Boots and Beach

November 28, 2006

Not necessarily together, but today I ordered my custom made boots and bought my flight for the beach. Joyful joyful day.

I already had pics, from 4 angles, of the boots I wanted. This is a pro-shoe shopper here remember. And the little lady in the shop drew around both feet on a piece of paper, measured the width of my tootsies in 3 places and then 4 places up my calves. She asked me how I wanted the toe, the welt bit around the edge and the heal, plus the stitching, the leather, straight or curved at the top and how I wanted the little pull-em-up things on the sides. How tall I wanted them and she had me try on half a dozen other pairs in the shop to check the size and other little things. If I don’t like them when they’re finished I have no-one to blame but myself. They’re ready on Dec 7th – my birthday – awww.

I also, having asked Sally on Friday if I could have a few day (ie a week) off to go to the coast and still heard nothing, took the plunge and bought the return ticket. Broke the news to her over dinner, don’t think she was best pleased, but have done all the jobs on my list (nearly anyway) and am going up to work the horses in Pintag for 2 days in the morning so she shouldn’t have a problem.

This means I’ll be waking up to my … ick 31st birthday (how did that happen!)… in my beachfront, straw roofed $12 a night room looking out from my ickle balcony across my hammock to the ocean. Well we can all dream, but I think it’s a nice place, it’s on the beach and the resort Montañita is a big boho surfer place which should be great to chill out in. Angie at SAE’s booked it for me and Gin (Virginia, not bottle of) is meeting us there. We’re flying to a 2nd largest port in Ecuador – Manta – and getting a two-ish hour bus down the coast to Montañita. I’ll be taking the camera (which I have come to really love whilst being out here), so I’ll let you know how the world looks at 31. 

Hey ho.  

Where to start?

November 25, 2006

It’s kind of hard to know where to begin.

I’ve been ‘on tour’ for the past week and a half and most of the countryside I’ve been riding in has been new.

I’ve been deep into the cloud forest, where Oswaldo showed me the wild orchids he’s protecting at Hacienda Bomboli. I’ve ridden over a volcanic mountain (Rumiñahui) at more than 4,000m, in the snow. I’ve danced with chagras on the paramo at midnight. I’ve drunk puntas until I was sick. I’ve dodged the path of fighting bulls on bog ridden hills. Camped until my hair looked like a brillo pad. And stared at the stars, so numerous you can hardly tell which are the major constellations.

I’ve ridden for 8 days straight –  6 or 7 hours a day. On the 9th day I slept in the landrover all the way from Yanahurco to Pintag. I’ve seen huge butterflies 4 inches across, I’ve seen the ‘fingers’ on condors wings soaring above me in the sky, watched white tailed Andean deer bob across the paramo and Andean lapwings hopping across the hundred year old lava flows.

Best of all I’ve laughed and jabbered in rough Spanish with my extended Ecuadorian family of Patricio, Santiago, Jose Javier and Christian. And I’ve come to love the beautiful mountains, tuned into the beautiful, tiny, ground-hugging paramo flowers and soaked in the views of utterly wild valleys, ridges and lava flows which make the moutains look like pages in an atlas. 

It’s been quite a trip. 

The tour was called the ‘rodeo‘ or round-up ride. But it has been about so much more than the 2,000 or so wild fighting bulls we rounded up and brought back to the coral. I know I’ve said it bastante (loads), but the people out here really make it.

Por ejemplo, one day, after a riding with tourists around the western side of Ecuador’s highest active volcano, Cotopaxi, we left our tourists to be transfered by bus to their hotel and set off to find a predetermined field for the horses. It was about an hour and a half’s ride away – at trot or canter. We (Me, Jose Javier, Santiago, Patricio and Christian) had 19 horses between us. We cantered and galloped down gritty volcanic tracks and roads for over an hour as the sun set. It was better than the day’s ride.

Jose Javier led with his five horses, two on each side. Christian followed leading two horses, I rode Alvorito and led two others, Patricio rode and led two more and Santiago rode, lead two of his own horses and had another two running free. Anne followed with the landrover and trailor. We made quite a sight as we galloped past small houses and farms, hooves crunching in the dirt, horses pulling and racing along.

