Okay, guys, be excited. After 3.5 years of planning, saving, debating, and salivating (figuratively) over the adventures to be had on the South American continent, a few things happened in the last month:
(1) The Other Half and I are graduated and moving on to Real World Things across the Continental Divide (Yay!),
(2) We finally got to go on our honeymoon/graduation/adventure thing in Ecuador (Spoiler: It was AMAZING), and
(3) We just packed everything up in the house, including all of our fur- and scale-kids, and are moving west this week. Cross your fingers we don’t have any flat tires, floods, or otherwise on the trip out there.
So, in honor of the changes we are about to see in our lives, you get a change in writing style (hopefully you’re throwing your hands in the air in surprise and not exasperation). Over the next several weeks (maybe longer) I’ll be posting narrative journal-style entries and a small portion of the 15,000 pictures we took while we were on our trip. And no, that’s totally not excessive. So there.
Palabra del día: pasanjeros, Conexión
Our arrival in Quito is heralded by rain. We reach Customs and Immigration and are waved through without much talk, as the agents are tired. During the hour-long drive to the hostal, our taxi driver points out sites we can barely see in the darkness. We dutifully look out the window through bleary, sleep-deprived eyes, but we are only able to see the road graffiti and the empty eyes of building windows through the wet tracks sliding across the windows. We shiver as the air conditioner blasts to keep the fog off the front windows, and bid the driver goodnight before stepping into our destination. The manager, friendly but tired as well, tells us to check in in the morning and shows us to our room. It isn’t clean, but there are no insects. It will do for the few hours we are going to spend there overnight.
The next morning, cries of “Conexión!” wake us. The woman’s scratchy voice rises from the market at sunrise before rolling around the corners, through the windows, and into our room to advertise the local paper. We briefly wonder whether she is advertising rabbit (“conejo”) before muzzily rolling out of bed and dressing.
We wander down the street, guided only by intuition and the siren song of the market. The local market is in full force, with fresh lychees and tree tomatoes vying for space with naranjilla, tomato, large carrots, and onions. We walk across the street to find breakfast (2 bottles of water and 2 large, flaky crescent rolls with the local white farm cheese for $1.10) and discuss our plans for the day while we eat in the theater district. Several police officers are trading stories nearby, and mothers with young children rush by with tulip bouquets for their relatives.
We enjoy the warmth of the sun on our faces before making the steep uphill climb to the Parque Itchimbia, a large green space with walking trails situated on the top of a hill overlooking the city. We take advantage of private stairs and terraces as we surreptitiously look for our next night’s hotel. We are unsuccessful and stop to rest at the panoramic vista that opens before us as we reach the park, broken only by telephone poles.
Slowly meandering the park, we watch small children and dogs cavorting through the muddy grass, doting parents picking at breakfast breads. Birds flit through the trees, and we see our first hummingbird: a black-tailed trainbearer.
The first of many we will see, the small birds flit around the red-flowered brush before softly landing nearby to regard us. My mouth waters as we walk by vendors of grilled plantains and a small hotdog cart, but our hunger is tempered by the sight of them pulling water out of a hose. We head back downhill and nearer the more modern part of the city, stopping to order a hamburger at a fast food place called Caravana.
It is here that I learn that ‘hamburgers’ in Ecuador are usually more like ‘questionable meat patties.’ After describing the flavor to my father, we are stuck at an impasse as to whether it was some strange sausage or horse that I inadvertently tried. I tell the Other Half that I would rather not eat the green, spiced patty, and instead have french fries on a bun for lunch. We also decide not to try any green eggs and ham we may happen upon. Our lunch is interrupted by a man on a bike who walks in and demands money from the Other Half before being chased out by the manager for harassing customers. We decide to stick to local restaurants after the experience.
We have to request help from the hostal to find the address for the hotel where we’re meeting our Galapagos tour group. The address listed on Google Maps was five blocks short of our destination, but we decide to walk it anyway.
The Hotel Mansión del Angel is as different from our hostal as night is to day. On our arrival, we are greeted with chocolate-scented washcloths for our hands and stemware containing fresh naranjilla juice. Soft-voiced staff take our bags to our room for us. After checking into our room, we open the door to find what was inexcusably the best bathroom we will see during our time in Ecuador. No, really, there are rose petals in the toilet bowl.
We are tired and footsore after our first day at high altitude, so we decide to stay in for dinner. The hotel’s restaurant serves us warm asparagus soup and locra, a delicious local potato soup with some variation of avocado, farm cheese, and corn nuts. Two other couples quietly converse at a table nearby. For dessert, we each get a half baked apple filled with raisins and coconut and a scoop of sweet guava-ginger sherbet layered carefully over a candied hibiscus leaf, with strawberries and chocolate wafer artfully fanned around the dish. A dash of lemon liquor finishes the meal. It is delicious.
Exhausted, we retire to our room, ready to wake up the next morning to meet the rest of our tour group.