Railway termini are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return.”

Last night it poured. Lightning jigsawed in the sky outside the north window in my den and gave the room sudden bursts of bright light. The rumbles of thunder were like growls. The rain fell in giant drops which thudded against the roof and the eaves. Rivulets of rain water ran down my hilly driveway as if in a race to reach the bottom. I watched  from my backdoor. Today is cloudy and has a chilly breeze magnified by the dampness left by the storm. No movie tonight.

I was going to give you more of my travelog every couple of days, but the response was enough to know I wouldn’t bore you if I continued. It’s fun for me to remember.

We got a bus to Quito over the border when we left Colombia. It resembled a school bus. My friend and I were the only non-Ecuadorians. On that bus I saw Indians for the first time. Women wore colorful clothes and had shawls wrapped around their shoulders. They all wore hats which reminded me of the fedora my father used to wear. The bus was stopped a few times by police doing checks. Each time it was stopped, the people in front of us passed up our passports then passed them back to us. When we arrived in Quito, we decided to stay in the old city. Our hotel, a small one on a side street, was one block from the monastery in the center and a few blocks from La Ronda, the old street with colonial houses, a narrow street with some of the oldest buildings in the city. We wandered all over that part of the city and ate in some of the small restaurants. We took busses to the different markets outside the city. We went to Otavalo Market. Back then it wasn’t the tourist attraction it has become. We wandered all over. I bought a few pieces of hand-stitched Indian patterned cloth and walked all through the donkey market. I stopped to buy food from the women who reminded me of the African women who sat along the sides of the road selling fried plantain or yam. I don’t even know what I ate there. I just know it was good.

When we got back to Quito, it was quite late but we still went out to eat dinner. I tried Guinea pig, a national dish in Ecuador.  I was not going to be put off by eating something small and cuddly. I had gotten pass queasiness a long time before that dinner. The pig came roasted with all its parts though cut into pieces. I’m not big on the head and feet of any animals and was even less enthused by the Guinea pig’s. There wasn’t much meat, but it tasted like chicken. I swear it.

The next day we took a bus to the equator. A small shack was the only indicator we had arrived. Where was that black line I always see on globes? Just kidding! I stood right at the line with one foot in each hemisphere. It was an amazing feeling to be there. The small shack sold postcards which were stamped with 0 degrees latitude and 0 degrees longitude so I bought a few. I sent my family a postcard from each country so they could keep track of where we were, and I thought this was special.

We left Quito to go to Guayaquil on the auto-bus, called that but really a train. It was the most amazing train ride of my life. We had seats in the front, big mistake. Animals that didn’t get off the tracks were hit off the tracks. I stopped watching. The center aisle of the bus-train was filled with standing people who scrunched down whenever we went through a town. The train traveled through tropical areas where I saw banana trees filled with fruit. The train went up Devil’s Nose, a zig-zag section of track where the train goes forward and backward to reach the next town; it was both frightening and wonderful. We rode alongside the snow-capped mountains of the Andes. The train finished its trip in Duran where we took a boat across to Guayaquil. One of the few Americans we met came running up to us just as we were getting on the boat saying he had given his luggage to a taxi driver who disappeared. We commiserated. That was all the help we could give.

Tomorrow we’ll arrive in Guayaquil!

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18 Comments on “Railway termini are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return.””

  1. olof1 Says:

    Lots of thunder here yesterday but not so much rain as they had predicted, I don’t mind them being wrong 🙂 A rather nice day today though a bit chilly.

    That trip sounds so fun! Why is it that people living in southern countries always dress in colorful clothes while we up here in the north that need colorful clothes dress in dull ones ? 🙂 🙂 🙂

    I really think they should make a black line on the ground where the equator is, all over the planet 🙂 🙂 🙂 I think they have some kind of line in London where the time line is.

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • Kat Says:

      Christer,
      No, that’s because we got all the rain!

      That’s a great question. The colors in Ghana were brilliant and beautiful. I dressed the same there, but much less so here. Maybe the weather dulls us.

      I loved standing at the equator!!

  2. Bob Says:

    We haven’t seen rain in almost a month and yesterday we hit 103 for a high. Every day next week is forecasted for over 100 and dry.