Anyway, to get to the point… the field was unsuitable. A huge lake with no grass. Great for ducks, utterly rubbish for horses. It was coming dark and Patricio and Jose Javier went to scout for somewhere else. But the ground was all rough rock and sparse vegetation. After over an hour of riding around, we heard Cuchefito’s hooves and Patricio’s voice somewhere in the dark ahead shout ‘vamos‘. He’d found a hacienda with a field that would let us put the horses there, plus they had some accommodation and would cook us dinner. We arrived, with our 19 horses at dusk. Barely saw the field before it went dark. That night (and yes, it was a Saturday) I spent an hour, in the dark, cutting plastic bags into small strips and tying them to the wire fence so that the horses wouldn’t crash through it in the night. Different I guess.

It was getting on for 9pm by the time we had fed and watered the horses, re-packed the saddles, horse food and other supplies back into the remolque (the little trailor we pull behind the landrover), climbed on or into the landrover or trailor ourselves, hung onto the tying ropes and trundled up the drive to view our accommodation – such as it was – ambitiously boasting a bathroom with shower.

Tired and dirty and in a kind of lean-too shed, we were given a typical meal of what I like to call, chicken-bit-broth (it’s very important not too look too closely at the floating chicken bit contents and pick out only the liquid), followed by more chicken (the other bits – thankfully more recognisable) arroz and the obligatory Sierra papas. The guys tucked in. Anne and I were slightly more reserved. After a hot chocolate the puntas came out. Puntas is a local, clear, pure alcohol, drink. You drink it neat. Or, to prove how good it is, you pour a bit on the wooden floor and set fire to it. It burns for a few minutes. You wonder what it did to your throat and are no longer surprised that you can feel it all the way down into your belly. 

The night got increasingly more raucus as we unwound after our long day and ended in a fair amout of dancing to traditional Ecuadorian songs (Musica National – which involves lots of foot stamping and stepping around) and also a little Michael Jackson. Popular the world over it seems. The night ended with various people vomiting, including a small dog. Some people vomited in the garden or onto the floor, the more adventureous into the fireplace, however Patricio wins the prize… (Mum, please avert your eyes).

The next day was minor carnage as all the staff, chuchaki in the extreme, attempted to make pack lunches, groom and tack up horses. I’m sorry to say, we failed to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes and in the days to come the tourists told us what a miserable sight we’d all looked that morning staggering around on a few hours sleep stinking like breweries.

There are other highlights to the trip – and some are sadly even less fit for this website than the one I just told – but I’m saving those for a book (anyone know a publisher who might be interested?). But overall the immense and vast scenery, views from moutain top to moutain top, wild horses and bulls, have meant my eyes ached each day and my brain holds a gallery of photos of the places we visited.

I have taken my usual assortment of badly composed and over exposed pictures in a vain attempt to record the trip – they’re very slowly making their way onto flickr. I hope you enjoy them.

Vida en el campo y los torros

November 13, 2006

I realised at some point last week that the life I’ve been busy getting on with in the country isn’t going to last much longer. I’ve got a little more than 6 weeks and I’m out of here. Which is very sad. My reaction to this was to take a bunch of not very good pictures so I can remember what the day to day stuff looked like.

Went out with some of the horses (a very usual occurance, especially pre-tour when the horses need to be fit) with Patricio and Christian. We rode the paths we normally do, said hello to the ususal people and looked in the gardens, farms and house windows of the usual places. Here is what some of it looks like.

   

 

At the moment, because we’re getting rain every afternoon, the plants are really lush and green and lots have beautiful colourful flowers on which I don’t know the names of, but like to look at. The eucalyptus trees have seeds and flowers on them too, along with other plants that look like fuscia flowers and some that look like elderberry bushes. Christian’s also very good at knowing birds names (which he tells me and I instantly forget) and imitating their calls. (Even the very hard ones. Very impressive).

This particular morning there were a fair few people around, many of which appeared to be shouting down the valley to one another “Vamos a los torros”. Patricio and I thought this was a fine idea and as I’ve only seen the bulls once – when Sarah was here one rainy evening (and I didn’t have my camera) – we hot footed it back to the house to change and vamos a los torros.

A family outing of myself, Magdalena, Patricio, their son Jose Sebastian and Christian piled into Patricio’s little Suzuki and we drove a couple of miles up the road to see the bulls.

I’ve done a lot of conversational research on the bulls since I arrived. As I didn’t really fancy going to a bull-fighting type of event. However during the course of this research I have discovered that the pueblos (small towns/villages) have VERY different bull competitions than the major cities or the bull fights you see in Spain. In fact out here it’s not so much of a fight at all. If the bulls were going to be skewered through the head by a matador or picador I wouldn’t have gone. The local bull fiestas are more skill based competitions, I can’t say the RSPCA would sanction them in the UK, but I didn’t see anything that made me grimace or wince.

