I left my two travelling buddies Sharan and Marco on our second day in Quito and headed off across the city, rocking back and forth from the weight of my luggage. First I headed to the Marsical district, the area the Lonely Planet is most often frequented by tourists because of it´s hoard of hostels, restaurants and bars. Annoyingly enough, the book didn´t have a single hostel listed and after walking around for 45 minutes I didn´t come across anything that even smelled like a backpacker´s hostel.
So after a quick juice, I headed off again. This time I decided to try the historic old town and maybe see if the Secret Garden, the award winning hostel I´d heard of, had any space for me. The hotel I´d stayed in the previous night had overcharged us and I was determined not to get ripped off again. So I told the taxi driver to keep moving when they saw me coming and headed for the trolley bus (what any other country would call a tram).
It never occured to me that maybe I was lugging too much stuff for over crowded public transport. At that stage I had my massive backpack on my back, my schoolbag full with books and a laptop on my front and a power converter cradled in my arm which weighed as much as either of the two bags.
I shuffled into the tram, getting pushed along by the crowd. I couldn´t hold onto anything becuse of the luggage so just had to fall onto people when it swayed and stopped. An elderly lady pointed quite angrily that my power converter was digging into her. The train was absolutely packed and as we neared what I thought was my stop I realised I had no way of getting out. I couldn´t turn around, and I was getting hotter and hotter in my big fleece squeezed in between angry Ecuadorians.
Eventually I announced that I had to get out and reversed. A guy saw what I was trying to do and moved the crowd so the stupid gringa could get off the tram. Thought my worries were over until I discovered the only way out of the mini station thing was through a full length turn style. It looked quite big so I went for it but it didn´t happen. I got completely stuck. Some children came over to point and laugh. I hade to move inches at a time, then back a bit, and slowly work my way out of it.
Things got better when I found my hostel, and looking around I decided it deserved all the awards it won. I´m so used to damn, half painted walls but this place was pretty! It has a roof top restaurant with a view of the city. Almost every night I was there, they had fireworks for some reason or another. Every night they have what is like a big dinner party. All the guests who want to eat put their name on a list (and if you don´t put your name down they come around to see what the matter is). Then around 7pm everyone sits down at one long table and sips wine and eats the best food I´ve had in this part of the world.
They also run trips and if a guest looks bored while sipping their free tea, the staff sometimes ask if they´d like to go on a trip. Maybe I looked bored while swinging in my hammock, because I got cornered into climbing a volcano.
I was extremely nervous about this. I figured I should know something about climbing, and have proper clothes and stuff before attempting a volcano. I didn´t have anything that even looked like sporting clothes with me, but I figured I was safe with an award winning hostel!
My fellow crew members included Olivia from Mayo, Angela from England and a Danish couple. We were told it would take 2 hours to climb (more walk really) up the volcano, called something like Guagua Pichincha, and an hour to get back down. We only realised half way up that it´s two hours if you hop in the back of the car for some of it, which we didn´t, so it turned into a 4 hour trek.
The last half an hour or so was amazing. It was like walking on a beach and we had to try and only stand on hardened bits of it to get a grip. It was incredibly cloudy, so it just looked surreal. First time I really thought ´I could be on another planet´.
We saw the contraption that tells us when an eruption is going to happen. Two blue plastic barrels with a television ariel out the top. Hope there´s more to that thing than I saw.
We reached the top, at 4717 metres and gave ourselves numerous pats on the back while eating the cookies I had supplied. I didn´t see the crater properly, or any smoking hot lava but nonetheless, it was work that 4 hour hike! I think I´ve found a new hobby!
Tags: Ecuador, Quito