Living the high life

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Mar 16, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sitting at about 2850 meters above sea level we literally were living the high life. Neither of us realised how this altitude would effect till we arrived at the hostel in Quito and had to climb five steep flights of stairs. We just managed to reach the top floor but were puffing and panting as if we'd just run a mile in a minute. It was incredible how just a little exertion left us completely out of breath. Just as well we had a few weeks to acclimatise before we planned to trek up the gruelling Inca Trail.
As a city goes Quito is rather large and has two main areas to the city, namely the Old Town and New Town. The hostel we were staying in was in Old Town and was therefore well situated to explore the old colonial district which makes Quito a popular destination. The hostel called Secret Garden was perched up on one of the hills overlooking Old Town and was originally two four story residential homes. On the uppermost floor the terrace had been converted to a bar, kitchen and dinning area which had spectacular views over the city and mountains beyond. The hostel also prepared breakfast and dinner for a nominal fee and always had a vibrant atmosphere.
We spent a full day exploring the narrow cobbled stoned streets in Old Town which has a church on almost every corner. We spent quite a bit of time walking down Moreno street going from one old church to the other. The town was extremely busy for the middle of the week and had all sorts of people milling around. Since we'd spent the last few weeks in the US were you feel relatively safe walking the streets of even in the bigger cities, we were a little more apprehensive while walking around Quito. It might just have been because we were in a new country / continent with different faces and were possibly out of our comfort zone. But as we so often found, it's the same apprehension we usually get whenever we travel into the unknown but which quickly fades once you get settled.
Later the evening we wandered back into Old Town for some dinner and found a nice little restaurant near the Plaza Grande. The menu looked rather familiar and seemed and the restaurant seemed to specialise in beef steak amongst other dished like pasta and chicken. I ordered the steak speciality which read that it was crumbed fillet steak while Inge-Marie ordered vegetarian pasta which sounded very delicious! It turns out that fillet steak might just be a common term to beef as my meal consisted of a flattened crumbed piece of meat which resembled a schnitzel. It was quite tasty but I doubt it was fillet and was served with some delicious roasted potatoes and salad and it seemed that Inge-Marie thoroughly enjoyed her pasta as well. Not the guinea pig we were excepting.
Besides the altitude another aspect of Ecuador and possibly the rest of South America we were very realising quickly realising was that unlike many other non-English speaking counties we had visited, English was not widely understood or spoken. We were going to have to have to learn Spanish fast if we wanted to have any type of communication with the locals and wanted to get from A to B without ending up in Z. In all the other non-English speaking countries we had managed to get by with only the basics in languages like Chinese, Russian, German, Italian, Spanish and French. Now we were going to have to step it up a notch and we were rather excited about the challenge of learning another language even if it was only a little.
In Spain we had picked up a Spanish phrase book and dictionary even though all the phonetics all contained the typical Spanish lisp it still turned out to be a very useful pocket guide. We also managed to find a few free Spanish mp3's that we were able to download onto our iPod's which allowed us to listen and practice the pronunciations. I found it very difficult to get back into the study and memorisation mode but the fact that we could practise all the time did speed up the learning curve a little.
Fortunately our hostel had an in-house English speaking travel agent who arranged tours throughout Ecuador and we spent some time with him exploring all the various options. The most exciting sounding trip to us was a jungle stay with a native Indian family; sadly the only problem was we needed to speak Spanish as that was all the family understood. Our next best option was a trip to the Ecuadorian Amazon basin where we would spend four days at a jungle lodge.
We had done something similar in Borneo but were keen to see a little of the world famous Amazon. Getting there involved an eight hour overnight bus ride which was set to leave at 11pm.We'd heard that the buses in South America could be a little hair raising so were a little apprehensive, especially since this would be at night and the weather this time of the year was typically very rainy and wet. We shared a sleeping tablet and tried our best to fall asleep and wake safely on the other side...
** After returning from a wonderful 3 nights in the jungle we learn that over the past few days three different guests at the hostel had been robbed in Old Town, one had a camera snatched from around her neck, the other pushed up against a wall and had her wallet stolen and the last was relived of her gold chain right inform of the hostel door. So a little seems a little caution in this city is required after all.
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jessi330 on

Do you know or remember if the hostel guests were walking alone?
I'm hoping having a companion will be safer.

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