We went on the second day and we watched the lassoing. (I believe there had been bull riding the previous day, although Patricio was waaaay too chuchaki– hungover – from the Chalupas trip to go anywhere, so I still haven’t seen any of that) .

The rules – if I understood correctly are this – two mounted contestants and one on his feet on the floor have 3 minutes to lasso a bull around the horns.  More specifically, both riders get 2 swings of the lasso each and both riders have to have a rope around the horns for the clock to be stopped. The fastest time wins.

Bit tricky the old lassoing thing from what I could see, the lasso rope is long and the ring you make at the end of it is about 8 feet high, you almost need to be on a horse to swing it round. And it’s a full arm extended swing around the head, round the back and down the body which keeps it going. At an appropriate time… chuck it and hope the bull doesn’t move. It seemed quite easy to catch the bull around the neck or around the legs – but no points for that. You have to let the rope go slack and start again.

The other snag seems to be hats. All the chagras wear them, but strangely swinging a rope around your head and accelerating at speed away from a hoof-pawing bull does mean your hat’s fairly likely to come off. Most were picked up sharpish by someone on foot, although I did see one get squished.

 

It’s also fairly tricky taking decent pics from the stands.

The horses usually need anything from 6 months to a years training to get wise to what’s going on and be smart in the ring with the bull. From what I could see they were pretty amazing. Santiago’s horse Torbiger, was sharp and quick (see pic below) (and yes we actually use this horse on the riding tours from time to time) and when Santiago roped the bull it stood legs braced, pulling against the bull as the raw-hide lasso was wrapped around the pommel of the saddle to secure the bull.

 

Santiago’s scary spurs.

If you don’t manage to coger(catch) the bull in the 3 minutes, the announcer asks the crowd to help. At which point a bunch of random men and boys who had been sitting on the fence sally forth into the ring, lassos whirling, to try and capture the bull and tug, entice and encourage it back into the bull enclosure.

Young lads from 13 years old upwards use this as a chance to practice their lassoing skills, before they become competitors themselves.

I did see two women chagras having a go… but (and I hate to say it) they were rubbish.

Watching from one of the elevated stands (see slightly unflattering pic of Magdalena coming down the ladder as we were leaving) … we huddled up to avoid the afternoon rain, sucking lollies, with the family of Pacifico – a local and highly respected chagra who was competing. A bunch of us up there, women and small children, some men, sharing various ponchos, all tightly packed in to keep warm sitting on wooden planks with a plastic sheet for a roof. Very cosy. I wish I could have taken a picture – lots of colourful ponchos and typical hats, but it just wasn’t appropriate.

  

(Magdalena negotiating ladder, girl in red jacket above is one of Pacifico’s daughters – Consuelo – who kept shouting “Cuidado Papi!!” when her father was in the ring. Second pic is Pacifico in the ring with a bull. And this is another pic of Pacifico in his house making tack).

So Santiago and Pacifico were there competing, I don’t know if either won, I didn’t know either would be there. Santiago reckoned a time of under 2 minutes was ideal, and was disappointed with his 2 minutes 20 seconds. For me it was nice to see people I knew, and who we spoke to afterwards. Really felt like part of Patricio and Magdalena’s family and there wasn’t another English speaking person for miles.

Chalupas – the road trip

November 13, 2006

I went up to Pintag on Thursday with a whole load of food and sleeping bag type stuff to use in Chalupas on the round-up tour which starts next week. One of the nights (my 5th on the tour, but most people’s 3rd) is spent at Hacienda Chalupas. It’s only used a by Sally a couple of times a year and can be inaccessible by vehical when it’s really wet and on our tour we ride in and ride out without a backup vehical, so we have to carry everything with us on the horses or take some things up before the tour starts.

We set off from Pintag at stupid o’clock (4am) to drive there in the Landrover – which we’d finished packing the night before at 11pm. The Landrover incidentally doesn’t have very good lights (in the dark) or brakes (when wet) or speed (ever) (45 mph is the most I’ve seen the needle at).

We picked up Santiago at his house just down the road and rattled off to Sangolquí, then onto Machachi and South on the Pan American Highway past Lasso, finally turning left (or East) somewhere near Cotopaxi National Park. Patricio and I haven’t been to Chalupas before, but Santiago had, hence he was going to show us the way.

