Into the Ecuadorian mainland – Quito

So I flew out from Galapagos on a beautifully clear day and was lookng forward to arriving in Quito having not really experienced the proper Ecuadorian culture in Galapagos; instead a kind of mish-mash of cultures being: conservation, scientific, touristic, local Galapagos and a smidgen of Ecuadorian. The flight over was probably one of the most scenic I had experienced, first leaving the jutting islands of the Galapagos behind, then when rejoining the main land coming across the sky-scaping snow covered peaks of the Northern Andes and finally coming down in the valley of Quito where the valley-sides are at eye level for quite a while which gives the impression of coming down to land in the Grand Canyon or something. To top the flight off we came in above the Olympic stadium where the World Cup qualifier between Ecuador and Peru just happened to be being played! (Ecuador won 2-0 which meant a warm welcome).

Cotapaxi mountain (5,897m) from the plane window:

Olympic stadium packed to the rafters with crazed Ecuadorian fans:

I only spent a few days in Quito; the expectation of getting into Colombia motivation enough for me to move on. During my stay I generally relaxed and strolled around the town which was suitable after the sensory (and financial!) extravangances of the Galapagos. I had underestimated the size of Quito, which is massive – a huge oblong city which lies in the valley bottom.

Cheap food in Quito.  This Almeurzo (lunch menu) cost me about a £1 which included: soup; chicken, rice and veg; a plate of popcorn (already polished that off in the pic); a slice of papaya; and some unknown warm spiced apple puree-like drink.

Quitonians seemed to be really friendly and plesant people and their passion was evident when a local team was playing in the equivelent of the quarter finals of the European cup for South America and EVERYBODY was in a local restaurant/bar/hairdresser/internet cafe – wherever had a TV, to get behind the team and go mental when they went through.

The city itself has some great colonial architecture (honestly not bored of colonical architecture yet ;)) and some cool museums. I probably had my best museum experience ever at the Ecuadorian Independence Museum. I walked in and asked if the museum had English text on the exhibits – “No” was the response. “Oh well” I thought, maybe try a different museum, but before I could leave the lady behind the counter said that if I didn’t mind her poor English she could take me round and explain what was going on. “Nice” I thought, “But what’s the cost?” I asked. “Just the entrance fee of $1, the tour is gratis”. So for the next two hours [I can’t for the life of me remember her name] took me around the museum explaining things in depth and entertaining my probing questions!  Just an example of how people in this continent can be so friendly and accommodating to foreigners.

Quito is famous for it’s pleasing colonial architecture:

Also impressive form above:

I had been warned about the safety issues of the city, being told that if I was going to be robbed anywhere in South America this would be the place, largely because the police presence and tourist protection was not the same as other places. I had been told by someone, whose story couldn’t be verified, that one particularly reckless/unlucky tourist had been mugged 5 times and on the fifth the muggers whipped his eye out with a switch blade! Not the best thing to be informed about before you arrive! Luckily I wasn’t a victim during my stay but I was constantly on my guard which detracts from the enjoyment of a place.

The timescale I had set myself for the whole trip began to be evident during my stay in Ecuador; and I had to skip some places I would have liked to have visited, such as Banos – a mountain adventure resort, and Montanita – a very popular backpacker beachside resort on the Pacific coast. But instead I left for Colombia, which was not the simplest of journeys – a taxi, 2 local buses and a long distance bus got me to the Ecuadorian border town of Tulcán, a taxi to the border, passports stamped, another collectivo taxi (shared) on the Colombian town and a long distance bus got me as far as I could go in a day to the Colombian town of Pasto.

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