I had just arrived back in Ecuador from the Galapagos
That night, we went out to a concert in the historical centre of Quito at the Plaza del Teatro. The first concert we went to was a free concert right on the plaza. From what I have seen, Quito has at least one free concert every day going on, with more on weekends. It is incredible how good Quito is for Music, the reason why they were chosen the cultural capital of the year 2010.
We met Karla’s brother and his girlfriend at the concert and the rest of the night was spent with them. This concert was a concert by a local hard rock band. I wasn’t really a fan of this music but Karla seemed to enjoy it, and even went into the moshpit at one point. Considering that her face is at about elbow-height for the other people who were attending the concert, I was understandably a bit worried for her. She survived however. The concert ended at something like 7.30 or 8.
Afterwards, we went to another concert that was happening in the theatre next door. The entrance (10
dollars) also allowed to go into a nightclub in the mariscal. It was actually quite an interesting band, as in they played good music, but the texts were rather unimaginative and the band was just plain weird. It sounded a bit like a mixture between dance and experimental music. Even though this got to classify as one of the weirdest bands I have met, it was still enjoyable.
Afterwards we still went out. Judging from the prices that were shown on the door, the entrance to the club costs alone 8 dollars so it was quite a good deal we made in the end.
In the morning, there was a familial problem in the Jimenez family, so Karla told me that it would be better if I slept somewhere else. Agreeing with Karla, I decided to go back to the hostal La Luz in La mariscal. Karla came with me. Funnily (and quite insultingly), the owner of the La Luz, who did not know me from before thought that I was a white boy who had taken a whore home (Karla was standing beside me) and just wanted a hotel room to sleep with her. He actually told me, if you want to take her upstairs, I want 7.50 dollars more. Insulted, I left. After that unpleasant encounter, Karla and me decided that it was better if Karla waited in a cafe while I took a room at the hostal Veintemilla (where I have also been before).
After checking in, and after I had collected Karla at the coffee, we went for a walk in the city. We walked all the way to centro historic, in between visiting Karla’s dreamhouse (an old, grand and beautiful house on the side of Eljido, but unfortunately it is in a ruined state).
From there we walked all the way to the houses that Karla had had a look at, quite a bit further east than the centro historico. On the way, we also visited the old historic market that lies in the centro historic. This market just reminded of Asia: every little stand sold everything; old, used mixed in with new (I even saw a stall that still sold old Leica photoapparatus). It was awesome.
Although Ecuador is still a developing country, it is very much missing the chaos and the dirtiness that reigns in all the other ones I have seen. However there are still pockets of the cities that do have some of the chaos still in them.
It is completely different for the country side as I could well see in the countryside at the Quilatoa loop. The people who live there are very poor and I have seen a lot of children work. To be fair, Quito rather ressembles a second world city than a third world but the countryside does indeed look like third world.
I had promised Karla two surprises coming back from the Galapagos. One was a piquero pata azul (unfortunately it is a illegal to transport these from Galapagos so she only got a teddy one), and the other one I was going to give her tonight. When she had been in Brazil she had tried some Japanese food and really loved it. Upon returning to Ecuador, she couldn’t find her preferate, Philadelphia suchi, but I had found it near where I was staying, so I decided that would be my next present: an evening of Japanese food. Ahh it was indeed good…
The next morning, I starting working on my photos. I had taken during my three weeks in Galapagos more than 2500 photos and I really needed to trim these down. It was a lot of work, but after three days I had them down to 600 (all of these have been uploaded to the blog)...
At around 11, Karla contacted me that I should help her get a writing desk from some location that I couldn’t understand. After a couple of false starts (at the end of the day, she is Ecuadorian and Ecuadorian are never on time. They work by a different time: Ecuadorian time (similar to Indonesian time, just a little bit less stretchy)), she finally arrived and picked me up to go to a market completely to the south of Quito. It turned out that she had forgotten her money, we had to go back all the way to the mariscal to pick up money. Another false-try...
In the end we made it. The furniture market was located in a part of the town that I didn’t know at all (somewhere over the mountain in the south of Quito). Basically imagine a big Ikea storehouse layed out in a market form. All the stalls had somewhat the same but still different furniture and everything was incredibly cheap. Karla bought a beautiful writing desk for only 65 dollars, what would normally have cost 100s in Europe (as well as in other more upbeat location in ecuador).
I nearly killed myself when we tried to get the writing desk into her room, since we had to do it through the window and her window is located in the second floor. I nearly fell of the ladder...
Afterwards, we had a superb lunch at Karla’s casa, with her parents and invites. Karla and me then had to entertain the little ones of the friend of the family, so we went out for some ice cream.
Karla’s parents drove me back to my hostel in La Mariscal.
I didn’t do anything that day, I had to work the whole day on my photos and my travel blog.
Worked all the day again. The only thing I did was go to the dentist. She gave me what I thought was a quite ok price (45 dollars) for filling of one caries and reparation of one tooth that had been chipped, as well as cleaning.
Same again. I worked the whole time, apart from meeting Karla for lunch. We went to eat pizza at a really expensive restaurant (9 dollars per person).
