Quito

Quito was the bread in our Galapagos sandwich. We had a day to wander around and for me to find a few more summery things before we headed off to the islands. We were in the city when Ecuador was playing Peru for the World Cup qualifier and the city was a sea of yellow. It was incredible how many passionate supporters there were.

After Galapagos, we had a few more days to get out land legs back before heading onto to Colombia. As with any major city, we decided to go on a walking tour in the historic part of the city. We were staying in the newer part where all the restaurants and bars were, so it was a good way to see the rest of the city. While we were waiting for the walking tour outside a hostel, we had the police approach us and tell us that we should be a bit careful around this area of old town. It was right near the markets and apparently wasn’t the safest part either. We waited inside the hostel for the tour to start then. I mean it is one thing for a local to say it, but when the police warn you, we felt like you should listen.

Ecuador’s main industry is oil (which explains why there were so many US products everywhere). It was amazing after Bolivia and Peru to go into a supermarket and have a whole selection of brands that you know. I was a bit excited about the array of shampoos and conditioners. The presence of oil also explains why the US has been known to influence elections in the past. And with any other major city in South America, Ecuador has seen its fair share of coups. It seems like they have a bit more stability now and the people have high hopes for the recently elected president but that might change at any moment.

We explored a few churches including Compañía de Jesús. The church is covered in gold. It was a spectacular sight. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any photos of the interior. It was very beautiful though.

I was keen to get a bit of souvenir shopping done so we booked a tour to the Otavalo markets, located about one hour and a half away from Quito. The tour also took in the Equator line and a few other spots. With any tour, you always want to see who the guide is as that defines how the tour will be. Unfortunately, the guide we had wasn’t the best. I think he was hungover and he was also super sleazy with all the female traveller. I thought I could avoid this being with Dave, but that didn’t stop the guide. I think it made a lot of people uncomfortable. I definitely tried to keep my distance.

Our first stop was for breakfast. We were going to try a traditional snack/breakfast in Cayambe, bizcochos. Bizcochos are savoury biscuits where you traditionally serve them with cheese and dulce de leche. The cheese is wrapped in a banana leaf and is called queso de hoja. You take the biscuit, add some cheese, dulce de leche and then eat it. I am not going to lie, it was pretty gross. Individually it was tasty but the combination of dairy, sweet and savoury was just too much for my taste buds. The restaurant was packed with locals though so it must be a favourite.

Next on the agenda was a stop at the equator. It wasn’t the cheesy museum stop but I appreciated it much more. We learnt more about the equator and how the Incas discovered the change in the path of the sun throughout the year and used marks of the land to show important dates.

After the equator, we got off at a lovely viewpoint. We learnt more about the Panama hat, which was actually first made in Ecuador. And we were also given the opportunity to try them on. When I took Dave’s photo, he looked like Van Gogh’s self-portrait with a straw hat.

In the same area, we came across an enterprising young man who had 2 llamas and would allow tourists to take photos with them for a tip. He usually leaves them in the area overnight so he doesn’t have to take them back to his house every day. Unfortunately for his llamas, they were shaved and their wool stolen late one night. The white llama was the most disgruntled llama I think we have ever seen.

After a short bus ride, we were let loose on Otavalo markets. These are massive and take place on a Saturday. They have everything touristy – all the souvenirs you could possibly want. Traditional jewellery to ward off bad spirits, beautifully embroidered tablecloths, runners and clothing plus so much more. It was a bit overwhelming but interesting to see what was on offer. While we were wandering, we were approached by 3 young women who asked for our assistance with their university work. It required us being interviewed in English and filmed so that they can be assessed on their skills. I’m sure our videos will be shown to students for years to come.

We had a quick stop and walk around a lake and then we were onto our last stop of the day, Cotacachi, known for its leather goods. They did have a lot of leather shops and I found some amazing things to buy.  However, the thought of carrying them all the way through our trip was motivation enough to save my pennies.

After so long on the boat in the Galapagos, we decided we were due for a night out. We wandered over to Foch Square and the main area for bars and restaurants. We decided to have dinner at Cervecería Camino del SOL, a ‘craft beer’ bar in the square. We had chicken wings and they underdelivered. They had no flavour, were tiny and were ridiculously expensive. Ecuador uses the US dollar and we were used to cheap good food in Peru so it was a bit of a shock. The beer was good though.

After a somewhat disappointing dinner, I wanted to take Dave to a reggaetón bar but all the clubs were checking ID and since we haven’t needed to show ID in any other country neither of us brought our passports with us.  That was the end of a very thrilling night.

On our final day in Quito, we went in search of good coffee. We found a place, not too far from our Airbnb and it was amazing. They roast their own coffee and have a variety of different brewing methods to choose from. We shared an espresso, cappuccino and Chemex filter. This was the first coffee that reminded me of good coffee back home. It was delicious, I just wished we had gone there earlier in our stay so that we could have visited a few more times. But we were off to San Andres, Colombia the next day so we just had to hold onto the memory.

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