Having slept the night in the boarding houses at school we were roused at about 3am to gather our possessions, get in a minibus and drive to Heathrow. Now when I saw slept, I mean having had about one hours sleep at the most, as we were all too excited to sleep. This was the first major trip abroad for a lot of us. On meeting the boys at the minibus we were greeted by four newly shaved heads, which they were already regretting as it was cold. They were also upset as the house master had told them off for ‘shaving too loudly’. We arrived too early at the airport to check in and so sat upstairs drinking cans of coke from a large pallet a teacher had produced. Once the time came we descended downstairs and checked in our luggage. Iberia had generously doubled our luggage allowance so we could take out gifts to a school a previous year had helped out at. At check in we met the band ‘The Editors’ which was a nice surprise. As our flight was delayed leaving Heathrow we did not have long to explore Madrid Barajas Airport (Figure 1), which from the air appeared to be situated in a desert. The parts of the airport we passed through were all very modern, presumably because, after a short shuttle bus ride, we ended up in Terminal 4. Terminal 4, designed by Antonio Lamela and Richard Rogers, is so full of glass and bright colours that it certainly woke me up. I didn’t have time to fully appreciate it and I would love to pass through it again sometime in the future.
Figure 1. Madrid Barajas Airport, Terminal 4.
After walking swiftly through the entire airport we just made our connection to Quito. The view coming into Quito to land is simply awe-inspiring. You come over the Andes Mountains to see the entire city spread across the valley floor. Landing on the other hand was a bit nerve wracking as the airport is situated in the middle of the city, with a main road at the end of the runway. Originally built in 1960, it has since been surrounded by buildings. I recommend looking at some videos on YouTube to get an understanding of just how incredible and thrilling the view and landing are. Once landed, and totally confused about what time it was, we met our tour representative Miguel. On exiting the airport we were greeted by another amazing view of the mountains.
Figure 2. Quito from the air.
Miguel took us back to their in-country office which also housed some of the reps to eat dinner. On our journey to the office we experienced our first taste of Ecuadorian driving skills, or should I say the lack of. Everyone seemed to use their horns and the traffic police were out in force. It was an unorganised mess to say the least, but we made it safely to our destination. We all obediently ate dinner and drank lots of coke to try and keep awake after the long journey. After dinner we all piled back onto the coach and went to check into the beautiful Posada de los Jazmines hostel situated in Quito’s New Town. Once there we chose rooms, and then relaxed for a bit, reflecting on the experiences we had had so far. The guys thought it would be cool to wander around topless and work out in the room. Not sure what to say to that. Then we went to bed as we were all exhausted.