I will start sharing our day-by-day account of the Ecuador fuel strikes this weekend … but first, to set the scene, this article will describe our travels prior to the riots (quite briefly).
Travel is a luxury, make no mistake about that.
In fact, some people argue that it’s a luxury humans could do without, because of carbon emissions and what not (although some people dismiss that stance)…
Whatever the case, Rebecca and I know that we are very fortunate in having the opportunity to travel. Seeing different cultures is interesting, exciting, and eye-opening; from the start, we were happy to be Ecuador-bound.
What some people don’t realise about long-term travel, though, is that it requires a lot of preparation!!!
We had to declutter our belongings; move out of our house (a mammoth task, as anyone with the experience knows); see friends (hardly a chore, but time consuming all the same); and generally tie up loose ends.
It’s not so easy! But clearly, we thought those efforts would prove to be worthwhile.
We said our goodbyes, tied up our laces, and honestly? I haven’t stopped being sad about leaving home … but I’m not complaining. Home follows me everywhere I go; and I’m glad that it does. It means I have a home.
Anyway … our journey began with a flight from Manchester to Madrid (flights to Ecuador were significantly cheaper from here), where we spent a couple of days.
It was a nice city to explore, for sure! But a city all the same … lots of buildings, statues, and people (oooh, and tasty food!!)
You get the idea. It’s a European city, and it’s beautiful in its way. But our attention was drifting towards Ecuador — a culture quite different to this one…
Arriving in Quito, Ecuador
When we exited the airport — after a brief scare when customs told us we needed to provide evidence that we would leave the country, which we didn’t have (they let us off) — we were immediately spoiled by a view of the Andes mountains … nice!
I found Quito itself to be unique, compared with other capital cities.
There are many warnings about crime levels in Ecuador’s big cities, but we never fell victim to anything. Police were everywhere, so that probably had something to do with it.
It was spacious. Not as spacious as your typical countryside town/village, but far more spacious than London, for example (even Manchester, which is a fairly quiet city).
Buses were packed out at peak hours, but we had plenty of ‘personal space’ for the rest of the time.
The food always tastes fresh here. You can eat cheap from the markets; or you can spend a bit more and eat luxuriously. Ecuadorians eat a lot of potatoes, rice, and yuccas. They also eat a lot of chicken, eggs, beans, and lentils. You can add some heat to your food, if you’re so inclined, with the yummy salsa-style sauces that sit on the tables of virtually every eatery.
They don’t eat too many vegetables (onions, perhaps, being the exception), but do eat a lot of fruit — many of the fruits I’d never seen or heard of in my life.
They also eat (what translates) to ‘tree tomatoes’ … they literally taste just like tomatoes!
It’s an interesting, historical city, with the added quirk of being able to see mountains from virtually anywhere.
While in Quito we visited the equator, too. Although technically it isn’t really the equator (more of a Disney-ish gimmick), it was still worth the visit.
It was where I tried guinea pig, actually (which tastes like rabbit but more oily; when grilled, the skin becomes a kind of crackling).
Baños: Where the Andes meet the Amazon
We booked a little house on the side of a mountain, where we planned to live for a month (which, ahem, hasn’t gone to plan).
It’s an amazing place. Quito’s mountain views were cool, but here we were in the mountains!
We could lie in bed, look out the window and see turkey vultures, hummingbirds, as well as mountains, canyons, and (on a clear day) Mama Tungurahua — the volcano that looms over the town (inactive for 2 years, now).
Baños — which translates to ‘bathroom’ from Spanish (named for the therapeutic, volcanic hot spring baths … not a bad smell) is a fairly small town. Nonetheless, it’s a significant tourist attraction (although it’s actually quite rare to see tourists anywhere in Ecuador … there are tourists, but not nearly as many as in, say, Europe … even South East Asia).
There are plenty of hiking routes, with loads of waterfalls; you can go ziplining, rock climbing, bungee jumping; there are even swings on the edge of cliffs! It’s a great place (although more expensive than other places in Ecuador).
We were planning on visiting the Amazon rainforest when we got back to Baños … but that seems unlikely at the moment 🙁
Otavalo: Markets, Indigenous Communities, And The Ecuador Fuel Strikes
There was no indication whatsoever that the strikes were coming — the local people even appeared surprised by them. We had a lovely day in Otavalo — it’s a small city, but a popular attraction due to the colourful market (the largest market in South America, apparently) and the indigenous culture that decorates it.
On that first day, we walked around the market, hiked around the countryside (including a very steep climb to a viewpoint), and ate good food.
The next day, before heading to the bus stop to visit a nearby town, Cotacachi, we were informed that we would have to walk. Our host told us that bus and taxi drivers were striking against an increase in fuel prices, so no transport was available anywhere.
Fair enough, we thought. We walked for an hour, hitch-hiking the end of the journey, until being stopped by a blockade on the road into the town. The blockade, built by protestors, was made up of people, rocks, and burning tyres.
Even still, when we went back to our hostel that evening we didn’t expect that the strikes would go on. We’d seen strike days back in England, and they don’t cause too much disruption. Why would this be any different?
Eventually we saw a news report on the television … and the penny dropped. This was nothing like the strikes back home…
Finally, we arrive at our destination!
The Ecuador Fuel Strikes, October 2019 … perhaps they will be read about in history books someday?! Or, perhaps, it’s not so serious…
Our next blog will about ‘Days 1 & 2’ of the riots … Keep an eye out, or follow me on Twitter for updates 🙂