Sunday, 7 May 2017

Bumpy flight into Quito and lunch with the British Ambassador

ALLIE: DAY 85: Wednesday, the 9th of May

A bumpy flight to Quito, Ecuador, the second highest capital in the world

on our way to Ecuador

After a relaxed morning we board our 9th LAN flight, this time to the capital of Ecuador. I had been to Quito 10 years ago on a very stressy trip with a small group from ANDERS-Reisen meaning ‘Different Travels’.
Well, this tour certainly turned out to be very different form any tour I had been doing so far. Nearly everything that could go wrong went wrong: we had nobody to pick us up at the airport, the weather was crap and we got stranded on the Galapagos islands since somehow we didn’t have the right tickets to fly back.
on finals into Quito
So we ended up on a nightmare tour in a military freighter airplane flying around all of the islands in Galapagos (Phil would have loved it!) with no water, no toilet and no food on board and not knowing how long we would stay in each of the tiny airports.

reminders of the old Kai Tak airport in Hongkong
We finally arrived in Guayaquil at midnight (this wasn’t a planed stop on our official route) and I had to find and organize an overnight accommodation for 10 tired and angry people. The next morning we went back to the airport and to our aircraft only to wait for the officers to eventually decide that they would fly us back to Quito. A storm was forecasted and prospect of flying in this window-less aircraft in bad weather took my last drop of energy out of me. But I remember being allowed into the cockpit for our approach to Quito and I was literally standing behind the captain as we rolled finally with a big sigh onto the runway at 3200m above sealevel. We were by now 2 days behind schedule but had seem every on of the Galapagos Islands – at least their airports!

The weather on this flight wasn’t much better. It was bumpy all the way through and we only caught a short glimpse of the snow-white Cotopaxi (5897m) which stands very near Quito.
dining with the Ambassador of Ecuador
The landing reminded me of the old Kai Tak airport in Hongkong. Houses and built up areas right till final touch down. Quite exciting. Immigration here was quick and efficient and after 30min in a taxi we arrived at our luxury hotel in downtown Quito called the ‘Patio Analuz’.
It’s a lovely boutique hotel with two light courtyards and it’s only 200meters off the Grand Plaza in the old city. Money wise a bit of a splash out, but we wanted to use our little time we had here to be right where things are happening.

After a little orientation stroll around the streets, we meet Peter Evens, deputy Ambassador from the British Embassy here in Quito. Phil had known the previous Ambassador and he has arranged for us to meet Peter and to do a talk tomorrow at the British School.

downtown Quite - the main church
We sit down at a little bar near the square and talk about life in Ecuador, Iceland (that’s where his last posting had been), living in Bristol (funnily Peter was at Clifton College and even knows the Corrie Tap our favourite Sunday lunch pub!) and how terrible American Immigration is!
We start a scathing conversation about some of the American rules not realizing that behind us sits an American lady. Eventually she turns around and we realize our faux-pas. Peter then explains that the Brits share the Embassy with the Germans. “So do you really get along with each other?” I want to know. “Well, you know, if the alternative is to share it with the French, we rather stick to the Germans!” he says with a big smile. These Dips have a great sense of humour.
view along the streets of old Quito

Next we talk politics here in Ecuador. A lot has changed since the new government in 2001. Most of the old buildings have been renovated and all the street vendors have been removed. There is more tourist police around to prevent theft and crime and in general things seem to have improved. Only the Galapagos Islands must be in a desolate state, he says.
Corruption leads to illegal tours and cruises, more people now try to actually live on the islands and therefore destroy the delicate ecological environment. What a shame. When I was there 12 years ago it still was the unspoilt paradise of birds, marine iguanas and swimming with the dolphins in crystal clear water.

After a couple of beers we bid farewell to Peter (he is leaving his post in a week to return to London, so his is up to his eyeballs with farewell dinners) and find ourselves a nice restaurant to grab some food.
PHIL: Day 85/9 May

view over the old town of Quito

Flight to Quito. We’ve both been to Ecuador before but separately and many years ago (35 in my case).
I must prepare to give a presentation on ballooning to the British School in Quito tomorrow using illustrations from our trip so far. Again, it is to be given without charge, though the School principal is offering us a lunch at the school. I must admit it is galling that others can charge several thousand dollars to relate less interesting tales.
After a short exploratory walk around the old city, which has clearly had a recent facelift, we meet Peter Evans, deputy at the British Embassy. Over a couple of beers he tells us of previous postings to Iceland and his forthcoming departure to the Foreign Office in London. By coincidence it turns out he attended Clifton College in Bristol, just round the corner from us, and is familiar with our local haunts.
climbing up the church tower - not for the faint-hearted
The conversation moves on to Cuba and relations with the USA. We agree about the surreal nature of the US retaining Guantanamo right next to their most implacable enemy, and how the Department of Homeland Security’s over zealous activities at airports offend America’s allies more than they deter terrorist activity.
There is a lone woman sitting at an adjacent table in the bar. She is, of course, an American and as she leaves sheepishly admits the fact with a mute apology for her country. Peter leaves for another in his round of farewell dinners and we agree to meet up in Bristol soon.


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