It is time – is it perhaps overdue? – that Latin America made its presence known in the Camps blogging world. We will not be able to compete with Dipesh or Anth for sheer quantity for the time being; but we are coming.
One of the best things about travelling is that, no matter how much preparation you have done and how much you feel you are ready, life, the country you are visiting and the people in it have their own ideas about what should happen. Ecuador, in the first week or so, has been everything we expected it to be. It has also been so much more, and it has thrown at us things that I could have spent twenty years trying to anticipate and would not have considered.
Latin America is a fantastically diverse place, but it also has a flavour that crosses its borders and is just Latin. I would not presume to know how to summarise it, but it is something, in my mind, along the lines of being faintly familiar to a European, in the way that perhaps Cambodia is not, at the same time as being utterly surprising and so indefinably itself. You probably need to come here to understand what I am saying, which is of course the point.
In the last eight days much has happened. You need to be aware when doing things like this that you are creating memories, and I was absolutely aware of that when I was chasing a pick-up through Quito with my wife and children in it and some mattresses on the back of it that we had just bought. It is difficult trying to drive in Quito; it is very difficult when you are trying to keep up with a loco Quitenos delivery driver in a hurry, in rush hour. It becomes even more difficult when a storm comes out of nowhere, and we are here talking about a proper mountain downpour, on to our new mattresses, on the back of the open pick-up; and roads turn into rivers. Then said loco Quitenos runs a red light, I am cut up by four or five taxis, I nearly run over a stray dog, the hire car won’t go into second gear, my family don’t have a phone and they and the driver have no idea where they are going. Not a normal day in Dorset, but fun. The weather caught me out again the next day: when I lit the BBQ I was worried about getting sunburn, ten minutes later, the fire, such as it was, was being put out by mallet sized rain drops – we ate pasta instead.
Another memory that will linger long is lying in a dentist’s chair – two emergency dental procedures required within 24 hours of arrival, just don’t ask – seeing the planes come into land at Mariscal Sucre airport. And when I say seeing the planes, I mean looking horizontally across at them as they sweep along their final descent almost literally through this city- surrounded-by-mountains, being able to see the colour of the captain’s eyes.
And on it goes, the Garmin Sat Nav has an English setting, the voice of which has the name Emily for some reason, but poor old Emily hasn’t been informed of the one-way system in Quito, which unfortunately led to an early meeting with the Ecuadorian constabulary; one of whom at least, I found out, is interested in quick cash settlement of driving penalties.
If you want to buy crockery in Quito you need to click into the particular logic of the retailers. You’ll find the crockery, sorry, some of the crockery, near the furniture, the rest of it, sorry, some of the rest of it, is near the lawn mowers, there’s some more near the motorbikes, a little near the drumkits and the rest is behind the children’s clothing. Oh sorry, there is also some upstairs by the wine and the majority of it is in fact hiding up there close to the diesel generators and lingerie. And this is in a shop no bigger than two tennis courts.
I won’t bother with telling you about the banks, it makes me weep.
All of this makes being here utterly fantastic. I am reminded every minute that I am not at home, and why oh why would I want to be here if it was like home – I’d just be at home. I can see a 6,000 meter peak from my bedroom window and hummingbirds skit passed the kitchen window. The loud, loud music in the taxies is going to take some getting used to, I am falling in love with the strange hybrid which is the mix of the sweet smell of donuts cooking and the stench of diesel fumes, and the speed at which everyone speaks is astonishing and makes communication endlessly interesting: you try buying a second hand car from a man who says amortiguardores delant y poster esta bien in less than 0.001 of a second – exactly.