I left UK on May 19th for 10 months of freedom and exploration with a Round the World ticket. Will I find New Zealand as perfect as it was fifteen years ago? How has Australia changed? Will I learn any Spanish in S America?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tourist Bus Trip

I just happened to be at the bottom of the very lovely Prado - treelined street running north to south of La Paz as a double decker city tour bus was about to depart ( $6 for a city and south city and lunar valley tour). So as it was a lovely afternoon I thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to sit on the top deck under the South American sun and above the traffic "contaminacion" which is rather bad in La Paz with old American buses belching out thick bilious black smoke that would have them impounded by British police in seconds - and be spoon fed for a while.
On top were me, a Japanese gent with very very heavy rather vile smelling cologne and an old German guy. Despite the lack of customers we set off bang on time. The commentary( via plug in headphones) was great. First we had a run down of all the corrupt presidnets of Bolivia and the terrible things they did - ie give away bits of territory in return for favours and the countless military coups to depose them. Then the wars in which Bolivia lost its only bit of coastline to Chile and also a vast area of the Chaco to Paraguay as recently as 1935. There is an election coming up in December - one of Bolivia's female newsreaders is standing - but everyone seems to accept that the president and governments will, de facto, be corrupt - such is the nature of politics here. The military's solution to the economy was to mint more money which led to catastrophic inflation ( wheelbarrows of money for a loaf of bread scenario). At this point I lost the thread as I was looking at the La Paz river which we had just been told was highly polluted ( it smelt awful) as the industries lining the banks pour all their waste unregulated into it. There were quite a few campesinos who were obviously living along the banks washing their clothes in the muddy waters .

There were riots earlier this year and in fact I met travellers in Cusco who who had been trapped in La Paz by blockades put in place by the people who are angry at the governments plans to privatise the nationalised utilities. Full on riots in the streets with tear gas etc. Very dramatic stories of escape from La Paz by night cross country.
La Paz is surrounded by mountains and weird lunar landscapes which were created by the receding sea - limestone stalactites create a very strange background for the lush golf course where the rich play. The south of the city is the rich area - the commentary proudly directs us to look at the McDonald's. Shortly after there was a plea for us to invest in Bolivia .
We also had pointed out to us the schools of academic excellence - often teaching in German - and in fact there is a large German "village" with smart looking residences and vehicles.

Pigeon Man
The bus heaved itself up the hill of Killi Killi to a mirador which was populated by courting couples but also a man reclining on a ledge in the warm afternoon sun underneath a colourful mural of Bolivia letting crumbs fall from his hand as pigeons flocked around him. He looked perfect and I surreptitiously snapped him with my digital but later went back to him and asked him for a photo - alas he immediately sat upright and set his face in a self conscious stare and none of these pics were as good as the candid shot. But I always think I at least owe it to people to talk to them even if they aren't aware I have taken their picture. My way of feeling less guilty about what sometimes feels tantamount to stealing something. I quite understand the sentiments of indiginous peoples who believe you are stealing their soul by taking their picture. Many are also simply too shy or embarrased by being the focus of attention from a gringo or gringa.

Final Interesting Tour Bus Fact- Transformers
Bolivia doesnt have its own car manufaturing plant so imports all cars ( though it wasnt clear from where) . These arrive with the steering wheels on the wrong side so they "transform" them by moving the steering wheel to the other side but leave all the controls where they originally were which must make driving somewhat hazardous. I didn't notice any particularly bad driving - certainly no worse than anywhere else!

Club La Paz
This huge building had been intriguing me - it is a huge monolithic building not dissimilar to the Masons HQ in London, sitting right at the top of the Prado near San Fransico. The bus tour pointed it out and mentioned a coffee house attached. So after disembarking I went to try it out. Sure enough it was tucked into a side of the building - I felt immediately on show when I walked in. It was full to the brim of very smartly dressed sophisticated older looking businessmen drinking coca cola or coffees. I had my coffee served by a uniformed young lady - it was a bit cold but I didn't mind.
Afterwards I read that this was a favourite haunt of Klaus Barbie before he was arrested - in La Paz I think.

