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Published: September 25th 2009
Apparently the road between Popayan and Ecuador ain´t too safe. This necessitated that I make the journey to Quito mas o menos completely by day. After 16 hours, 2 buses, 2 taxis, and 1 colectivo, I finally arrived at my hostel in Quito, the Secret Garden...
The reception at the hostel is located on their rooftop terrace which is 5 floors up. Now, mind you, Quito is at about 2000 meters so, by the time I made it up the 5 flights, my head felt like it was going to explode! Dealing with the altitude and tiredness I didn't even realize that my Israeli friend, Carmel, was walking over me to say hello. Sometimes I really love the Gringo trail...it seems like you always run into an old friend just when you are feeling a bit lonely and in need of some good company. After such a long bus ride there was nothing more I wanted to do that sit around a fire, enjoy the breathtaking views of quito, and have some beverages and convo with friends old and new...
Quito is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous cities in South America. The sheer amount of stories you hear from other travelers about muggings, etc are easy proof of this. Therefore, its always best to walk around with at least one other person, whether it be day or night. So, the next day Maki, a nursing student from Seattle, and I took our own little tour of Quito's old town. The old town is filled with beautiful colonial architecture, ornate churches, and grand plazas. We started off by climbing to the top of the Basilica. At the top, there were little holes from which you literally hang outside of the church with nothing but the ground below. Some Ecuadorians were sprinting up to the hang out spot and fearlessly slinging their bodies outside. I, on the other hand, have a slight fear of heights so, needless to say, I was not heading up there with such voracity.
Almuerzo (lunch) in South America is quite an amazing concept. Nowhere else have I been in the world where one just goes into a restaurant and orders simply "lunch." Even better, its generally about $1.50 - 2 US for soup (obligatory starter everywhere thus far...even in Cartagena where you sweat into your soup), some meat, rice, potatoes/lentils/beans, "salad," and some fresh juice. They eat so many starches here its absurd! Makes sense why there are a lot of overweight Colombians/Ecuadorians.
The night was spent bar-hopping in La Mariscal with new friends. No matter where you go, you always hear the same reggaeton songs...
The next morning, I decided to go off on my own to straddle the equator. Outside Quito, there are actually 2 equator sights for tourists. The much bigger one, Mitad del Mundo, was established by the French, who were actually 200 meters off. I, however, decided to head to this museum which was located on the real equator, as caluclated using GPS. I took the little tour, participated in some experiments which showed the effects of the equator (pretty cool actually...you can balance an egg on a nail head among other things), took the obligatory photo straddling the line, and I was off back towards Quito.
I was on the bus ride back, when, all of a sudde, the bus driver stops the bus and orders everyone off, saying that he will go no further. Needless to say, everyone is quite pissed and shouting angrily to resume. Confused, I try to ask some people what was going on but couldn't understand the word they were using. I took out my trust dictionary and figured out that they were talking about a demonstration my the professors. Ok, I thought to myself, nothing too crazy. Upon exiting the bus, my eyes were met with a sharp sting and began to water. I looked into the distance and noticed that this was no demonstration...this is what we call a RIOT! There were riot police everywhere, some of the protesters were holding flaming torches, and people where throwing tear gas canisters everywhere! Now, of course, being the smart person that I am, I found an elevated staircase where a bunch of people were sitting and watching the ensuing madness. When a rioter returned a tear gas canister a little too close for my comfort, I decided it was time to move on. So, here I am, a gringo walking by myself amidst riots in Quito. Upon finally making it back to the hostel, I fell down on my bed, happy to home.
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