I had to move accommodation on Saturday, as there were no rooms available for the next couple of nights in my current place, so I had booked another Airbnb on the other side of the Mariscal Foch district.
Once I had packed up, I said goodbye to Beatrice (not a quick process as I stood with my backpack on whilst she continued to natter) and then walked the kilometre to my new abode. In an economic mode, I had booked a room with a shared bathroom but I was in luck. I was offered a huge room with a private bathroom for a couple of nights, after which I would have to move into the room I had originally booked. “Muy bien”, as the Spanish speakers say!
I could not have been made to feel more welcome by Ana Maria and her husband, Francisco, and their house has a very homely feel. After partaking in a cup of coffee and settling in, I headed off for the Botanic Gardens. These are located in the Parque la Carolina and it was most enjoyable to wander through them. There are a couple of orchid houses (Ecuador being well known for orchids and having over 4000 species in the country), as well as a variety of other plants including roses, cacti, medicinal and Amazonian ones, most of which I did not recognise, of course. (Where is my personal plant/tree guru when I need him/her?)
Afterwards, I wandered through the park once again, stopping to people watch as I went. It still never ceases to amaze me how many people make use of the facilities.
Once I had reached the big shopping centre I had visited earlier in the week, I sat with a coffee and watched the swarms of people in yellow football shirts. It was totally unclear as to which team they were supporting as the shirts were covered with Pichincha Bank and Pilsener logos and the only other name that was apparent was Barcelona. However, this seemed a little improbable in relation to the team (but what do I know?). Judging by the number of people wearing the shirts, as well as the street vendors selling them, I had to assume there was a game on somewhere nearby.
After another wander around the Mall, I caught the bus back, along with hundreds of other people. Like the parks, the buses are very well used and it is sometimes a mission to get on and, even more importantly, get off! So far, I have been lucky and have managed to follow someone who is pushing their way through the crowds to get off themselves. I am also convinced that the bus drivers deliberately travel as fast as they can, jerking the bus to a stop at lights and racing into the bus stations to see how many people they are able to throw off balance. My day was rounded off with a very mediocre vegetarian falafel dish at a restaurant/bar around the corner. It is not one I will be frequenting!
On Sunday, I decided to tempt fate and go up the Teleferico. This ascends to 4,000 metres in 10 minutes. I was not only anxious about the steepness of the ascent and, more especially, the descent, but also, of course, the altitude. I left early, as I had read that it gets very busy at the weekend, and walked part of the way up before deciding to get a taxi, which was very cheap and definitely worth it!
On arrival, there was no queue and I was put into a car with a group of young American students who were quite entertaining. They had obviously had a few exploits and one girl said that she couldn’t believe how many fears she had overcome since being in Ecuador. This included jumping off a waterfall! Sounded a bit too adventurous for me but I could name one of my offspring who would probably have no problem with it.
At the top, I walked in Pichincha Park, Pichincha being an active volcano, although I have to say, it didn’t look very much like one. The views were quite spectacular and I could see as far as the snow covered peak of Cotapaxi. However, I was up there for a couple of hours and, in that time, the clouds covered the mountains so I was glad I had gone early.
By the time I was ready to descend, a headache had started. This time, I was in a car with an Ecuadorian father and his two teenage (possibly) daughters, one of whom was petrified. Luckily, she sat straight in front of me so I didn’t have to look at the vertical drop we were undertaking. She gradually went as white as an Ecuadorian brownish sort of complexion could go. I think we were both relieved to be at the bottom.
I then walked a very long way down very steep streets until I reached the trolley bus that would take me into the historic centre. I hadn’t had any breakfast and was quite hungry. However, once I arrived, my headache was so intense that I could hardly eat. Somehow, I got the bus back to the house and spent the rest of the day in bed. Altitude sickness is becoming a very big issue for me as it is certainly going to restrict the places I am able to visit.