Ecuador: time for it to open its eyes to the world instead of itself
Two thirds of the way through my life (here’s hoping) and I seem to have missed much of Central and Southern America. My grandparents managed India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) whilst my parents lived in Nigeria and Hong Kong having been brought up in Canada and Ceylon. I once asked my grandmother – then in her 80s - where India was but she couldn’t point to it on a map. I guess you can spot the Empire writ large in my family’s Army history. My grandparents took the boat to India in the early 1930s which must have been so exciting and fortuitous given how bleak events then were at home whereas my parents took three days to fly to Lagos via Paris and Timbuktu (for refuelling) in 1950 and a further twenty eight by boat to HK in the 1955: truly those were the days.
I’m someone then who travelled as a boy and who now as a grown up boy still finds travel exotic and never minds the wait at airports, train or bus termini. Over the past decade or so I have spent more time going east out of Heathrow, or more precisely, the Middle East, the Near East, the Far East and finally the South East (to Africa). I have gone the other way but almost exclusively to America and Canada.
By contrast, I have only managed a single visit to Latin America and then only to Argentina. True, twenty five years ago it seemed more attractive and I had then ventured to Venezuela, Mexico, Brasil and Argentina. Maybe with the World Cup and the Olympics in Brasil in 2014 or 2016 I might be tempted back though the Mardi Gras could claim me first. So it was, if you are still with me, that I found myself last week in Ecuador named after no less a quirk of geography than the very Senora Equator herself.
Today, looking at the vastness of Quito as it stretches amorphously up and down its many mountain ranges it is a testimony to the lack of vision of its masters. It looks like one of those 1980s ads where the turntable was made by Sony, the speakers by Pioneer and the headphones by Panasonic – it is a celebration in awfulness. And yet, its people are the salt of the earth even if their “planners” have let them down badly.
Of course, as in Tibet, I suffered again from altitude sickness and spent three nights on oxygen and much time lying on my bed but this didn’t stop me from seeing the old town in Quito and enjoying its richly decorated churches.
It's such a pity that you cannot fly there directly - I went via Madrid and Guayaguil - which took me 16 hours going out and 26 hours coming back.....so quite an adventure. The trick is not to go via USA and you have to clear your luggage before you can connect with your second flight. Given the awfulness of US Customs (we could teach them a trick or two) it is best to go via Holland, Germany or Spain.