Twenty two years after I visited Quito last, I am back! I have very few memories of my first visit, so very long ago. I remember the cold, the fog and rain. I remember a tiny little old woman slicing my hand woven, hand embroidered shoulder bag from Guatamala. Not that she had anything to take, it only had my Lonely Planet guide in it! I DO remember it was on the way to the monastery of Saint Francis! So here I am again. In Quito. In a wonderful boutique hotel. The staff is extremely friendly, from the moment I was picked up from the airport by Gabriella and her husband Moses, I felt like I was coming “home”. I booked four nights, thinking it would be enough. It wasn’t !
Ecuador has grown, moved on. I noticed this first in Guayaquil, where the HUGE new bus station was incredibly impressive. The new, safe Malicon was fabulous. Safe, cameras and lots of police presence. I don’t like travelling back to places I have been before. I often find the changes disturbing and the new memory replaces the original ones. But coming back to Quito and Ecuador has been an extremely positive experience.
The first thing I did was to find an optometrist to order long distance glasses. My eyesight has started to give me problems, and suddenly I am in desperate need for glasses. ( I just got a new pair before I left, but decided, as they were just for driving, not to take them with me! So duh, I can’t see anything at airports and bus stations! Let alone details on the fascinating old buildings!) Luckily the owner of the hotel knew this place, rang up, booked me in, called a taxi, and an hour later I had my brand new glasses in my hand! Unreal!
So now with my new insight, or eye sight, I am able to enjoy the fascinating old buildings in the historical centrum. This too has drastically changed! I keep asking people, was this here 22 years ago? A lot of reparations are going on in the centre. Always a positive sign. I DO remember all the poor people sitting on the church thresholds. They still do, but now they are from Venezuela.
Mind you, my friend told me, that the poor people are forbidden in the historical centre. I did a free walking tour earlier this week, with Lucas, a young student in tourism. There were just a young Brazilian couple, who were staying at my hotel and me. Lucas was very knowledgable and very entertaining. He made us act out certain legends. It was fun, the sun was shining and everybody was happy. ( except my legs!) Quito is 2850 above sea level and high in the Andes, so extremely hilly!
I had marked all the musea and churches I wanted to visit, ticking them of as I went. I caught up with my lovely new friend, I made on the ferry from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal, Rosita. She shouted me lunch on Monday. At a vegetarian restaurant. It was lovely. We agreed that I would invite her to lunch on Thursday when she was free again. Her daughter Patty had to get back to work. Holidays are over. I extended my stay by one more night, as I was unable to fit in all the musea in two days.
I visited the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo. I was disappointed to see that all explanations were in Spanish only. I can read it, understand it, but miss the small nuances. Some of the art was questionable. Nine empty, blank canvasses, without any marks, paint or whatsoever on it, just stay nine empty, blank canvasses to me, no matter what the explanation says on the wall. The old tyre on a plinth didn’t impress me, nor did the stack of news papers hanging on a rope!
There were a series of strong portraits, drawn in a material I didn’t recognise. Was it tar?? I asked, and it was shoe polish. These portraits were not of old people, but of street children, who lost their childhood as they have to work for a living. I was deeply touched by these amazing portraits. The comments on the ” Fake news” of mass media, I understood too. I spend a good three hours looking around, going back, enjoying myself immensely. A strong cup of coffee kept me going.
The musea are of high quality, and very impressive. I also enjoyed visiting the many churches, seeing the different styles and the ornate decorations on the inside. Gold, gold and more gold. Of course it is all gold leaf but still, the riches are overwhelming, when at the same time you have people begging for a couple of coins, so they can eat!
Visiting the Equator with my two young French friends, was interesting. We shared a taxi. What a fascinating place. Did you know, due to the strong magnetic field, you can’t walk in a straight line? Nor can you hold your arms up on the line it self, only if you take a step to the either Northern or Southern Hemisphere ! It was amazing. The other thing I really like was the head shrinkers. In the museum of Guayaquil I had seen some shrunken heads, with the instructions of how to do this! Here the had the instructions in picture form!
I was planning to leave on Friday, so I could catch the Saturday markets in Otavalo. Instead I was invited to a “fiesta”. It was a holiday on Friday, so I thought my friend was inviting me to a street party. I dressed up warmly, as it gets cold late afternoon! Rosita and I met, we weren’t going to the street party , but to her friends house. It was a belated Mother’s Day celebration! Everybody had a wonderful time.
We danced the night away, had wonderful food, and enjoyed karaoke. At nine o’clock my poor body screamed for rest. It was a magic evening with lots of wonderful women. I stayed for the weekend, just to rest up, work in my diary and catch up on my e mails.
On Monday I left for Otavalo. I stayed in a building that was 170 years old and always had been a posada. Che Guevara stayed here, also Simon Bolivar, the liberator of South America, Hillary Clinton stayed here as well, although I doubt she stayed in my room!
I had planned to do a lot of walking while here, but on my first day the rain started. I did catch a bus to Peguche, where I visited a wonderful artisan market. Normally they hold demonstrations here, but since I was on my own, nothing was happening. I was invited for lunch with a small group of Americans on tour. They were shocked I was travelling by myself! They had finished a five day cruise in the Galápagos and we’re now on the end of a ten day tour. One of the men could not understand that I spend three weeks in the Galápagos!
The woman next to me was ” shocked” that I was going to Bogota. She had never ever met anybody who chose to go there. Why did I want to go there? She asked at least five times. Not sure what that was all about. I said good bye and took the bus back to town rather then walk in the rain. After two nights in my wonderful hotel I had to leave as they were booked out. I had thought to change hotel, so I could do some hiking, but due to the weather I went on to Ibarra, which is closer to the Colombian border.
At the bus station was a hostel, since I was only staying one or two nights, I didn’t want to go too far. I went exploring straight away. The old centrum was interesting. Lots of murals, old churches and a fabulous cultural centrum. Just a shame it was closed in preparation for a huge exhibition for the 24 June celebrations! After one day I had seen enough. I am ready to move on. Good Bye Ecuador, I am sad to go. Hello Colombia. Here I come!!