Irritatingly it turned out he’d only been on horseback… and didn’t know the way in a car. But, fortunately, unlike many (I won’t say all, even if that is what I mean) British men, Ecuadorian’s aren’t afraid of asking for directions – like, about 20 times! It’s all very polite, “buenas, como esta?” and is this the way to Chalupas?”

Everybody seemed to know the way and there was only one road to Chalupas and it was “arriba” up ahead. So we carried on, it didn’t sound far. The road got narrower and soon we were only passing the odd cyclist or pedestrian. This is about 3 hours in by the way. 4 hours in and our road was a dirt track hugely rutted, very slippery and a bit like something you’d choose to drive on of a weekend if you were in a Landrover off-road driving club. It also had a perilous drop down to my right. 5 hours in and it looked like this… we stopped for breakfast.

 

Not sure we were still heading in the right direction we found a farm house in the paramo, with two of the crustyiest brown old chagras you’ve ever seen. The woman was about 70 and outside in her slippers in the mud feeding hens. They looked at us like we’d landed from Mars but politely answered our request for directions, suggesting it might be another three quarters of an hour to our final destination.

6 hours in it looked like this and we’d lost the track…

Then we got stuck in a bog.

 

An old chagra and a young boy came to help us… trying various ways to lever and push the landrover out. With some local help from these two and their seven dogs, who settled down and looked as home lying out on the muddy grass out on the paramo as infront of the fire, we got going again and found our track.

Having removed his layers and been mechanic, pusher and engineer for the previous half hour Patricio was amazed at the size of the hole left once we got the Landrover out…

Forging a couple of decent sized streams (and when wet the brakes pull sharply to the left) we headed for an unremarkable hillock that Santiago assured us sheltered the hacienda on the other side.

It did, and it looked like this…

Only 11am then – a mere 7 hours after leaving the farm. Our joy at reaching the hacienda was extremely short lived when we descovered the place was entirely locked up (despite both my and Patricio having spoken to the owner beforehand).

We only had a Landrover’s worth of gear to leave inside… hmm. Pacing round the building like unsubtle burglars (although only a few chickens saw us) we tried windows and doors and looked in some neighbouring out-houses for a safe, dry, animal free place to leave the provisions without any success.  Returning to the main house which is split into two parts (without adjoining door by the way) Patricio squeezed himself through a broken window and was in. Although, he couldn’t open the door for us from the inside, so eventually he came back out. Cutting a very long story short, we broke into the house through the front door and had to employ a little joinery to fix and secure the lock when we left.

Most concerning of all this though, was the state of the place inside. 9 tourists and 4 guides are going to be staying here in 8 days time and it’s not ready. The hacienda owner – Jose Miguel Orska – was supposed to have been up and taken gas tanks, bedding, cleaned etc. But none of this had happened. It’s a shell with some shaky bed frames. And some brass instruments… don’t ask me why they’re there… but here’s Patricio giving us a tune to lighten the mood…

and again… dressed for the part this time…

We unloaded the landrover. Santiago scouted for a secure pasture to keep the horses overnight, I checked the loo and other essentials worked (if it required anything more sophisticated than cold water, it didn’t work), the gas cooker was in pieces under the sink and I found an old sock from the last group back in February in one of the bedrooms. (They don’t like being in pairs, socks, personally I think they repel like magnets). Patricio fixed the door. We had lunch. The view was something like this…

As it happens I won’t be sleeping in the main house when the tour gets there, I’ll be sleeping in the second part – the part Patricio climbed into through the window. This has NO beds, and HARDLY a floor. Another thing Snr Orska was supposed to have fixed. I’ll have been riding for 5 days at this point, so not really looking forward to a cold night on the floor of a hacienda in the middle of a moor. Conveniently there are 10 beds in the main house – 1 for Sally and 9 for guests. Mere mortals live on the floor with Ponchos. Hey ho, it’s only for one night, bet my hair looks great the next day.

