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Last days in South America!

December 5, 2009

WARNING: Contains some gruesome content/photos (bullfighting).

I had big plans for my last days in South America, but the truth is after two weeks of going at it nonstop in the Galapagos and the jungle, and knowing I’m so close to going home, I’ve lost a bit of motivation and just become a bit tired. Especially after more than a month of traveling with others — the Aussie gals and then tour groups — it was harder to motivate myself to get up early, get a cab by myself, get a bus, find a hostel in a new place, etc. all when I still had to come back to Quito.

So after a couple mornings of being too tired to get up early for a bus (I had originally hoped I could find a daytrip so I wouldn’t have to really worry about any of the transport and details on my own), I gave up on my aspirations of going to the cloudforest in Mindo (even though I had been wanting to do the ziplining since I first planned this trip — I’ll just have to wait til I do a trip in Central America one day, where it’s supposed to be better anyways) and the markets in Otavalo (I settled for the markets in Quito instead).

My first day in Quito was supposed to be one of relaxation, but I felt a bit stressed and lonely. I was dealing with quite a transition after the past two whirlwind weeks, and I spent most of the day in bed on the computer. That and running back and forth to the agency trying to see if I was going to get a refund for my cruise or not. (In the past few days I’ve gone in there at least four or five times. FINALLY today I went in and they said, “I have some money for you!” My happiness was great, and doubled when they handed me $125! Woo! Now I don’t have to make another trip to the ATM before I leave!)

I had a whiny conversation on Skype with Oscar about how I just wanted to go home now and I didn’t feel like making any effort to go anywhere or meet anyone. He said to me, “Oh no, you’ll get off the computer and go to the common room and meet someone tonight, I know it.” And I said, “No, no. I don’t even want to meet anyone. I don’t even want to get out of bed.”

Well, of course he was mostly right. I didn’t have to get out of bed, but one of my fellow dorm mates, Claire, came in and we started talking, and she invited me to some bull fights the next day. (She was yet another strangel encounter — what I call a solo travel angel — on my trip!) But I did stay in bed the rest of that day…ha! I just couldn’t be bothered to do anything, I was so burnt out.

(It was a loud night though. Ecuador was playing Brazil and they had won the first game and needed to win or lose by less than four goals. They lost by three — so they won overall — which meant that everyone was out in the streets yelling and cheering and going crazy. I was glad I didn’t go out, because everyone came back telling stories of how dangerous it was, the fights and thefts they witnessed in front of their eyes. Even one gigantic British guy — close to 6 1/2 feet tall, and big, someone you wouldn’t mess with — said he got jumped by a couple guys!)


Then on Thursday I headed off to the bullfights with a group of four other people from the hostel. The sun was blazing down on us, but I was happy for it because I want to make sure I keep a bit of a tan until I get home!

The bullfight itself…I’m not sure how I feel about it. Claire loves them (she’d been to one that week already and is at another one today) and sees it as an artform, but I think the rest of us had mixed feelings. I’m glad I went, and I chock it up as a cultural experience, but I think it was actually even worse than I’d imagined.

Bullfighting team

They really do torture the bull, and it’s a bit shocking to actually watch an animal die before your eyes. Plus the bullfighters, to me, seem like haughty jerks. Just the way they stand, strut around, taunt the bull…all of it is this obnoxious show where they think they’re hot stuff, but I think they’re just full of it.

There were six fights in total. I had always thought it was just a showdown between a matador and a bull. Not so. There is the main bullfighter, but there are also a number of other “distracting” bullfighters. They run around waving their capes at the bull trying to confuse it, but then always run and hide behind this little gate so he can’t get to them and gets frustrated. Then two men on horses come out and the bull goes for the horses (who are blinded of course) while the men stab at the bull.

Main bullfighter

Then either the main bullfighter or another one comes out with two hooked batons and has to hook them into the bull’s back. He does this twice, so the bull has four of them in his back. So now the bull is bleeding and starting to get tired and distressed. At this point the very first bull that went on actually somehow totally broke/disconnected the bottom part of his foot (kind of like below the ankle, I guess). It was a bit disturbing, to say the least.

Then the main bullfighter comes out. He has a sword, and he spends what seems like FOREVER whipping his cape around getting the bull to run here and there until he’s exhausted. I have to admit, I was secretly always hoping the bull would be a bit of a smarter one and realize that there’s a person one inch away from the cape that he could go after, but they never did. Finally the bullfighter stabs the bull in the neck/back. Sometimes he has to do it a couple times if the sword doesn’t stay.

Dragging away the bull

Then everyone’s cheering like crazy (I think we all kind of just stared in a kind of gruesome shock). The bull lays/collapses down, usually coughing up blood at this point. Then a guy comes out with a small dagger and stabs it in the neck somewhere that kills it instantly. Then the horses come out and drag him away.

So, you can judge by how it sounds as to how you’d feel about a bullfight. I can’t believe PETA wasn’t protesting outside!

At the bullfight with some hostel friends

The bullfights are just one part of a larger celebration here in Quito right now. Sunday is Founder’s Day, and here they begin celebrating the week before. So all week there have been bullfights and parades every day. As we approached the weekend, there’s more and more parades and dancing and singing in the street. Everyone is out on the streets, at restaurants, bars, etc. And they have these open-air party buses called chivas that everyone rides around in, blasting music and having a great time. It’s definitely an eternally festive air here in Quito.

I also attended a bear charity/benefit event the other night with some people from the hostel. They had a raffle (sadly, I didn’t win anything) and it was a good atmosphere. Lots of fun, and I got to bond with my hostel-mates a bit.

Today I went to do some last-minute souvenir shopping in the market here in Quito. It’s been nice just relaxing, catching up on sleep, having some time to be on the internet, and just hanging out with new friends here in Quito.

Tonight is basically my last night, as I have an early morning on Monday for my flight, so I’m sure we’ll do something special (well, every night is always someone’s last night!), not to mention that it’s one of the biggest days of Quito’s celebrations, and I’ll have tomorrow to soak in my last bit of South America. But I’m excited about going home as well, and every time I see a plane fly overheard I get a little bit more excited.

I know that after a while (though I’m getting to drag it out a bit since I’m only two weeks at home, then off to Sweden to see my Oscar which won’t get old very quickly!) I’ll miss my time here, but one thing I’ve realized on this trip is that traveling is in my blood, and I’ll always find ways to make another trip happen. You meet so many people on the road with different stories and situations, and you realize that anything is possible!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2009 5:56 am

    What an awesome travel blog Rachael! My hubby & I are about to embark on 6+ mths backpacking around south america & we’ve loved reading about all your adventures & checking out your piccies. We’ll no doubt be following many of your tracks in the coming months … thanks for all the great tips/ ideas/ etc! Cheers, Lisa
    (Sydney, Australia)


  1. Celebrating holidays around the world « Girl, Unmapped

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