Quito, Lima and the Parasites
I arrived in Quito from Cusco, following three flights. The first two were passed without anything worth commenting on. Guayaquil airport is a modern, clean space. Both in Cusco and again in Guayaquil the police asked to examine my bags and so I was taken to a holding room where I had to unpack my bags, answer some questions in broken English, and hide my embarrassment as they manhandled my boxer shorts. Both times the officers were courteous enough, and I can only assume it’s because I’m the only ‘Gringo’ above six feet in height wandering around these airports.
The third flight, was a different story. The flight from Guayaquil to Quito is only short, 50 minutes or less, and we had made great time – arriving ten minutes ahead of schedule. As we began our descent into Quito, the turbulence began. We were thrown up and down, left to right, as we descended through the ceiling of clouds and into the mountains. The lower we got, the better I expected conditions to be. I was wrong. As we descended so did a thick mist, making conditions even worse. Just as we were low enough for me to see cars, and the tops of trees, and the airport runway, and smiling faces, the engines of the plane fired and we climbed aggressively above the clouds once again. At this point the pilot told us that the wind meant it was too hazardous to land, and we would circle the airport until it cleared. Twenty minutes later, we descended into Quito airport in what I can only describe as the worst landing of my life. Now, I’m not a nervous flyer – I’m taking 16 flights on this trip alone – but this was hideous.
Once I arrived in Quito I transferred to BoutiQuito, my hostel. Nestled in the affluent ‘Guápulo’ neighbourhood, I expected great things. I was sorely disappointed. This hostel is too far out of town, and whilst it’s clean and well designed, it lacks atmosphere. The staff are unhelpful, sometimes rude, and breakfast is expensive. Furthermore, their idea of a ‘Tourist’s City Tour’ is a middle aged taxi driver who doesn’t speak a word of English, who for the meagre price of $50 will take you to a number of sites, if you can direct him.
My first full day in Quito was spent visiting Cotopaxi National Park where we hoped to climb to the base camp on the Volcano. Unfortunately inclement conditions once again reared their ugly head, and not only could we not climb, we couldn’t even see the snow-capped Volcano, which boasts a height of 2m above Kilimanjaro. It was a real shame that I picked such poor timing, as the guide assured me that it was most unlikely to have such bad conditions on a full moon. Nevertheless, we hiked around Cotopaxi National Park enjoying the deep ravines caused by the melting of the glacier when the volcano erupted in the early 20th century. En route back to Quito we stopped for a meal at Hacienda La Cinega – a relic of the colonial Spanish rule – which has remained under the same family ownership for hundreds of years, and now serves as a hotel and restaurant – a beautiful setting, if not slightly off the beaten track.
My second day in Ecuador was spent roaming the Centro Historico, all basilicas and coffee shops and atmosphere. With the weather finally improved, I also enjoyed a trip to Mitad Del Mundo – the Equator! I spent some time here visiting the museum and taking photographs before taking lunch. I chose the only place with free wifi and had a hamburger. How I rue my decision. Since eating that lunch, I have had a stomach parasite which has been horrid, rendering the rest of my time in Quito, and the duration of my time in Lima pointless. If the awful landing in Quito hadn’t been enough for me to adopt my own brand of Nihilism, then the taxi rides definitely were. In Quito, it seems drivers use their horns as indicators, and passenger seatbelts are overrated. So when you’re in the backseat, being thrown around, the drivers flit from lane to lane without so much as a cursory glance over their shoulder, just a hit of the horn instead. And the traffic. In a city 45km long by 9km wide the traffic is of course, mental – rush hour is a no go, so I planned my days accordingly.
I took a flight from Quito to Guayaquil, before heading to Lima where I spent a few days convalescing in a hotel. Thankfully at the time of writing the stomach bug has lifted and I am awaiting my flight to Iguassu to see the waterfall. The local pharmacist certainly sorted me out, despite us not being able to communicate, and despite not providing me with a box for the medication she gave me. Huzzah.