Somethings lost

Day 76 - Quito

As an dance track from my youth had it "Ecuador!" After a day spent in Otavalo and its renowned market, where I picked up a Panama hat for a song, we had hit the capital. Long days of travelling had left tempers frayed but a couple of days of rest and an over-the-counter culture had restored moods to normal working order. Quito is a slender city pushed to elongate by surrounding mountains. It seems the planning policy employed by the Spaniards who founded these places was "is the site near a mountain, if so build. Better yet find a volcano." You know you're at altitude when a short flight of stairs leaves you bereft of breath and at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level Quito certainly had altitude. I hadn't realised that on stepping off the bus I was planting my foot for the first time on Southern hemisphere soil. There were no markers on the road to Quito still less a giant band ringing the earth's waist so my straddling-both-hemispheres photo will have to wait for now.
Ah churches, what European city break would be compete without visiting at least 17 of them? A chore as a child, an attraction as an adult whichever side of the divine divide you fall on. Their architecture, their history and their symbolism all appeal to me but then I have read The da Vinci Code so maybe my imagination has something to answer for too. From the South American staple 'San Francisco' to the gilded excess of La Compania de Jesus, Quito is replete. We played an amusing game of cat and mouse (or priest and choirboy) in La Compania due to a rule banning photography, a rule we ignored religiously. The opposing team were quite good at 'catch the click' which resulted in several admonishments. Alas, another red mark on my heaven vs hell balance sheet. God is vengeful so I'm told and I fear he may have exacted his retribution as you shall later read.
The old part of the capital in which we stayed, while busy with religious buildings, was not the epicentre of nightlife. We did find an attractive little cobbled alley dotted with bars and restaurants and reminiscent of Prague but it wound down at far too early an hour. The alternative, we discovered, was the livelier new town and some quite horrendous drinks prices,  $50 wouldn't have even given a wobble.  Nonetheless we salvaged some fun playing 'spot-the-men-getting-no-sex-tonight' at the fried chicken joint where we ate dinner,  it was Valentine's day.
After a couple of lazy days attending to the admin of travel it was time to leave a city for whom a certain amount of affection had grown. An affection only a little diminished by a bitter aftertaste. Guayaquil is Ecuador's largest city and would be our next stop for no particular reason other than the fact we needed a next stop. It must have been a popular day to go to Guayaquil as the buses were booked up until 3pm so we had several hours to kill. And so it was that we found ourselves in that international stalwart, McDonalds. And so it was I found myself looking down ay the space on the floor that my courier bag once occupied. Amused confusion swiftly became knotted consternation and then desperate anguish as the reality of the situation made itself felt. The Security Guard couldn't have been more ineffective if he'd been dressed as Ronald McDonald and had a water pistol strapped to his belt rather than a revolver. He calmly waved away my pleas for help with pure indifference. Why the place chooses to employ him and not security cameras defies reason. The police took a report though it was largely typed up by a helpful lady who happened to be at the station with a stolen credit card issue and whose Spanish was better than mine and whose English was better than the officer's. It was all a formality in any case, I don't expect to see any of those possessions again. One must be pragmatic and acknowledge that although travel has taken things from me I'll never get back it has also given me things I'll never lose. Hope you got your pictures God.

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