Arriving in Ecuador I didn’t quite know what to expect. It’s the first time setting foot on south american soil.
Well, the first impression was of a very friendly and talkative taxi driver who picked me up from the airport. He was proud of his country and happy with his job and his income (!!!) – a reply you don’t get too often in this world! Someone being content and saying they do have enough. Strange place…
I stayed in the old town of Quito at 2800m, which was interesting for it’s many churches and colonial architecture, but there isn’t much else to do. One can go up the El Panecillo, a lookout hill (the view is great!) and from there catch a local bus (40 cents) to the “Centre of the World”, a monument right on the Equator at 0 latitude. That is fun, although I found the bus ride more exciting, as several people get on and off selling stuff and in my case, a comedian. This guy started with his stand-up routine and soon found the only gringo on the bus – me! He obviously took the piss out and we all had a good laugh at my expense. He then asked everybody for some loose change and that’s how he makes his living. It was really good fun.
The day after I ventured up the Pichincha volcano, accessible by cable car from north Quito. The cable car climbs to 4000m and the summit lies at over 4700m, definitely the highest I’d ever been. The views are absolutely amazing but the air soon becomes very thin and one gets out of breath very quickly. I managed to climb to about 4500m and I was done. My rib cage felt way too small and every five steps I had to stop and catch my breath, so I called it a climb and went back down, which was just as well since it started pouring down as soon as I got back to the cable car station. Anyway, it was well worth the effort for the views alone.
From Quito I went east to Tena in the Amazon basin. I was expecting a touristy, polished jungle adventure town but it turned out to be a gritty and dusty town, with dirty streets and a high percentage of indigenous people. I did not see many foreigners at all and I really liked it! The Tena Naui Hostel, where I stayed, had this magnificent view over the town and the andean foothills raising behind it. I got a local Quechua guide to take me out into the jungle bug-hunting one night and it was quite spectacular! Some crazy bugs around there, not to speak of the several Pinktoed Tarantulas that live in the Hostel and come out at night. Totally my kind of place!
Baños (de Água Santa) was the next stop. Pretty touristy place with souvenir shops and travel agencies lining the streets but the setting, once again is pretty spectacular. Nestled among andean mountains and an active volcano, the Tungurahua, it stretches along the valley at about 1800m.
Next stop will be the coast at Montañita via Guayaquil.