Don’t do drugs kids

We have been hearing the odd horror story ever since we arrived in Quito.

They are mostly tales of hapless tourists.

There are tourists who let it slip that they are flying home the following day, only to discover some drugs have been slipped in their bag.

Similarly, there are the idiots who think it is fine to buy some weed or coke on the street, seemingly unaware they are being watched.

Monika, of course, told us several of these tales that first weekend.

“There are many foreigners at the prison,” she said.

“Sometimes volunteers like to go and visit them.”

Of course that would be enough to arouse my curiosity.

Luckily, the others were quite keen to visit the prison too.

Monika gave me the address of a guy called Marcelo, who lived somewhere in Quito and had previously organised prison visits.

I went tramping off to find him one afternoon and after several false starts, wrong turns and some exceptionally helpful policemen, managed to end up in front of a set of tall, locked gates.

“Hola, hola, HOLA,” I shouted, only to be let inside by a very tall American man, who looked at me inquisitively.

“I’m here to see Marcelo,” I said, with my friendliest smile.

“Is it a personal visit?” he asked, curtly.

“That’s right,” I smiled again. I’m quite good at getting my way.

“MARCELO!” he yelled up the stairs.

The man himself appeared – a typically smiley Ecuadorian.

Once I mentioned Monika’s name he became extremely helpful.

Although he no longer organised visits to the prison, he wrote down the address for me and advised me to visit the womens’ prison.

“The mens’ prison can be a little tense,” he said softly.

“You should also take something for the women. Maybe some shampoo, maybe some fruit.”

I mentioned that very dirty word (journalist) and asked, if I met anyone suitable, would I be able to take photographs?

“Just give the guard a dollar or something,” he grinned.

Jesus Christ, I thought, maybe not.

Anyway, Pippa, Alex and Bryony were keen to come with me so this afternoon we swung by the supermarket.

Ten minutes later we were laden with shampoo, moisturiser, chocolate, oranges and grapes and off we went.

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