Quito - Banos

Greetings from Banos, a small town of about 12,000 people nestled under two socking great volcanoes, one of which is still occasionally on the geologically feisty side. The lava goes past two sides of the town, there´s a gorge and a river on the third, and an entire escape bridge for the populous if it all goes nasty. That´s alright then…

The locals are going to have a hard time making it over though as the place is stuffed full of gringos. It reminds me a bit of Queenstown in New Zealand , and the streets are full of quad bikes and garish pictures of people throwing themselves off bridges on pieces of elastic or abseiling down gorges as the waters of the Andes thunder over their heads.

Which is exactly what we´re going to be doing tomorrow if the weather holds :-)

Quito was a bit of a blur of beer and rugby to be honest, though we did get out to see the Equator. A couple of them actually – the official, monolithic and monumental one being 150 metres out, which is a tad on the careless side. A far more informal but far more fun one is 100 metres up the road and loudly proclaims itself as being on the equator, though it´s not quite equipped to deal with troublesome tourists with handheld GPS units. I made it another 50m north, but I don´t think they can be arsed to build another one. How many red-painted lines with tourists gurning madly with one leg in either hemisphere does the world need after all?

The truck is basic but there´s a really good crowd of people onboard, with the rough ages ranging from 30 to 60+. About half of us are single, about most of us like a beer, and I have fortuitously been roomed in with Rob, who has been declared head barman, which could come in handy. I´ve yet to be assigned a job, but am developing a nasty suspicion that all the good ones have already been taken. Still, I´m hoping it can´t be as bad as Steve´s, who now rejoices in the nickname Slops. A Dutchwoman on board, meanwhile, has resulted in me once more rejoicing in the monicker Mr Naughty…(stout apparently being Dutch for ´naughty´, but only when there´s finger wagging involved).

I´m probably onboard for the shortest period of time, with most travelling round to Buenos Aries at least and a couple bailing out to head to the Antarctic in January (a thought, of course, which is driving me slightly insane with jealousy). Others have stitched this trip into a tapestry of round the world travelling which has gone on for a year or so and has months and months left to run still. Thus I´m being talked of as the weekend-tourist of the group, which tends to lead to a certain amount of banter shall we say. Ah well, I can always come back next year (though not with Exodus, their truck fleet needs upgrading and their new owners don´t want to fund it, so this is the last trip that´s being done).

Anyway, after a couple of days here we head down to the coast and wend our way southwards to Lima via Chan Chan and a few other places. That´s where the camping starts in earnest, so this is probably it from me until Lima or Iquitos. Stay warm, stay safe, and while I still don´t think I´m ready to talk about the rugby, damn but I wish I´d seen that Grand Prix.

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