View from the Basilica del Voto Nacional @ Quito
As we drove through the outskirts of Quito, past “La Mitad del Mundo” the middle of the world monument, we caught a glimpse at the sheer size of the country’s capital. As the world’s second highest capital, just below La Paz, Quito sits at an impressive 2850meters above sea level, which made breathing, let alone walking, a new challenge for us.
We grabbed a taxi into the historic centre to our accomodation, Hostal Sisas. We knocked on the door and no one answered. We could see two tourists standing in the reception area so I knocked again, to have the female tourist hold her hand up at me. Next minute a lady dressed in nothing but a towel opened the door for us and we entered.
We sat and waited for our turn, while listening to the rude french tourists speaking with the woman about accomodation. They stormed out, and the woman approached us. It took a while, with our average Spanish and her flustered attention span of a gold fish, but we managed eventually to understand that the receptionist had gone out for the day, had asked her (who we much later found out she was a live in guest), to check us in but he had locked the reception that held all the keys. It took us AGES to understand all this, not just our very average level of Spanish and the fact she spoke at a million miles and your but mainly due to the fact she didn’t work there and didn’t explain anything in full.
Quito Streets @ Quito
The flustered woman had been trying to call him all morning with no answer, and this situation also explained why she was in just a towel. We told her to go get changed and we would sort something out afterwards. When she returned, she told us there was a room ready but without a key. We could store our bags in there until she was able to get into reception and let us in a room. Ten minutes later she said there was another room ready with a key, so we moved our bags. I straight away checked the room, doubting her ability to magically come up with a clean room. The mat of hair, blood stains and full toilet paper bin told me she had pulled the blankets straight on the bed and not much more. The place was a bit grim in general but it was only $15/night and was in the centre so we hadn’t expected much. I mean- we had expected to have a room and for someone to be working there but you know, maybe our expectations were too high! It wasn’t in a rough area it was just a typical downtown place with prostitutes and grim blokes hanging about.
Later that day we came back to the Hostal and the woman in the towel kept complaining about not being able to go get food as she had to stay in the hostal. We told her to go and we would look after the hotel, plus we could keep trying to contact the owners and booking.com ourselves as we had been now waiting for over a couple of hours. The whole hostel was filthy, and we were not impressed as the kitchen had pots with leftover food in and stank. In the meantime I tried to tie numerous objects I found together to poke through the window in reception and reach the keys. When that failed, surprisingly, I broke through a boarded up window into the room behind reception to find that the connecting door was also locked. We were basically left in charge of this hotel and Alice even a had to turn a few customers away! An hour later when towel lady returned, we left to find a cafe with wifi. Our bags were stored in a locked room, so we decided to leave it for a couple hours to see what would happen. We met up with some friends we had met in Minca in Colombia Josh and Phillipa for a well needed happy hour off the main square. We were asked to participate in yet another school project where we were filmed while these kids asked us rehearsed questions in English.
Jess MacGyver @ Hostal Sisas, Quito
We managed to find another number for the hostel on booking.com and finally got an answer from a lady named Ruth. Ruth was happy to hear from us until Alice gave her an earful of the 8 hours that had been the debacle at the hostel. We agreed to meet her back at the hostel within an hour. When we came, Ruth wasn’t there. She finally turned up at 8pm and was very apologetic. She had been at a family graduation all day and was appalled to hear what had been happening, let alone at the state of her hostel mess. She ended up giving us one night free, some graduation cake and discounted the other nights to $12 after Alice complained a lot. The place itself could be so great especially for the price it just needed a deep clean and to get better staff. Francisco, the absent receptionist, arrived about an hour after Ruth and spent the next two days with his head hung low. He made no eye contact with us, didn’t speak to us and sulked around like a scorned puppy. He did mop the same space of floor and water the plants about a hundred times though. Ruth said she had had enough of him to us, during her constant attempts to be our best friend over the next few days, almost overdoing the hospitality. We felt for her, we understood that mistakes happen and that this was her livelihood, but after the hundredth time of us reassuring her that we were happy and ok, she was relentless with the sob stories and neediness.
