Our South American adventure was quickly coming to a close, and though we were wiped out from our mountain hike in Peru and museum escapades in Guayaquil we still had one last city to explore: Quito. As the capital of Ecuador, Quito sits just below orbit at 9,350′ and is the second highest capital in the world (right behind La Paz, Bolivia). Given how excellently I adapt to altitude *insert sarcasm here* you can imagine how thrilled I was to be back up in thin air. The bustling city is nestled atop volcanoes and mountains belonging to the Andes, with terribly steep hills that were reminiscent of San Francisco, CA.
We had taken a late afternoon flight from Guayaquil and landed in Quito well after dark. The descent took all of 3 minutes, indicative of the high altitude we were landing at. Once settled in the back of a taxi we began the hour drive into the city, and as an added bonus, received an hour’s worth of warning from our driver.
“Quito is dangerous. Quito is VERY dangerous. Quito is VERY VERY dangerous for ladies.”
And so it went as we zoomed down the highway and watched lights twinkling off in the very far distance, until all of the sudden we pulled over in the middle of nowhere. Before I could ask what the problem was our driver had flown into a mini rage, and from the rapid-fire Spanish being flown about I could only pick-up that he was generally upset with the directions we had given him to get to our AirBnB.
“Oh, god. This is it.” I thought as I instinctively locked the door and began looking around for the pick-up van to come and take us away to a life of capture. Seeing as we had just been briefed on how dangerous it was for ladies in this part of the world I was by no means over-reacting. Kidnapping is a legitimate concern, and on the side of a very dark and very empty highway seemed as likely a place as any for such an activity to take place.
“Please, keep driving.” I begged while furiously trying to call our host. The line wouldn’t connect, and the driver wouldn’t move. Though I stayed calm on the exterior, with each car that approached my heart went wild as I fought back the panic that was threatening to take over. Finally, FINALLY, the host answered and we were able to clear up the confusion and get back on the road to dangerous Quito.
As we pulled in to the city proper, our driver gave us a brief tour of hot spots – though we were to avoid them at night, because of “danger” – and bid us good luck as he dropped us at our host home. We were staying with a local and his cousin via AirBnB and were pleasantly surprised with our bedroom’s view as we woke up the next morning.
We got some recommendations for local restaurants from our host and hit the town after thoroughly enjoying the above view. For breakfast we followed our noses to a small bakery/cafe where the morning’s freshly baked breads were filling the air with a mouth-watering scent. Looking over the menu we came across a word that neither of us recognized: chub. Whatever it was it came with each breakfast, so I whipped out my Google Translate to do some investigating. Turns out “chub” in Spanish translates to “chub” in English. “Try it in context,” suggested Leah. Turns out “chub con queso” in Spanish translates to “chub with cheese” in English. For some reason this struck us as hilarious and so, not for the first time, we fell into a fit of laughter that took solid minutes to recover from. Shortly thereafter, when our chubs were delivered we discovered that they were croissants. Good times.
Our first day in Quito turned out to be a national holiday Batalla de Pichincha (Battle of Pichincha). The city was mostly shut-down as a massive parade wove its way up and down the winding streets of Old Town. We stopped to watch as everyone from public officials, to military brass, to motorcycle acrobats paraded their way past.
Despite the dire warnings from our taxi driver, Quito was proving to be a very lovely city indeed. We were feeling right at home and welcome in this part of Ecuador, that is until we tried to go to church and learned that we pagans have to pay a higher premium to climb the spires #PagansPayExtra