Cuenca (Kwen-ka, not Wanker)

 

28th January:
I packed up my troubles in my old kit bag (large backpack, small backpack and satchel), and bid farewell to Quito. It has been my base for a month. I got to spend some time with Lillie and Lukas which was wonderful and they taught me enough Spanish to wave me goodbye as I board a bendy bus to take me to the South Terminal, Quitumbe. It gets packed and I start to wonder if I could get off through these people. The answer would be no. I wouldn’t have been able to but my stop is the last one so it works well. Some school girls laugh at me trying to pick up my backpack as I hoist it on my back without falling backwards and rolling around like an upside down tortoise. B¡tçH3z!

The terminal is big and well sign posted. I grab some cash (from my bank not someone’s pocket) and go to find where I buy my ticket. There are around 60 different ticket offices. That’s ok. I can speak Spanish now. “Disculpe señor, dónde está el billete de Cuenca?” He replies and points. Hand gestures are always welcome. Not the rude kind. I find my ticket office and purchase my ticket for the 8pm bus to Cuenca. It’s about an 8hr journey to Cuenca. The ticket costs me $12. Bargain. I go and get a roll and a bottle of water for the journey. $3. Great! I carry my huge bag to the bus and I find the right one. This is easy. I get my seat and relax. We leave around 8.15pm. I have a double seat to myself. Lovely. We hit the road and I settle in for the long journey.

They put a film on, ‘San Andreas’. I haven’t seen it before. It has The Rock in it, playing a loving Father who has separated from the Mother and then the whole of America is pretty much being destroyed because of earthquakes. Oh and he’s a pilot so he saves people. He’s just badass and even though I couldn’t understand the most of it as it was in Spanish, you didn’t really need to. The Hoover Dam got destroyed. The Golden Gate Bridge too! That would be devastating. The worst part of the film was the opening scene where a young girl is driving along and then something hits her screen and she crashes off the edge of the cliff and is plummeting to her death. Which is REALLY helpful when riding the death bus late at night. The plus side to a night bus is that you’re travelling through the night so not missing out on daytime events. The down side is that everything is scarier in the dark!! I kept feeling like we were gonna tip over. He went fast on some bends. I didn’t sleep much. But the little nap that I did have resulted in me losing my nigh on £400 x-ray vision Ray Bans… I looked everywhere for them and yes, go on, I couldn’t find my glasses without my glasses. So the next two months will be trying. Hopefully my insurance will cover it.

We arrive in Cuenca at 4am. I’m slightly early for my hostel but they have a bed for me anyway, so I creep into my shared room where two young ladies are sound asleep. I become a stealth assassin, but one that just wants to get into bed and sleep, without anyone hearing. I get around 4hrs sleep before other travellers start to rise. I always wake up early here though. I’m gonna go for a wander and get some pics for the blog. I spoke with the chap at Happy Dogs in Cuenca and he’s out of town. Gutted. My dog mission will be on hold for now.

29th January:
I went for walk to see what I could see and it is absolutely beautiful here. The old town is gorgeous, boasting cute little artisanal shops and markets and stunning old churches and various other buildings. It has a flowing stream which kinda of separates the new from the old. It feels really safe and friendly here. Especially in the old town. There’s so much to see. Tomorrow I’ll go to some museums.

I went to a coffee shop for coffee. Before I had a chance to say anything, he had put a lentil and chicken broth in front of me. I knew he was doing the whole $3 combo thing but I wasn’t hungry. I ate the soup and left. I paid, obviously. I just felt like I’d been tricked into eating, was all. I found a beautiful park and sat there for a bit. A chap playing guitar and singing in Spanish was my backing track.

It’s not too bad without my glasses. Although, I can’t tell you what I missed…

When I was younger I used to wonder why someone would be on their own for dinner, and now here I am at the ‘Number 1 restaurant in Cuenca, Fabianos’ (thank you Trip Advisor), on my own. I’m never really on my own. As I write these blog posts, and even before, this is what I was doing. Conversing in my head. Thinking about what’s going on around me. Not in a crazy ‘oh my god she has finally lost it’ kinda way. But in a way that I just feel very comfortable with myself. I don’t need others to make me feel good. Don’t get me wrong, I love and miss all my friends and family and significant others (only one of those), but I learnt that if you can’t enjoy your own company then how can you expect others too. So you’ll be pleased to know Me and I are having a wail of a time and I expect you to enjoy me this much when I get back! Ok?

