is very soft & its difficult at times to get my footing. At this early stage at different times me & Jose pass & are passed by different groups, including Thomas. As time goes on my breathing & walking gets harder as in the steep parts I slow my pace from 1 breath per step to 2. It also gets colder and windier & starts to snow. At a break with a couple of other groups to eat & drink, the snow is blowing into my back & I am sitting in the snow shivering as the tube on my platypus freezes, even though I had been blowing the water back into the pack to try & stop it freezing. On again and pass a group that is heading back as some not feeling well. They had set off a little earlier & made it to 5,250 meters. Keep on going as the hours pass still going up & up. In places the snow is harder, others softer & this is tough. A couple of times as I slip, I feel the rope tighten as Jose stops me from slipping back. Still I keep going, at a steady pace lead by Jose, who will only let me rest when he says. I say "una momento por favor", he says "no, vamos". 3 hours have gone past & I make the mistake of asking Jose how much longer. He says "3 maybe 4, no 3 hours". Yikes!!! I start to think why am I doing this, & can I even make it. Jose says sure, but.... Find some of it a bit easier going & then hit a bit of soft snow & struggle on. I one point I am sure I cant keep going, but a little tug on the rope from Jose & from somewhere I find the energy to get to his next scheduled stop to eat & drink to get the energy I need to keep going. My pace slows more but still steady going, on steep parts now up to 3 breaths per step, but Im still moving up. The wind blows harder & snow gets heavier, my fingers start to freeze so much they are painful & I have to wiggle them to get the blood circulating. About 5.30am and Jose says only an hour maybe a little more to go. Wow I suddenly feel like I can do this. The sun is coming up and the sky is clearer, I can see the moon its nearly full. Looking up & I can make out the summit. A few of groups in front & with some renewed energy I keep a steady pace & we overtake some of them. A steady pace is now up to 4 breaths per step, but its a steady pace all the same. We have to cross a narrow ledge on an almost vertical wall of snow, only 1 foot width wide. Scary! Jose works his way across & hammers in some ice picks to connect my rope to, signalling when I can go & when I have to stop as he hammers another in. At the other side of the ledge it gets steeper up towards the summit and as we approach it although it levels off a bit the wind is blowing off the summit straight into our faces, making this one of the hardest parts. A real slow slog fighting the wind, the slope & the soft snow.
Then suddenly we clear the top & weve made it. Its 6.45am about 5 1/2 hours from the refugio. The wind eases on top & I look round for an amazing sight. The sun is up, the sky is clear, the almost full moon is in the sky. I am looking down on the tops of the clouds all around. The feeling of achievement is incredible & I high 5 Jose & we have a manly hug. There is no way I could have done it without him. A few photos which dont do the view any justice & a few minutes to look around & down into the crater, before we have to leave.
To start I have plenty of energy for getting down, not far from the top & its easier to slide down than walk cos its so steep. Then as heading down it gets really hard on the legs, different muscles & all that. A slow slog down, but obviously quicker as each step is more a step & slide so probably the same as 2 or more steps up. Even so its tiring & only a couple of breaks as Jose still keeps me moving & wont let me rest. (This guy would make an exellent personal trainer.) Back down to the refugio just after 9am. Made it down in about half the time of going up.
At the refugio meet up with Thomas who unfortunately had turned back about 5,500 meters. Hadnt seen Kristina since I had left the refio a couple of minutes before her at the start & she had already left to meet her mum. Congratulate others who had made it and then only time for a drink & quick snack before packing up all my stuff so I can walk back down to the carpark wih Thomas (only 30mins & carrying less stuff as had eaten most of it).
Driving back to Quito, drop off Thomas on the way, I doze most of the way even though the roads are very rough until we get to the main road. Back in Quito I sort my laundry so Ive got clean clothes for Puerto Lopez & then I sleep zzzzzzz
Location: Quito, Ecuador
So after Machu Picchu what can follow that. How about a train ride to Olaytaytambo & followed by a bus ride back to Cusco. Then straight out for a meal of cuy (guinea pig) splayed out on the plate. For some reason the head on mine was missing!!! so I borrowed somebody else´s head for the photo (the cuy´s head not their actual head, por supuesto). After dinner we couldn´t call it a night even though most of us shattered so onto Mythology for a bit of dancing & where David demonstrated paddling techniques for the rafting tomorrow. A few of us then went onto Uptown for more dancing. I eventually gave up & headed back to the hostel about 3am after being up for 23 hours. A few made it for the full 24 hours, but I was dead on my feet.
Next day, a bit of a lie in till 7am ready to go rafting. A long bus ride to the rafting site & after we all helped pumping up the rafts, off we went. Really good fun. Not much hard work as we all recovered from the previous day. Although no hangovers the rafting instructions the previous day had advised against alcohol. Went over some grade 3 rapids. Noone in my raft fell in, but David was the first to go in on the other raft & a few of them fell in as they ran around the edge of the raft. At the end of the rafting we all jumped in as well, just to get cold & wet in the river. Cool.
Over lunch David presented us all with Jakana cross awards for different reasons. Mine was for punning. I can´t think why!
After rafting back to the hostel to get packed for our flight to Lima & then out for dinner to see off Rob, Lydia & Corrina who had decided to travel to Bolivia & spend more time in Peru.. Great food at a weird restaurant called Fallen Angel. Really good steak & some wierd art on the walls. Also our table was a glass covered bath with fish swimming in it. Jackie read out a poem about the trip & the group. A good night & a bit sad when the guys had to leave to catch their bus.
Next day another early morning to catch the flight to Lima. Then out to lunch followed by heading onto a good coffee place & then to a good ice cream place. Felt we deserved it.
We got taxis to an area called Barranca for dinner & thought about going to watch some live musicm but everyone really tired & so back to hostel for an early night.
Guess what, had to get up early for the flight. Said goodbye to Fie at the hostel as her flight was later in the day & she didn´t fancy spending a day at the airport & hasta luego to David & Jackie as they´re flight to Quito is the following day.
Said goodbye to Sam, Pob & Adam at the airport as they caught their flights home & I flew with Tachi to Quito. Stuart´s flight to Quito a couple of hours later.
When got back to Quito all looks familiar, staying at Selva Alegra with Stuart. Totally exhausted so spent afternoon falling asleep, before Stuart arrived & we went out to dinner at an Argentinian restaurant for more steak & a nice bottle of wine.
Today was 1st proper lie-in for I don´t know how long. Just been out this morning to sort out my cotopaxi 3 day trip which starts Sunday & then sorted flight down to Manta for trip next week to Puerto Lopez.
Looking forward to & nervous about cotopaxi