December 1, 2012 by jiejie768
For the first time in our three months in South America, we have left Peru. It is also the first “vacation-y” trip we’ve taken. I realize a lot of you reading this have just gritted your teeth and thought, “You’re on a year-long vacation from life, A-holes!” But all of our time so far has been spent in either Ayacucho, which, as I wrote a week or so ago, feels a lot like home, or Lima, which has it’s perks, but those perks are American groceries and a movie theater; it’s not really a vacation spot, more like a four-day shopping trip.
That all changed on Sunday as Meg and I, law-abiding citizens that we are, needed to fly the coop (or Peru) in order to renew our 90-day visas and continue living legally in Ayacucho. Ecuador, being both outside of Peru and home to Stephen, an Ecuadorian exchange student who Meg coached in track last year and had promised to visit on our first trip outside the country, seemed like the ideal place in which to accomplish such a thing. So it was that we touched down in Quito at 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning after having left our hotel in Lima (following a one-day stopover) at 2 a.m. (AGAIN! Has no one in South American heard of a mid-day flight). Road(air?)-weary and bleary-eyed we caught a cab to the hostel without knowing quite what to expect from our lodging or our new home for the following three days. Suffice it to say we were pleased with both.
The hostel we stayed at is called the Secret Garden and earned five-stars from me rather quickly. The room wasn’t anything special but it had comfortable beds, an en-suite bathroom and hot(ish) water in the shower. Where the place really earned it’s stripes, however, was the roof-top cafe bar where one can enjoy nightly dinners (less than $5 per person), made-to-order breakfast (even cheaper), bottomless coffee throughout the day and full-service bar everyday but Sunday (Ecuadorian law). Oh, yeah, and a sweeping view of Quito’s historical center and stunningly gorgeous basilica as they run up against the surrounding Andes Mountains which reach toward the skies draped in rich, green vegetation — Quito sits at about 10,000 feet and mountains on all sides reach upwards of 15,000 feet.
Our first endeavor upon arriving took us on a quick trip through the center and to the doorstep of the aforementioned basilica where we encountered some fellow Washingtonians (from Bow, Bellingham and Stanwood…one of them actually knows Meg’s mom’s college roommate who lives in Bow).
Quito is not flat and we had eaten very little since the early hours of the day, so despite a dinner reservation at the Hostel only two hours later, we ducked into a nearby Chifa (Chinese food) restaurant and gorged ourselves on a heaping pile of fried rice and french fries — a combination of cuisines sadly lacking the United States. I even washed it down with the first Diet Coke I had enjoyed in ages (OK, I had one in Ayacucho like a week ago, but before that I hadn’t seen one since leaving the States). After settling the check, which was a very palatable $5, we made our way back to the hostel for quick nap before dinner on the roof.
This seems like a good time to mention that, for whatever reason, Ecuador uses the United States dollar as its currency. They have made up their own versions of quarters and 50-cent pieces, but the rest of the bills are good ol’ greenbacks featuring familiar faces such as Honest Abe and No-nickname Andrew Jackson. The prices, however, are usually much, much cheaper than you’d find in the US, or even Peru for that matter, meaning that a single dollar can still buy you something of value, you just have to spend hundreds of them to get to Ecuador first.
Given our long day of travel, we crashed early Sunday in anticipation of a journey to the Middle of the Earth (Mitad del Mundo) the following day. More on that tomorrow…