I’m loving the busyness of this place. Reminds me of working at The Pelton on a Sunday lunch. The service bell would go and if you weren’t there within 0.5secs it was ringing again. I’d love to have shoved that bell up Jason’s arse. In a nice way. Now I’ve made that sound weird. I kinda have that Pavlov Dogs situation. Not sure if you’re familiar. It was when he trained his dogs to come to food with the sound of a whistle, or bell. So does that mean we’re all dogs? No. That’s not what I mean. You know what I mean.

I wish my Spanish was better. I always wanted to run before I could walk. Try to imagine me talking in English as I am Spanish. “Hello. How are you? (That bit is good). Glass of wine. Pizza Especial. One more glass of wine. Take away (points at remaining pizza thinking of breakfast). Pay here? Thanks. Bye”. Still, so much more than a month ago. I got off the plane able to say hello, thanks and bye. That’s the same amount of vocabulary I used working behind the bar.

The hostel I’m staying at is called Hostel Alternative. They deserve a special thanks after I was due to arrive at 10am (when I booked), but I actually arrived at 4am and they let me have a bed right away. And it’s really clean!! I can’t imagine what I would have done without that. If I can give any advice when booking a hostel, make sure it has 24hr reception, unless you are 100% on what time you’re going to arrive. My plans are changing all the time.

Ain’t no mountain high enough.

Hiya. Sorry it’s been a week since my last post. My Nanny Muriel even text me to see if I was ok as I hadn’t written anything. I hadn’t written anything because I hadn’t really done anything. I had a few issues with my bank card which meant I had to think about my spending a bit, but I also just wanted to read about where I’m going next. I leave Quito in two days and head south to Cuenca. A pretty looking little city where I hope to meet up with the group “Happy Dogs in Cuenca” and learn more about what they do and if I can help in anyway.

Anyway, on Saturday we headed up into the mountains and it was beautiful. The altitude was insane though. You can only take short, shallow breaths. My heart was banging as much as when someone is knocking on a door here. We rode a cable car to the top. Before we got on the guys were telling me a story about when they went up it with Edie, that it got stuck half way. Why would you tell someone that before they’re about to go on the exact thing that got stuck? I spent most of the journey up planning how to escape should it get stuck, or what I would do if it fell and we were tumbling down. Needless to say, I was very happy when we arrived at the top.

The view was amazing!! You could see for miles and miles and miles. We walk along for a bit until we come to some horses. These horses were better looked after than the ones in Araque. Even if Lil’s one did keep stopping to eat every other minute. But they say animals can sense feelings like fear.. Or in this case, hunger ha. I ride this one solo, right behind Lil as she holds me up. Eventually my horse, named Julian (silent J, Obvs), decided to take a short cut on the bend and we got back in front of Lil. Lukas rides horses as if he were a cowboy in a previous life. I hope he was. We ride for about half an hour, before walking back along and back to the cable car and woooaaaaahhhh!!! It’s worse going down. But a fun worse. You know? When you’re scared but the view takes over your senses.

I missed my Grandad Bob’s birthday this month, but I also missed my Dad’s 50th. I’ve never been more certain of someone’s age on their birthday, not even of my own, because he must have mentioned it at least 200 times in 2015, and then an extra 70 odd times that I was missing it. I replied with, “Well you’ll still be 50 when I get back”. On Saturday when I was riding a horse, he went to the races for his birthday, so I was doing the exact right thing to celebrate for him. I sent him a card though. “20th anniversary of your 30th birthday” haha. And I wrote this for him;

I thought about ignoring the whole age thing,
But you can hardly tell that you’re aging.
To drink with the youth, you’re still able,
You could drink most under the table.
And I think you’re bloody amazing.

This is my last Saturday night with the guys so we have a few drinks, a nap, and some more drinks. My time in Quito is almost done and I’m glad I spent a month with this as my base. I’ve learnt enough Spanish to get along on my own and I will continue to learn more every day. I’m heading to Cuenca, like I said, then back up slightly to Guayaquil so that I can get the bus to Peru. I’m excited for Peru. I really am. But first, Cuenca and my dog mission.