    I would love to be able to stand in both the north and south hemispheres at the same time. i have stood across the prime meridian at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich England. Have you done both east/west as well as north south?

    I have eaten jack rabbits and squirrels deep fried fresh from the hunt and they taste just like fried chicken. Fried alligator and rattle snake also taste the same. Quito is one of the highest cities in the world. I think only La Paz Bolivia is at a higher elevation. Hotels in La Paz offer guests central oxygen in each room.

    In Brazil and in Chile I didn’t see any native Indians. However, the people I did meet were appeared to be a beautiful combination of european, african and Indian stock. The Spanish Conquistadors did a good job killing the natives that wouldn’t convert to the Catholic faith. Many others died of disease brought from Europe. The remainder inter-married, a nice term for probably what really happened, and the South American people were born.

    Thanks for your travelogue.

    • Kat Says:

      Bob,
      I have also stood at the prime meridian in England, and that was before the equator trip.

      In La Paz, I never saw oxygen in the rooms, and I stayed at a fairly expensive hotel. Maybe they didn’t do that back when. You’re right about its elevation, and you come in higher from the altiplano and go down to the city. Amazing view from the top!

      I’ve had rabbit, goat, bush rat, eel and snake, but I refuse to eat squirrel.

      I never saw Indians until Ecuador as it was in the Andes countries where I saw most of the Indians. There were none in Venezuela or Colombia or after I got down low, out of the mountains. The African blend isn’t as apparent in the west coast countries. I didn’t see that influence until Brazil.

      • Bob Says:

        In Argentina there are no native people at all. Everyone who is Argentinean is a descendent of Europeans. I wonder if the rise of dictators in countries like Argentina and Chile such as Peron were helped by their large German populations. I do think that the killings and torture of left leaning youth in the 1970s were a direct result of the Vatican helping Nazi war criminals, like Eichmann and Mengle to escape justice in the 1940s by providing them with new identities as refugees and giving them free passage to South America. Of course Henry Kissinger didn’t help since the CIA under Nixon over threw a democratically elected President Alende to install the dictator Pinochet in Chile. He had his own reign of terror. Both Chile and Argentina have brought the criminals to justice except Pinochet died before he was tried.

  3. Birgit Says:

    Thanks, it’s fun to read your description, very impressive.

    Quick picture links, if anyone is interested:
    Quito:
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Quito_(Ecuador)
    Roasted guinea pig 😉
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peru_Guinea_Pig.jpg
    Equator in Ecuador:
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Equator_in_Ecuador
    Ecuador:
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Ecuador
    Ecuador – Andes – landscape:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/ecuador/clusters/landscape

  4. Kat Says:

    Birgit,
    I loved all these sites except the Guinea Pig picture. Mine wasn’t whole so it didn’t look as if I were eating someone’s pet. I don’t know if I would have eaten it if mine came like that one did!!

  5. Kat Says:

    Bob,
    Chile’s Germans were immigrants to that country far earlier than WWII but not Argentina’s. In Buenos Aires there is a huge German area still. African and Latin and South America have been ripe for dictators for a long time, many of them supported by American presidents. I don’t think it had anything to do with Germans in Argentina.

  6. Zoey & Me Says:

    “Up the Devil’s Nose”. How fitting. We had an experience with over cooked Guinea parts in Mexico and I can’t say they were burnt because they weren’t charred. But after dipping in hot sauces we had to tear apart the meat which was really delicious but what a work out. Followed with beer and slice of lemon helped.

    • Kat Says:

      Z&Me,
      I didn’t realize they ate them in Mexico too. I found the meat good, but those little critters don’t have a whole lot of meat.

      I’m not a beer drinker but I get that would have helped, as long as it was really cold!

