We're Never Coming Back

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Day 15 - Puerto Lopez

ecuador With the hangers-on in other places, sam and I did it solo and jumped on a 1 hour bus along the coast to quaint seaside fishing village called Puerto Lopez (which we called 'P-Lo' for short). We hopped on a local bus, got ripped off by the bus driver who charged us more than 3 times as much as he should have, and arrived at the overcast, dusty village just over an hour later.

The place was deserted. We'd ended up in a ghost town, with no tourists, and just hoards of people trying to get us into their tuk-tuks to take us to their mates hostal, since every hostal was empty. Sam and I roamed the streets, but there were no backpackers anywhere. A friendly couple directed us towards one in the guidebook (despite trying to persuade us to come to their hostal), but it was shut. and fearing for our lives, we went to a different place in case they wanted to rob us (I hate having thoughts like that, but we need to be careful).

The hostal was empty, so we walked along the STILL OVERCAST beach for 2 hours, then bought some bread and played some cards and hit the sack at 10pm, vowing to ditch the town and head back to civilisation again. The options were more coast (risking more ghost towns on the way), or get back to Quito as soon as possible, where we knew people and could start some spanish lessons. So when the morning came, we jumped on a bus to JippiJappa (pronounced, get this, Hippy Happa!) to get to Guayaquil, the most convenient place to get back to Quito.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Day 12 - Montañita

ecuador So, lesson number one when travelling. never assume because you are getting a 4 hour coach that there will be a toilet on board. sensible assumption, but the rest all had one. This one didn't. I downed about a litre and a half of carbonated water before jumping on the bus and within minutes realised that this was a bad decision. 2 hours in, I begged the driver to stop the bus. Everyone (all ecuadorians) were peering out the window. It was hell. I peed IN FRONT OF THE BUS so all the traffic coming towards us could see me. Then had a bit of stage fright. Couldn't get enough out. was taking too long. so zipped up and got back on, only to realise I hadn't let *enough* out. the next 2 hours were equally hell, without the option of stopping again. killer.

But we made it to Montañita. Weird little beach resort with the best surfing in the country. Long stretches of empty beaches, all the hostels made from massive bamboo canes, constantly tripping over surf shops, a massive dreamcatcher hanging over the sandy streets, rabid dogs on heat everywhere. Its nuts. but beautiful. We'd lost Joubin, the dude we acquired a week previously, so it was just me, Sam, Maria and Dave. Had some cocktails and hit the sack.

Next day we went for a walk on the miles of deserted beach. Not a soul in sight, swam in the killer waves (it would definitely be illegal to swim in those conditions in the UK). Took a battering from the roaring waves when I swam out too far, but loved it. We walked a good couple of miles and found this cute little village which was having a party to celebrate the anniversary of its foundation.

Joubin rocked up about 2 hours later - instead of going to venezuela, he dropped by for a night to see us one last time. But Maria had to take off to go back to work. So me, sam, joubs and dave got a bottle of rum and played cards all night. Its weird. I'm so used to being a productive person. I like to be producing stuff. Building my spanish up. reading about things. but here, its so hard. I don't want to waste my time playing cards, but it feels so right. Things will change soon once I get stuck ito some spanish lessons.

Anyway, another lazy day goes by on the beach, and joubin and dave both head off, so sam and I decide to explore further up the coast. Apparently Puerto Lopez is nice and quite and chilled out, so we decided to grab a bus there and check it out.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Day 11 - Cuenca

ecuador Ok, so Cuenca is turning out to be pretty nuts. Its been random after random. On Thursday we did pretty much nothing all day except collect football stickers and eat some weird soup which had bits of spinal cord in it. nice. We went out to play some pool in the evening, then ended up at this club in a house. I got chatted up by 5 quiteñas but threw them off the scent by telling them all about Tristan. Still got the number of one of them though, so I can give them a call when I get to Quito.

After leaving the club at 3am, we wandered the streets of Cuenca looking for some food. didn't find any (the people here have an annoying habit of not wanting to let you down, so they don't say "I don't know" when you ask for directions, but instead make something up - idiots). then bumped into some drunk ecudorians who promised us "hotdogs" if we got in their van. Now, strictly, I don't like doing this kind of thing. But I had two mates with me, and the guys looked nice. So, we jumped in the van. When I say van, I mean we jumped in the back of a pickup truck, sat on the edge of the truck with nothing much to hang on to. The dude then drove at 100mph down cobbled streets towards the far edge of town with some other dudes in a mini following us. At this point, I thought we were going to be slaughtered (after they realised we had no money on us). But then the guy turned the van around and headed back into town. Bombing down the streets, we now realised that he WAS'T going to kill us, but instead we were going to be involved in a car crash, jumping red lights and bombing through junctions without stopping. It was only ten minutes later when he dropped us at our hostel and apologised for letting us down that we realised he was just a very friendly, drunk man. Verdict: don't get in pickup trucks with strangers. I think my mum taught me that a few years ago.