I’m gonna be on my own for the next month. If my blogs turn dark at all, don’t worry. I’m fine. Or if I don’t blog a lot, I’m also fine. Or if I waffle a lot (the norm), then I’m also fine. I’ll be in Rio (via Bolivia), by 29th Feb. I have a friend coming to meet me for 2 weeks! Woo! Peru and Bolivia are gonna be great and I promise to post lots of annoying things so you know I’m alive and well.

Ciao x

Mindo to Quito for $7.25 (65 miles – 4 hours)

I’m getting carried away with this blog malarkey. I’ve even started reading an actual book. One of my partners in crime, Tash, gave me a book for Christmas. I opened the gifts from her via FaceTime. One was a smelly set – standard Christmas gift. One was a box of Earl Grey tea bags – Twining’s, no less and very important when away from home. And then the third… A book! I didn’t hide my confusion at this gift. She knows I’m not a fan of books. Without me saying anything she says, “I know. It’s a book. It’s really good. Give it a go!” Well I do have some time on my hands whilst I’m away, so like she suggests, I give it a go. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. So far, so good. But then… I had a dream during the night. That I was on a chat show talking about my bestselling debut book. It was part memoir, part fiction, because my imagination got carried away. Much as it is now! Writing a book haha. I haven’t got the attention span. That’s why my blogs aren’t that long. I wouldn’t expect anyone to read for longer than I can.

Slightly off subject (shocking, I know) but I just washed my hair with Dove and I forgot what it reminded me of. Whenever I use my Nan’s shower (Nanny Muriel), I use her Dove. It’s such a comforting feeling now remembering that fragrance. I’m so lucky to still have both sets of grandparents in my life. So rich with love and care.

I’m travelling back to Quito today.

Sitting waiting for a bus at a little shop that luckily has a shelter as it’s raining quite bad. There’s some rain seeping through certain parts of the tin roof but there’s only one bucket in place to catch the waterfall. The different sounds are soothing. It could be a Zappa or Tom Wait’s record. Or me playing with Nan’s old pots and pans when I was a child and thinking I’m gonna be the next member of Hanson. Or, Simon Hanson. Speaking of waits, this one feels like forever. The rain makes me homesick. Reasonably priced cars whizzing by like they’re on a wet track at Top Gear, but no stars are here. This is boring. I hate waiting. Trying to determine what sounds like a bus approaching and what doesn’t. The nice little lady next to me says it could be another a hour. My heart sinks a little. I’ve never wanted to get on a bus so bad in my life.

THE BUS IS HERE. Only 5mins after the lady said an hour. Woo! I bid her farewell. She was peeling garlic. Hate peeling garlic. I jump on the bus and grab a nice seat at the front (more leg room). There’s a movie playing. It’s in Spanish, obviously, but I don’t even recognise the scenes. Some blonde woman is blemeding, she’s found a bag with loads of money in and now she’s killed a man. Goodness. Now someone’s standing in front of the screen. I’m trying to watch this movie that I can’t understand. Move! Oh she has. She’s got off now.

The road to and from Mindo meanders through green surroundings and clouds. I’m gazing out of the window, I have my hood up writing notes for my blog. I’m like Eminem in 8 Mile. I love that movie. I know all the words to the song as well. I rap it to pass time. In my head, of course.

You won’t believe what happened next. A guy got on the bus and in a big, transparent sack he had a couple chickens… They got put in the bay underneath but you could hear it!! I’m being haunted by this clockerel. It’s like that awful timer that’s in the kitchen at the studio.

Oh yeah, I saw a whole pig hanging from a hook under its chin.. I guess it’s his chin. Is that what they call it? Yeah… Not by the hairs on my chinny, chin, chin! A whole pig hanging and bits being cut off of it as people bought. Made me a bit queasy. I like meat but this could turn me veggie. I’ll look away.

I also just saw a dead dog at the side of the road. My first one. Well, my first obvious one. Can’t wait to go home and see my dog. Give her a cuddle and then moan at her for getting her bloody dogs hairs all over me. And Arf. And Coco.

I arrive at Lil’s café and I feel like I’ve arrived home. My last blog title was “I left my heart in San FranMINDO” (you’re welcome, by the way), but I actually also left my charger there so…. I’m gonna chill this week. Maybe go back into the old town at some point and we’re gonna ride horses into the mountains on Saturday.

