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.
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.
When 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Can’t get enough of this blog? Subscribe in the box above and get these posts delivered to your inbox twice a week.