Before taking the long flight back home, I was thinking about writing a little story. At the end of the day it’s been quite an eventful trip. There we go:
I arrived in Quito last Sunday. As everybody knows, Ecuador is cold and rainy, so when I landed it was cold .. and raining. Right after inmigration, I waited for Manolo, the local IT manager, and we drove to the hotel in the city.
While I was freshening up in my room on the 6th floor, I felt that the floor was getting somehow unstable. At the beginning I thought it was either due to the altitude (2,900 m), or maybe I just had too much spanish wine on the Iberia flight. But when the hangers started shaking, the lamps started shaking, and a bottle of water fell to the ground, I started to think that it felt pretty much like an earthquake is supposed to feel. After 10-20 long seconds, the shaking stopped. I heard nobody screaming nor fire alarms, so I guessed it wasn’t that bad after all.
A bit later I went downstairs to meet Manolo, and he confirmed that it had been an earthquake of magnitude 4.7. Well, they don’t call it “terremoto” (earthquake) but “temblor” (shake). In Ecuador “earthquake” is just meant to be used for something terribly catastrophic, and this time just the ceiling of a church collapsed somewhere and nobody got killed, so you know … kind of peanuts.
After dinner, before going to bed, I learnt by heart the situation of the emergency exit, all the stairs, possible escape routes …
Monday was a normal earthquake-free working day, and that evening we flew to Guayaquil. The original plan was to fly from Quito (Sales Office) to Cuenca (Tire Plant), but after a plane slipped in the landing strip and stopped somewhere in the bushes, they decided to close it for maintenance for a month or so. Because of that, instead of UIO-CUE, it became UIO-GYE and from there a drive to Cuenca.
On Tuesday at 6 am we started the most amazing taxi drive of my life. From Guayaquil to Cuenca it’s a 3h drive from sea level, up to 4,100 m height and then down to the 2,500 m of Cuenca (yes, if you get sick in the car, that’s not a drive for you, because there were probably 1,000 turns up … and as many downhill).
This drive is a lesson of biology, geology, geography, you name it:
You start on the sea side, 30°C tropical weather, plantations of banana trees, sugar cane & cocoa beans (first time I saw the last two, btw). After an hour or so, you start heading uphill: the vegetation gets thicker and greener. Then the drive slowly gets into the mist/clouds: you can’t see further than 10m ahead, but we were lucky that the driver knew the road by heart. To give you an idea, somehow it feels like after every turn the Machu Pichu will show up.
Higher up, you see a couple of scary signs “Danger: active geological fault”, where I was expecting a hole in the ground where our car would fall all the way down to the center of the Earth. Fortunately it wasn’t that bad, just a couple of bumps.
Eventually you drive above the clouds, and you see that magic see of clouds below you and the andean peaks raising like islands floating on that see. Amazing really, but we aren’t there yet.
At 3,500 m height the tree line ends and the mountains are just covered by very thin vegetation, with huge rocks here and there… and a couple of llamas jumping around in the National Park of “Las Cajas”.
The fun ends at 4,100 m, when you reach “Las Cruces” (The crosses) and start the 1,000 turns downhill till Cuenca. We arrived at the plant at 9:30 to start “fresh” the working day. The making of the Tiremes IT audit (my task there) is the boring part of the story, so I will skip it ;-).
The only eventful thing in Cuenca, other than the evening walk on the beautiful Unesco World Heritage city center of Cuenca, was the FREEZING hotel where they put me.
It was a 4 star hotel, with 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor, 9.1/10 in Booking.com… so at first sight nothing wrong, until you get to the room. The rooms had no aircon nor heating and, as I told you before, Ecuador is cold. So I spent the nights under 2 blankets and trying not to move too much to keep the body heat. Trust me, when I’m done with my review of that hotel on TripAdvisor, their score will be “a bit” lower.
This morning (Thursday), it was time to drive back from Cuenca to Guayaquil. As I had enough time, I was planning to ask the taxi driver to stop up at “Las Cruces” to take a couple of pics … if it was ok for him, of course.
Well, he happened to be the coolest taxi driver ever. Not only he had been a Marathon runner but an Ultramarathon runner (prerequisite to be “real cool” like me) but he had an amazing life story, he used to own a gold mine in East Ecuador, where he was making a lot of money, until the Colombian owner of the ground cheated him and by bribing some cops & lawyers managed to kick him out making him lose quite some money and now he’s … driving taxis.
When I told him about my request to stop up in Las Cruces, he not only agreed, but proposed to walk “a bit” to the top of a mountain with an incredible view.
Well, we probably walked 10 min from 4,100 to 4,250 m, but due to the altitude it felt more like the Hillary Step (last big difficulty before reaching the top of the Mt. Everest) that like a small walk in the hills. After every 10 steps it was time to stop, try to get some oxygen from the thin air … and keep moving. The view from the top was magic, 360° of andean beauty, peaks, lakes, rocks, quinoa trees, a few llamas in the distance. Honestly something I’ll never forget.
After arriving at the airport I thanked the driver for the great time … and time to fly to Quito.
At Quito, from where I’m writing now, first of all picture of the Cotopaxi and ensure that the volcano is quiet:
And then, back at the terminal I realized that my flight Quito-Madrid is not Quito-Madrid, but Quito-Guayaquil-Madrid, so I’m flying back again to where I just came from!!
This means that in 4 days I’ll have done Quito-(fly)-Guayaquil-(drive)-Cuenca-(drive)-Guayaquil-(fly)-Quito-(fly)-Guayaquil-(fly)-Madrid. Honestly even for a frequent flyer like myself it’s getting hard to follow.
Anyway, just hope to get home sound and safe in 24 hours from now or so.
And next week … sunny Hannover, unfortunately life can’t be fun all the time ;-).