A Reddaway Away

Learning to follow my feet


Looking out over Quito

Recently some friends and I decided to go up the Teleférico, the cable car that goes part-way up the Volcano Pichincha to the East of Quito. The ride starts at 2,950m and goes up to 4,053m, doing a distance of 2.5km. It’s a little dear but well worth it, the views over Quito and the Andes are stunning, the mountains stretch on for miles. When we went it was slightly hazy so I cannot imagine how it would be on a clear day!

Up at the top of the cable car we found out there were people renting out ponies. Rides came with a very warm, very fetching poncho, so we decided to go for it. We were given very little freedom in where we could go with the ponies, but it was fun all the same. Pearl’s decided that it would forge its own path but mine was very obliging, which was a surprise.

You can also walk a couple of hours to the summit but we arrived late, were pretty tired, and the mere act of walking up a slight slope at that altitude had us huffing and puffing in a highly embarrassing way (think fat policemen trying to run in Hollywood films), so we decided it was probably better not to. Next time! We spent a happy couple of hours looking around, admiring the views and then decided to go back down to the comparative warmth of Quito.

Due to a camera mishap, all photos are stolen from my friend:

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Standing at the centre of the world

A couple of weeks back my friend and I decided to embrace being tourists for a day and go to the Mitad del Mundo, the monument at the Equator. It only takes an hour to get there but we still hadn’t got round to it.

It was very liberating to be touristy for a day, a nice break from constantly trying to blend in and integrate into Ecuadorian life. We spent lots of time happily prancing about, jumping over the line and taking cheesy tourist photos. In the Mitad del Mundo complex there are shops, museums, llamas(!), activities such as trying to balance an egg on a nail, and, of course, the monument itself. As it was a Sunday there were also dancers, who were brilliant to watch. Moreover, there’s something very thrilling about being at the centre of the world, one foot in each hemisphere. It may all be put on for tourists but it’s a great feeling.

The funny thing is that the giant monument at the Mitad del Mundo isn’t actually on the real Equator but what was calculated to be the Equator by French scientists in the 18th century. It’s actually about 200 metres of the official GPS reading, which all things considered is pretty impressive. There’s a third line which is also said to be the official Equator, it all depends on which one you’re rooting for.

We also went to the second, “official” line which is in an ethnological museum featuring shrunken heads, anaconda skins and fun demonstrations how water drains clockwise or anti-clockwise depending on which side of the Equator you’re on (I learned this from the Simpsons). All in all it was a fun day! A good excursion if you’re ever in Quito


Places that aren’t Quito


Otavalo is an indigenous town two hours North of Quito which is famous for its markets. Once you manage to navigate Quito’s bus system to get to the terminal in the North, it’s pretty easy to get to Otavalo and it only costs $2 each way. We set off at 7am from our house, missed two buses, got a little bit lost, chose the wrong bus terminal and then arrived to find a long queue for the bus which took about 20 minutes to get through (we Brits took this in our stride). Tickets bought, we got onto an incredibly comfortable bus with great music and the occasional person boarding to sell ice cream, and set off on the beautiful journey to Otavalo through the mountains.

Our delay meant we missed the animal market, but the main market was still in full swing. Stalls line the streets and the squares selling beautiful fabrics, jewellery, wool, clothes, bags, shoes, books and some wonderful tourist tat that I just had to take a look at because some of it was so dreadful. Every stall we passed the owner would greet us with the “Hola ¿a la orden?”, “Hello, can I help you?”. We bought a couple of things, I, as usual, failed at haggling. However the real delight was just to wander around and take it all in. There’s such a variety of things on offer and I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the market as much as the quiet of the side streets around it.

Like Quito, the town is in the mountains and there are beautiful views. We headed to a small town called San Pablo where there’s a lake at the foot of the volcano Imbabura, which was a wonderful setting. We went to a small café on the lake where we had a drink and the boys rented a pedalo boat while I sat and took it all in. We then headed home in the late afternoon, although apparently we could have also gone to Cotacachi, a town nearby with a leather market. Next time! I want to go back in September when there’s a local festival.


Mindo is two hours Northwest of Quito. One of the volunteers at my company wanted to go and so I said I’d go with her. We hired a guide, which was a first for me, who showed us around.

Mindo is in the cloud forest and is famous for its biodiversity and its adventure activities (including tubing down the river, which sadly we did not have time for). The journey there was wonderful, first we stopped off at the Pululahua Volcano crater, which has people living in it even though the volcano is still active! I couldn’t believe it. Then we followed the mountain road, marvelling as the relatively sparse vegetation soon became lush green forest. Trees are covered in ferns and other plants until everything becomes this big green tangle. We stopped off in a town along the road for a guanabana juice, my new favourite thing.

Our first stop in Mindo was the butterfly farm, where I conveniently remembered that I am afraid of butterflies, especially when they are bigger than my fist (most of them had eye marks on their wings, terrifying! It’s like they’re watching you!) David, our guide, could not stop laughing at me. As everyone else delighted in having butterflies landing on their heads and eating from their hands, I found a nice little corner by a fountain where the smaller, prettier and less scary butterflies hung out. There I stayed until it was time to go, cowering away.

Outside we saw hummingbirds, for which the area is famous (also orchids, but it wasn’t the season). Ecuador is home to about 40% of the world’s hummingbird species, which is pretty incredible for a country of such a small size. We tried desperately to get photos but this proved to be very difficult, so instead we just stayed and watched them for a while.

Next on the agenda was walking through the forest to the waterfalls. First, though, we had to cross the valley in an aerial tram, which was absolutely amazing! I loved it. David hung onto the outside because he didn’t want to wait in the queue for the next one. I definitely could not have done that! There was a huge drop. Once out of the tram we walking for about an hour through beautiful trees and plants with leaves bigger than my head until we reached the waterfall. We went to one of the further and less popular ones, meaning we could appreciate the surroundings with few interruptions.

