Well I'm a week down in Ecuador and what a week it has been! At present I'm sitting in a net café in Cuenca, Ecuador. Cuenca is considered one of Ecuador's most beautiful cities and I'm inclined to agree. So I'm a little disapointed I'm only staying tonight and leaving for Loja in the morning. If I was to return to Ecuador it would be on my list of things to explore (amongst other things).
The last time I wrote I believe it was before the 'Cry for Independence' celebrations... The celebration itself was large. Every plaza in Old Town Quito must have had a stage and a band playing. Plaza San Fransisco is where I spent most of my time. The plaza itself is huge and when I arrived at 9pm it was packed. I caught a few acts before the fireworks and midnight where I decided to then call it a night. As I walked back to the hostel I caught up to a group of people walking down the street on stilts waving Ecuadorian flags, with a small brass band at the front making a lot of noise and people letting off roman candles in the street. After all this I was left wondering - if this is how by they celebrate the 'Cry for Independence' what will the actual Independence day celebrations be like!
Since the celebrations took place leading up to the day itself I took the holiday very easy. I pretty much bummed around the hostel most of the day. Except for lunch. For lunch I went into New Town with Rick, one of the more colourful characters staying at the hostel (he's from NZ but has been travelling for 4 years and his accent is so far removed from his country of origin). New Town was pretty much dead, so my decision to do nothing was given some backing.
Saturday was going to be my tour of Old Town. I had decided to check out in detail and look at all the great architecture and museums. I visited the Basilica del Voto Nacional. They allow you to climb the tours and look out over the city. It was quite an experience climbing the smaller of the 3 towers. I first had to walk inside the roof cavity across a rickety wooden bridge with rope for rails (so the roof that you see from way down below inside was underneath and the roof you see from outside was above). I then climbed something that is probably a set of stairs, but looks more like a ladder, to access the base of the tower outside. I then had to climb up another 2 sets of the same sort of stairs, but this time I had a lot more air and a long drop to the roof (and a slide to the ground) below. But at the top I was greeted with a great view of the city - which was helped by the fact that the Basilica is one of the tallest buildings in the city.
Afterwards I went to hunt food (after a short stop by a net café). Unfortunately the fun of the Basilica was quickly stolen away when I had my bag taken in a classic con job. While I was considering what to eat for lunch ( i.e. distracted) I had a guy come up to me and tell me I had stuff all over my back (warning bells should've sounded). I had a look and I did. He then offered to help clean it with the convenient roll of toilet paper he had in his pocket - which was quite odd, but I wanted the stuff off me so I didn't really catch what was happening. Within about 5 seconds after that somehow he'd taken my bag off, attempted to clean it, then stepped in between me and the bag, then stepped away and it was gone. Needless to say I was shocked and attempted to find directions to a police station.
Fortunately I nothing particularly important was in my bag. My camera was in my hands at the time and my docs and everything else was at the hostel. Unfortunately though my bible was in it and a few other things that would've been nice to not lose. I spent the rest of the day pretty easy. I went and got a police report and then bummed at the hostel. I also spent Sunday bumming around the hostel, 'cause I didn't really want to go out with a camera and no bag to put it in. I spent Monday putting back together the bits I lost, which involved a lot of running around New Town, which was lots of fun.
The highlight of that was walking past a security guard standing in front of his shops having his shoes shined. Hands on hips looking very tough. I wish I had my camera! Speaking of security guards it is very common for them to have guns. Many have shotguns and I saw one with an Uzi - awesome.
After spending most of the day running around I went and visited a church in Old Town (the name is too hard to remember). It was very impressive. It had intricate woodwork covered in gold and many artworks. One was a particularly gruesome depiction of hell. It was also a pity they didn't allow photos.
Tuesday and Wednesday (today) were then spent travelling. Which has also been quite and experience. The bus drivers I've had have been lead foots. Hammering past every other vehicle on the road - even other busses. It was alright yesterday, but today I was on the edge of my seat, heart in mouth, for most of the trip as we hammered along roads with long, sharp drops for hundreds of meters only centimeters from the busses wheels. Roads that were sometimes dirt or that sometimes had large boulders on it that had fallen of the mountain it was on. But despite the stress the views were spectacular.
Tomorrow I head to Loja where I will meet the Bakon's - my missionary friends from my old church. It will be good to have people to talk to that I know and who know English. Despite knowing enough Spanish to get by - I don't know enough to meet and get to know people, which has made the last week a bit lonely. I'm missing my friends in Sydney and SNC my bible study at St Pauls. So with that and the bag loss the last week has been quite hard, but a very value experience and thankfully the last few days have been much better (but still challenging).
Please thank God that I am safe and have not lost anything important. Please pray that he would continue to keep me safe and secure. Pray that I would also trust in him and seek to bring him glory as I travel.
PS - I realised the other day I'm quite literally on the opposite side of the world to where I was this time last month