Monday, September 26, 2005

I meet a Columbian lawyer

I tried and failed to get to a peña show in either Peru or Ecuador and was determined to succeed in La Paz especially since Gringo Alley - Calle Saranaga is full of them. Calle Saranaga runs steeply and breathlessly up behind San Francisco Square where the wonderful old colonial cathedral lies and is lined with colourful street stalls with Andean mantas ( blankets) bags cushion covers finger puppet sellers and silver ware sellers - a beautiful antique silver armadillo which had a stopper on side as it used to hold some kind of drink caught my eye together with some big old colonial wooden stirrups.
But back to the peña - basically this is a traditional music and dance show in a restaurant- usually sold as a "touristic folkloric" event but I thought it would be a good way to spend a night on my own as hadn't met anyone in El Carrotera (my hostal) and they are supposed to be good.
I then had to decide which one - I first checked out one on the street which looked promising as it was dark and down steps - in my imagination a peña would be a bit like a Chicago blues bar circa 1940s - but it was actualy quite bright and there was a long table already filled with a group of about 20 very non touristy looking people - so promising . But I had to check the competion which had a wonderful menu ( with prices to match) and was in a beautiful old courtyard but was absolutely deserted - it was Monday after all. Anyway I had a drink hoping other people would turn up - but no one did so I finished my chauflay - this is a particularly Bolivian drink made from spirit with ginger beer and the staff apologetically but probably with relief ( a night off) held the door open for me and I went back to Peña who were very pleased to see me - another $10 cover charge in the bank.
A few more people had come in my absence including one other solo diner - we eyed each other and then we both beckoned each other to join the others table; in the end I broke the deadlock and joined him after which the elderly waitress gave me highly disapproving looks and stopped smiling at me. His name was German Calvo Villegas - but I only know that now from his card as the noise from the music and dance made communicatoin difficult. In between dances I found out that he was a retired lawyer from Bogota, Columbia with wife and children and grandchildren and was in La Paz for a holiday (I didnt find out why he was sin wife). Mostly I asked him about Columbia which is intriguing me more and more. The show lived up to its folkloric promise with several different groups with charrangos ( little guitars) and pipes very lively dancing in different costumes including quite outlandish ones - monkeys etc. The folkloric fare wasn't bad either though I was a bit taken aback by my onion soup which arrived with a huge souffle top on it. Alpaca steak was delicious and is apparetnly without cholesterol so should take off in the UK though I bet you can buy it in Waitrose!
German and I shared a taxi back to our respective hotels and I waved goodbye promising to send him an email. A useful contact for Columbia!

Sunday, September 25, 2005


These are pictures from Santa Catalina Convent which is right in the heart of Arequipa; one of the pictures needs rotating but they took so long to download that I cannot bear to delete and start again! A few nuns still live there - it´s a huge place with streets and a huge bakery / kitchen and even an outside laundry, a town within a city all ringed with high walls and painted with wonderful colours.

One of my favourite parts was the kitchen which was made form a converted chapel as the convent grew bigger adn bigger. THere are racks of utensils including penguin shaped cake tins. Demonstrating a sense of humour they made cakes in trademark penguin shapes as the penguin like the nuns dresses in black and white.

Have a picture of the tins - hopefully will manage to download at some point.......

Bolivia - once again

La Paz! Arrived here at midnight Bolivian time from Quito - 4 hours in the air and a transfer at Lima. Unfortunately we flew at night so missed the scenery though we flew very close to a snow capped volcano shortly after take off from Quito - could see right down into the crater .

Residencia Imperial - got a taxi here having rung up to book a room . I chose it as it was cheap but "recommended" by my South American Handbook - and had 24 hr hot water. Hmmm. It took me about 10 minutes to get in waiting on the doorstep with all my gear- and it really was pretty crumby . The first room I was shown had no lock on the inside of the door and was very smelly so I asked for another and was shown equally smelly room with filthy walls but some kind of lock. I had to push back the snib with the key to get out- but this late I wasn't going to start looking for somewhere else so I made best of bad job using sheet sleeping bag and a jumper over the pillow but the smell was so bad- old alcohol and sweat mix- that I ended up dabbing tiger balm under my nose and on my neck to cover it up. After that I slept "como un trunco" - like a log!

