Ecuador wouldn’t be my favourite place in the world, although it is a useful introduction to South America if you’re going to be heading deeper into the continent. In my opinion though, you wouldn’t want to work your way north and end up in Ecuador as your final destination as it would be disappointing. And yet, I’ve found myself there twice for a month a pop.
The second trip was specifically in order to visit the Galapagos Islands which I couldn’t afford the first time round. I was heading out for a couple of weeks by myself before being joined by a friend.
On the flight out, I was mistakenly under the impression that I was heading directly to the capital city of Quito and so it was a surprise to wake up at what seemed like half way into the journey to find we were landing somewhere. I’d missed the announcement of where we actually were and just caught the tail end about having to disembark.
Wherever we were, it certainly looked very nice. A small island by the look of it during the descent, surrounded by beautiful, crystal clear blue waters.
It was certainly one of the more bizarre sensations I’ve experienced to wander around what seemed to be an idyllic paradise with no idea whatsoever where the hell in the world I was. As it turned out I was, apparently, in Bonaire – an island municipality of the Netherlands, just off Venezuela’s coast in the southern Caribbean.
Very nice too.
Before long, we were back en route to Quito and, I hoped, with no further interruptions.
A small time later we were landing once again, this time in the arm pit that is Guayaquil. I was praying it was another temporary blip and that we weren’t expected to overnight there as I remembered it being particularly unpleasant from my previous visit.
God knows what was going on with our plane, but it was certainly giving me plenty of time to get stuck into one of my books. Given that I would have a fortnight by myself, I’d made sure to bring some good choices with me, the first one I turned to was the excellent Ireland, A Novel (Frank Delaney).
Eventually reaching Quito, I made straight for my favourite hotel in the city, Hotel Café Cultura. and based myself there for a few days, giving me time to plan trips such as a week in the Galapgos, a weekend in Baños and a few days in Otovalo.
When booking the Galapagos I was given the option of budget and boat. The agent went to great lengths to explain the ‘kind of people’ who would normally choose which boat and hence the cuisine on board would be matched accordingly. Taking a maximum of 16 souls, there were few places left on any of them and I had to make an instant decision while she had the owners of the two choices on separate landlines.
It boiled down to preference in food.
And what nationalities I wanted to be holed up with for a week.
There was no time for pleasantries; I had to cut to the chase.
‘The other people already booked, are they a variety of nationalities?’
‘I will ask for you, wait one moment.’
‘Well, put it this way. Are there large numbers of, say, Germans?’
‘I will ask.’
‘Also ask about groups of Israelis.’
‘May as well check out if it’s going to be overrun with Americans. Or British.’
‘But, you are British, no?’
‘Exactly, they’re the last people I want to be in a confined area with.’
‘Who DO you want?’
‘Hmmmm. When you put it like that …’
I’m sure she did it on purpose to teach me a lesson as I ended up on a boat whose passengers included a family party of ten Brits and two Germans.
But more of that another time.
I headed south down to Montañita, where I intended to relax with other backpackers and chill with my book, in which I was still totally engrossed.
I’d chosen one particular café to be my regular breakfast haunt and each morning the number of familiar faces increased. One day, over my omelette, I’d reached a point in the book where a beloved father was dying. I was feeling extremely emotional and could feel myself start to well up.
I tried to hold it together but had to put the book to one side and have a little moment in which I struggled to keep my composure.
Just at this time, an Irish girl who I’d noticed around decided to come over and introduce herself.
‘How are ya? I saw ya here yesterday, mind if I sit?’
I looked up at her, bit my bottom lip, steeled myself but all to no avail. I burst into waves of tears and wailed like a banshee for about five minutes.
I simply could not stop.
The poor girl didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even speak to try explaining that it was just because of the book. As I sobbed uncontrollably, she sat in an embarrassed silence.
We struggled through a coffee together but I didn’t see her around after that.
I couldn’t be sure, but I reckon she’s put English people on her black list.
Not just groups, but also single females – especially the crazy, crying ones.