Monday, July 14-Sunday, July 27, 2008
It was great staying with couchsurfer Mercedes for two weeks in Quito. Her mom owns a very nice big house called Casa De Verde with about 10 nice bedrooms, and Mercedes lives there and manages the place. So I was able to stay at the place and crash on the couch there, and had my own keys so I could come and go as I wanted. She usually has an extra room for couch surfers but she was all booked up. Fortunately, this has only been my second couch that I have slept on. Luckily, all the other places that I have stayed at I have had my own room and bed.
The second week that I stayed with Mercedes a room became available so I was able to sleep in a bed. It was a great place to spend two weeks, and every night I was there I ate at this same place that had the best burgers and hotdogs that I have ever had. I think they started to know me when I walked the short distance to this place to buy myself a double cheesburger ($2) and a traditional hotdog ($1.20). They make them so quickly and put crushed up potato chips on the hotdogs. Both the hotdogs and the cheeseburgers are huge, and they have them ready for you within 5 minutes. This place is always busy too because it is so good and so fast. The only local thing that I ate in Quito was the ceviche, and it was pretty good here, but had better in Costa Rica.
During my second week in Quito I decided to take some Spanish courses through the school of Mercedes´ mom. I took 20 hours of Spanish 830 -1230 M-F) and then 6 hours of salsa for $170. Both the Spanish courses and salsa courses were very good. I feel like I learned a lot, and it was well worth the $170.
Quito is a pretty cool city with 1.4 million people that is separated into an Old Town and a New Town. The New Town has a lot of American Franchises like Tony Romas and a new mall and shopping center, and the old town has all the old historic buildings and the presidents building. Quito has a great public transportation system with a trole bus, Ecovia, and Metro bus that take you pretty much anywhere you need to go and they all have their own separate lane that takes you right down the middle of the road.
It is unfortunate that the majority of the young kids in Quito are not able to go to school at a young age. You see a lot of 5 and 6 year old kids out on the street selling candy and whatever else to provide themselves with food because their parents had kids when they were too young. A lot of them also jump onto the Ecovia and try to sing for you, and then ask you for money. One time a blind guy that you could tell didn´t have much money was with his son, and he basically was saying he wanted money to buy some food, and he could not get a job because he is blind. I didn´t want to give them money, but told them if they got off of the stop that I was getting off I would buy them some food. I took them to my favorite burger/hotdog place, and they were quite pleased to sit down and eat with me. They both were very nice people, and got some more Spanish practice in as well. Another time we were eating out at a Ceviche restaurant (LOVE CEVICHE) and Daniela didnt finish all of her food on her plate. So a little girl who was maybe 7 asked for her leftovers, and we got it bagged up for her. This happens quite a bit, and is nice to give them food, but also sad that they dont have any.
On Thursday, July 17, I decided to go to the Teleferico in Quito. I arrived at 10 am and there was an express ticket for $7 or a normal ticket for $4, but there was not really a line at all, so I went with the $4 ticket. It was definitely a mistake because they just started letting all the express people go ahead of the normal ticket price people. I ended up waiting in line for 2 hours. A multimillion dollar sky tram cable car takes six passengers on a 2.5km ride up the flanks of the Pichincha Volcanoe to the top of Cruz Loma (4100M). It definitely didnt seem like they had very many cars, and it was not an efficient system at all. The one in Merida, Venezuela was much more efficient and fit about 30 people per cable car and had a lot more cable cars. From the top of the Teleferico you can hike to the summit of Rucu Pichincha which is 4700M high. I decided to do the three hour trek up this mountain to see the amazing view up at the top. Along the way I decided to take a horse a portion of the way $5 for 1/2 hour. I hopped on the horse and the damn thing did not want to go up the hill. The lady that I paid had to tug on the rope to get the damn horse to go up the hill. I kicked as hard as I could to get the horse moving, but she still had to continue to tug. So this lady was quite tired, and she definitely cut me at least 15 minutes short of the half hour. I didn´t care though because I could have walked a lot faster. After I hopped off the horse I ended up chatting with two Canadian guys, and made the trek up the Mountain with them. Towards the end it was definitely a little challenging and the altitude was definitely a factor, and we had to stop a few times to catch our breath. However, once you reached the top of the peak, it was an amazing view. It was pretty cool to see the clouds coming in and out so quickly at the top of the mountain as well. After taking pictures etc. at the top we hiked back down, and ended up gaining a European girl for the trek back down. She was hiking by herself and decided to join with us for the hike down. It was definitely a little scary at times going down, but was well worth the trip. By the time we were all done with the trek it was 6pm and a long day!
On Saturday, July 19, I took a two hour bus in the early morning to Otavalo for the largest craft market in South America. Traditionally dressed indigenous people sell handicrafts to all sorts of foreigners who come there for the great deals. The men wear long single pigtails, calf-length white pants, rope sandals, reversible gray or blue ponchos and dark felt hats. The women wear embroidered blouses, long black shirts and shawls, and folded head cloths. It was fun to walk around and see all the different things they had, but I didn´t purchase anything because I didn´t want to haul the things around for another ten months. I went with another couchsurfer to Otavalo who didn´t speak and english, and she showed me another town called Peguche. It was a cool little town that had a pretty sweet waterfall as you walked through the forest. They also had people canyoning down this waterfall, and looked like a lot of fun. It was fun to hike through the forest, and then we returned back to Quito because I had tickets to the Quito soccer game at 6pm. I made it back just in time for the game. It was cool to experience my first professional soccer game.
On Sunday, July 27, I left to Guayaquil at 10:30 pm on a 8.5 hour bus ride. I arrived Guayaquil early Monday (July 28) morning at 7am. I took the bus with another couchsurfer Hector who is from Guayaquil, but he happened to be in Quito. My new couchsurfer was not going to pick me up from the bus terminal until 10 am, so Hector offered for me to walk to his house because it was close to the terminal. He was nice enough to cook me some breakfast and let me hang out with him until 10, and then I went back to the terminal to meet up with my new couchsurfer Juan Rodriguez.