Having made our list of things for Snr Orska to do, we headed back across the open paramo, Patricio waving his hat out the window to get fighting bulls off the track. Streams were again forged and boggy moorland avoided – successfully this time. We were making good progress out of the valley and back to the rest of the world, when I saw a couple of bullocks attached to a ploughing yolk and wanted to take a picture. This is the picture Patricio took for me…

Then this is the next picture with the owners…

 

notice a bottle of strong liqueur… and next thing we knew, Patricio has made best friends, is having a cigarette and a few shots with the guys. They came over to the Landrover to say hello to “Miss Inglaterra” (only time I’ll ever get called that!) and here’s the next picture…

We were there for a while and more liqueur (a strong, but not nasty, home brew) was called for from the house. Eventually it rained, really hard and we made our exit. Very friendly the country folk. Heading back we took a detour into Machachi to find somewhere for tea – it’s 8pm by this point and I am shattered. (aka – in a stinky mood and in desperate need of my bed and some sleep). I manage, by way of a small strop, to disuade the guys from finding a nightclub in Sangolquì and we head back to San Alfonsa – via a beer-crate stop in Pintag. Arrival back at the farm approx 11pm. Only 19 hours on the road then! 

Taking an extremely wise executive decision that my bed was more important than Brad Pitt, George Clooney and especially a couple of Ecuadorians and crate of beer, I was in the shower and in bed asleep within 10 minutes of being back. 3am I woke up, to the sound of loud singing. Outside in the street Santiago and Patricio had been joined by Christian (new employee of Sally’s) and they had clearly consumed all the beer, before deciding to serenade the local houses with a selection of Spanish love songs. I was quite amused. (Being in a much better state of humour having had 4 hours kip.)

I belive the guys carried on drinking until 9.30am at which point they all keeled over and the farm was quiet at last. Hopefully we got everything into Chalupas that we should have, although I think I may have sneak a can of beens and some loo roll into my alforjas (saddle bags) as I don’t think I took enough.

The end.

Shopped out and drunk up

November 8, 2006

Yesterday, after hours of counting chocolate bars and packets of raisins in the pantry and packing up ziplock bag after ziplock bag of plastic plates, forks and glasses for every conceivable picnic in the world, Anne and I compiled our ride shopping list. We then spent over two hours and a whopping $327 in Megamaxi on 100 bottles of water, 40 cartons of juice, 30 boxes of wine etc etc.

After holding up the check-out queue for about half an hour with our twin loaded trolleys, we crammed all the shopping into Quito’s oldest and rattliest taxi, groaned our way home and dragged all 40 bags of stuff up the drive and into the house. It’s now less than artfully arranged around the living room in piles according to which tour or hacienda it relates to.

After this colossal exertion, we hit the Doritos and dip and I cooked us some trout. V nice. Did I forget to mention that we also forwent the traditional post shop English cuppa in favour of vodka and rum instead. At around about 10pm (and a few more trips to the freezer for the vodka bottle) we decided it would be a great idea to go out. It’s Tuesday night after all, almost the weekend right?

A couple of dodgy cocktails later and we ended up in yet another of Mariscal’s clubs – the name escapes me – which was utterly heaving with locals and the odd tourist. It would have been rude not to make the most of the reasonably priced drinks… so a beer and a couple of tequilas followed… (are you spotting a pattern here yet?)… and soon we’d been asked to dance by various young men.

Yes, they really do come over and ask you dance here. They don’t hang about, they just walk over – most of the time you don’t see where they came from – put a hand out and say the magic word bailar which is ‘to dance’ and hey presto. So, soon we found ourselves on the dance floor stepping on toes and bumping into people in our room-for-improvement salsa-dancing-stylee. At two the place shut and we came home.

At 8am my phone rang… Sally in Uruguay, with a whole new list of instructions, following up from the 18 emails she sent overnight… I did my best to make notes and generally maintain a thin veneer of compos mentis, but the hangover was and is immense. Am squinting at the startling whiteness of the monitor as I type this. Anne is crashed out on the couch periodically emitting loud moans.

Esperanza the cleaner showed up at 9am (only two days after she said she’d show up, which isn’t bad for her) and has banged around the house, slamming doors and breaking plates. And when I went to the loo just now I nearly broke my neck on the wet floor.  But hey, everything in Quito’s peachy.

Would show you a pic of Anne and I in some bar last night, but can’t get Anne’s latest camera to yield it’s photographic evidence to the PC. Maybe that’s a good thing. Think I may go and lie down again.

Ahha, here they are. Technology eh.

 

Manic panic

November 7, 2006

So, back in Quito after 3 days up in Pintag. And it’s all hands (ie mine and Anne’s) on deck. Menus for non chocolate and non red meat eating guests are an utter nightmare!!! We’re camping for 3 nights on the next tour and for goodness sake we were already making chile con carne without the chile (just in case some people don’t like strong flavours), now it will have to be without the carne as well!

