San Francisco (USA) to Quito (Ecuador) Day 1

Mt. Cotopaxi and Quito airport, Ecuador, South America

We chose Ecuador as the starting point for our Year of Wonder because it is the gateway to the Galapagos Islands and that destination was high on our list of places to visit.  Ecuador also uses the $US so we thought it would be an easier transition from our cozy lives in San Francisco to the rough and tumble of life on the road, which does take a bit of getting used to – even for a dromomaniac.

Slightly regret the fact that we didn’t spend more time perfecting our Rosetta Stone Spanish, though, because it became rapidly apparent that English speakers are pretty thin on the ground in Quito, the capital.  We fumble through our frustratingly inadequate phrasebook, looking for something to enlighten the airport taxi driver that after 12-hours of traveling we would love to go to our hotel, the cozy Hostel Santa Barbara.  Amid much gesticulation and despite some terrible pronunciation on our part we somehow get the message across and his bemused face eventually breaks into a smile.  His tires screech and we’re off.  Driving practices in Quito are, it has to be said, frightening.  Observing red lights and Stop signs appears to be optional rather than obligatory.

 At a little over 9,000 feet, Quito sits on the slopes of the great Andean mountain range, surrounded by active volcanoes such as the beautiful, but deadly, Mt. Cotopaxi.  And the Andes will be our home for the next few months.  To help acclimatize to the rarefied atmosphere of the mountains and avoid ‘soroche’ (altitude sickness) Christi (a pharmacist by training) delves into her portable box of tricks and retrieves a bottle of Diamox.  Diamox is used to treat everything from glaucoma to seizures and even periodic paralysis, so soroche should pose few problems.  The only downside to taking Diamox is that carbonated drinks (think beer and soda) taste terrible.   But at least we’re in South America and adventure beckons.

 Blog post by Roderick Phillips, author of Weary Heart – a gut-wrenching tale of love and test tubes.

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