Thursday, November 5, 2015

Getting High In Quito.......At 10,000 Feet With Plenty Of Hills....

After our house sit was done we headed into the big city of Quito for more fun and adventures.  Just getting there was quite an adventure as we used a shared transport service from Ambato. Our driver showed up late with one other passenger and then had to go across town to pick up another.  The tiny car was rather stuffed with us and one other passenger in the back and one in the front with the driver.
For the first time we were overheated as the driver had the heat blasting full force and I had to peel off some layers of clothing. The ride was long and tiring and took well over two hours by the time we finally left Ambato.

Thankfully, we were the first to be dropped off in the "centro historico" part of the city right in front of our hotel. Clyde booked a room for the night at, "Hotel Boutique Plaza Sucre," for around $65.  The ornately decorated hotel was just lovely and situated right in the middle of the historic district of Quito. While the room was small it was nicely decorated and featured large windows that looked out onto an inside catwalk overlooking the lobby. We took advantage of some free coffee before chilling out for the night in our cozy room. Clyde was rather eager to indulge in a steaming hot shower since our house sit shower was less than wonderful. We both warmed up in the shower before settling in for the evening after a long day.

Entrance To Hotel


Free Coffee And Tea
 
 


The next morning we enjoyed a free hotel breakfast that included a choice of meats and cheeses, cereal, eggs, toast and fruit. Our plan for the day was to take a bus to the town of Cotacachi to visit some friends of a friend.  The story started when we told our friend Daniel here in Panama that we were doing this house sit and would spend a few days in Quito before coming back here. He said, "you just have to meet my friends John and Vicki that moved to Cotacachi from Santa Fe, New Mexico."  So we connected via email and they graciously invited us, two strangers to come visit and spend the night.

We Had The Breakfast Room All To Ourselves

Breakfast Buffet


 
Our First View Of Quito From Hotel
 
 


That morning we left our hotel around 10 am and took a taxi to the bus station that was way across the other side of Quito.  The city of Quito is HUGE with millions of people and plenty of traffic so the ride took about 45-minutes.  We made our way through the overly crowded bus station to buy tickets for our journey to Cotacachi.  Clyde asked a nearby policeman where the line was to buy tickets and he pointed WAY over there! No kidding there must have been hundreds of people lined up trying to go to the same place that we were. Just then a man nearby said, "Taxi....Cotacachi?" I asked, "cuantas," or how much and he said, "$20," so we jumped on it.  He did explain that he would have to get a total of 4 people to make the trip worth while for him which was ok with us.  He showed us the way to his car where a young Ecuadorian man was smoking a cigarette before going with us.  A while later he returned with a middle aged man who was along coming along.

Being the short one I was put in the back seat squashed in between Clyde and the middle aged man.  Turns out that he was visiting Ecuador on business from Costa Rica and was sightseeing in his spare time.  The younger man in the front seat was from a town near Cotacachi and was headed home after spending time in Quito.  For some reason friendly Clyde was actually quiet and it was me that was doing all the talking with the two men and the driver.  Our Spanish teacher Jasmine would have been proud to hear me chatting up a storm in Spanish to the men, apologizing on occasion for not speaking it perfectly.  After a while we discovered that the Costa Rican man spoke some English but was reluctant to do so.  I tried to continue with the Spanish conversation so that all could be involved but when I'd get lost the man that spoke English could explain what was being said.  Clyde had picked up some snacks before leaving the bus station so we passed them around for all to enjoy.  A bag of chips and cookies made for a light snack to hold us over until we could eat a late lunch later on.

Our driver took us past gorgeous mountain vistas some topped with snow, a large lake and tons of flower nurseries.  I had no idea that a country so chilly could produce such a beautiful variety of flowers for exportation.  Around the streets throughout the country vendors are peddling flowers for $1-$3.  Roses can be had for just $1 per rose and even less if you want the whole dozen. We exited the car in Cotacachi around 2pm and introduced ourselves to our new friends. John and Vicki are renting a lovely Mediterranean style condo for just $625 per month which they admit is expensive for the area. 

We absolutely loved the city of Cotacachi and could easily live there.  The town is packed with indigenous people that sell their wares in markets.  Everything from flowers, produce, meats, fish, chicken, crafts, furniture, paintings, grains, spices and more can be found for very reasonable prices. And there's a large expat community making it easy to find friends too.