Plus there’s all the tents to hire, for varying numbers (don’t ask!) of guests each night, the guides, a cooking tent and the unpaid foreign workers tent of course. And get this, next week, Shirley – who has never camped – has to practise the art of tent erection so she can do it swiftly atop some Andean mountain! Ick.

If we knew which pots and pans to pack we would have – but I don’t think we’ve got a stew pot big enough for 13 people! Normally I do picnics for 5 days, this tour it’s picnics for 12 days, evening meal for 3 nights and breakfast for 3 mornings!!!! Argh!! Anne and I have lists coming out of our ears. And, helpfully(!), every once in a while we get an email from Sally in deapest Uruguay which just confuses us more. Incidentally she gets back a mere 36 hours before the first of two tours (which get merged together and then seperate) starts.

It also looks like I’m leading the smaller private tour (only two guests, ladies in their 50s) for … 5 days!!!! And I’m doing it on horses I don’t know (becuase they belong to Jose Javier, not Sally) and am riding to places I’ve never been before called Chalupas and Muerte Pungo. Joy oh deep joy. Thankfully Jose Javier will *I hope* know where we’re going. But then he only speaks Spanish and lately I’ve been getting a bit lazy, haven’t had a Spanish lesson in yonks and have been happily gabbing away in English to Sarah for weeks now. So goodness knows how I’ll manage to bluff my way through all the Ecuadorian flora, fauna and volcano names!

Anyway, if things go to some sort of plan and by the weekend we’re a bit more sorted,  hopefully on Satuday I’ll get chance to nip up the road with some of the locals and Anne to a fiesta (which will include some bull lassoing and riding – whoohooo!) and if I’m still alive after the round-up tour, I’m hatching a small plan to fly down to the coast for my birthday in early December for a full moon beach party on the 4th. Although need to get Sally to let me go…

Only other thing to note is that the weather has changed big-time. It’s sunny and hot in the mornings then at 2pm it chucks it down and does thunder and lightening which shakes the ground up in Pintag. This also seems to have effected the types of bugs… large beetles (black and wierdly, white) can often be seen copulating on the doorstep and then found dead everywhere the following day. (Does anyone know anything about Andean beetle lifespan, I think it’s got to be really short?). Also the number flies has risen dramatically, so much so that the other day instead of excersizing the horendously long list of horses (10 per day!!), I took 2 hours out, in a magazine-rolled frenzy of fly swatting followed by a large window cleaning and dead fly removal operation. There’s a big market for fly screens out here.

And that’s it, Anne’s out of the shower and keen to carry on working. So I’d better get off the ‘net.

‘tra!!

Back to work

November 2, 2006

Today is sarah’s last day and tomorrow I’m back to work – boo hiss. Had quite gotten used to going where I fancied and eating/drinking what I wanted. I’m going to be without my English mate and will have to fend for myself in Spanish again.   😦

We’ve taken it easy the last couple of days. Went back to Papallacta and sat in the volcanically heated thermal baths, even stayed over and lounged around in the exclusive hotel gardens and pools watching hummingbirds and butterflies, then had a short walk and took pics of flowers and streams… not hugely interesting for you lot reading, but a nice record for me of what it’s like there.

Still got a few hundred more Galapagos shots to upload, but broadband isn’t what it is at home here. Really need to empty the memory card on the camera so I can get pics of the next tour.

Sally’s still in Uruguay, back on Nov 14th and Anne and I have a list as long as the Amazon of jobs to do. My next riding tour starts 2 days after Sally gets back so I have to be all set to go before she lands back in Quito. It’s the round-up ride where we ride South and help (or hinder) the local chagras in rounding up hundreds of wild horses and then the following day hundreds of wild fighting bulls.

It’s a logistical nightmare with about 12 tourists, I think around 6 guides, two nights camping, tonnes of beforehand food preperation for me and Anne to do in Quito and pack horses for luggage because some of the overnights are inaccessible by car. Later this week I’m going with Patricio (setting off at 4.30am it’s so far away and hard to get to) to Hacienda Chalupas in the landrover to take some provisions in for one of the camping nights. Wish us luck!

Anyway, we’ve got some tourist shopping to do, so I’d better get my breaky and help Sarah enjoy her last day. Ben – thanks so much for lending me your wife for 3 weeks, we’ve had a great time.   Ciao!