It feels like I’ve been in Ecuador for years now, despite a mere two weeks having passed. I’m still surprised when I get the “what is this gringa doing here” look everywhere I go. I’m pretty sure that even other travelers have perfected it, but it’s definitely most prominent in the small town close to the farm I work on.
A Free Tour of Quito for Me & You
I suppose I understand the motivation behind these looks after spending all week wandering around Quito with my (visiting) parents, though it still goes unappreciated. Considering the presence of my parents, I decided to play the parts of both translator and tourist for this past week, though I have since returned to the Finca.
My parents arrived at Quito airport around 11pm on Sunday after a 2 hour delay, so the real exploring of the city started on Monday, with the Quito Free Walking Tour, a wonderful 3-hour overview of city history and landmarks. However, my favorite part of that day was getting soaked to the bone in a not-so-surprise thunder storm.
The feeling of my shoes squishing beneath you feet. The commiserating looks from similarly-situated people. And above all, the feeling of jeans, heavy with water, rubbing against your thighs and shins with each step. It never ceases to fascinate me, the experience of being inundated by nature’s biggest gift, literally falling from above. Each time I experience it, it’s almost like the first time, even if I saw it coming and thought I knew what to expect.
Exploring Beyond the City Limits
Tuesday, after being awoken by several noisy guests around 7:45, my parents & I took a couple of buses over to the true equator. They have an Indian museum there, and for $4 a person you can go on a guided tour of the grounds in either English or Spanish. We saw some demonstrations of tricks you can only do on the equator, learned about some local flora & fauna and an indigenous Amazonian group which used to “shrink” human heads. It’s pretty touristy, but sort of a must when you make it to the middle of the world. The $3 lunch we had upon leaving the museum didn’t hurt, either.
Not for the last time this week, I visited the Kallari Café, and as always everyone there was very helpful and let me practice my Spanish to my heart’s content. Our other visit was right before dinner & dancing at La Sonata, because my parents absolutely had to see this place. Kallari is probably the organization that I should have interned with, I realize after two weeks on the Finca, but no doubt I’ll be back for more of this place. Kallari is a must if you visit Quito. I guarantee that just like me, you’ll return again & again.
Over the next few days, our group discovered 4 different chocolate places along La Ronda, a bohemian neighborhood in Colonial Quito, along with a couple of salsa clubs. I am thankful that on one of the days, I was able to spend the entire day bonding with my Dad, walking around parks in Quito with him. Unfortunately this came at the expense of my mother, who became rather ill overnight. My favorite park in the city is definitely El Ejido, where there is a huge spherical statue that you can fully climb if you feel so inclined, as I did.
Bonding with Butterflies in Mindo
On our last full day together, we awoke at the ungodly hour of 7am in order to get ourselves to Mindo by 10:30. It took some effort and a sweltering bus, but we arrived and walked around a bit. What we thought was just the beginning was actually the entire downtown, though it seems bigger if you repeatedly walk from one end to the other.
Since we had just one day in Mindo, we settled in for a nice lunch at a local place and arranged some activities. We had our own Taxi driver (sorta), and started off by doing the $20 a person “Canopy Adventure.” It turned out to be a series of 10 ziplines and was so very totally cool! Then we made it to the beautiful Mariposario (butterfly conservatory, $6 a person), and then the bus was arriving and we had to go. It felt all too short (I returned to Mindo two more times while living in Ecuador).
We finally got back to Quito, where we experienced the Cilantro Disaster of 2015. This was when an entire restaurant staff was not understanding or disregarding repeated requests for no cilantro, which tastes like soapy tinfoil to my Mom & I. Thank the gods for good company.
PS: I just bought my airline tickets to the Galapagos!