Eventually we ended up in a nice spacious room that for the price is an absolute steal. The hotel still had a really grim feeling and because it was so cheap there were young couples (literally couldn’t have been older than 18) and we could hear someone having sex opposite us but we never saw anyone. It had a real “bring your prostitution here, it’s almost kind of clean” vibe.
The following day we headed out to do some shopping for the Galapagos and to also drop the Canon lens to the repair shop for the second time in this trip, after it had stopped working in Panama. It had taken Alice so long to organise the lens repair, she finally found an offical Canon repair place on Facebook. So lucky!! We couldn’t find anything reliable or legit in Colombia.
Dog with Hat, Coat and Slippers @ Quito
During one of our tour agent visits, I jumped into an elevator and was waiting for Alice to follow. As Alice stepped onto the ancient elevator, the doors rammed closed with her in between. She was stuck there for at least five seconds before the doors let her go, I had started to believe the elevator might move with Alice stuck in the doors. It was hilarious! About an hour later the bruises on her arms started to form and all of her arms went green. I didn’t realise it had clamped her quite so hard!
We managed to buy a new snorkel for me as mine had broken and it would be so much cheaper here than renting or buying one in the Galapagos. For lunch we decided to join some locals on a street stalls selling small, medium and large portions of pork, choco (type of corn) and salad. One of the best, and cheapest, meals we had yet had in South America.
Our last tour agent stop was with Carpe DM, which was conveniently located underneath a hostel bar, well known for their happy hour and sweet roof terrace. After discussing a thousand cruise options with Consuela, our agent, we headed upstairs and met up with Adam, Bek (the Kiwi/Aussie couple we met in Mexico) and Phillipa and Josh. Needless to say a lot of beers were consumed that evening whilst we viewed the sunset over the cities skyline.
The next morning was grey and raining but we headed out to try to post all of our presents and souvenirs from Otavalo. Turns out, Alice’s six year old travel advice on postage was a tad off (to be fair she said t was cheap from Bolivia). We were quoted $170 USD for one 5kg box, even our post cards were $4 each!! I quickly looked up postage in Peru, and we decided that despite the weight it was a better option to carry everything through to Peru to save literally hundreds of dollars.
View From Secret Garden Rooftop Bar @ Quito
We dropped everything back to the hostel and followed a walking tour route on a tourist map throughout the city, viewing the beautiful churches, museums and local life. We had another local lunch where we were invited to sit with some local woman.
They warned us to keep our belongings close and safe as there was a lot of bag snatching and robberies around the streets. We did spend a large part of Quito just feeling a bit worried about being robbed but only because of what other tourists and locals had told us about Ecuador, not because the people were any less nice than usual. Also Quito is just not that nice. With full bellies, an ice cream and a bit more of a racing heart beat, we made our way through the rest of the beautiful city.
After another quick stop in to speak to Consuela about Galapagos cruises but she wasn’t there and we spoke to this useless woman who somehow quoted us even more for the cruises despite working for the same company. We reluctantly gave a coffee to the rubbish woman that we had bought for amazing Consuela but gave up on the cruise for now and headed to Basilica del Voto Nacional, a Román Catholic Church. This cathedral is the largest neo-gothic cathedral in the americas, so of course we decided to climb to the top for the views over Quito.
We made it up to what I thought was the top, then around a corner and up a spire led a tiny rickety metal ladder. I put one foot on it, and ten people appeared at the higher platform to come down, I swiftly decided I was not going up. There was also yet another even steeper ladder above the terrifying one so I was happy I stayed behind with my back glued against a wall. Alice said the views weren’t that great anyway, but I am pretty sure she lied. The views from the platform that my vertigo and I were stuck on were incredible.
Afterwards we headed back to Carpe DM to discuss our options again with Consuela and finally booked in our Galapagos cruise! A LOT poorer, but overly excited about our trip, we headed upstairs to meet Phillipa and Josh again to see out another sunset and Happy Hour.
We headed out the next day in a taxi to the terminal, and headed off in the direction of the cloud forests. We were off to Mindo for… you guessed it, another world premier bird watching area! I swear we’ve been to about a hundred of these but Alice somehow tricked me yet again
Quito from up high @ Quito