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3 Days in Quito: Beginning My Summer in Ecuador

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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.

This weekend I headed back down south to the city of Quito, to welcome my parents to Ecuador. We spent 3 days in Quito together before seeing other parts of the country.

The beautiful finca I worked on.

Quito Day 1: A Free Tour of Quito

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 in Colonial Quito. 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.

Day one of our tour continued in the main square, with a visit to Pacari chocolate factory and then the cafe next door. Afterwards, we walked down the hilly streets of Quito Colonial towards La Ronda. There we had lunch at one of the many typical Ecuadorian restaurants there, aiming for one that wasn’t too noisy. To be honest, 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.

One of the Stops on the Free Walking Tour.
One of the Stops on the Free Walking Tour.

Day 2: 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. It took over an hour to get there, but there’s a fair number of things you can do in the Mitad Del Mundo area, so it’s a nice day trip from Quito.

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 a pretty touristy tour, but sort of a must when you make it to the middle of the world. The delicious $3 lunch we had upon leaving the museum didn’t hurt, either (we just went to the closest local restaurant we saw).

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. The cafe is dedicated not only to selling the chocolate made by the cooperative, but also to their other local products, like vanilla and handicrafts.

Allow me to recommend a batido de frutilla (strawberry smoothie), which comes with a little piece of their chocolate.

Kallari is probably the organization that I should have interned with, I realize after two weeks on the Finca. But they charge for people to intern, and I don’t have a budget for that, so no doubt I’ll be back for more of this place on my own. Kallari is a must if you have 3 days in Quito or even just one day. I guarantee that just like me, you’ll want to 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. I even scaled one of the statues in the park in central Quito, much to his amusement.

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 the aforementioned spherical statue resides.

Parque El Ejido, from the top of the giant sphere.
Parque El Ejido, from the top of the giant sphere.

Day 3: 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. If you only have 3 days in Quito, Id recommend this for your last day. It took some effort and a sweltering bus, but we arrived and walked around a bit. What we thought was just the beginning or entrance to town was actually the entire downtown, though it seems bigger if you repeatedly walk from one end to the other. I suppose we’re city folk.

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 very worth ir! 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.

Full disclosure: I returned to Mindo two more times while living in Ecuador, once for my birthday. If you do decide to go, you cannot miss a chocolate tour and lunch at El Quetzal!

Apparently one of a butterfly’s favorite foods is over-ripened banana!

We finally got back to Quito, where we had one final meal together before I needed to head back to work.

PS: I just bought my airline tickets to the Galapagos!

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