Don’t get me wrong, the capital of Ecuador is not a bad city, in fact we’ve grown rather found of it. It’s just that we’ve been here too long – too long trying to line up air transport for the bikes to Panama. And it hasn’t been easy, things are not straightforward here in Ecuador and not eveyone is as efficient, up front and reliable as you would like. Some definitely are – like the superstar Patricia Williams that we took on as a translator to help us through the mire of officialdom that envelops import/export here. but Patricia proved to be much more than a translator – she is very muh a ‘go to’ lady just to make things happen. She can quickly separate the local bullshit artists from the real people and save you one hell of a lot of hassle. We suggest to anyone visiting this city wanting to get stuff done – Patricia is your lady. we won’t print her email here but contact us if you want to make stuff happen in quito.
Anyway this town is actually two towns – the old and the new – and we’ve had the opportunity to have a few days in each. The old is what you might expect of a colonial Spanish South American relic – well worth some time with its churches, museums and interesting history. But the new town, especially the area around the Foch Plaza where we’ve been hanging out of late, is lot’s of fun. Piles of very good quality but not expensive restaraunts, a very lively club and bar scene and don’t be put off by the police and security guards that walk through the crowds clinging to their machine guns. They’re just there to keep it ordely and protect the takings at the casino. Seriously though, the scne here at The Foch is a lively snippet of the downtown nightlife of Sao Paulo or New Orleans or London.
Our bikes have left this morning – gone via the Perishables section of the airport’s freight terminal, aloft if you like as cut flowers bound for Panama. We were having no end of trouble with one import/export agent Sebastian of Kuehne & Nagel who was evasive, misleaing and just downright so unreliable we thought we were never going to get these bikes out of Ecuador. Honestly after heaps of preparation he still had us looking at spending another week in Quito twiddling our thumbs as he strung us along . And meanwhile he kept ramping the price up – up to $4500 US for a 1 hour flight for the bikes at last count.
And then along came Patricia with an alternate solution that saw our bikes airbourne within 12 hours and at a price of $700 per bike. An angel.
Ecuador’s citizens have an income one quarter that of Kiwis. It’s not as though the country is resource poor either. It is simply that there are too many people here like Sebastian who have no interest whatsoever in serving the customer, whose firm simply screws every last cent out of every deal. How do they survive? Because a highly protected and uncompetitve cabal of businesses cluster around every node where State controls (in this case Customs) influence the economy. The political regimes survive in large part by protecting the livelihoods of those who support them – army and police being the most obvious. But that corruption is endemic across all State departments. So long as that persists incomes in these types of countries will stay low.