Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bel & Ecuador: Part II: Roadtrip begins!

Here I am! Surviving my roadtrip in Ecuador.

The car we rented sucked and the roads were worse than I would have never imagined.
I don´t know if I had told you but before planing my trip, I went to the Ecuador Embassy to gather some information, including the condition of the roads. They promised the roads were in perfect shape... Shame on them for having lied to me!
So, we rented the car in Quito. I had made my reservation a weeks in advance to pick up the car at the Quito airport at noon. When we got there it turned out they didn´t have the type of car we asked for, so they offered us un upgrade. I wasn´t sure about it. I feel more comfortable with compact cars, but well, it was not like we had a choice... So, when we were filling tha paperwork, it came up that some of the lights of the cars were not working. They offered us a discount price.
Of course we were not accepting a car in those conditions. We were supposed to drive that car for a week, in uncertain roads... so we insisted, insisted, until they got us another car.
So, we got into the car and the adventure began!

The plan was to drive to some hill to have a panoramic view of the city, but we never found it. We drove for hours in different highways and we couldn´t find the right entrance to the curvy road of that hill. Instead we entered two different hills with shantytowns...
The roads were narrow and very steep... and the car got stopped once and again...
In one ocassion I had to drive backwards down one street because the car wouldn´t climb it!
Miraculously we weren´t robbed or anything and we headed to "Mitad del Mundo".
Mitad del Mundo, means Half of the World and it´s a thematic park about the equator line. It´s a few kilometres away from Quito, and I think it´s quite overrated. But well, I´m glad we got our pictures with one foot in each hemisphere.

We also had lunch there and it was probably the worse meal I´ve ever had! I was trying to be innovative and asked for a veggie menu. OMG! Just disgusting... Tasteless, or maybe it tasted like carton, paper... humidity, I don´t know how to explain it, but you can see from my face I was not liking it!

I made some time to write and send some postcards...

After spending the afternoon there, we headed North to Otavalo.

We had reservations for Friday night to see the Traditional Market on Saturday morning.
So, the roadtrip began!
The highway was ok at first. It was a long weekend so it was kind of packed , but it was quite ok... until the mountains started. The curvy roads began and it got cloudy and cloudy upthere...
In the embassy they told me I was not going to face any mountain roads on my planned itinerary, but soon I learnt they were wrong in so many ways!

So, we drove patiently until finally reached Otavalo.
It is a nice town, and its traditional market is attracting more and more tourists that seek for the South American roots.
We went to the hostel and had dinner a few blocks from there...

The following morning we woke up and headed to the market... We bought so many things! They were all type of handcraft things, ceramic earings, etc.
After spending a few hours in the market, we went back to our car and started our way to Manta just before noon.
Manta is in the Pacific coast and it has nice beaches. We were about 600kms away and were planning to get there in the early evening. The Embassy had told us we were not going to drive through mountains, so we figured we could drive slowly, enjoying the road and we could get there for dinner.
Well, you can imagine that was not going to happen!

We drove South to Quito, and it was ok. We called our families to let them know where we were and that we were heading West. We bought some chocolates, chips and sodas and kept driving.
Soon, we started to see the mountains. At first, they seem far, then we were closer and closer. And yep... we started to drive through the mountain roads. It was not that bad at the beginning, just a lot of warning signs, but not thaaat baad...

But then we saw a cloud... And we made a stupid joke about what bizare could be driving through clouds... Well, we drove into the cloud, and the cloud never left us!

The road started to get narrow, and narrower, and then it was full of tracks driving at 15 km/h. So we had to drive at that speed. (Do you call that speed?)
The sun was setting, and I convinced myself we were going to die in that road. I was happy I had just talked to my family... At least they would know where to search for our bodies... My friend Mechi just kept praying. We were terrified.
While I tried to stay calm driving, Mechi started to look at the maps to see if there was anytown nearby. It turned out there was a town 30 kms further, and nothing else until reaching the coast.
So, we decided to spend the night there, in Santo Domingo. We were only 90kms away from Quito, but it took us more than 3 hours to get there.
Santo Domingo was everything but nice. Ugly small city, full of tracks, dirty roads, and nobody knew where we could find a decent hotel.
We ended up in a place called Hotel Verde. No internet connection, but there was an internet place in the same block, so we wrote our families to let them know of the change of plans.
Now, our biggest fear was to be killed and disappeared in that ghost town. We were feeling like in a movie where you know some one is haunting you... You just have to wait for the creature to appear and attack you...
Well, thankfully, we had a safe dinner in front of the hotel, and went to bed.
We woke up and this was our room view:

Breakfast was included, so we woke up early and went to the dinner room.
Served myself some tea and... when it was time to put some sugar, it turned out that the pot was full of bugs!! Tiny little black bugs! Awful... We moved to a different table... It was the same in each table we tried.
We could only drink half of our tea, and we left.
We had missed our night in Manta, so we had to drive all the way to Puerto Rico, instead. It was like 150kms further.
It took us ages to get there... At least it was easier to drive with the sun shining. It was cloudy but a nice day. We drove through little towns that produced fruits jams and things, so we could spot some banana plantations...

The roads were under construction so we had to slow the pace at times, but it was so much better than the day before...

And we felt so happy once we reached the ocean!!! It was deep blue and the road we took to Puerto Rico was going paralel to the beach, so it was a nice drive... I wouldn´t call it scenic road because of the holes it has... If you waste a tiny second looking at the scene, you have high chances of loosing half of the car in a hole.
So, we got to Puerto Rico, just next to the most popular Puerto Lopez, in the afternoon. We spent the entire day driving!

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