After the comfort and tranquility of Colombian coaches, Ecuadorian buses and vendors were a bit of a shock to the system. The sheer quantity of food/drink/ice cream sellers boarding was absurd… I think I increased in weight on Ecuadorian buses alone. Further advice includes: don’t expect air-con or wifi and empty your bowels before departure..lest you wish to have a hasty toilet break at some remote stop, sweating and stressing about an imminent bus departure without you on board. 🙈
Arriving into the Quito bus terminal, taxis were thrown at us like an octopus trying to juggle but dodge these crafty salesmen – Quito has a great public transport system and at 25 cents a ride, the metro (read tram) can’t be beat.
Stepping off the platform and into the old town, Quito’s streets although busy, still retained their gothic air. Cobbles paved the way round brick corners and with the grandiose basilica and virgin statue (atop a dragon no less) towering over the city, there’s no escaping the ever seeming presence of..something. Not only that but at 3000m altitude, Quito is not a flat city and I was embarrassed to realise I was very out of breath after climbing the stairs to our hostel.
We did our usual upon arriving at any big city and booked on immediately to the morning city tour. Starting at the local food market, I would definitely say we started with the best part of this city. Brimming with all types of fruit, flavours, juices and cheap meals, it’s hard to go wrong here. Next stop the main square and Palacio de Carondelet where you can book a governmental tour for free (come before 5pm) before a stop in the secret garden where, sat cross legged on the floor I learned a bit more about all the political and economical indignations over the years that have led to the latest president refusing to live in his designated house. And we thought Brexit was a problem.
Mind still reeling from the dollarisation of the country, we planned for the coming days – a night out in La Ronda, Cotopaxi, a walk to the virgin view point, the Basilica and the Mitad del Mundo.
The view point is well worth it and is well policed. As with Cali however, safety concerns meant I didn’t take my phone but this short walk is beautiful and completely secure.
The basilica is breathtaking, an overarching structure complete with gargoyles and city views, it’s not to be missed. Travellers on a budget, take your pick as its $2 to go to the top of the tower or another $2 to enter the building itself. A sucker for panoramas, I embarked on the few hundred stairs to the top and drank in the view.
Mitad del Mundo aka World’s Centre is a touristy as it sounds but, as with going to the science museum, it’s as enjoyable. Finding the bus ourselves we pitched up at the large, ostentatious museum. Walking its exterior however and we entered our intended location, the orher centre of the world museum. For a quarter of the price we spent our afternoon learning about the indigenous tribes, balancing eggs on nails, watching water go down a drain and discovering I’m 10x stronger when stood on the equator. Amazing. Like a toddler inn a playground I took great delight in the natural magic around me and was reluctant to say goodbye to the shrunken heads and Wonder Woman Nicola I had to leave behind.
After a few days of enjoying Quito’s valleys and the day trip to Cotopaxi, I was ready for the next stop. A tad weak from some seriously bad food poisoning, we packed our bags and bid goodbye to the city, ready for the Quilotoa Loop!
Seconds to make count
- At 3000m high they boast about being the highest capital city, take a few days to adjust as altitude is a tricky beast.
- Just because it starts sunny doesn’t mean you don’t need a raincoat.
- Try the tuna soup aka cebollada which they claim can solve any hangover…