Spent yesterday HUNGOVER (again) but ventured out to a BBQ/houseparty at the house of one of the american girls (who we met in Baños). Didn't get to eat much (and I think I food poisened Maria with my suasages), but whiled away the evening playing drinking games, ping-pong (I thought it was called table-tennis) and pool. I'm practically "sporty" these days.

We then went out with the american girls to a salsa club, which was pretty rubbish, but good company. The girls are awesome, and after much discussion we decided that their american phrase "to tie one on" should be our new favourite phrase. Apparently it means "to push the boat out", which the girls have promised to use from now on. Maria came too. She´s ecuadorian, speaks perfect english, is SO MUCH FUN, and is gonna take me out clubbing in Quito in 2 weeks.

We're off to the coast tomorrow. a place called Montanita. Its apparently a surfer's paradise, very much the party town, and we will probaby get ourselves a cabaña on the seafront to soak up the seaside atmosphere. Has summer started yet in the UK?

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Day 8 - El Nariz del Diablo

ecuador Right, the last 2 days have been absolutely nuts. properly nuts. We started off by leaving Baños and travelling two hours around mountain roads (which have recently suffered landslides from the nearby volcanic eruptions), teeting over wooden bridges with miles down to the bottom of the valley and travelling at 100mph on dirt roads. Sam was scared to death, and I couldn´t take my eyes off our impending death off the cliff edge. but we survived. Arrived in the rubbish and dirty town of Riobamba late at night, just in time to check in to a hostel right next to the train station. Because Day 8 would be the most exciting train journey of my life.

Up at 5am, we paid just five pounds for a 6 hour train ride, on the roof of an old school rickety train, through the most beautiful landscape in the world. The journey was nuts. You think you´re going to derail at any moment, and the train passes through mountains and valleys, then finally around the "nose of the devil", a huge mountain where the train has to switch directions to descend the bottom of the valley. The actual NOSE itself is pretty scary. You´re hanging your feet off a huge drop, and there is the constant fear of derailment (common, but not life-threatening). It was amazing.

Its mad. The ecudorian kids, working on the farms and going to school next to the railway track, flock towards the train as it passes at 50mph, in the hope that tourists will throw lolly pops at them from the train. SICK! we tried so hard to avoid doing it, mainly because it would rot their little tiny milk teeth, but EVERYONE DOES IT, and eventually we succumbed and bought some lollies ourselves. I threw mine into a school playground and caused a fight between some school kids. I managed to hit one tiny kid with a sweet as well on the way back.

(spot the lolly flying through the sky towards the seething children from David's hand)

We then got a four hour bus ride to Cuenca (I listened to Sonic Youth all the way - thanks trist), and then bombed it to a cute hostel where sam and I are sharing a room. We met an ecuadorian girl on the train, who annoucned to me at the hostel that she was going to a rave, so we all went for some drinks, then me, her and her mate went to the rave. No pictures, but the place was awesome. Hundreds of uni students dancing to techno under the stars. I loved it. Shot home to find sam had gone out alone with some strangers from the hostel, then she turned up at 2am with a drug dealer we had met at the rave! It was nuts. Then, the bar staff drove us scarily to a club where I danced to manu chao and got stupidly drunk. All very entertaining.

Today, we sat around hungover, collecting panini football stickers and walking aroud cuenca. apparently there is a house party tomorrow we are going to, and tonight we are gonna go for some more karaoke. this place is having a weird effect on me. I NEVER do karaoke. and I LOVE IT. rout!

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Day 7 - Baños

ecuador The karaoke hangover kicked in properly just after an amazing brekfast of refried beans and eggs, so we dicided to ditch the urge to raft/mountain bike/hike the volcano and instead spent the day playing cards (uno - thanks anna) and drinking tea. Recently got bang into drinking black tea out here - mainly because the milk is condensed, warm and rotten. A quick walk around the town and you realise pretty quickly that we are well insignificant compared to the volcano. It dominates the whole place, and there are numerous evacuation routes around the town. But the place is cool. Colourful, vibrant and social.

Had dinner with my new favourite woman, Dee, a south african who knows pretty much everything, and is a bit of a nutter at the same time. She told me that the volcano was a woman, that it has a menstrual cycle and spits lava once a month, and that the town is situated in the womb of the mountain. she's a special one. and I love her. Gonna stay at hers when I go to south africa next year, ain't i?

We decided today to shoot off to Riobamba, where we can do the Devil's Nose open-top train ride (down a mountain) tomorrow, so we're about to head to the bus station. But before we go, we wanted to try out the natural hot springs here. the water was boiling. hotter than a normal bath. both sam and I came out pink and steamy. On a bit of a downer, Joubin's digital camera got nicked from there, so he's a bit gutted. Its funny. the people here are so lovely and welcoming and nice. But you're always looking over your shoulder. You can just tell that maybe one in every 100 people here are out to get you in some way. Its scary.

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