Sunday 26th September
Left the hotel at 8am . The manager seemed a little hurt that I was going he was really quite sweet after all and for a split second I felt a bit guilty - I 've stayed in worse! But no, if you dread going back to a room you should definitely move!
I am now ( writing this today) in Posada el Carretero, slightly away from the central hub of things , which for a single room with shared bathroom is the same price ( 20 bolivianos = $2.25). I was welcomed with open arms and my hand pumped and given a map of the city. My room is basic and covered in traveller graffiti - doodles and quotations from Shakespeare and George Orwell ( can't remember them word for word now) and numerous pictures of depressed/ angst ridden looking adolescents-

There's a kitchen too so I can buy exciting ingredients from the market and cook something- gosh long long time since I did that!
Everyone seems to agree that on the whole it is cheapèr to eat out than to cook but I feel very ready to.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Bye Bye Equador

I will have been here a month when my flight leaves Quito on Saturday. I'm glad I did in the end decide to make it here- it is quite a contrast to Peru and despite Sarah and I thinking on our way up to the border that everything would pale beside Peru- there is of course a lot to do.
I have missed out on the Quillotoa loop - and more importantly staying at the highly recommended Black Sheep Inn. I didn't go to Otovalo - but to be honest I don't really think I 've missed much there. Coming back from the jungle I was aware of a lot of postcards of shrunken heads - we obviously missed out on learning about that although we did have a brief pre breakfast run down on shamanism.
What I would have liked to do though would have been a months worth of voluntary work - either teaching English - there were loads of notices up asking for native English speakers . Quite a few Equadorians have now said to me that they think English English is far more elegant and clear , as of course it is, than US English so I would have had no problem getting a placement. Or perhaps helping the Andean Bear charity up in the north west. Or doing a bit of organic farming on the Riomuchacho Farm. Lots of choice in Equador and absolutely no need to book before arriving with some rip off agency who you pay thousands to for what?... usually just meeting you at airport. Those operators are making a lot of money though of course I am sure there are some really good projects set up by them.
I managed to avoid falling victim to the notorious pocket rippers even though I did travel on the trolley bus which is where it seems to happen most frequently. I did however loose my very much missed Patagonia fleece which kept me warm in Sweden and Peru. Disappeared from a restaurant from the back of my chair.

Mindo - Chevrissimo!

If something or somewhere in Ecuador is wonderful it is "chevrissimo " (from Chevrolet as in big American car) - really great. Using this word about Ecuador in general is always a good ploy with taxi drivers who are always very patriotic. I have to be very diplomatic about my 3 months stay in Peru as opposed to 3 weeks in Ecuador ;letting them know how chevrissimo Ecuador is always helps to smooth over this .
Mindo is a small one street town 3 hours by bus in the highlands north west of Quito. The area absolutely teems with birdlife and is a bit of a mecca for twitchers around the world. It's most defintely chevrissimo.
I arrived there in the late afternoon not sure where I was going to stay- the air was fresh and sweet smelling after the rain which started as we climbed up and up in to the clouds then dropped down into the lush green vegetation in teh valley surrounding the river Mindo. What a relief to be out of Quito where you have to be on your guard ; here people are friendly and the children curious rather than agressively trying to shine your shoes.

El Rocio
A woman was handing out flyers near the bus stop and I hung around to get one - then set off in the general direction of hte football pitch which seems to be where most accomodation is centred. I had a look at one place - was invited to play basketball on the way - but it didn't really appeal - a big dorm in the loft space of the house - so I went back to the crossroads where some young people swinging gently about in hammocks seeing me dithering asked me what I was looking for - I asked them about the place in the flyer and they enthusiasticaly recommended it so I set off down the by now rather dark lane - no street lighting .
It was a really nice place , El Rocio ,simple a wooden building with 3 floors, hammocks on the porch, chickens and guinea fowl and lots of dogs running around- all very friendly though one a bit smelly. Three Americans were the other guests and we sat around the TV and talked and watched a truly appalling film with Steve Irwin the Australian dangerous animal man talking straight to camera ( a very weird film) while his wife provided drama by dropping croc restraints or snake nets at crucial moments and she also bagged all the best lines -" O no Steve its going to get away" or "Those poachers are right behind us" in an earnest but deadpan voice.

