So since we left Medellin we have been exceptionally busy moving around. We took a flight from Medellin to Cali where we spent two nights. To be honest, Cali was our least favourite city from everywhere that we have been. We found it sort of dirty and really didn’t have the safest feeling there. Lucky for us it was just a stop-over on our way to Ecuador. For the next two days we were either on buses or in transit. Our journey looked like this: taxi to bus terminal in Cali, bus to Pasto (9hrs)- overnight stay in Pasto. The next morning we then took a taxi to the bus terminal, mini bus to Ipiales, another mini bus to the border, border crossing, taxi to the bus depot in Tulcan, bus to Quito and taxi to hotel.
So we packed our bags with granola bars, peanuts and apples which proved to be pointless as the bus stops for anyone and everyone. The amount of vendors that pile on a bus to sell you things is absolutely crazy. It was much worse in Ecuador than it was in Colombia. It felt like every 5 minutes we were picking up someone new to sell us on ice cream, fruit cups, or deep fried goodies. The funniest one was when we picked up a guy who was selling toothbrushes and toothbrush cases. He stood at the front of the bus pitching these products for nearly 5 minutes! Piet and I were shaking our heads in disbelief that this was going on when people can just as easily walk into a store and pick up the same products. What we found even more interesting was that a lot of their sales tactics revolved around handing out their products to every single person on the bus. Then they would pitch their product again and come back through either collecting the unwanted goods or if they were lucky enough collecting the money.
On our final bus towards Quito we were stopped at least 4 times by military or police to either search some bags, check for passports and identification or just random checks. The last stop was the most interesting when they pulled everyone off the bus and separated the men and women into two lines. The women had their bags searched while the men were given the pat down. It was pretty funny to see Piets eyes bug out when a military police officer started giving him the full body search. To say that we were exhausted when we arrived in Quito is a slight under sight.
We booked in at a new hostal called Casa Urbana in La Mariscal district which is a hub of coffee shops by day and bars and nightclubs by night. The owner Carolina is one of the most friendly and outgoing people we have met so far in our trip. She’s so sweet and her English is amazing! From the moment we arrived she couldn’t have been more helpful. She gave us a list of places to eat and visit as well as different ways to get around. They’ve got an awesome rooftop patio where people can go to relax and chill out. Not to mention it included breakfast which actually included an egg (something we’ve come to learn as a luxury in free hostal breakfasts). On top of that the bed we slept it was the most comfortable bed we have slept in since we left Canada! This hostel is extremely clean and modern which made us feel like we were back home for a couple days!
Piet and I had our mind made up that when we came to Quito we would have to see the Equator. How can you not? So instead of paying someone a lot of money to take us up there we decided to do it ourselves for a fraction of the cost. So we took a cheap cab ride to where the buses are supposed to pick you up (keep in mind our Spanish is still limited, very limited) so when I asked our driver to take us to the road where buses pick people up to go to “Mitad Del Mundo” I prayed he somewhat understands what I was asking. Well the cabbie brought us to the right road and dropped us off. Step one complete. So then we were standing where he dropped us off trying to flag down a bus when 3 buses flew right on by us. Hmmm ok we thought to ourselves we must be missing something so we started walking. Turns out the cabbie dropped us a good 10 minute walk from an actual designated bus stop! Why he would do this we will never know. So we get on this jam packed bus to ride it all the way to the top, a 55 minute bus ride, and it only cost us $0.40 cents American each.
Well we made it to the Equator and paid our entrance fee- did I mention we accidentally got tricked into buying dark “Middle Of The World” chocolate when we bought our tickets? Good thing it was delicious or we would have been a little more ticked off we paid $2.50 for it!! Anyway back to the actual historical site. It’s pretty cool to actually go up close and see the monument that commemorates the Equator. So we did what we usually do and snapped all the touristy photos we could on the line of the equator. We got really lucky that the weather was nice and sunny and that there weren’t too many other tourists around either.
Fun fact that Ecuadorians don’t like to share is that the site where they built themonument is not actually the real equator line. It was marked wrong way back in 1736 and was only discovered when GPS came out not so long ago. The official equator line isn’t far away but it’s not advertised or celebrated at all.
Our bus ride home proved to be a little more interesting. We got onbus that we assumed was going the opposite route as the one we took up but we were sorely wrong. It took us about halfway when all of a sudden it pulls into a large bus terminal in themiddle of Quito. Piet and I both looked at each other with a little bit of a “ugh oh” look. So we waited until everyone got off the bus and I went up to the driver and in my expert “Spanglish” I tried to ask how to get back to our hostal while holding up google maps to his face. I think he understood what I was looking for because he tried to explain to us in Spanish and when we still weren’t entirely sure he actually drove the bus up to where we should be trying to catch the next bus. We thanked him profusely and we loaded onto the next bus. This bus was packed full like sardines so we were watching our belongings extra carefully but it brought us back to our area of town we wanted to be in. And hey we ended up getting a real taste of what local transport is like in Quito.
When planning our trip to Ecuador we had heard not so many great things to say about Quito. We were told that it’s just an urban jungle and that its extremely unsafe most of the time. Honestly, we couldn’t disagree more. We both have said how impressed we were with the city and how we wish we had planned to stay a little longer as they’ve got all these up and coming areas that we have yet to explore and discover. The only area we really ended up exploring was around our neighborhood and Plaza Foch where all the restaurants and bars were. I think it's safe to say we'd like to come back and explore more of the city one day.
Next Stop: Banos