and Stuart Subject: An Explosive Situation
1st October 1999
Place:Quito, Ecuador (again)
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.
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 bicicletatodo 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.
We have had an excellent few weeks in the North of Equador.. fromQuito 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
Equador 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. We have camped on the top
of mountains, on the rim of a crater, by hot springs where we swam at , in people's gardens, and once in someones "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 skillful at buying a cup of coffee
and then slipping casually into the conversation... "podemosacamparaqui" 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.
Volcano? Oh didnt
we mention that? The GuaguaPichincha
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.
very own leaking gingerbread house
with volcanic ash in his eye
A prayer at the start of the Avenue of Volcanoes
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.
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.
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!!!
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
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.