“Oh, my head!”

I’ve now seen all the great mountain ranges of the world. The Himalayas, the Pamirs, the Tien Shan, the Elburz, the Caucasus, the Alps, Carpathians, the Appalachians, the Rockies and now the Andes.

I was in no way prepared for the elevation here in Quito. I’m not sure why it slipped my mind, but within ten minutes of stepping off the plane my head was throbbing, my heart was pounding and my breath was short. Getting to sleep was a task. In the morning the hotel recommended ‘te de coca,’ which is exactly what it sounds like: coca leaf tea. I’m sipping some now and will inform you later if it works. Everyone here swears by it. It does taste good. Not leafy, or bitter like East Asian green tea, it’s got a very subtle alkaline taste, kind of like a cross between mint and basil. “Whatever you do,” I was told too late, “don’t drink the coffee, yet.” It certainly tastes a whole hell of a lot better than the “qat” I chewed in Ethiopia.

Good lord, these mountains are huge. Quito sits in this magnificent, steep valley running north to south. The equator is about thirty miles north of here. There is no local currency, as the economy was totally dollarized in 1999. That’s odd. But it’s kept inflation largely intact.

I seem to be managing well traveling with my father. It has, after all been almost five years since we last traveled together. Was it really in Iran?

The weather is pleasant, not cold, but not quite warm: sweatshirt weather. We’ll be walking around the old town of Quito this afternoon so there will be photos posted this evening!

Tomorrow at 800am we leave for the Galapagos. This trip is strange in many ways, as everything is first class: the trip was a birthday present from my father. I say this because our boat has hi-speed wireless on it. That’s a far cry from the Tiger Breeze.

Hopefully there will be misadventures along the way. And of course, I will be your faithful correspondent.

More soon.