From: Kirstie and Stuart
Subject: An Explosive Situation
Date: 1st October 1999
Place: Quito, Ecuador (again)
An Explosive Situation
Hi everyone…. hope you are all safe and well. We thought you might like an update on the Spice Muchachas and the amazing disappearing bicycle. Unofficially, KLM admit the mysterious looking bike has disappeared without trace. They don’t even know if it ever got on a plane. Paul Daniels would be impressed by this magic.
All that is left is the pedals
Wendy and Mina obviously chose wisely when picking us a long lasting wedding gift…. as all that remains of the bike is the pedals. We took them off at the airport and carried them in our hand baggage. To save weight you understand. And because it is KLM’s policy. Be suspicious of anyone looking for pedals in the Heathrow area.
To get us on our way we’ve been bike shopping in Spanish and now have one bike and one ‘bicicleta todo terrain con equipaje’. The new one even has suspension saddle posts…and full front suspension much to Stuart’s disgust. Stuart is now wishing his bike also took a different flight from us.. to ease his behind.
What goes up must go up further
We have had an excellent few weeks in the North of Ecuador.. from Quito up to the Columbian border. We have cycled up a good few of the Andes… generally doing about the equivalent of Snowdon each day. What goes up must come down… except in Ecuador where what goes up must go up further.
We have cycled through the jungle followed by butterflies, along disused railway lines followed by pigs and sheep, and have had whole villages of people come to watch us make a cup of tea in the shelter of a local bus stop.
Camping here, there and everywhere
We have camped on the top of mountains, on the rim of a crater, by hot springs where we swam at midnight, in people’s gardens, and once in someone’s “little red riding hood” gingerbread cottage garden shed. It leaked so much we had to put the tent up inside.. they were very perplexed when they peeked in the sugar cane window.
We are becoming quite skilful at buying a cup of coffee and then slipping casually into the conversation… “podemos acampar aqui” or “may we camp on your land?” Most people are so taken aback that we are pitched before they really understand what we are going on about.
However, they are all really pleased to chat.. and always want to know where we’ve come from, where we are going and most importantly how much the bike cost… well Stuart’s one anyway. We cant bring ourselves to tell them that so far the total bike bill comes to nearly five thousand pounds!!! We pray that our insurance pays up, before we get wiped out by the volcano.
Quito on volcano alert
Volcano? Oh didnt we mention that? The Guagua Pichincha has chosen this week to show the first volcanic activity for a hundred and twenty eight years. They have evacuated the mountainside and the city has gone into orange alert.
We have pored over our SAS survival handbook and are now taking appropriate precautionary measures. In particular we wear our cycle helmets at all times to protect us from falling boulders and ash and have been practising our sprinting to help us escape pyroplastic flows and rivers of mud.
The people that normally stand on street corners in Quito flogging toothpaste were doing a roaring trade in face masks on the days immediately following the city’s move to orange alert. However, they are a fickle bunch.. or extremely flexible organisations able to rapidly adapt to changing market conditions… as yesterday when the sun came out and the volcano looked all nice and pretty, glowing in the sun, they had all switched to selling sunglasses and factor 20.
Is this a red alert?
Early yesterday morning we thought the city had gone onto red alert, the final stage… Well, Kirstie went onto red alert in our hotel room when she woke up suddenly, threw open the curtains and declared “Stuart, Stuart, Oh my god, Its happened, the whole city has been covered in ash… where are my sandals?”
Meanwhile Stuart, having scrabbled around for his compass (what use is that?) finally jumped up to take a look, and saw the usual view from our hotel window… a grey wall which fills almost the entire field of vision when looking straight out the window…. quite a relief for both of us. Luckily we hadn’t had time to alert all the other guests before the minor error was spotted. Thank goodness she doesnt work in the Emergency Centre responsible for emergency alerts for the city.
How dangerous can an avenue of volcanoes be?
However, we are in a safe place and in no danger. The city is protected and has good emergency plans in place. And we are leaving today… to head to the South…. where the volcano Tunguragua is only on yellow alert. And besides, we know our hotel is safe as all the international news crews have been staying there.
And on top of all this we have just heard that Judy Mallet has died and Grant Mitchell has left the Square. What a week!!!
Anyway..we’re off now to cycle through the dramatic Avenue of Volcanoes, through the Cotopaxi national reserve, around the Quilota crater lake and then down into the western jungle and over to the coast, heading via the beach to the Southern city of Guayaquil where life is apparently more carribean… we hope that means large cocktails and not hurricanes…. but who knows!
Until next time
And as we look ahead towards leaving Ecuador at the end of October, to head into Chile, we hear that the British courts will be making a decision about the extradition of General Pinochet.
Well more about that in our next exciting bulletin. If you really dont want to hear any more then drop us an email and we’ll take you off the distribution list.
Bye for now.
Kirstie and Stuart