Short but sweet, a tiny country with a whole lot to offer. I flew to Quito (yet again, in the middle of the night) and sat through the hour-long car ride to my hostel. 30 bucks a night for a private room with a big comfy bed? I could get used to it. That kind of quality location somewhere like NYC or Tokyo would have cost closer to 200 a night.
I took a walking tour in the morning, guided by the enthusiastic hotel worker and cultural food critic Ovidio. I’m typically against organized tour, but they certainly have their place. I learned a lot more about the city than I could have hoped to on my own. And damn right I was going on the food lover tour later in the week.
I met a European traveler named Philippe and toured around the city with him. We visited the colossal Basilica del Voto Nacional and made the haul all the way up to the top of the highest steeple (an unthinkable idea in the states) where we were greeted with a staggering view of the city.
It turns out that he had similar plans for the next day. The next morning, we were on an early bus to Mindo accompanied by two other Swiss girls that Philippe had met the night before. There’s nothing like a little landslide to hold you up for a few hours, but once we got through and entered the beginnings of the rainforest, intricate beauty filled our eyes. Lush, vibrant mountains greeted us as we arrived. A fantastic little tree house style hotel found us. Unbelievably cheap and beautifully original.
The next day we went on a hike through the jungle. A (very) sketchy cable car (this thing would have failed the most lax of rigging inspections) sailed us through the jungle over a vibrant gorge to the beginning of the trek. About 45 minutes into the hike, we found the two stunning waterfalls we were looking for. The water was chilling and refreshing. And then, we all learned what they meant by “rain forest.”
A torrential downpour came out of nowhere and ruined our lives. Or at least it tried. In reality, it was invigorating and humbling. The cable car and truck ride back pushed images of more primitive times; one of those moments where you feel truly alive.
There just so happened to be a chocolate farm and restaurant right next door to our rooms. The chocolate tour was awesomely informative (and of course, delicious). A young entrepreneur from Hawaii had moved there with his Ecuadorian wife to make innovative chocolate development his passion and life’s work. You can tell right away when somebody has that passion about them. Kind of makes you question what you’re doing with your own life.
Ecuador was fantastic until the last few hours when someone tried to steal my camera in a scam. You want to visit these places and enjoy and learn about their culture and way of life. And then someone blatantly disrespects you as an individual. It messes with your head a bit, but you always must get back up and continue on. The bad comes with the good, and it’s all part of seeing and enjoying this crazy world we all live in. My camera and I are still together and in tact, so I push on.