In the morning, I worked again on this stupid travelblog and then went to see Karla for lunch. In the evening, I got Karla from the gym at the nearby Hilton hotel and then we went again to the Japanese, where after a nice and enjoyable dinner, we had our first minor fight.
At 10 pm that night, my bus was leaving for Cuenca. I paid 12 dollars for 10 hours of travel, which is rather on the expensive side.
I arrived at around 7 am and took the linea 7 to the centro historic of Cuenca. I had already looked into my guide for the cheapest accommodation. I wanted to speak one of my native languages again because I just had too much of Spanish in one go.
After some initial confusion (the bus driver had let me out at another place then I thought), I finally found the place (6 dollars in a dorm) and went to sleep for a bit.
I went to see the city at around 11 am. To be fair, it is quite cute, but nothing really special (PLEASE NOTE THAT MY CAMERA BROKE SOMETIME THOSE DAYS AND TOOK ONLY BLURRY PHOTOS AT NO ZOOM).
The exception was the new cathedral with its three azur blue tinted domes and its bell towers which are too short due to a mathematical error during the planning phase. Already from the outside, it is immensely high. I took a photo with a person to compare the height. The whole height of the building nearly did not fit in while the person is so small that he is barely visible. I was even more impressed with the inside. It is MASSIVE!
After a quick lunch, I went to the architectural sights at the end of the historical city of Cuenca and its belonging free museum. After vanquishing the Incas, the Spaniards had built Cuenca just north of the city of Tomebamba, for reasons that I do not know.
Anyway, the Inca ruins still present are relatively small and rather uninteresting. They were nothing really that impressive as they have only been preserved as rows of walls. Several tunnels have also been discovered that were used for some religious functions.
In the evening, though really tired, I decided not to be a boring person and went out. I tried to find some fellow travellers because I wanted to speak English, however it took me a long time to do so. Finally I met a German who had stayed 5 months in Cuenca as a voluntary who told me where to find such a bar. I encountered about 20 Americans and started to talk with them. The evening was ended in a cheap bar (2,5 dollars for two mojitos) with a very long term Belgian traveller and an American 4 month-traveller.
Getting up did indeed pose a little bit of a problem but I was up and running by 9 and ready to embark on the day trip that I had planned. I wanted to go to the Parque National de Cajas, which is situated at about 1 hour of Cuenca. I first had to take the bus Linea 7 to the southern bus terminal (Terminal Sur) and then to search for the bus. After some initial finding problems, I did go on the bus that left relatively promptly and went the 1 hour to the entrance of the national parc (1,25 dollars).
Cajas lies a lot higher than Cuencas, at about 4000 meters. It is home to amazing vistas of the surrounding mountains, the road leading to it being according to one truck driver I travelled with later on, one of the best ones in the country, along with the road Baños-Puyo.
Since it is located so high, nearly no trees grow at this height. Rather the vegetation consists of short and hard grass. The air at this height is very humid and the soil is nearly permenantly water-logged. Also due to the height, it is very cold, going down to and under the freezing point at night.
I was not dressed appropriately. I only had normal shoes on, my Equi-pants (which are trousers made of very thin material), a t-shirt and my very thin jacket. I was freezing, especially in the wind that seemed to blow pretty much everywhere. After I paid 2 dollars entrance (I have taken the habit of saying that I live in Quito because it makes things easier and cheaper-however not in this instance), I embarked on the trail that was supposed to take 5 hours. Luckily, as soon as I started walking around the first small lake (of which there were many in the whole park) I was warmer. The view from up there is simply amazing. Look at the photos to get an impression of it (A note written after the travel: the camera was broken so you cannot see very much).
The next problem I encountered was that I really needed a potty break and I had no toilet paper with me. Loads of grass was around me, so out of need I opted for this. Just as I was getting my trousers down next to the path, came up another group. I had not seen anyone for miles around for like half an hour and just at this moment had to come another group. Luckily this guy could spare some toilet paper and after hiding myself away from the path this time, I managed to do my business.
Weirdly enough, I finished the 5 hour trail in a little over an hour. They seemed to have misjudged greatly the time that the trails take... Because it was still early, I decided to hitch-hike my way up to where I had started (the trail I had taken was decending all the time and therefore the point where I arrived was a lot below the starting point). The truck that took me was driven by a guy who needed to deliver the big digging tractor it had on the back to Guayaquil via the road that led past the Parque Cajas.
The second day that I was in the park that day, I encountered an older English couple that was travelling during a year out of work. I spent about 2 hours with them, fishing in the lake but catching nothing.
In the evening, at 9.45 pm, my bus left towards the border of Peru. I am ashamed to have to admit that I had to take a taxi because I missed the bus towards the bus terminal. I was standing at the wrong sign. I thought that it said “Parada de bus” but as I looked up after the bus had passed it only said “No parking here”...
The bus travel was quite arduous, especially that we had to wait at the frontera a long time: our bus was late arriving at the frontiera and the office had already closed. We had to wait for it to reopen one hour later and then had to stand a long time in line for the guy to finish the few stamps that he had to make.
He seemed to make everything a lot more complicated than necessary. This was the first time this happened to me at a frontiera.
Read on about what happened to me by clicking on the travel guide to Peru