We arrived at Mexico City airport ready for our flight to Ecuador. When we reached the counter we were informed by the very brusk check-in assistant that we would need to prove that we had an onward flight out of Ecuador before she would let us board the flight. Well that was bloody great seeing as we didn't have one. Even our itinerary which proved that we would be in Singapore by February (the maximum allowance for our visas would be three months in Ecuador) she was not ready to let us on. We were about to insist she booked a bus journey into Peru for us when eventually a manager let us through after proving that we had credit cards on us. We are not exactly sure what the law permits but fortunately we were spared this time.
Our flight boarded on time which was really good as we had a connection in Columbia later on in the day. We flew with Avianca who apart from the flight discrepancy were a really great airline. The airlines we have used so far really put our British compaines to shame. We had in-flight entertainment systems which not only had the usual
films, TV programmes and music videos, but it also had a games system on which we could play 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'. Unfortunately we were unable to even make it to £1000. Our on-flight meal was really nice and we even had a choice of dinner. Drinks were included as well, even alcohol. Our connection went completely fine too, we were only in Columbia for around an hour. The connection flight was meant to take 1 hour and a half but actually took 55 minutes, the pilot must have put his foot down.
We arrived in Quito airport at around 11.30pm and spent around an hour going through customs- it was completely manic. We were supposed to recieve a free ride to the hostel; we had confirmed with them just the previous day that they would send a driver. Obviously that didn't happen, and so we were left to the mercy of the 'Taxi! Taxi!!' people. Fortunately a lovely girl working in the taxi office called our hostel (as we had the forethought to write down their phone number this time) and she arranged for them to pay our taxi for us on arrival. Well that was
a bit of good luck considering that the journey was going to cost 12USD, almost as much as one night for both of us at the hostel.
We were staying in the Mariscal area of Quito, this is the more modern side of the city where most of the hotels are located, and where the main nightlife is. We certainly saw this in full throttle as we were coming close to our hostel. We had never seen so many prostitutes in our life- not even in Hillfields in Coventry. We saw one in a belt (now we may say this at home to mean a short skirt, but this really was a belt) and she was leaning up trying to break into a gated door. We later (in the daytime) saw that this was a hostel- but fortunately not ours! During our time in Mexico City one of the Australian guys we met had gone to a strip bar and brought a stripper back with him. The hostel let her in and she booked two nights bringing along with her a pimp; we found the whole episode a bit bizarre. Luckily this was not in our dorm, and we
did not have a repeat incident in Quito.
Anyway, without a doubt the Mariscal area of Quito was the dodgiest place we had been so far. There were so many suspicious characters out on the streets that we decided it would be safest if we pulled our hoods up to cover our tourist faces, and hoped the taxi doors were locked. Our hostel, Blue House was located just one block from the main square but on a surprisingly quiet street opposite an Irish Pub. We arrived and the receptionist paid our taxi as agreed. There was no mention of the fact that no one had turned up for us, no sorry or anything. We were shown to our room where an Irish guy was already staying. We introduced ourselves and then went to bed as it was past 2am and we were hoping to get up early the following day.
On our first day in Quito we decided to visit the equator- where the latitude reads 00,00,00. We didn't find out until we got there that we could have had our passports stamped, but we hadn't brought them with us. Damn. We had asked at the hostel reception
for directions, and the receptionist gave us a brief idea of a metro bus we needed to catch to a terminal, then to get another bus there. Ok so we didn't really know where we were headed as it was off the map, so we just followed the directions. They actually turned out to be spot on and we found our way there with the aid of local people who we would regularly ask 'Esta Mitad Del Mundo?' We were thrown off the bus in literally the weirdest place ever. There were only creepy looking people around and we could see no signs to the museum. The weather was so overcast and it felt really eerie. We saw a few (armed) police men and decided to ask them. We were told to walk down the road to find the entrance- so apparently we were in the right place. The road was a dust road with no pavements, and it was a little scary walking down it; but we did eventually see a sign indicating the museum down another dust track. We had nothing to lose, as if we decided to go back to the hostel we'd just have to wait
on the same dust tracks for a bus. We took the road and came to the museum, where admission was 3USD each, and included a full guided tour. It was really interesting as we were told all about Aztec history and were shown many artefacts such as shrunken heads and tombs where important people would have been buried. The most interesting part was that the Aztec people had believed that they were located at the centre of the world- they had constructed a monument to mark this, and it had actually turned out to be just metres from the real equator. We were able to carry out some experiments on the equator line such as seeing that water goes straight down a plug hole instead of turning in a spinning motion. We were able to try to balance an egg on a nail head and were told to walk in a straight line with our eyes closed. It was really difficult to walk along the line, apparently this is because the forces are equal so we can't sense imbalance in our ears.