Sonia MBS
There is a steady businness in putting tourists into large inner tubes which are all tied together to form interesting new shapes then popped into the river to shoot some rapids. Needless to say I didnt join in the communal jollities but instead went up to Mindo Biological Station which is in the Mindo reserve - a privately owned property of 16,000 hectares of primary rainforest. Claudia the owner of Rocio came up with the idea of sending her guests for the day to visit - Sonia, who is the neice of the two brothers who turned a hacienda into a reserve to protect the wildlife, pretty much manages the place and lives up there with her brother. HOwever the large family , she is one of 10 children, ( her mother she told me died at 46 of exhaustion) are all badly in need of money and the logical thing to do is sell.
I don't think much in hte way of biological research goes on there , its more a small family enterprise- there are some really nice rooms in a wooden house with verandah, hammocks, cats, chickens etc. And a huge kitchen on a small hill which is Sonia's domain. Setting off from Mindo in SOnia's tractor , her handbag carefully hung from a peg, it was a very bumpy hour and a half at just over walking pace up to the station.
Luis, SOnia's brother, seperated with one child ( within 5 minutes of meeting anyone in S AMerica you will know about their family circumstances and your own life will aslo be minutely probed) took me on a circuit up and down a hill past waterfalls - not many birds- but it was midday - and then for a swim in a plunge pool underneath a huge waterfall, freezing at first but then after a few minutes quite pleasant- no one else around - htere are other waterfalls further down the valley but they have been turned into playgrounds with chutes etc. This was far more pleasant . Luis insisted on swinging his machete everywhere - quite unnecessarily as the trail was quite clear. HIs dog Collito came too , chasing rocks is her thing another reason why not so many birds maybe. Claudia later told me that usually an old man who really knows the birds shows you round ,Luis obviously knew nothing. A horse had gone missing the night before and the old man had gone to look for it.
Sonia did lunch which was ceviche de palmita - a ceviche from palm hearts freshly picked from the garden as it were. Absolutely delicious , and real lemonade . Sonia drove me back the hour and a half to Mindo -we had a diificult conversatoina over the roar of the tractor with me trying to hang on over the bumps and ruts .She thought I was German , everyone does for some reason, but when I corrected her she exclaimed louldy " I hate Camilla Parker " how she keeps in touch with royal goings on in UK I have no idea but it was very heartfelt. Her own husband died from excess of alcohol 15 years ago and she is quite happy being single.

I went to the cirucs that night in the town hall - a group from Chile - just to see what it was like. There was a group of rather mournful children hanging outside the door - they all looked hopefully at me as I handed over my dollar- so I paid their entrance but didnt get so much as gracias - htey were all down at the front in seconds.
It was of course not at all slick or polished so very charming in a way -seemed to be a family ot two so there were little tots being put rhough their paces a girl not 3 spun 4 hoola hoops round her ;a teenager was hoisted and held in the air on her ring by 3 men who just simply held on to the rope while she was in the air. Clowns and very bad magic tricks . Toffee apples too.

Monday 6am
I met Stalin outside Rocio for 5 hours of birding which cost me $25 . Stalin , his real name, unfortunately he couldnt tell me why his parents choose it , was only in his early twneties but he knew a lot about birds. We saw choco toucan, squirrel cuckoo, a squirrel, tanagers, tropical kingbirds, social flycatchers, lots more - I just dont have my list with me at moment. It starte d off cool but grew steadily hotter until by 11 I was relieved when we arrived back at Mindo. Saw a very strange anole ( lizard) on the way back with a snout like a little alligator.
I bought Stalin a mora batidos ( blackberry milkshake) and then the owner asked me if I was into photography and showed me his wildlife `shots - fabulous! Owls on nests, nightjars, he gets really really close with just a 300mm lens. He then asked if I wanted to go out next day but I explained I had to go back to Quito as had booked a jungle trip. Drat! Not only that but an Ecuaorian woman in El Rocio who lives in Bogota , COlumbia invited me to come and stay and was very disappointed when I said I would love to but was now flying to La Paz , Bolivia on the 24th September. Oh well - it's always the way. Just have to come back.

Mindo is the first place I have found that I think I could stay a while - it's small and has a friendly feel , in incredibly beautiful surroundings , the houses are wooden not concrete and have rusty tin roofs - at the moment there is just a dirt road through the middle but rich Equadorians have been buying up land and more and more hostels are going up. At the moment it's still ( once the daytrippers who come for the inner tubing) pretty sleepy with lots of street life , a DVD stall in the open doubles for a cinema - there is always a crowd watching a film on the tiny TV. But I wonder how much longer it will stay like this.
Sonia would sell her hectares for $3M and the de luxe nature lodge across the valley want it but dont want to pay $3m. Land in Equador is not cheap though once upon a time it was - when Equador was the original banana republic and there are lots of expats living here.

