I’m in the Southern hemisphere for the first time EVER!
Quito is much bigger than I anticipated! For some reason I expected a picturesque little mountain town, but was greeted by a bustling metropolis spreading the entire width of a huge valley! I think deep down I knew it would be big, but my imagination was so happy with my little town vision. Oh well!
I arrived in Quito after the sleepless night and day in Colombia, so upon arriving at my hostel I promptly went to bed and tried to nap – somewhat unsuccessfully. I went out to buy some food and bottled water, since this is the first place I’ve been (besides Bocas) since Nicaragua where the water isn’t safe to drink! I was decently adventurous and actually ended up drinking the water after a week in Nicaragua, but I’m not feeling as adventurous here (mostly because I’ve gone this long without getting sick and I don’t want to ruin one of my last weeks here!). Luckily, after a delicious meal of Ramen noodles, I slept like a baby for at least 9 hours.
On Tuesday I decided to see a bit of the city, but not too much since I knew Aunt Mary would want to see it as well – and she didn’t arrive until Tuesday night. I started out the day by walking around the Mariscal Sucre area, touristy area really close to our hostel, to get my bearings. I then walked up to the Quito Hotel and down the STEEP hill behind it to the Guapulo neighborhood. It was a cute little neighborhood, nothing fancy, but the Sanctuary of El Guapulo, a gorgeous church the 1600′s, stands out from a distance and makes the hike worth it. I went in, for $2, ogled at the beautiful insides, looked at some art, then trekked back up the massive hill, past my hotel, into the park, back all around the Mariscal Sucre area, and finally settled at an Indian restaurant for lunch (per the recommendation of an American guy in a bookstore who was very picky/stingy about buying some books from me…).
After lunch I headed to the teleferiQo – a gondola up the side of the side of Volcan Pichincha, just West of Quito. My plan had been to do this first thing in the morning (because they say you get the best/clearest view early), but it had been very rainy and foggy in the morning. I had only cleared up a bit by the afternoon, but I decided I might not have another chance so I’d better just do it. It was almost $9 to ride up in a gondola to Cruz Loma, at 4,100 meters, from where you can hike to the summit in about three hours. The weather was not inviting when I was there – nor was the lack of oxygen after coming from the Caribbean coast! Unfortunately, it was still cloudy and I really couldn’t see anything from Cruz Loma – but it was fun to see the entire city (and low flying planes coming to land!) before the gondola entered the clouds.
Besides traipsing all over the city on Tuesday, I also stopped in at LEAST four bakeries just because everything smells and looks so delicious. I was certainly not hungry, and felt like a super fat cow by the end of the day, but it was delicious! So far I’m not overly impressed with Ecuadorian food – it is similar to Colombia in that you get soup and juice with most meals, but the meals themselves have thus far been much less exciting than in Colombia. Here we get plain rice, a boring salad (lettuce and tomato), and stewed chicken. Meh. Nothing to write home about. I miss beans and arepas (in all their many forms), various types of fried corn, and plantains! That said, I’ve yet to experience a TON of food here (other than the baked goods, which are fantastic), so I’ll hold out some judgment until the end.
After my adventures in eating, I returned to the hostel and found Aunt Mary already there! I thought I’d timed it perfectly, but she beat me back (around 8:30 pm) and was already unpacking. She brought my jeans, undies, sweatpants, contacts, and debit card – all of which are greatly appreciated and (mostly) desperately needed! It is definitely colder here than the other places I’ve been, so jeans are REALLY wonderful to have. Sweatpants are nice too, since now I don’t have to look like a dork walking around in my long underwear bottoms if I’m cold in the hostel.
On Wednesday we set out to do the Lonely Planet’s suggested self-guided “walking tour” of the old town in Quito. We did it backwards, since the end was really near our hostel – slightly more confusing as far as figuring out directions, but my little brain ended up handling it just fine. We walked past a few parks, numerous plazas, and tons of churches and museums. We went to the Museo del Banco Central, a huge museum full of a million artifacts about Ecuador’s history. We didn’t see the entire thing, but read a lot about the history up until Ecuadorian independence. Very cool museum, if you’re interested in history!
We continued on and arrived at the Basilica del Voto Nacional – SO cool. It is relatively new, built in 1926, and instead of gargoyles coming out from it, it has different animals (turtles, birds, lizards, etc.) portruding from all over the place! It was beautiful. We walked/climbed up to the top of the clock tower, and the belfries – definitely got our workout for the day. It was amazing, and had gorgeous views of the city. From the Basilica we walked past more plazas, churches, monestaries, etc.
After the “tour” was over, we figured out our plan for the next week more firmly, and then headed to church! We went to find the CS Society in Quito, and had no problem finding the correct address, but there was absolutely no signage to indicate that anything was going on. After waiting around in hopes that someone would arrive, and nearly giving up, we rang the bell in one last desperate attempt to find them and were successful! We went in and enjoyed the meeting, talked to the members for a bit afterwords, and then went out to dinner before returning to our hostel and going to bed. It was an active day, and luckily we figured out a plan for Thursday that did NOT include getting up at 6 am (as we originally thought we might have to).
On Thursday we took a taxi to the bus station in Quito to catch a bus South towards Latacunga, but actually headed to Saquisili for their weekly market – a sight to behold! I’ll write about that in my next post about the Quilotoa Loop, an adventure we had no idea would be so exciting!