We’re back on the road again after resting our rucksacks in Montreal for a few months. Our first destination is Quito, the capital of Ecuador. After a long day of travel via Houston we land in Quito bang on midnight and have one of our smoothest international arrivals with minimal, fast moving queues through immigration, customs and bag collection. At arrivals there’s a lovely, little, smiling lady waiting for us and we’re whisked off to the airport hotel for some much needed sleep.
We rendezvous the next morning with Canberra friends, Janina and Brian, and after a super free brekkie we head into the city. Quito is situated up high, about 3000m above sea level which affords us breathtaking views of the city, surrounded by mountains on our drive in. We have a great Airbnb apartment with a lovely open courtyard right in the thick of the old town, a UNESCO world heritage area. After long flights the previous day and to adjust to the altitude we take it easy on our first day, exploring the streets of the old town. We find a great, little spot for a $2.50 set lunch including soup, chicken and rice and a glass of fresh melon juice! Refreshed, we take on the walk up the steep hill to El Panecillo, stopping every now and again to enjoy the views (and catch our breath!). The statue at the top of Mary taming a dragon divides the city between north and south, represents good triumphing over evil and is certainly very impressive.
We climb up to Mary’s head to enjoy the 360 degree views and are wowed by the sheer size of Quito which stretches on for miles.
That evening we head out to Calle La Ronda, a happening street full of restaurants, shops and vendors trying to hustle us into their establishment. We love the very friendly, jovial atmosphere and select a restaurant where we could sit out on the roof terrace and enjoy taking in the action below.
Mitch and Brian wasted no time acquainting themselves with the local delicacy of wood roasted ‘cuy’ (that’s Guinea pig to you and I!) I had avoided trying this a few years earlier when visiting Peru but as it was in front of me I had to have a sample. Fortunately for the Guinea pigs of Australia, it was not my cup of tea, quite fatty and chewy. The highlight for me was the empanada del viento al queso – a huge, puffy, cheese stuffed bread, slightly sweet but very tasty. As well as trying a nice local beer we had the specialty, ‘chica’ a fermented oat drink with fruit and sweet spices. Not to any of our tastes but not as bad as it sounds either!
A good night’s sleep set us up for a big day of exploring.
We started out at the teleferico where we took a steep, exhilarating ride on a cable car up to 4100 metres for an astounding view of Quito and the surrounds. We hiked a short way to a small peak which left us a little breathless, definitely still adjusting to the altitude. There we enjoyed watching a teeny, tiny mouse potter around balancing only on thick stems of grass!
We refuelled at the mercado centrale where we joined the locals for a cheap lunch of fritado, fried pork with rice, which was rather chewy but the potatoes were crispy and delicious! Washed down with a fresh coconut juice we were ready for our next activity, a trip to the equator!
We visited the Intinan museum where we had an excellent tour learning about Ecuadorean history, culture and of course, the science behind the equator. Mitch got a certificate for being the only person in our group able to balance an egg on the equator line! It was a really cool place to visit.
We ended our day back at La Ronda for more empanadas con queso, beers and a tasty Ecuadorean speciality – locra patata, a potato soup with cheese and avocado. It may not sound like the most appealing combination but it was really tasty.
We really enjoyed our few days in Quito, the people were friendly, the food was good and it really is beautiful with pretty, different coloured houses built up into the surrounding hillsides. We were only there because it’s a gateway to the Galápagos Islands but we’re pleased we took the time to stop over for a few days.