  7. Birgit Says:

    No movie tonight ?
    Have you seen “Bagdad Café (Out of Rosenheim)” ?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagdad_Café
    The entire movie is on YouTube, divided into 4 parts:
    ” Bagdad Cafe (Out of Rosenheim) • 1987 • original version [1/4] ”
    … [2/4] , … [3/4] , … [4/4] (english, no need to understand bavarian…)

    Perhaps inappropriate, but I have to contribute to the history discussion:
    First wave of german immigration to SouthAmerica after WW1, second wave after WW2, mainly for economic reasons, but also some hundred german and other nazis fled to Argentina (often via Italy). Many of them haven’t been justiced for war crimes, blame post-war Germany.
    Not every german (where ever he lives) is a fascist, but some (too many!) spreaded fascist ideology and terror. Chilean Colonia Dignidad is an apparent example, but Argentina was influenced too.
    Now back to fun blogging …

    • Kat Says:

      Birgit,
      It was too damp and misty most of the night so we decided to stay inside and play games.

      I knew they fled to Argentina through Rome-Bob was right on about that. That is why the Vatican never releases all its historical files.

      I never thought all Germans were fascists, but many dictators are.

      I have seen Bagdad Cafe but not in a while. Thanks for the link-it’ll give me a good afternoon watching again.

  8. Ted Says:

    You’re right, Guinea pig tastes like chicken. They call it “cuy” because that’s what it sounds like: kwee-kwee-kwee (before they kill it). And the feet are useful even if you don’t eat them because you can use the claws for toothpicks.

    I’ve been to those places in Ecuado—Otavalo, La Ronda, the equator exhibit (now a lot more upscale than you describe, called “La Mitad del Mundo”, the middle of the world. The line is yellow, there are a lot of tourist shops, and they even have a chapel with the yellow line running down the middle of the aisle. Probably costs a fortune to get married there (bride’s family in the northern hemisphere, groom’s in the southern?).

    Next time you’re in Quito go to the museum of artist Oswaldo Guayasamín (if you like Picasso, because he’s Ecuador’s counterpart). It’s in his home and also includes a large collection of pre-Columbian artifacts that he had collected.

    I have been to Guayaquil, briefly, but didn’t take the train, but some of my friends have been along the Devil’s Nose (Nariz del Diablo). Looks like fun.

    I just love Ecuador. Great friendly people and spectacular landscape, especially in the southern highlands around Vilcabamba.

    On my blog, scroll down to last February to see several Ecuador posts that I put up for family members of our medical team to view while we were away. Also a bunch of posts in February 2011.

    Our medical team went to Bolivia once too, and your friend was correct about the oxygen, but we only saw it in the airport. We stayed in a sort of convent overnight before flying down to Cochabamba (more moderate elevation) and then some of us to Guayaramarín, low elevation and hot-hot-hot.

    Worst headache I ever had was in La Paz the morning after we flew in, like a tequila hangover. Our sea-level bodies didn’t react well to 13,000 feet and everything inside tried to come out, not to mention the shortage of oxygen. And the beds in the convent didn’t help either. But Bolivia was friendly like Ecuador, and the drug lords didn’t bother us any. We would have gone back but 9/11 got in the way; we canceled our 2002 trip and have since been back in Ecuador. Love it.

    • Ted Says:

      …and since you’re a Crosby, Stills and Nash fan, I even posted a video of them when I wrote about the Southern Cross Feb 21st.

    • Kat Says:

      Ted,
      Okay, I never thought of the claws as toothpicks mostly because the feet were so small I was a little put off at first. I knew a few Guinea pigs as pets.

      It doesn’t surprise me that the equator is now all built up. I was in SA so long ago that it wasn’t a huge tourist destination. I chuckled at the yellow line through the middle of the chapel. You are so right: groom’s on one side, bride’s family on the other and never the hemisphere to meet.

      Quito was my favorite of all cities in SA, and I loved Ecuador. It was beautiful and so varied in its beauty.

      I’m listening to the music from your blog right now and the picture of the volcano capped with snow is breath-taking.

      That train no longer runs from Quito to Guayaquil. When I read Paul Theroux’s book The Old Patagonian Express, he mentions that the one train he wished he had taken was that auto-bus I mentioned.

      From Merida, Venezuela through to Asuncion, Paraguay I threw up every morning from altitude sickness. I’m going to mention that in one of my travelogs as it was part of a good portion of my trip.

      Perfect Crosby, Stills and Nash song!!


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