gawd what an arse of a journey…. I finally got to the hostal here in Quito about 8pm last night dead on my feet, right now it´s about midday local time and I still feel like dogpoo. On the bright side it´s about 26 degs and sunny here :o)
so the journey then…. well 5hrs drive to stay with a good friend near Heathrow, 3hrs kip and then getting up at 2.30am to get to Heathrow for 3.30am to return rental car and check in on early flight to Madrid, then 3 hrs delay in madrid before the 11hr flight to Quito… so today is a do nothing day and I might stay here Sunday too before getting on my bike and riding out to the west. I booked myself in a nice place for these few days… my little bit of luxury before putting on my Indiana Jones hat and making a move. This morning I just got some chores out the way… have bought 4 weeks worth of doxcycline for malaria, she wouldn´t sell me the full 58 tabs i needed but no matter, i´ll pick up more in Colombia. It may have been becuase it´s not used here for Malaria, rather it´sa standard treatment for STDs and perhaps she thought there´s no way I could be that ´clapped out´if you see what I mean :o) Saved me a wedge though, 4 weeks only cost $5….
Back to the flight then.. I´m not flying long haul with Iberia again unless I really have no option (I could have flown via the US with United or American but they´re crap too in my experience, and arrive at midnight…) The aircraft was an A340 but with quite a dated cabin spec so no decent entertainment except a couple of big screens down the middle… I just curled up best I could and retreated into my music for the full 11hrs (this is the first time I´ve really appreciated the rather amazing battery life on my iPod Nano). Found myself sitting next to a chap from a country I shall not mention lest it perpetuate the stereotype of all Germans as big fat arrogant folk with nothing to say. Doh!. OK, this is not true, I have some brilliant friends in Germany. The food was pretty dire.. normally i can eat anything anywhere in the world, even raw buffalo liver on the Lao/China border many years ago… however this was the first time I have ever encountered something that genuinely turned my stomach… it was meant to be some sort of crab pate with a chickpea salad but both were just.. ugghhh! I think for my flight home from Bogota I´ll take my own grub on board. Bagels and marmite would be nice but doubt i´ll find marmite in Bogota…. :o) I suppose the only good thing about the journey was that at Heathrow my gear was so bulky it wouldn´t fit on the scales… so the chap checking me in just took me at my word on the weights and couldn´t be bothered to charge an excess despite being blatently over the 20kg limit with the bike. I´d bundled the trailer and dry bags containing my gear into one big package, wasn´t sure they´d accept it and I don´t think any of the other passengers did either judging by the “you stupid tw@t” looks I received in the queue :o)
Arrival in Quito cheered me up, aside from the stunning views of a giant snowcapped volcano poking above the rainclouds I felt instantly at home in the familiar chaos of a developing nation. My bike and trailer arrived OK too which was a relief and my room at the hostal is now a chaotic tip of gear. I always get nervous about being able to get the bike downtown on arrival somewhere new. It´s irrational really because I´ve always found a way and nothing a few extra $$ in the right hands can´t fix. Quito was easy…. I bought a taxi token and was able to get rid of one of my $100 bills – the locals are really suspicious of them because so many forgeries around, as a result you only really see $1, $5 and $10 bills here… the taxi was $6 (we stuffed the bike and gear in somehow) so in return I had 2 $20 bills and 54 one dollar bills. It reminded me of being in Cambodia during the troubles in early 90´s when inflation was something stupid like 1000%… I´d change just $10 at a time and receive a 4 inch thick wad of Rial in return. I was also a little worried about being picked up by customs because the law here is max of 10 rolls of film and one camera that you can bring in… as you may know I´m a bit of a photographer so had almost 40 rolls of film, about $8K worth of leica M plus lenses and my digicam for snapshots that I decided not to declare… my bags were xrayed on arrival without even a raised eyebrow… not like in Pakistan where the rules are similar… the customs guy was coming after me so i grabbed my gear and ran into the crowd outside…..
I´ve been chatting to an American couple over brekkie this morning… she asked me where I was from… Cornwall… it turned out her ancestors were Cornish farmers that emigrated a couple of hundred years ago, and I asked where they lived… answer was upstate New York… so I said “oh, Adirondack area by any chance?¨”.. to which answer was yes and how did i know about it.. well I spent so many weekends playing in the Adirondack mountains when I lived in Montreal that I know the area really well. so there was a double connection, quite a nice coincidence I suppose…. They were suitably in awe (though perhaps it was a look of pity….) when they found out I was travelling by bike :o) Stating the obvious like everyone else… “oh, you must be fit/brave/stupid (all 3 apply in my case i think…)
Having fun with my Spanish too… it´s good enough to get by now, and will improve massively i think.. but French comes much more naturally to me so I keep tripping up and inserting the odd French word much to the bemusement of the locals…. I´m just a stupid gringo I guess….
OK, that´s it for now……