I caught the 2pm bus back to Quito and got in at 5pm - 2 hours later I was on the 11 hour bus ride to El Puente in the northern Oriente - the Equadorian jungle.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More Uyuni, Bolivia

La Paz Bolivia

I rotated when editing but the publishing process seems to have been lost in translation. Scenes from La Paz.

Orurou - Mining Director - Bolivia

Salar De Uyuni NEW PHOTOS!

Salt truck, Shopkeeper, cactus on Fish Island, Salt Hotel, Salt hotel interior, corona of the sun, reflection in sunglasses and our 4x in background, views over salt lakes, church in salt mine town

Friday, September 16, 2005

Galapagosh - Snorkelling - 29th August - 5th September 2005

No, this wasn't taken in a tank with a glass front! This turtle swam round me curiously for a mintue or two and then swam off . Bought a cheapie underwater camera with 36 shots but didn't quite get the hang of it till the end - it´s a lot better to hold the camera away from you and just shoot; I made the mistake of holding the camera up to my mask and as a result most of the pictures are of lots of seabed with a tiny seastar dot in the middle or the tail of a big fish well on its way out of the picture. Well I will know for next time. Some people ( not on our boat or I would have been wildly jealous) had underwater casings for their SLR's which made them look like they were diving with small suitcases.

Snorkelling was the highlight of my day; we had two sessions a day after a shore landing. The last time I snorkelled was in Australia and I had forgotten about water pressure so at first I found diving down beneath the surface quite hard also becasue the shorty wetsuit made me very bouyant - the water is suprisingly cold( well not really I suppose as the islands are in the middle of the pacific). I then realised why all the boys were blowing their noses underwater ... ahhhh! They were "equalising" - and after that I at least got get down to some decent depths. Thank goodness we did get to snorkel or I would have started to really resemble the sealions - only exercise in 8 days and walking on the islands doesn't count because mostly you are ambling along or static with a camera raised to your eyes.
The only problem with the snorkelling was that we were buzzed out to the best spots in the pangas ( rubber dinghys to you and me) and I felt very professional diver falling backwards into the water with mask and snorkel and fins but exiting the water wasn't quite as elegant - I tried and tried but there was no way I could haul myself back on board. GOod thing the sharks aren't interested in ceviche de human. So I was lifted very luxuriously by two of the crew each time but it did feel a bit like being a very ungainly fish being landed.

Lots and lots of fish - here's a list for anyone who is a fishophile - (ichyopath?)Razor surgeon fish, (the ones with yellow tails in the picture) Moorish Idols, ( sounds like a good name for teenage angst boy band) King Angelfish, ( black and orange) Scissortail Chromis, Pacific Mutton Hamlet ( I'm not making these up) Bumphead Parrotfish, Ordinary Parrotfish, Black Striped Salema (these little fish swim in huge shoals which the penguins hunt and catch), Cornetfish and Trumpet fish - because of shape not the noise they make. Many of these fish are endemic to Galapagos. There were also sea stars - you can buy a thick volume for identifying sea stars there are so many. Best ones I saw were slim tentacled blue ones and huge big fat tentacled red ones. There were corals of course and on our first dive two white tip sharks basking in very shallow water , their tails overlapping each other in a friendly gesture. They were so still that it wasn't alarming plus they are only about 6 ft long and are not known to take bites out of rubber suited bipeds. Too bad I didn't have my point and shoot at that point.

OK - visibility was very bad and I'm not clever enough to play with computer software to improve this image but if you look very carefully at the just north east of centre you can make out two dark shapes which were two stingrays swimming along in the water. They were the most beautiful of all I think. The motion in water is so calm and measured , just like the turtles. On one snorkel I saw a huge ray burrowing down into the sand and on a panga landing on south plaza island we were surrounded with rays swirling up sand in the shallows showing occasional wing.