Have a good week!

I left my heart in San FranMINDO!

14th January:
I feel like I’ve wasted your time with the last two blogs, however, I did pre warn you at the beginning that sometimes it would be fun and sometimes it would be boring. It wouldn’t be fair if I had fun all the time. And if you’re reading this post after the last two shit ones, thank you for sticking with it and showing faith in me. But be prepared now for sheer excitement in my tone and less complaining/scepticism about buses.

I have finally made a trip to Mindo. On my own too. It went well. The journey here was incredible. Imagine if you were driving in the mountains, through cloud forests, past waterfalls and rainbows… Well it was EXACTLY like that. Just absolutely stunning. The bus terminal was fairly easy. I can ask for what I need and kinda understand certain things that I hear. I got a ticket and a seat so it’s working. Which is more than can be said for the hostel that I booked. Remember I signed off my last post with “And my hostel has a pool”. Well, I got there and they didn’t have my reservation or any rooms. I felt like Mary and Joseph (if that were true because I just watched an Attenborough piece on a huge bone discovery in Argentina that definitely belongs to a dinosaur and has been there for more than 100 million years – yay science! Yay Attenborough!) I did no more than walk away and look for somewhere else and that rainbow I saw must have given me luck because I struck gold with a place to stay. The chap said they only had a room for 4 and it was $90 for one night. That’s really expensive here! I said I’d take it and that I’d sleep in each bed just to get my money’s worth. He laughed (obvs). He did me a deal. $80 for TWO NIGHTS but I mustn’t even look at the bunk beds. Fine I said. He shows me to the room…. IT HAS A BALCONY, WITH A HAMMOCK AND OVERLOOKING A STREAM!! “What if I sleep out here and you charge me $40?” I ditch my bags and head down to the bar (Sorry Nan). I deserve it. I made my first solo trip in South America. The flight to Quito doesn’t count but I deserve a medal for that. Worst. Flight. Ever.

I’m in love with Mindo and I haven’t even done any trips yet. The journey was beautiful. My host is lovely. My room is exactly what I would want. I am excited for the rest of my time here. It’s only 8.30pm and I’m normally asleep by 11pm (remember I said I’m up at 7am though… #oldgirl). I order some comida and a glass of vino tinto before retiring to my boudoir at 10pm. I have to be up early and hope it’s not raining so that I can go and see some butterflies.

15th January:
Ok. The butterfly farm was incredible. It’s an interactive butterfly garden, where you can see the 4 stages of the butterfly life, surrounded by 1200 colorful butterflies at the same time. Whilst in the exhibition you can feed the butterflies. They love bananas. Go, well, bananas for them. Hosteria Mariposas de Mindo is the largest butterfly exhibition in Ecuador and the one that has the most species flying all over you. Part of their butterfly production goes back into the wild, which is part of their conservation program in the area. It was just stunning. You have to be careful where you are walking as they fly that low as well. You don’t wanna, oops… Make that surrounded by 1199 butterflies haha. I’m joking.

I hired a bike for $5 and went cycling in the mountains nearby for a little over an hour. That altitude thing is a pain. But it felt good. Although, I love how I decide to run/cycle at a higher altitude and in higher temperatures. I’m shattered now. I even accidentally nodded off for 20mins when I got out the shower. I’m staying for an extra night and I’m gonna get a massage at some point. I’ve been saying that for about 3 months. Last massage I had was in Egypt, and that must have easily been about 3 or 4 years ago. Blimey.

Tomorrow I’m gonna go and chase waterfalls. I woke up at 6.30am today. I’ll be asleep by 10pm!

16th January:
I had a lay-in! Must have been that cycling. I woke up at 8am! Ok, I was sleeping by 10.30pm. I was exhausted from so much excitement, I think.

