Tuesday, December 29, 2009

1L in Quito

Robby and I arrived in Quito last night for our three-week Ecuadorian adventure. Though our flight from Miami to Quito was an hour late we managed to arrive at the hostel before midnight. The first thing I noticed in Quito was that taxi drivers sparingly stop at red lights. Our driver flew from the airport to Travellers Inn, our home base for our two nights in Quito. Robby and I were tired from the travel and didn't mind the bumpy ride and disregard for traffic rules.

Surprisingly, we were up and showered by 7:30 this morning. We both noticed the sun had been up for some time before we roused and were shocked to find it was still so early. We were eager to explore Quito and were out the door by 8:30 after a homemade breakfast of fresh fruit, juice, yogurt, and eggs at our hostel. $20/night for a private room and a fresh breakfast is a pretty good deal. The fruit is the freshest I've ever had since I'm closest to the source as I have ever been.

Just flying into Quito brings me to the highest altitude I have ever been at in my life. I think my hike to Mt. Washington in New Hampshire set the previous record. There are mountains to the west of the city that you can see from any point in Quito; they seem to loom over the city as protector or predator, always engulfed in clouds. The weather in the city was clear and warm, though breezy and fresh due to the altitude. We walked from our location in the New Town of Quito to the touristy Old Town. I was curious whether I would be affected by the change in elevation and the only thing I noticed was my sinuses were congested and Robby had a bit less energy than usual. But we were captivated by this new place and persevered to finish the walking tour we had set out to begin. I've never been in a city like Quito, never been in a Spanish-speaking place, never been to a modern city with such integrated poverty. The beautiful plazas and stone streets were abound with business people and tourists, and young children offering to shine your shoes and old women selling lottery tickets. In my one-day estimation, Quito is a city that is trying very hard. The public parks and plazas are plentiful and very well groomed and clean. But we are warned to take taxis after dark and ATM's are protected by armed guards.

When we finished our walk around New Town and Old Town we went out for seafood at a place recommended by Lonely Planet, about 5 blocks from our hostel. The ceviche, garlic shrimp, and cervezas added up to $16 and were incredibly tasty.

Tomorrow we will either go to Cotopaxi, the local volcano, or check out the art museums in Quito. Tomorrow night we are taking an overnight bus to Canoa, a beach town on the West Coast of Ecuador.

My Spanish is rusty but not terrible. My proudest moment today was at the pharmacy buying deodorant when I said, "no necessito bolsa, gracias." I'll continue working on my conversational Spanish and will continue with updates on our journey.

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