Trip Start Nov 20, 2006
Trip End Jun 27, 2007

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Wednesday, June 13, 2007

We landed in Quito and quickly had to adjust to fending for ourselves after 2 months of being babysat. Our hotel was a spot of relative luxury with a bath, towels and a very large bed. It also had one of those dodgy suitcase trolleys that the porter used to give our rucksacks a 2 hour tour of the premises.

In our hotel bathroom, our toilet flush was well hidden and cleverly disguised. Also in our bathroom was a bidet hose. Above this, was the bidet tap that was very prominent and cleverly disguised to look like a toilet flush. It doesn't take Denis Norden to describe what happened next with hilarious consequences. The hilarity did wear a bit thin after the 5th dousing though...

Whilst in Quito, we were 22km from the equator. We took a taxi to the middle of the earth museum to check it out. It looks pretty similar. We were told that things weigh 1kg less here than other places not on the equator. I'm a bit of a doubting Thomas though, and the first thing that struck me about this claim, is what happens to all the stuff that weighs less than 1kg? If this was true, then Posh spice would need to wear her lead boots to keep her on terra firma. (I reckon Becks borrowed them for the last world cup too.)

At the museum, we were party to some scientific experiments of dubious authenticity. We watched agog as water plummeted through a plug hole with not a semblance of swirling activity. Gasps were heard, as 2 metres away to the left, the very same water swirled clockwise. We were quite blase about it all by the time we went to the other side of the equator line and merely adopted our 'hmmm, how very interesting' faces as the anti-clockwise swirl occurred. As if that excitement were not sufficient, we then had the chance to balance an egg on a nails head to earn a certificate. We both managed it. Neither of us have ever balanced an egg on a nails head before, so this proved beyond doubt that the equator is a special place.

His last experiment was particularly dodgy - proving that we were weaker on the equator line than we were 2 metres north. He proved this by pulling our clasped hands down from above our heads - from both positions. First he performed this from up north, grimacing slightly as he pulled our hands down. He then moved us on to 'the equator line' and did the very same task one handed, looking the other way whilst inspecting the dirt beneath his fingernails.

To be fair, we were both suckered until we heard better, here are more details if anyone is interested...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriolis_effect#Draining_bathtu bs.2Ftoilets

Before we left the museum, we had further entertainment involving silly hats and a cactus leaf. We took turns to take aim at the leaf with a whacking great blow dart. When it was Lou's turn to step up to the oche, she was a bit concerned that she wouldn't have enough puff. To counteract this, Lou inhaled deeply, before blowing the dart at such velocity that the dart became a blur. A blur that bypassed the cactus leaf and probably burst into flames moments before hitting a bemused, cud-chewing cow 3 miles away.

We went to see the statue of the virgin, which is on top of a hill near Quito old town. The taxi ride was a rip off, so, rather than line the thieving gypsy bastards pockets with yet more gold, we decided on a one way trip, chancing our arm on getting a cheaper ride back. Unfortunately, once there, we couldn't find any kind of a ride back. As we were heading in the direction of the old town afterward, we consulted our trusty travel guide on alternative options. The only route available to us was a distinctly shady and dodgy looking 25 minute walk. The Lonely Planet advice for this walk was:- don't. However, we had no choice, so we took a deep breath and tried to look South American. We made it down in one piece and were actually shown the correct route by 2 youths, who bore only a passing resemblance to homicidal maniacs.

Bored with sight-seeing we ventured out to find some dodgy DVDs. No shortage of options were available to us and at $1.50 a pop, we dully ripped in, returning home with a very restrained haul of 9.

One of the best things about travelling is having your hair cut in foreign climes. I hate having my hair cut. Many things spring to mind as to why - having your hair washed by a bloke, having to queue and wasting your lunch hour when you could be at the pub, being just three of them. However, by far and away the worst thing about having your hair cut is the small talk. I recall having my hair cut in Sutton where it took some 19 year-old chav 30 torturous minutes to establish that we had nothing in common whatsoever. Not an isolated experience sadly.

Having your hair cut in a non-English speaking country knocks all of these problems into a cocked hat. The cut I had in Quito cost me $2, I managed to convey my request with 3 words of Spanish and 2 hand signals, he didn't wash my hair and said absolutely bugger all to me for the 10 peaceful minutes it took him. I guess if I'm being picky I could complain about the fact he gave me a side parting and that he evidently went to the 'Ray Charles' hairdressing finishing school.

My previous haircut in Paraguay was even better. The barber, realising that I wasn't exactly fluent in Spanish gave me a copy of Playboy to read whilst he cut away! To be fair, it was difficult to concentrate with Lou watching us, and, even more importantly, I didn't want to give the barber any inspiration.

Our last night before the Galapagos was to be an early one - we were up at 6am and needed to be packed and ready to go. You can imagine our delight then, when a guitar wielding warbler started his set at 10.30 and didn't finish until 3am. He was in the room below us and, for the thickness of the walls, he may as well have been at the foot of our bed serenading us. In some ways, I wish he had been, as I could have disarmed him and stuck his instrument where the sun doesn't shine. This would undoubtedly have cramped his guitar playing style but, if anything, would have improved his singing.

Quito is full of tourist tat shops. Lou and I went for a shopping session which was probably about 45 minutes but felt like 4 hours. Apparently it was like shopping with Kevin the teenager. Lou will be glad to get home to new shopping buddies and I'm looking forward to visiting British male creches (pubs).
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