I leave around 11ish and head for the ‘Yellow House Trail’. A beautiful little forest trail for bird watching and a stunning view of Mindo about an hour into the walk. I pass some cows. They first look at me as if I’m trespassing but I have my little map in my hand so they know that I’m not. It’s hot. Like 33 Celsius. Which is hot when you’re not hiking through a forest at this high altitude. I’m mad. I’m sure I am actually because I took a video of some ants carrying stuff and said, “Ants carrying things” and laughed. Then I stood upright like, “I’m losing it. I need more human interaction”. Shortly after, I pass the cows again (I’m not walking round in circles, I’m heading back). I take my phone out to video them looking at me strangely again, like, dudes, you just saw me with my map. You know I’m allowed here. Well, I’d been videoing my pocket. Which was rubbish, obviously, but my walk is quite rhythmic. After that I hitched a ride to the waterfalls. When I got there you have to ride a cable car to get to the side where the mountains are. I didn’t really think about it, hopped in and then oooooohhhhhhhhhh myyyyyyyyyyyy goooooooooooooooooossssssshhhhhhhhhhh!! We’re really high. Over more forest and water and if this breaks I’ll die, oh and now we’ve arrived the other side. That was actually quite thrilling. Mum will tell you of a time. I can’t remember where we were, or maybe I have blocked the memory because I’m scarred and I twitch when I think about it, but we were somewhere and we went on a ride that spun you upside down and I’m certain that I wasn’t strapped in properly. I screamed for the duration of the ride, almost in tears. Mum was in tears. From laughing so hard. Also, it was a year ago today (January 16th) that I was in Las Vegas with Glenn and he made me go on the rides at Stratosphere. But I was extremely jet-lagged, drunk, even asleep in one of the pictures from the rides. Either that or he drugged me. I walk down some steps and up some steps and under a fallen tree, across a rickety old bridge, along a small footpath, through some leaves and I come to my first waterfall and its stunning! Before you arrive at it, you can hear it. And as it’s getting louder and you know you’re getting closer, it’s a similar feeling to watching your ‘Pizza Tracker’ on a hungover day (If you know, then you know). It’s magical here. I’m in love with Mindo and would recommend it to everyone.

Being on my own the last few days has really helped my Spanish as well, so when I leave Quito at the end of the month, I feel confident to be alone and get a bus somewhere, find a hostel, order a pizza, and of course, a beer or wine. I head back to Quito tomorrow, to be reunited with my pals and I’m looking forward to seeing them.

Ps: I hope you enjoyed the title of this post. Other options were:

“Mindo, Mindo. Where fore art thou, Mindo!” Or, “Me, Myself and Mindo” Or, “Once upon a Mindo” Or, “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls (in Mindo)”

I’ll stop now. Ciao x

Old girl about town

Do you know what I’ve been doing the last few days? Not very much. I wake up every morning at around 7am. I’ve started going for a run in the morning. It’s hard enough trying to do that when I never really run, unless it’s to get to the Pelton for last orders, but to do it at this altitude. Wow. Although, it should do me well should I continue to run in England. When was the last time you got up and did what you wanted? Whether that be go for a run, sit around learning Spanish and looking at maps, or binge watching channel 4 because you miss home. I’ve been here almost 3 weeks now, I’ve been away from home for almost 7. It’s getting easier. But I love having this freedom of doing what I want. When I want. My time in Quito was never really planned more than me arriving on my birthday and leaving on Jan 27th.

Anyway, Lukas and I took a trip into Quito’s old town which is adorably cute and full of history. I’ve never been a huge fan of the past but I am keen on learning on this trip and I think it’s nice to know about where you’ve been. I’ve only had this attitude since I was 28 (less than a month ago) because now I’m old and get up early and want to know everything. Which is strange because when you’re in your teens you get up late and already know everything. It’s like I’m getting up early to learn more. I digress, as usual.

We get a bus there and I wish I had filmed it. This guys driving was CRAZY! I mean, he was driving so fast and braking erratically (reminiscent of a tour bus driver Glenn, Handsome Chris and I had in America 2014, who’s name shall not be mentioned – EVER! For our own sanity more than anything). The next time I have a driver like this, I’m gonna film it. I’ve thought of a new way to explain the buses out here. Ok, it’s like being on a theme park ride but without the safety. I’ll film it next time it’s that crazy. On the way back, for example, the driver was texting. Oh, and a taxi we got the other day, the man had his wife and a TWO children aged maybe 5 and 8, ALL sitting in the passenger seat. When Lukas and I got in, he drove like a maniac! Probably so there was less time for him to be caught with us in his car, but his driving would have drawn attention. Honking his horn, swerving round other cars. We got to our destination in a record time. When we got out the car we kinda looked at each other like, “Where are we? How did we get here? Is my head still at home?” Off on a tangent again. (Off on, good one)

We’re walking through and come to Independence Square where the President of Ecuador resides. We’re lucky enough to arrive as they’re doing a ‘Changing of the Guard’ (we do it better – though I’ve seen ours like 20 times – don’t ask). It’s really great though and the horses were HUGE! Took me back to when we were horse riding and those horses were undernourished and it’s that thing of, “Am I doing the right thing?” I still feel bad about that but I had fun. Advice would be welcomed on that subject.

