And so, the journey begins!
Leave Salento at 8.30am, Salento (1 hour to) Armenia (8 hours to) Popayan. Over night in Popayan which actually looked really nice and maybe worth staying an extra night if you have time. Up at 5 and 8 hour bus ride to Ipiales, which is near the border. At Ipiales you then take a shuttle to the border which took about 15 minutes. The border crossing was really easy. We walked across in probably only about 20 minutes. Then 10 minute taxi ride to the bus station in Tulcan. At Tulcan bus station it appeared to be carnage, people everywhere! But we managed to queue to get a ticket for 5.15pm bus to Quito. Which cost $6 and took 6 and a half hours. Standing in the queue in Tulcan I haven’t felt that tall since rural China!
The journey went without any hiccup but I think that was mostly because:
• we’d travelled between Popayan and Ipiales during the day which is advised to do as it’s through the mountains and can be dangerous at night ( during the day there are lots of military police around)
• we got a slightly more expensive and reputable bus from Tulcan to Quito. We’d heard a lot of people get stopped a lot and all bags searched by narcotics police. We were stopped for a while, had police and narcotics police check the bus and a couple of passports but all of our bags weren’t searched thank goodness and nobody had anything stolen.
• we got smaller minibuses for the Colombian section of the journeys – which are more uncomfortable but you feel more reassured your bags aren’t going to get stolen.
The journey was long and we didn’t get to our hostel in Quito until midnight having started at 8.30 the previous day but not too ominous with the girls. There were very few things to note other than the bus nearly driving off with out us when we went to the worst toilet ever ( three of us had to climb on a moving bus) and a little old man with no teeth and barely any English falling asleep on my shoulder, realising what he did and apologising profusely with a huge toothless grin 😁
So I’ve made it to country 6 on this trip and country 42 in total – Ecuador. I don’t have much time for Ecuador unfortunately. I’m only in Quito for 4 days, then Galapagos for 7 then straight to Peru. A lot of people seem to bypass Ecuador but actually I’ve heard great things and would like to come back one day. There is lots to do and it looks beautiful. Somewhere to add to the ever growing list!
My first day in Quito, I really felt the altitude; I didn’t feel sick or have a headache but I had no air. Even when walking along the flat I was out of breathe but I was glad that I wasn’t sick as that wouldn’t bode well for the next 6 weeks of my journey. I made sure I drank a tonne of water.
We had arrived at Secret Garden hostel at midnight in the dark so didn’t really see it; the next morning on the hunt for breakfast and wanting to enjoy the sunshine we found the roof terrace which had the most beautiful view over the city. You could see the Basilica to your right and the statue of the Virgin Mary on your right. That hostel is worth it for the views alone.
A group of us decided to go up the cable car (Telefonica) to the top of the mountain to see the views over Quito. The cable car is $8 dollars and takes 18 minutes but the views from the top are pretty incredible or stupendous ( the Spanish equivalent of stupendous is used quite a lot and we never use that word!)
Once you get to the top you can walk up to various view points and also up to 4000m up the volcano behind. A lot of people were feeling the altitude and in hindsight it might be better to do this on day 2 or 3 of your Quito trip to let yourself acclimatise.
After hundreds of photos were taken of the view, of us jumping, of us longingly looking into the distance (ha) we headed back down to go find the equator. At the bottom of the cable car there are quite a lot of taxi’s and shuttles waiting for you, and we found a guy who’d take us the hour to the equator monument, wait for us and bring us back for $5 each. Ecuador might feel quite expensive but the taxi’s are cheap.
So we made our deal and headed to the equator. The weather in Quito is so changeable, one minute it’s boiling hot, the clouds roll in and it’s windy and cold. It’s like being in England, every day you are prepared for every eventuality. Anyways, I digress, we made it to the equator – or so we thought.
Turns out that the actual GPS location of the equator is a little further away, the moment however is still worth while seeing and really cheap.
That night, we had some drinks at the hostel. Turns out that altitude can really affect your ability to drink, as we found out. So much so, that out of the girls I was the only one that made it up to do the walking tour the next day. And we only had 4 cocktails!!!! So just a word of warning.
I really enjoyed the walking tour of Quito. I’ve done quite a few now and I’d highly recommend them to get your bearings, and start to understand a new city – so much so I might go home and find a London one.
The guide took us to the Basilica, showed us the guinea pig, goat and llama gargoyle s – apparently the only Basilica in the world with these animals as gargoyles – funnily enough 😊
She taught us about the history of Ecuador, the rituals involving Guinea pigs and indigenous people. It was really interesting. I learnt a lot about Ecuador in general, not just the city so I’d highly recommend. Guinea pigs are used not only to eat but also for healing. They are said to take on the illnesses of the people they are used to heal, and pass away after each ritual. It’s absolutely fascinating and well worth reading about.
The tour showed us the best place to buy chocolate (always key), the old town and the best museums to visit. The best thing about walking tours is that you are usually taken places you’d never see on your own. We were taken to a ladies home, in an old colonial house, decorated as a typical Ecuadorian home. We were given lunch (amazing homemade empanadas and salsa), taught how to dance the local dance ( obviously me as a volunteer to learn 🙈) and introduced to typical Ecuadorian music. From here we could also use the telescope to see the Virgin Mary on the hill.
After the walking tour I was exhausted and struggling to breathe with the altitude. I recommend getting somewhere high,and having a couple of days to acclimatise – it really helps!
The next day the girls left Quito so after nearly 10 days I was left to my own devices ( or whatever that expression is!!). One more day, then heading to the Hilton ( yes the Hilton – thank you G adventures) for my Galapagos tour. At this point I wasn’t sure whether I was more excited by my trip to the Galapagos or that I got to stay in the Hilton for a night.
My last day in Quito I spent exploring more, doing some shopping – needed more trousers and going up the tour in the Basilica.
Enough from me – next instalment will be the Galapagos and I have no idea where to start! (Plus I’m so behind 🙈)