Streets of Quito - it' s a jungle out there

I 'm not sure I am going to get to the Oriente- Equador's portion of the Amazonian jungle but I'm sure its not nearly as fraught with danger as the streets of Quito after darkness falls.
I f you read your guide books dutifullybefore arrival as I did it wouldn't be suprising if you decided not to come at all - there are really severe warnings about muggings, robberies, con artists and scams.
So far I have come across nothing more than the odd piece of clothing going missing or the mysterious disapperance of my head torch - and I think that was in a hostel dormitory and probably a traveller. But Quito is different - I 've now met several people who have had their trouser pockets expertly cut with razor blades and only noticed when its too late . There are a lot of patched trousers in Quito.
In the tourist area where I am staying it is advised to take a taxi back to your hostel at night even if its only one block which I am tending to do . The streets are positively bristling with private security guards but it's still disquieting to see someone with boots and a beret cradling a machine gun on a main shopping street. But what I don't like about this is that it takes the spontaniety out of an evening - if I leave the hostel I have to know where I am going and my usual approach is to wander around. Oh well.
The worst place for the trouser artists is the main bus station which is just great! I arrived there from Puerto Lopez on the coast , after a 12 hour bus ride and shared a taxi to the main tourist area , Mariscal Sucre, with Andrew an Australian surfer, travelling complete with surf board. He reckoned the board was quite a handy weapon come shield to fend off would be robbers. With all the worst stories ringing in my ears I had secreted my money and cash all over me - in my socks, in my bra- new one that- so as to not to loose everything to what I now felt would be the inevitable tide of criminals waiting for me at the terminal. Of course the crims were busy elsewhere and we got a (large- for the surfboard) taxi , weren't overcharged and arrived safely.

What is the difference between Peru and Ecuador?

In Peru baños ( water closets) never have papel hygenica and often there is no running water or the cistern is broken so there is a big tub of water with a sawn off plastic bottle in it to flush with.
In Ecuador ...... all the baños so far have had papel hygenica and flushing cisterns! I was a bit non plussed as I have just trained myself to carry paper at all times.. you have to be very forward thinking in the case of Peruvian museums where they relieve you of your backpack ( where it is usually stowed) at the entrance.
Ecuador seems much more wealthy - must be all the oil they are selling to the US- there are shiny pick up trucks in most towns and much less of an indiginous presence- no llamas on strings wandering the streets of Quito or Quayaguil.
But there is undoubtedly poverty here; there are hunger strikers encamped outside the main cathederal in the Plaza de Independencia where the President's Palace also happens to be situated. They are cement workers from the National Cement Enterprise who have not been paid although they were promised their salaries by the President himself. And this is typical apparently of Ecuador - much promised and then no delivery. But some people are getting very rich on the oil which comes from the Equadorian Amazon -I have heard that there are currently thought to be only 30 years left of reserves. You can imagine the pressure to extend drilling in the rich reserves of the ostensibly protected national parks.

Old style cinema

In Eeery major city I have been to so far- Cusco, Lima Trujillo and now Quito I have spent many hours pouring over street names trying to search out the non multi plex cinemas, in the hope of finding an architectural or nostalgic gem or even one not showing something from Hollywood. But Latin America has well and truly gone multiplex.
In Quito I was looking forward to the Casa de Cultura's Cine which is supposed to show art house films. But when I finally got there the foyer was full of workmen and bags of cement. In the old town ,Cine metro also listed in my guide book, was similary full of bags of cement and dust with all its signs stipped off ,all that remained being a forlon little board with "HOY" ( Today) written on it.
I really didn't feel like facing a multiplex of which looking at the paper there are many all of course showing latest fare from Hollywood - but none seem to be in the centre anyway.

Today I was walking up a street in the tourist part of Quito and was handed a flyer outside what looked like a private house. But it was a new type of cinema. Full of DVDs that you can rent for a private showing most of them in English and the surroundings were really nice with big comfy sofas and clean white walls. Mariela , is Ecuadorian and she and her English husband have set this business up to cater for the tourists. Not a bad idea at all. But the idea of sitting in my own private viewing room to see a film didnt really in the end appeal to me though I ' m sure it will go down well with the groups of 20 somethings. We had a cup of coffee as business was a bit slack and she told me she spoke such good English because she had lived in Birmingham for 2 years with her husband. Ecuador used to be full of people who stayed on and on because it was so cheap to live here but after dollarisation that all changed and everything became more expensive. Mariela's husband was away buying sophistcated DVD surround sound systems etc in the UK to make it more of a real cinema experience. For me it needs to be a big dark room with a very high ceiling with lots of people and a huge screen. A bit of atmosphere and character helps!
I was so disappointedwith Truijillo . My Rough Guide circa 2000 waxed lyrical about the cinematic experience in this town. According to this Truijillo was full of enthusiasitic cinema goers who embraced active particiaption and would shout out at the screen etc . When I went looking I found the most famous old cinema was still standing and functioning but the foyer was in the process of being ripped apart so that it could be converted to take 6 screens. Oh dear.
Lima was no better - the wonderfully named "Romeo" was now an evangelical church as was the old 50's cinema in Cusco with its neon sign still intact.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

