28th February and 1st, 5th & 6th March
Monday 28th February
We left Callao, Peru and Discovery at 9.45 a.m. and took a plane to Quito in Ecuador. There were just six of us taking the Galapagos extension (4 left the ship and Vera and Julian joined us from their previous extension to Machu Picchu – Vera having been hospitalised there for altitude sickness).
In the evening, Julian and Vera came with us for a $2.00 taxi ride to Mamma Chlorinda’s Restaurant which was recommended by the Hotel Colon (Hilton) staff.
Tuesday 1st March
We booked an all day trip on which there were just Julian, Vera, ourselves, the driver and guide (Mary). We had a whole coach to ourselves. It proved to be very good.
We took the Pan American highway northwards, between the two principal mountain ranges to a small town and Indian Craft Market at Otavalo.
The guide was very informative. She told how the economy had changed from agricultural in the 1970’s when oil was discovered. The Government did not handle its new wealth well and there was economic chaos in the 90s until, in 1999, they adopted the U.S. dollar as their official currency. The country is relatively prosperous, she told us, although there is extreme poverty in some parts. About 60% of people own their own homes and, as we have seen in other countries, these are often half built – being completed as funds are available.
In the early part of the 20th century, people spent their money on cars where they could not avoid to spend on houses. A lot of people had emigrated and were sending home money to the extent that it formed the second highest source of income for the country. There has been a road building programme but Quito remains pretty choked with traffic. They have introduced restrictions so that only cars bearing a certain registration are allowed into the city on any given day. Some rich families have got round this by purchasing cars with different number plates so that they can drive all day.
Quito is a city of 2 million inhabitants, perched on mountain top and surrounding steep valleys at a height of 9,200 feet. It is the second highest capital city in the world after La Paz in Bolivia. The 2 million inhabitants have 470,000 cars.
As we travelled, we began to see an increasing preponderance of local costume, especially amongst the women. When we reached Otavalo, it seemed a very attractive little town with a central square and pretty little side streets. It is noted for its craft market which now operates every day. Fortunately it was not at all crowded. Neither did the traders seek to press their goods on us. Nevertheless we managed to buy a couple of pairs of trousers for Zac and Ava and also a little plaid jacket for Zac. Jill also bought a necklace and earrings.
For lunch, we visited a hundred year old hacienda that had been restored by the English owner for holiday accommodation and as a restaurant. The meal was very good and after it we began our two hour journey back to Quito. On the way, we stopped at a globe with a line marking the position of the Equator. (Ecuador actually means “Equator”). We stopped for photographs with both of us standing in different hemispheres! We were told that local people had known about the position of the Equator since about 400 A.D.!
In the evening Brian and Ann arrived at the hotel and with Julian and Vera we shared an indifferent meal at the hotel.
We had a very bad night with Adrian getting altitude sickness with a very severe migraine and both of us suffering from a persistent cough and unable to sleep.
Wednesday 2nd March
We left the hotel at 7.30 a.m. with Adrian feeling pretty ill and flew out of Quito a couple of hours later, landing at Guayaquil to leave 15 minutes later on the same plane for San Cristobal, in the Galapagos – about 500 miles off shore.
Unfortunately, after about three quarters of an hour, the pilot announced that we would need to fly back to Guayaquil as there was a technical problem with the plane. No further information was given and the crew disappeared, which added to the general stress of the situation.
We circled around Guayaquil countless times – we presumed to use up fuel – but finally made a safe landing there at lunch time.
We were on our way again about two and a half hours later, arriving in the Galapagos Islands at about 5.30 p.m.
There is a separate diary for the Galapagos Islands.
Saturday 5th March
We left the Galapagos Explorer II mid-morning and began our journey back to Mainland Ecuador. First of all we had to spend some time in the tiny Baltra Airport before boarding our flight to Guyaquil and arriving there, some 20 minutes early, at about 3.10 p.m. in the afternoon.
Once we had reclaimed our luggage, and having been escorted by Victor and his local colleagues from Condor Travel, we boarded two buses on the seats of which were packed lunches for each of us. This was good as there had been no vegetarian meal for Jill on the Tame flight. Incidentally TAME stands for Trans American Military Ecuador – or something of that ilk and we were told that all the pilots had previously flown for the military.
We were lucky in that our coach not only had a toilet onboard (though we did not use it) but also had Victor – who gave us a running commentary on the scenery and cultures that we passed through for the 3 ½ - 4 hour journey to Manta where Discovery was waiting for us. We learned later that Brian and Ann were not so lucky on their bus and Brian in particular felt very aggrieved.
We were back, in the darkness, on Discovery by about 7.30 p.m. but then needed to wait for our dinner until 8.30 p.m. where the sitting was freeflow. We collapsed, exhausted, into bed not long afterwards – there was no way that any of us was up to participating in the Quiz.
Sunday 6th March
We were due to go on a trip at 12.45 p.m. to La Pila and an Ivory Nut Exhibition – however we managed to cancel this due to the fact that we were both still feeling far from well and had spent much of the night coughing (especially Adrian). We each received a credit of £45.00 for the £50.00 we had paid.
We spent some time out on deck in the sunshine and Jill also had a FB conversation with Zoë whilst uploading most of the photos from the Galapagos.
In the evening we found that our table of six (32) still included Jutta and George from Canada as well as Brian, Ann, Adrian and myself.
We did manage to attend the Quiz in the evening and made a foursome with Brian and Ann – our collective brainpower only manage to net us 7 correct answers out of 12 however – not our best performance.
Monday 7th March
Today was a sea day as we sail up the coast towards Panama. In the morning Adrian spent a lot of time in the cabin as he still did not feel good – although Jill was making a fair bit of progress with the antibiotics. There is a query as to whether the Malarone tablets are exacerbating our symptoms as the can cause headaches, coughs – and indeed upset stomachs such as Julian has had. He has been advised by the Ship’s doctor to stop taking his. Vera is having considerable problems with tendonitis which has apparently been most likely caused by the antibiotics she was given in Cusco in relation to her hospital stay there for altitude sickness.
In the morning, after a spell out on the top deck in the sunshine, Jill went to the lecture on Panama. However, Adrian was afraid he would cough during its delivery so he returned to the cabin. We met up for lunch in the Lido before Jill, Brian and Ann went to the Photography Lecture.
After the talk by Philip Lawson on photography, Jill “spoke” with Keri on Facebook for some while – learning that Zac is now definitely smiling and is now not crying at night – although he does “grunt” when he is wanting to be fed!
Adrian went to the Doctor and got some Codeine Linctus for his ongoing cough. He has an ulcerated throat but has been told that the antibiotics sold us in the Galapagos Islands are very good ones and that we should continue taking them. He was advised, however, to stop the Malarone tablets since they can exacerbate the symptoms he already has.
Jill spent some long while walking around the top deck and then we attended the first formal meal of the second part of the cruise before Jill uploaded the rest of the Ecuadorian photos to Picasaweb and made up the diaries.