Anyway, I’ve taken up enough of your time. I’m going to Mindo (finally) to be in the cloud forests and my hostel has a pool. Ciao!

Estoy bien

I know it’s been a few days since my last blog and I’m fine. I spent the first two days of this week writing my blogs and learning more Spanish. I’m learning more every day. I was then planning some new trips and the rest of my route. Next week I plan to go to a butterfly farm in Mindo which looks stunning and I’m gonna stay there for a few days. That will be my first trip on my own which I’m looking forward to (except those darn buses), it’ll be fine. I got caught in a MASSIVE storm the other day. I was walking in it for about 20 mins and my jeans were like they just come out of the washing machine, but before the spin part (mum, Tash, I do know what I’m talking about). That was the day that Lil and I made it the closest to the supermarket. We were in a bar (that word again, Dad) just across the street and we missed it because it closed (it closes at 8pm not like 11pm, so we weren’t that bad). This bar kinda has an American menu which suited me great as I have been Americanised (or I should spell that with a Zee). I’m starving. Lil gets ribs. I get a hot dog. We share some CHICKEN WINGS!! LOVELY. The beer here is really good as well. And it was HAPPY HOUR, 3 for 2. I feel like I’m winning at everything here. We go home.

The weather here is insane. At like 7am it can be grey and overcast, by 11am it’s scorching, by 3pm there will be a huge storm and then by 5pm it’s hot again. Sun always sets at 6.30pm. One minute it’s light (6.29pm), then ka-bam, it’s dark. During one storm the other day, I could hear some dogs crying. I went outside and they were running up the hills, looking for shelter. There was the mum dog and several pups. This goes back to what I was saying about the number of dogs here. I was speaking to mum about it and she mentioned a spaying scheme? I mean, shelters that have been made already like Amigo Fiel and charity’s like Arthur’s Foundation are great, but the demand is always going to be higher than what these groups can deal with. There is a scheme called Happy Dogs in Cuenca which have just done their 10th spay on dogs in that area. I want to do something like this, or help them. I’m heading south at the end of the month to Peru, I could stop by Cuenca on the way. Let’s see.

The next day I walk to the supermarket, no storm this time. But uh-oh, I appear to have walked past it and found myself in the bar again (Sorry Nan). I only stay for two and a massive bowl of sopa pescado (fish soup). Really tasty! It’s a bit more expensive in here but it’s definitely worth it. I FINALLY make it to the supermarket and I’m pleasantly surprised. I don’t really know what I was expecting but I did keep asking Lil things like, “Do they sell mince? Does Quito have cookies?” I can be stupid sometimes. They. Have. Everything! And I’m particularly impressed with the fruit and veg section. I’m making a Chilli for the guys tonight as my cooker was finally installed today too. I end up playing Dale Winton’s Supermarket Sweep and go wild in the aisles. Every Christmas I buy my Nanny Muriel some Ferrero Rocher because she doesn’t like them and then I get to eat them (I think my Uncle Mark started that). Well, this year I was away so it didn’t happen. I saw some on the store so I bought them and sent a pic to my Nan haha.

My spanish is coming along. I think I can read it better than I can hear and understand. I’ll be fine by the end of the month when I venture off properly on my own.

I got a bit poorly as well. I thought it was altitude sickness but I’ve been here nearly two weeks. Touch wood, I’m over it now but I may just stay in and binge watch some more Channel 4 and Bob’s Burgers. Damn, I love that show!

 

Parque de Araque

 

3rd January: Buenos Dias. Up bright and early for more adventure. First, breakfast (don’t pretend you don’t know me). I go for the omelette, so does Lil. It turns up and we rename it “Pizza Omelette”. Imagine they’ve just put the eggs in the pan, let them cook into an egg ‘base’ then been like, “Shit, it’s an omelette. Quick sprinkle the ‘filling’ on the top” and ta-da, one pizza omelette. Still bloody tasty though. I have an iced tea and spend less than $5. Lovely jubbly. Off to get a bus.

