Flying into Quito (Ecuador) is a great feeling; it has such a dramatic entrance, situated in the Andes, 2,850 metres above sea level, (Footprints 2008). I came via Panama City (Panama) and Guayaquil (Ecuador); the trip took about 14 hours altogether, crossing the equator twice. There were more direct routes, but this was the cheapest, and I must say, going via Panama made me rethink my trip. Maybe while I’m here I should try to see some of Central America as well?
Orientation – Quito is world heritage listed, and the centre is made up of two main parts – the new city, which is mainly accommodation, restaurants and bars (“Gringolanda”) and the old city, with the Heritage listed buildings and very steep roads and walkways.
I checked into a hostel in the New City that I have used before, not the cheapest but very comfortable and safe. It is a bit of a rabbit warren in places. My room had three entrances, a private small area with a hammock, and another patio that no other rooms lead on to; the only access besides my room was a spiral rickety looking staircase. Sadly, the room was only available for two nights, so I relocated upstairs onto the floor that is the attic. It is fine, really, and cheaper, and a bit of a novelty having sloping ceilings – it is not often I am glad I am not taller.
In the first three days that I was there I went to the markets, bought a woollen jacket (it’s cold in the mountains!) and a few other things that I needed but didn’t have space for in my bag. I walked around the new city and visited the basilica in the old city. Although I have been to all of the churches and museums before, I thought that while I am here I would like to have another look. The architecture is simply amazing; unlike anything we have in Australia. The ethics of how these came about is another story. Now I am staying at another hostel, in the Old City, and for half the price.
When I first arrived in Quito, I made sure that I didn’t do too much in the way of physical exertion, because the altitude can be a real problem. The first time I came here, I didn’t really notice it, although walking seemed a bit harder, but last time I found myself waking up in the night struggling for breath. So this time, I took things easy but when I left the New City to go to the Old City, I really felt it. The streets are so steep. My most unpleasant moment was being caught in torrential rain, not being able to see where I was from the trolebus, missing my stop, not being able to use my map because it was soaked, not getting a taxi because who would let a drenched person in their cab…………… of course eventually I got back to my hotel and I quickly recovered with some dry clothes and warm socks.
I met a few interesting people while I was I Quito. One was a man called Marcus, who approached me in the Plaza Grande, or as he said it is commonly known, the Plaza of the Dead Pigeons,( because it is full of old people who come there to reminisce about the old days, such as the war against Peru in 1941.) Marcus is a teacher and speaks English (with a distinct accent) and that was the first English conversation I had had in over a week. He guided me to another hostel that I had coincidentally stopped near that morning, so I moved that night to a place half the price.
I also met a woman on the street, who approached me to ask if I spoke English. She said that she was from South Africa (and sounded like it) had been robbed and needed money to get to Peru where there is a SA consulate. I don’t know why, but I didn’t believe her, I think she didn’t seem desperate enough. And why didn’t she have cash kept elsewhere, and a copy of her passport, and other details??????????? She was obviously lying or naïve (I wanted to say “stupid”) but a week on and I still feel badly about it. Which is worse – to not help someone who needs it, or to be sucked in by a fraud? Comments, please.
One other person I met, and would be happy not to have, was some random young guy that in my inexperienced opinion seemed to be high ( he also wore a Bob Marley style cap) and was speaking English to me but I couldn’t understand much. I made an excuse to get away from him which was annoying because before that I was about to take a photo of about 5 or 6 kids going about their business shining shoes. They are very organised and professional, young kids about 9 or 10, amazing. Anyway, this other clown got in the way, so I couldn’t take a photo. Then a nice old man took the time to warn me about muggers and being safe. I do like Quito but it is like many cities -I will not be sorry to say goodbye to the traffic and pollution.