I was on the tour with 27 very nice people I’d never met. (Well, there’s always one, but we came to an arrangement.) I got back on Monday just before all the borders closed, because of coronavirus. I picked up a cold on the flight. Today I am better, weak as a kitten, and I look like Dracula.
The trip was organized chaos. A Curate’s egg – some parts very good. I went into a park in Quayaghil to see the Iguanas but there were none there, just a few statues. Then the statue next to me got up and walked away! They are bright green and look as if they’re made of metal. I saw some extra-large tortoises and a whole lot of sea lions who mill about everywhere, getting up to lollop across the road. The traffic waits.
I swam in the Pacific with the aid of a handsome man and a snorkel. I don’t care if I never see a snorkel again. Looking down into eighty feet of water and huge dark rocks freaked me out – the man had to help me get back to the boat. The others saw Parrotfish and blue-footed Boobies.
We took a ‘plane to Ecuador which I liked very much. I got lost in the city of Cotopaxi and was rescued, panic-stricken, by a very nice cafe owner. A sit down, a glass of water and advice on how to find the police. I found some of the group and we went back to his cafe for lunch. His menu said ‘grilled cheese sandwich’ and he didn’t know what it was! I dug up some Spanish. ‘Sandwich – Queso caliente.’
Then there was a ‘hike to the waterfall.’ It was 340 steps down, unevenly hewn out of a cliff to see an unremarkable waterfall. Then we went back up. In that humid heat, I wasn’t the only one knackered by the time I’d done two hundred. I thought I’d met my Waterloo. Some of the very kind men involved came back down and helped me, along with the lady with a recently fitted pacemaker and the woman with a dodgy hip.
The highlight came in a former Jesuit Hacienda at Pinsaqui where the Jesuits had held the indigenous people as slaves. I didn’t expect a Mariachi Band there – five blokes in costume singing their hearts out. La Bamba, Guantanamera, etc. There was a dance floor in front of them, so I danced – all on my own, to cheers. Then everybody else got up and it was great. When I was leaving the next day an American hotel guest called out ‘You dance great, lady.’ Made my day.
At five one morning, at a series of huts with an attitude that called itself a hotel – in the middle of the Ecuadorian Rain Forest, I joined two men and another mad woman to look for red-footed Toucans and black-billed Mot Mots. It was persisting down, so naturally, the birds had more sense and stayed put. At that elegantly decrepit hotel, I showered before dinner and then found I could not get out of the bathroom. The damp had swollen the wood and no amount of pushing would open the door. I realised that with that amount of people I could be there all night until they counted us onto the bus the next morning. After kicking the bottom to no effect I went back as far as I could and ran at the door, shoulder first. It flew open and I tumbled out onto the steps beyond. I reported it and got a ‘Thank you.’ What I really needed was a Gin and tonic.
I did three zip-wire rides over the Ecuadorian tree canopy. Interesting, mostly for the handsome lads who fitted the straps. They had said it was the tree canopy – and I zipped over a hell of a lot of trees.
So. Was I glad I went? Yes. I learned that I’m still a tough old boot.
Would I go again? No. You couldn’t pay me enough!