When we made it back from the waterfall it was well past lunchtime and stomachs were seriously rumbling, so we tucked into a meal of fish, rice and soup (What a surprise!) before heading back to Quito. Even though we got stuck in traffic, the journey home was even better than the way there because as the evening fell so did the clouds, which slowly descended over the forest and gave us fantastic views. It all looked very magical.


And then there was rain

For my first month in Quito the weather was amazing: perfect spring weather with the occasional breeze coupled with cool evenings, thus avoiding any hot, sleepless nights. While my host mother was constantly complaining of the cold in the evenings (and insisting that walking around barefoot was going to make me very ill), I was in weather heaven.

Or was I?

There’s something about being British that makes us constantly aware of the weather: too hot, too cold, too rainy, too dry, too snowy, no snow, etc. I swear I read an article during the recent British heatwave saying “Brits happiest with intermittent weather”, or something to that degree.

Not only that, but as a Brit I grew up with the rain. I swear my skin is slightly more impermeable than people from other countries. There’s a part of me that loves it, in my flat in Edinburgh we had wonderful big windows that I cursed during the winter but that during summer downpours I would leave wide open as I curled up with a good book and a cup of tea. Heaven. Then there’s my house in Devon with a thatched roof and a little bit covered outside my window that amplifies the sound of the rain, the perfect lullaby. Some people run away from the rain, I quite often run towards it, jumping around and dancing. Also, what child hasn’t made races out of the raindrops falling on windows?

Of course it goes without saying that there’s a part of me that hates when it rains and rains without stopping, or when I’m trying to get somewhere or I’m wearing the wrong shoes. Then rain genuinely sucks. I’ve had too many camping holidays and walking expeditions when it has not stopped raining and when little rivers have started to run through the tents. Last Christmas, floods shut railway lines, there was a lake outside my house, a river in the garden and we had to move the annual village Boxing Day duck race to a different place because the river was overflowing. Rain is a fickle friend.

So my first month in Quito may have had perfect weather, but something didn’t feel quite right. It was just that little bit too perfect. The Brit felt a little confused.

And then last Thursday, there was rain. Oh what rain! I could smell it coming from miles away (the smell of rain is the best smell in the world). There was a massive thunderstorm: heavy rain, hailstones, thunder and lightning with barely seconds between. All the sounds were amplified by the mountains, amazing rumbles and shudders as it felt like the universe was emptying itself out onto us. Snug in the office, I felt very happy. It was even considerate enough to stop before I had to walk home.

It has been raining on and off ever since and the ground and plants seem much happier for it.

However, I would be happier if it didn’t start to rain on me while I’m walking home in flip flops and no jacket next time. Today’s walk home was a little wet. Thanks a lot, rain.

Anyway, it’s nice to have a little imperfection sometimes. Now all I need is a decent cup of tea.

the shawshank redemption wallpaper rain

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On Quito

Hello all, sorry for the delay in posting. I am regretting sending my laptop home!

I have now been in Quito for just over three weeks and even though I’ve seen lots of things I feel that I have barely scratched the surface.

Quito has recently been proclaimed as the Leading Destination in South America 2013, and there is certainly a lot going for it. At 2,800 metres above sea level, it is one of the highest capital cities in the world and it was declared the first UNESCO World Heritage City in 1978.

Every street you turn down has something going on, whether it be street vendors, people playing football, or a woman walking around with her baby strapped to her back, selling bananas (Ecuador has a lot of different types of bananas, the family I live with tried to list them and got to about seven but swear there are more). I’ve even had people come up to me with baskets full of puppies they’re trying to sell. The city has a lot of dogs, and they all love barking in the middle of the night.

What really characterises the city is the mountains. You can be walking down a typical city street, turn a corner and- wow! Hello mountains.  The mountains are beautiful, but it also means lots and lots of hills to walk up. For my first week I huffed and puffed my way everywhere because of the altitude, and as of yet I have not dared to tackle some of the steeper looking streets. One place I really want to go is the Panecillo, Quito’s guardian angel, which is very high up. Everything looks innocently flat on the map, oh how wrong I was when I thought it would be an easy walk! But it doesn’t matter because the mountains are stunning. I have never been in a city with such a beautiful setting.

As for exploring, on my first day I took a walk around part of the historic old town, which is the best-conserved colonial centre on the continent. It is very impressive and very beautiful, I want to go back one weekend and explore properly. My time exploring Quito has been a bit limited as I work in an office Monday-Friday. I have seen the historic centre, the area called the Mariscal Foch, some of the larger parks and the area in which I live. As a single girl I am constantly being warned off wandering around at night, which is a shame. However I can see Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, from my window, which is definitely a plus!

Other than the mountains, the smell of food that rises from everywhere has so far been one of the most overwhelming impressions of the city for me, partly because I love food and partly because there are so many places to get it. The other day I walked down a street where a family had opened a door into their dining room and were dishing out food to people passing by. I can get a set lunch for as little as $2.50, although I have started branching out, as there are only so many plates of soup, rice and beans I can take in one week. But they never seem to run out of new ways to serve bananas!

The people here are very friendly, too. My host family is very nice and the mother, Marta, is always chatting to me. People have talked to me in restaurants and cafés, and the other day I chatted to someone almost all the way home from the bus stop in the centre. They always want to know where I’m from and are usually happy to hear I’m here for an extended period of time. Of course there are some creepy men, but that I will deal with that subject another time.

So, these are some of my first impressions, sorry they’re so brief. I’m looking forward to getting to know this amazing city more over the next month or so. Will update soon.