To Buy a Fat Pig

Ecuador - my second day in Quito and I 'm off on a day trip to the market at Sasquili- 2 hours from Quito ( this is a spelling from memory as I ve left the guide book in the hostel so fingers x its right) and from there to Cotopaxi national park for a view ( hopefully clouds willing) of the famous volcano. Quite keen to see it now I've been to the Casa de Cultura and viewed post colonial romantic pastoral landscapes of it complete with swains and fields. Another tour .. much more pricey than taking the local bus but with less than two months left in S America I am keen to fit in as much as possible.

Sasquili Market
For the first time I had a n SLR with a wide angle lens in a S AMerican market - what a difference! Felt much happier and ended up talking a lot to anyone I took photos of- I felt more at home with a conventional viewfinderand I am sure ( if the camera works that is) they will turn out better than the digi ones.
Things at the animal market were drawing to a close when we arrived about 11am but a few clued up locals had piglets on strings and a niño handy to sweetly hold onto them plus llamas sheep and grown pigs. Though its a dollar a photo. Animals don't come cheap -when I enquired I was quoted $25 for a piglet, $45 for a sheep and$75 for a llama but of course you are expected to barter that down not an accomplishment of mine even after 3 months but at least I remembered to try thewalk away technique today and it worked I got 2 bags for $7 instead of $8. No idea if this is a bargain but felt I 'd done my bit not to be a totally guache tourist.

Rubber tires
There are some pretty enterprising recycling businesses going on - - a couple were selling old tires stitched together to make rubber baskets for "your pig" or for potoatoes or mandarins- I' m sure it wont be long before they appear in Camden market or the interior dec shops in Crouch End.
Other highlights were the row of male tailors with their sewing machines mending and adjusting clothes on the spot, the grumpy lady selling great cakes of vanilla ( but she laughed when I asked for her picture and she wanted money up front)the row of ladies sawing teeth into the edges of hand scythesholdingthem still between their toes.Trucks and trucks of bananas and mandarins.

I 'm not sure why ( no one tried to sell us anything- oh I 'm so cynical) but en route we visited the "Inca hacienda" , San augustin De Callo , a huge farm with colonial farmhouse with courtyard and outbuildings built on foundations of Inca building . Archaeologists amazingly are only now investigating beneath the floors outside the inca walls and have found gold objects and lots of ceramics . Stunningly beautiful place, warm yellow walls,little chapel with old polished wood settles .
Cotopaxi performed for us and the clouds cleared from the peak so we could take pictures of the perfect snow cone top and see the red iron rocks leading up to the summit. Our guides grasp of English needed some work on vocabulary - he pointed out some "savage horses " on the flat plains under the volcano. I shouldnt laugh really I m sure my Castellano is hilarious most of the time. You can walk up all 5897 m of Cotopaxi if so inclined but noneof us on the bus ( a very pleasant 5) wereandwere quite content to view black rock walls etc from comfort of thelittle bus; it takes 2 days and you need to have crampons and ice axe etc. Plus braving the savage horses.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Galapagos: A Few Pics: Life on Land 29th August - 5th September

Cactus trees
masked boobies
Marine iguana
San Cristobal island
Giant tortoise

Blue footed booby
Black pelican

san Cristobal island

Left : Marine Iguana x 2 as I seem to delete both images if I try to get rid of one!
Far left: Marine Iguana on rock
Above: Blue footed boobie( but you can only see the beak)

I took 17 rolls of film and only a few digital images so I can only show a taste of the amazing creatures and landscapes I saw in the 8 days I had there.

The marine iguanas were amazing; they change colour as you can see they can be green or red as well as the usual black.
They spend their lives soaking up the sun often in big piles on top of each other and eating - they put out to sea , looking terribly vulnerable in the surf and swim to the bottom to feed off the seaweed.

The blue footed boobies: in German they are called Tooepels ( I am sure this not correct spelling) I was taught to say it by Germans on board - thank you very useful! which means clumsy or stupid - I suppose booby means pretty much the same thing - it must be because they walk so awkwardly with their huge blue feet which they use for keeping their eggs warm!