We hop on a bus to Araque where there’s a lake. It’s about a 40mins bus ride from Otavalo. I have honestly been on more buses in the last week than I did in London for the whole of 2015. That is not a joke. Jump off the bus (I use hop and jump because it is all done very quickly), and we jump in the back of a taxi/truck thing that takes us off road to drop us right at the lake. And WOW!!! It’s so beautiful. There’s always something quite relaxing and soothing about being near water for me anyway. I remember on tour in the US with Glenn last year and Handsome Chris was with us and we stayed at an RV site in Hernando (about 60miles south of Memphis). We were right next to the water and could stroll along the beach. It’s just calming.

There’s a boat that will take you around the lake for 30mins, getting you closer to the mountains and a volcano just sitting back slightly. Back in August a volcano called Cotopaxi erupted. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like. I watched some footage on it. Really scary stuff. Luckily, the volcano near us doesn’t do anything silly and we enjoy our ride on the lake. Similar thing to the buses, they just let more and more people on. I thought we might sink. We didn’t. Obviously or I wouldn’t be complaining here about it. I did have a dream about our tour bus having an accident. That was weird. It was a woman driver (what did we expect ay, she was probably doing her make up whilst driving or worrying about what to cook for her husband), and the bus sped round the massive lawn and then flipped over. That’s what these buses out here are doing to my nerves. It’s getting better as time goes by though. Anyway, the boat ride cost us $2. Now there are some caballo (horses). Yay. Horse ride. Another $2. For a 15min ride. 2mins in and my horse starts playing up. I was like, oh good. I’ve got the knobhead one. But then he calmed down and Lukas and I rode off into the distance while Lillie was about 200M behind us hahaha. Her one didn’t want to move. Poor thing. It was a very hot day. We wait and she catches up. We enjoy a nice ride and tip the kids that get paid just $5 a day to lead the horse for you. This made me feel a bit bad. Like, I wanna experience all this things but when these young boys are in this heat all day. I’m a bit torn between what I’m meant to be doing.

We go and get some lunch. I’m trying as many different/local foods as possible. This time I have some fish, Talapia. Fresh from the nearby waters it’s cooked in a wok on an extremely high heat so that the skin is lovely and crispy too. It’s quite a meaty fish. The eyes are left in. It’s literally served as it comes out of the water. The eyes didn’t both me. The fact that I accidentally ate some of its FACE because I wasn’t looking and thought it was just the crispy skin, that bothered me. Still makes me gag a bit. It was nice though. Came with some salad and potatoes. That was $2 as well. For pud, we get some sorbet. Two scoops for 60c. I have coconut and raspberry. Now. Some of them were coming with queso (cheese). Mine didn’t. So I asked for it. I wanted to see what the deal was with it. And it kinda works. Like grated mozzarella. Might be why I felt a bit sick on the bus back though.

On the drive back, and throughout this trip so far, I have noticed the number of stray dogs. In London they say you are never more than 6ft away from a rat. In Quito, I would say you are never more than 10ft from 5 dogs. It’s really sad. Especially when they are just in the heat with no food or water. I’m not joking, there are hundreds. So I did some research. There was a stray dog called Arthur that was given some food by a group of athletes who were competing in an extreme sports event in The Amazon. After receiving the food, Arthur stayed with the team and completed the challenge with them, sometimes being pulled from deep mud and while the team were kayaking he swam beside them. After a Twitter campaign and talking to all the right people, the Team were able to bring Arthur back to Sweden with them where he was named King Arthur by new forever owner Lindnord (team leader). He had such severe injuries (that he had received before the extreme sports challenge) that he had to stay in quarantine once first in Sweden and had seen the vet. The team then started a charity named ‘Arthur’s Foundation’ to help other stray dogs in Ecuador.

Another guy, Colin Cole, was on a trip to Ecuador and was overwhelmed by the amount of stray dogs so opened a shelter called ‘Amigo Fiel’ which means Loyal Friend. He rehomes the dogs in the US and Canada. His page says that he once heard there are around 300,000 stray dogs in QUITO, imagine the rest of Ecuador. In comparison, there are approx. 100,000 strays in the whole of the U.K.