New Friends John and Vicki
 


Our first night was spent wandering the community before settling in for some dinner at a cute little restaurant.  Clyde and I choose a to share a pizza that was loaded with all sorts of things.  After that we went to hang out at an expat bar to listen to some jazz music. With so many expats around they're teaching the local kids about our silly tradition of dressing up for Halloween. An expat man from Italy was out trick-or-treating with some local kids teaching them how to get free candy.

Ecuadorian Kids And Expat Man Trick Or Treating
 
Snow Capped Volcano
 


Jazz Band At Expat Bar

Expats Celebrate Halloween In Cotacachi

Nobody Knew Who That Mean Looking Guy Was At The Bar
 


While Latin American countries don't celebrate Halloween they do celebrate, "Dia de los Muertos," or "Dia de Difuntes," Day of the Dead or in Ecuador Day of the Deceased.  And although this might sound morbid or strange to us North Americans it's rather normal to them.  Day of the Deceased is a major holiday in Ecuador when families gather at the cemetery to eat, drink and remember loved ones that have passed away.

They Put Bones Into This Apparently

Indigenous People Selling Things On Streets

Indigenous Woman
 


During our last day in Cotacachi our wonderful hosts showed us a large market and then a trip to a local cemetery was in order. Family plots went from the massively grand to the tiniest yet all were meticulously cared for.  We saw families washing headstones, painting inscriptions, placing flowers and other trinkets at the graves of loved ones. We noticed a large brick oven in the center of the park and I asked a nearby local woman what it was for.  She explained that it was for bones so I asked if it was for cremation and she said, "yes." Strange we thought, but a different way of doing things.

Large Market

Selling Produce


Plenty Of Yarn For Sale

Most Of Ecuador's Population Is Indigenous

 

Tons Of Flowers


 


Back in the center of town we sat on a park bench listening to music being played in front of a nearby church. Just then the church bells started to ring and hoards of people exited the church.  They processed through the street headed toward the cemetery holding photos and remembrances of their loved ones.

Procession To Cemetery From Church





We met up with a husband and wife editorial team that work for International Living for lunch. I met Suzan and Dan the first time I spoke for International Living at their Fast Track To Panama Conference in Panama City.  We've kept in touch via email and managed to catch them in between their travels.

Suzan Haskins And Dan Prescher From International Living After Having Lunch
 
 


Back at John and Vicki's place we picked up our luggage and jumped into a taxi headed to Otavalo.   There we would pay for our bus ride back to Quito, a rather uneventful ride that got us there in under two hours.  Quito was packed as it was a holiday weekend and although we found a taxi to take us to the historical part of town our taxi could only take us so far.  We had to walk a short distance to where we'd spend the next few days. 

The Neighbors Pigs


Vendor Selling Ice Cream




This would be our first time in a hostel called "Mia Leticia." The young man that managed the place was quick to respond to our needs and answer any questions.  Our private room with a bath had one full sized bed along with one twin bed. It was decorated cutsy with a vintage wardrobe, desk and chair but lacked updating.  The décor was SO old that the design was literally worn off of the carpet and the towels had a few holes in them. And the room featured a large window that opened up to an inside hallway with a clear view of the lobby and front desk.  Yet the window did not lock and was large enough for a person to climb through which worried me.  We expressed our concern about safety to the manager and he assured us that cameras were all around and that our things would be safe.

Plaza In Quito

Every Plaza Needs Some Pigeons


 Local Woman Carrying And Pulling Barrels
 
The Garbage Truck Had A Wire Connected To An Assembly That Lifted These Recycle Bins With Extra Storage To Go Underground......These Were Half Way Up And We Just Happened To Be Walking By And Caught This Happening

These Are At Street Level And What The Public Sees
 


We left to find some dinner but not much was open due to the holiday. Nearby we found a cheap restaurant that insisted they were out of food.  Another fast food type of restaurant was nearby where I ordered a hotdog and drink.  It came with crushed potato chips on top and they had no mustard just ketchup and mayo as toppings.  But it cost around $2 so I ate it and shut up. Clyde ordered a hamburger plate that came bunless with fries and a salad.  He said the meat tasted lousy but also ate it and was content. We headed back to the hostel for the night to relax.  Tomorrow would be another long day of adventures in Quito......along the gringo trail.











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