After our tour of the museum we decided to try to see some of Quito's old town
so ran to the place where we had got off the bus, as one was parked there. We were told that this wasn't the right bus, and that we should wait for another bus, so ended up waiting around in this really weird place again. Luckily around 9 out of 10 vehicles on the road in Quito are buses driving every possible route, so we didn't have to wait for long. We ended up catching a bus which dropped us off on a corner, and we were picked up by another one less than two minutes later, ending up in the centre of the old town. We were able to see the main plaza, and mooched in a few shops, but decided to leave when it started to get dark as we had been warned this was the most dangerous city for travellers in South America. We caught a metro bus back to our hostel where we met a 19 year old German boy. He told us that although we may have ignored all the danger stories about Quito, we should be careful as he had been mugged at gun point and he didn't even look like a tourist. However
it was when he was walking home at 2am in the morning, which is not advised. We went back to our safe hostel for some drinks and then crossed the road to the Irish bar for our first full English breakfast of the trip. It was amazing but nowhere near big enough so we left the bar to go and find take away hot dogs and chips.
The following day was Saturday, and we had planned right from the UK to visit the famous market of Otavalo. We again took directions from our receptionist who did us proud. We took two buses, the second one taking around 2 hours. The views were absolutely fantastic with rolling green hills, we weren't even scared of the steep drops anymore as we have come to the conclusion that the bus drivers don't want to die (we hope). We arrived in Otavalo and it really had a fantastic atmosphere with a huge bustling market filling every street. We spent a few hours looking round all of the different things for sale including crafts, clothes, jewellery, and food. We decided to leave just as the rain started, and were fortunately able to sleep most
of the way back to the hostel, as the ride was probably scary with the torrentian rain. We went to the same Irish bar for drinks again, and decided to get dinner at another hot dog stand, which was this time amazing with a multitude of toppings including crisps, potato salad, and all types of sauces. Obviously the dinner wasn't big enough for us so we returned to the Irish bar for another one. Luke had another breakfast but Katie decided to sample the creamy chicken pie with mash and gravy. The food was amazing but about twice the price of any other food in Quito. We had planned to go on a downhill mountain bike ride at Cotapaxi volcano the following day but had been unable to book onto it. Therefore we decided we would spend the following day in the old town, as well as trying to find somewhere we could book the trip for the next day.
We woke up at six am the following day as we had so many disturbances in the dorm. The Irish guy had brought a girl back and another guy was snoring and farting, and an alarm was going off
for ages. It was Sunday so we weren't thrilled to be getting up that early as we were told that a lot of places would be closed, and this was true. We stepped out of the door and every street in the Mariscal was closed, and surprisingly the whole town seemed to be riding around on bicycles. We felt completely left out but continued to catch a bus into the old town. In the old town the atmosphere was buzzing despite the fact that it was just gone 8 o clock in the morning. There were so many bikes around we were continuosly dodging them, and there was live entertainment going on in the main plaza and outside the San Francisco Church. There were marching bands and hundreds of school children in uniforms who seemed to be competing for something but we couldn't work out what. We asked the receptionist when we returned to the hostel but he said it was the same every Sunday. We also walked up to see the Basilica which was huge and really impressive. The whole of Quito is really hilly and we were really tired by lunchtime.
In the afternoon we made en
executive decision that we would spend a few nights in an eco-lodge hostel at the foot of the Cotopaxi volcano. That way we would be able to do some horse riding as well as the bike ride, and we would get to stay in the middle of the Ecuadorian countryside. We decided to stay at the Secret Garden, which had a partner hostel in Quito that ran transport door to door every other day, starting Monday. We headed out to the Secret Garden in Quito to book our stay for the following day, and were really excited when we saw the pictures of the place we would be staying. As it was a lodge in the complete middle of nowhere, all food would be included in our stay. We did not know how good it would be, and as we were going to be away for Katie's birthday, we decided to treat ourselves to a good meal on our last night in the city. After dinner we went back to the hostel to get another early night as we would have to get up early for our transfer to the volcano.
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