Wednesday 28 April 2010


balanced egg
I'm still a little sore as we leave Quito but I am glad to be out of the city. We are headed North towards Otavalo but stop for a while at the Mitad del Mundo and get to hear about the peculiarities associated with being on the equator, we also have a go at balancing an egg on a nail.

I feel that is the real start to our trip, nine of us will be travelling together for three weeks until we get to Lima, Peru. We have two nights at the small Hostal Rincon Del Viajero in Otavalo which is a couple of hours drive North of Quito. This is our first view of the scenery in Ecuador and the drive up takes us through some great sights. Otavalo's claim to fame appears to be it's market, especially for the textiles.

We have one full day in Otavalo and during the first night it rains heavily though this doesn't directly affect us. Immediately after breakfast we get picked up and taken to see some of the local sights. We start off with a waterfall which benefitted from the overnight rain and we climb to the top for a good view of Cascadas de Peguche.

Our next stop is to visit a music maker, a lady who makes and plays various traditional instruments. She shows us how to make some pan pipes and plays several of the instruments she has. From here we move on to look at a magic tree before visiting the nearby Parque Condor that looks after injured birds and those that were once pets.

We get back to Otavalo around midday but rain interrupts our exploration of the market and prompts an early and extended lunch. The market is good but we are only just starting our trip and no one feels inclined to buy much.

From Otavalo we head towards the Amazon rainforest.

Monday 26 April 2010


After all the uncertainty about whether my flight would actually depart due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland I left Heathrow Airport with only a short delay on the first full day after flights from UK were restarted. On the first leg to Madrid I sat in my favourite window seat on the starboard side of the plane and was treated to probably the best sunset I have ever seen from a plane. As we headed southwest across the Channel towards Brittany the entire horizon was red and the sun itself looked a lot like the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, presumably this spectacular display was as result of the volcanic ash still present in the atmosphere.

I make my connection in Madrid and have a pleasant overnight flight on Lan and arrive at the Alston Inn Hotel in Quito at 08:00. Although it is early, ny room is ready and the hotel let me check in early. So far all has gone well.

Quito old town
I cannot say that Quito does much for me as a destination, the Old Town is quite interesting but nothing outstanding apart from the setting in which the whole city is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. The new town where I stayed is a tourist ghetto with little to recommend it.

My view of Quito may be coloured by the fact that I got mugged by three men little more than 100m from my hotel. I found out the day after that both our driver and leader had also been mugged in the same area a few days earlier. My visit to the local police station to report the attack provided me with an interesting view of local life. I was a little sore and stiff for a few days but no real damage.

Monday 19 April 2010

Wychavon Way

It is spring which means time to start walking again. The weather over the Easter break has been ideal for walking and we managed to get in a nice one day walk in beautiful weather around the Daffodil Way starting the circular walk at Dymock in Gloucestershire. map pointer

Our main objective for the holiday was to walk the Wychavon Way which passes through neighbouring villages with the halfway point near home. We decided 4 days would allow for an unhurried walk of the ~42miles track.

As we were planning the walk a new route had just been agreed but it was not yet marked and no maps were available so we opted to follow the old route created to commemorate the Silver Jubilee in 1977. This route connects Holt Fleet to Winchcombe and we walked in this roughly Southeastern direction. map pointer

Day 1 took us to a point East of Droitwich just past the M5. I now understand one of reasons to reroute the walk, the section around Droitwich was not at all interesting and involved walking through an industrial estate and quite a distance along roads. The marking of the route was very poor, perhaps it has not been maintained because it will not be part of the new route. The second leg was more interesting with walking along streams, through woodland and with just a few lanes to cross before breaking again at Rous Lench just a couple of miles from home. The rest of the route was very scenic and included several hills that provided lovely panoramic views over the Vale of Evesham.

We left the Lenches and from Cracombe Hill we could see across the River Avon to our next high point - Bredon Hill. From here on the general route proved easy enough since it takes in all the high points, after Bredon Hill we head for Alderton Hill followed by Stanley Mount before descending into Winchcombe.

Last spring we walked the Worcestershire Way which is also maintained by Worcestershire County Council. It is quite clear that the Wychavon Way needs work, the new route looks like it should be a big improvement since it starts at Droitwich and misses the new industrial estates but I think this is not enough. The marking of the route is appalling in places and much of it is along bridleways which were very cut up by horses. The change of end point to Broadway makes some sense since it is within Wychavon District which is not the case for Winchcombe.