On the morning of Jun10th, we went to the terminal terriste (main bus terminal) in Riobamba to catch a bus going to Quito. The way it works in Ecuador (and many other South American countries) is that you simply go to the bus station and walk around looking at all the ticket booths and listening for your destination being called out. All of the bus companies have lists showing the times their bus goes to various cities. When it gets close to when a bus is leaving, a guy from the bus company will yell out the name of the city the bus is going to.
On this day, we arrived at the bus station at 9:26 and immediately heard “Quito! Quito! Quito!” We walked up to the man and he showed us the way to his company’s booth where we bought a ticket for the 9:30am bus. After purchasing the ticket we followed him to a spot outside the bus station and in approximately 1 minute, a bus pulled up and we got on.
The 4 hour bus ride from Riobamba to Quito was quite beautiful. Like many bus trips we’ve taken before, at each stop a bunch of people get on the bus walking up and down the isle selling things they have in their hand. They yell out the name of the item and you wave your hand if you want one of the things. About half of the time we can’t identify the thing they are selling but we know it is some type of food or drink. On this bus ride, we observed something not seen before. A man came on the bus and passed out a small book to everyone (except us – the only two gringos). He then gave a speech and people either gave the book back or paid him a dollar. Another time a man got on the bus and passed out necklaces to everyone (again, except us), made a speech and the same thing happened. Either people gave the necklaces back or paid him a small amount of money. We have taken buses all over the world but on this, our last bus trip, we saw this novel way of selling items and it was something we had never seen before.
We arrived in Quito in the early afternoon and were relieved to see our bags were still under the bus. We caught a cab into the Mariscal area, which is where all the backpackers stay. I had previously reserved a “mini-suite” in a hostel for $32/night. This price is quite expensive for Quito backpacker land but we wanted to have a (relatively) nice place to stay during the last few days of our around-the-world trip. Hostal Alcala was a great place to stay. Our room was very large and it had a refrigerator, cable TV with lots of movie channels, a bathroom and several closets. The hostal served a nice breakfast each day (included in the price) and there was a computer with free internet access. Perhaps best of all, there was a flowering tree outside our room where a couple of hummingbirds seemed to live. Each day we spent a few minutes watching the hummingbirds, marveling at their wingspeed. Here is a picture of our favorite guy, who reliably sat on the same branch every day:
So, what did we do in Quito? Well, not much. We had planned to do a couple of day trips out of the city but never did (for reasons we will explain in blog #137).
Still, on a couple of occasions we went to some different markets to look for souviners. One day we also walked all around the Mariscal (aka New Town) area and went to the park. On another day we ventured into the Old Town area which is full of gorgeous architecture. In the Old Town we ate lunch in one of the huge cobble stone squares, had dessert at a heladeria (ice cream shop), and visited two churches. One is shown in the photo below. As you might imagine, one minute after I took this picture it started to storm. Although Quito (at an altitude of 9348 ft.) lies almost directly on the equator and the sun felt like it was burning a hole through our heads when it was out, each day in the afternoon a thunder and lightening storm kicked up for about 30 minutes. Then the sun came out again. So, this photo of the basilica was taken minutes before one of these daily storms.
The rest of the time in Quito we did things like meet traveling friends for dinner, hang out at the nearby internet cafe, and watch movies on one of the 10 movie chanels available on the TV in our room. These activities were not quite as exciting as riding on the roof of a train or swimming with hammerhead sharks but we both agreed that after traveling for 373 days, we just wanted some down time before returning to the U.S. and ending our around-the-world trip.
Tags: Category #29: Ecuador