Next Stop: Quito

The next stop on my in-between-jobs vacation was… Ecuador! If you’ve ever been there, you know that’s how they say it too: Ecuador! There’s just no such place as plain old Ecuador.

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Fun fact: Ecuador’s official currency is the U.S. dollar. And you’ll be happy to know that it will get you pretty far – literally.

ecuador hotel 2When I arrived in Quito, it was dark and rainy and there was no question that I was taking a cab directly to my hotel. But as the minutes ticked by and the trip stretched past the hour mark, I started to question my decision.

“Venticinco,” the driver announced when we finally arrived.

I was so busy admiring the view of the hotel, which was perched on the side of a cliff, that I assumed I had misheard.

“Ven-ti-cin-co,” he repeated.

Twenty five dollars? I flashed him two fingers on one hand and five on the other.

When he nodded, I handed him the money and dashed inside before he had time to change his mind.

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I kicked things off right in Quito. On my very first day out and about, I hailed an on-duty school bus and asked the driver to take me to the tourist district. He agreed. It’s a story worth reading in its entirety here.

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ecuador hikeThe next day, I went to Telefériqo where I took a cable car some 2,230 meters (7,300 feet) straight up the side of a mountain and to the east side of the Pichincha volcano.

If that wasn’t high enough, there was a hiking trail. I wasn’t exactly dressed appropriately for a stroll up a volcano, but started walking anyway. I figured that I didn’t go all the way to Ecuador to not even try.

Unfortunately, I had to turn back after about an hour when it started to rain. I didn’t have a poncho, but I did have a polka dot umbrella and I know I looked ridiculous holding it as I walked back down, but it got the job done.

The fog spoiled a lot of the views along the way, but I caught enough here and there to know that it was incredible.

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All the guide books will warn you that vendors in Ecuador insist on being paid in small bills. If you’re to believe the writers, these merchants would rather lose a sale than break a $5.

They’re wrong about that. I know because when I went to the local artist market to buy scarves and jewelry and other little trinkets, the vendors were all too happy to give me change for a $2 pair of earrings or a $1 scarf.

But really, if you think about it, why would you even want the change? Handmade glass earrings for $2?! Three for $5?! Earrings all around!

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I spent five full days in Quito. I went to Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the World monument); the Museo Nacional del Banco Central; and the Cathedral of Quito. I saw the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace and watched the street performers in Plaza Grande. I crashed an English-speaking walking tour and tried to feed a llama a piece of fresh mango. I wandered anywhere and everywhere and when I eventually found my way back to the main square, I started all over again.

My advice to you? Five days isn’t enough. It never is.

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