Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ecuador 2008 Part 1

It was a long day getting to Quito, Ecuador from Saskatoon, Canada. We were up about 3 am after not much sleep to catch an early flight to Calgary where we went through customs and grabbed a latte. Then to Houston. The sun was just coming up as we left Calgary and I took about a hundred pictures of the fantastic views (partly due to "new camera" syndrome). Late lunch in Houston and then the last leg to Quito. No views this time as it was cloudy and then got dark. Arrived in Quito with, thankfully, all our bags, cleared customs and caught a taxi to our hotel, arriving about midnight (11 am our time) - a 20 hour day.

The hotel isn't obvious from the street, just a big double door and small windows. Luckily the taxi driver knew where it was. It was all dark and closed when we arrived, but they opened up as soon as we pulled up.

I was a little nervous about our reservation. When I originally contacted them they said they had no rooms. But then I found I could book the hotel through a German travel site ( for half the price. It seemed almost too good to be true but seemed legitimate. And it worked - the hotel had our room waiting for us. Even an upstairs room as I had requested based on recommendations on the internet. A little bizarre booking a hotel in Quito, Ecuador from Saskatoon, Canada via a web site in Germany!

The hotel is beautiful inside - the rooms are around two large courtyards with glass roofs. Our room was two levels - a living room with a desk on the main floor and a spiral staircase to the second floor with the bedroom and bathroom. Even chocolates on the pillows! The staff all seem to speak quite a bit of English and have been very friendly and helpful.

I have been trying to use my very small amounts of Spanish with mixed results. Our room number is 203. The first time I asked for it I said "dos cien" - wrong. Next time I was closer with "dos cientos y tres", although even then they couldn't understand my pronunciation. Finally I got it more or less right with "doscientos tres" and was rewarded with the room key instead of a blank look.

Shelley is pretty excited to be here. It's been a long time (2004) since she's been on a longer trip and Quito is reminiscent of our other trips to developing countries. Crowded cities, small run down taxis that rattle as they drive over cobblestones and potholes, black smelly exhaust fumes coming out of many vehicles, jammed like sardines on the local buses, not understanding the local language, guessing at what you're getting for lunch based on the one word in the menu description that you understand . . . it's awesome! At least no one has offered us guinea pig yet! (Supposedly a local specialty, although I suspect that the "specialty" is shocking tourists.) It's also nice that, unlike Kathmandu, the locals aren't harassing us all the time to buy tiger balm or miniature violins!

Yesterday, we started our first day by walking along "La Ronda", an old narrow street with interesting buildings. Then we took a taxi up to La Virgin del Panecillo which is up on a high hill with fantastic 360 views of Quito. Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy so couldn't see Cotopaxi and some of the other mountains that are visible on a clear day. Went to Pim's where we could continue to enjoy the great views while we enjoyed a glass of wine with our lunch. (We know how to "rough" it!) We both got slightly sunburned despite it being mostly cloudy and despite saying at one point "we should put on some sun screen". You'd think after this many years we'd learn to put sunscreen on regardless when we're up high. (Quito is at roughly 10,000 feet.)

We're ready to go climbing now. There's a grocery store right beside the hotel so that was easy. We got fuel canisters for our camping stove at a climbing shop, some good cheese and bread from a deli & bakery. Of course it seems like we've got way too much stuff! We're hoping we can just leave Quito for the next couple weeks and move from mountain to mountain without too much trouble. Negotiating the local buses will be "interesting" to say the least. But when it's only a dollar or two per bus ride, one can hardly complain too much!

(Click on the slide show to view a larger version.)

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