The sun set over Miami, and when it rose again, I was in Ecuador. Modern travel is fast, efficient, and…unromantic. I would have preferred to earn my entry into South America the old fashioned way, by walking, boating, or driving my van through Central America and into the Southern Hemisphere, but alas, a 5 hour flight is hard to turn down.
I checked into my first hostel near the historic city center of Quito. It was a nice hostel, a block off the main avenue, and I had a private room. The first thing I did was lace up my shoes and hit the streets. I always think the best way to get to know a new place is to get lost on foot. I walked the side streets, got a little lost, and stumbled into a local mercado where I bought my first Ecuadorian meal for $1.00. I sat by myself until a taxi driver asked to share my table so he could practice English and I could practice Spanish, my first Ecuadorian friend.
I spent the next few days running around the city for a few hours each morning, relaxing in the afternoons, and working in the evenings. A few days before skipping the states I had taken my client’s new website live, and I knew that I’d be spending the next few weeks fine tuning it. Luckily, the hostel had a great rooftop terrace where I could work past sunset with the glow of old town Quito keeping me company.
During my morning rambles around the city I was able to visit several cathedrals in the historic center, the national cemetery, metropolitan parks, see a herd of llamas, and run through a few neighborhoods that I probably didn’t belong in and most likely shouldn’t have been near.
One morning I took a $0.40 city bus to Mitad Del Mundo, the Middle of the World. This park is ‘near’ the Equator, not exactly on it, but it symbolically denotes the center of the earth. A bit touristy, but worth the trip. I accidentally took the wrong bus back to Quito and ended up on the other side of town, but it was an awesome opportunity to walk more of the city!
After a few days in my initial hostel I moved uptown to a new hostel. El Hostelito is a great place to stay in Quito and I spent the rest of my time in the capital sleeping in a pod! (Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about this place, if you are going to Quito, you gotta try it out!)
I joined a Alex from Alabama and Erlend from Norway for a ride up the Quito Teleferico (gondola) and a hike up to Rucu Pichincha, 4,698 meters above sea level. It was a rugged scrappy hike , including some steep dirt slopes and rock scrambling, but well worth the high elevation struggle. My meters to feet conversions are not on par yet though, so while on top of the mountain thought that we were around 14,000 feet. It wasn’t until we were back at the hostel that I learned that we had stood on the summit of an active volcano 15,413 feet above sea level, nearly 1,000 feet higher than I’ve climbed before!
The next few days I worked in the common rooms of the hostel, enjoyed the rooftop terrace, met travelers from around the world, and hung out with the volunteer staff. Each Sunday the city sponsors Ciclopaseo and shuts down Avenue Rio Amazonas for a 30 kilometer bike and pedestrian only party. I laced up my running shoes and jogged for 3 hours through the city, a great end to an amazing stay in Quito.
Monday morning I had breakfast at the hostel, packed my backpack, and said goodbye to my new friends. I hadn’t done everything that I’d wanted to do in Quito, but that’s okay. It’s a fantastic city and I plan to return someday. But for now, I wanted to ramble south!