Feb 11, 2012
I woke up this morning at 7:30am feeling pretty good. I took a hot shower, with cold flashes, used the in-room hair dryer and then headed down for breakfast around 8:30am. There wasn’t a lot out for options when I go there as in was wrapping up. A few cold cut meats, yogurt, juice, milk, toast and watermelon. I sat down with a couple of slices of toast, a piece of watermelon and the lovely ladies made me some scrambled eggs which were pretty good.
After breakfast I headed back to my room to pack up for my one and only full day in Quito. I didn’t have any tours booked, so I was on my own, for better or worse! Because I’ve read and heard so much about crime here, mainly pick pocketing, I decided to pack light.
I took one camera and two lenses (24-70 & 70-200). I packed in a regular backpack, not a camera gear backpack. I took a photocopy of my passport with me and left the real thing in the hotel safe. I also decided to take a minimal amount of money. This was suggested in case I was to get robbed. At least I would only lose what was on me, not everything.
I struck out on a walk from the mariscal district or ‘new town’ to the ‘old town’ district. I had my map in hand and camera around my neck. By walk, I really mean hike and it isn’t just a few blocks. The first part of my trek, yes, let’s call it a trek, was downhill, so no major issues. Traffic signals and cross walks operate much the same as they do in Canada, but people aren’t quite as courteous, so you do have to be very careful.
I walked for an hour and a half. Normally that would be 10 kms. I was a little slower because of the altitude though, so probably still 8kms. It wasn’t all down hill! It’s kind of like the story your grandfather told you about having to walk uphill both ways to get to school. Somehow, no matter where you turn, you are walking up a hill! I would complain about walking small hills on a regular basis, well these aren’t small hills and on top of that, lack of oxygen from altitude, it was grueling! However, I didn’t complain (only because I was by myself, so no one was listening.)
I took a couple of wrong turns, ending up not quite where I wanted to be, but yet not really lost either. I made my way past McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King to a park where there was a market. I was very surprised that the locals at the market didn’t hound me. A few of them tried to get me to look more closely at things, but when I said ‘no’, they left me alone. I must say that I can’t wait to bring home some beautiful Alpaca scarves. They are soooooo soft and warm!As I was leaving the park, I saw my first view of the houses grouped on the side of the mountain. This photo doesn’t do it justice, but Quito is really an amazing and unique city.
After walking through the park where the market was, I headed down another not-quite-right street, but still not lost … heading in the right direction! I needed a break after walking up yet another hill. I saw a small monument/fountain, so I took a couple of photos, caught my breath and then sat down on a bench in the small park area to have a drink of water.
Just as I stood up to leave, a lady came over to me speaking urgently in Spanish. Now, of course I don’t understand Spanish very well, but she was wagging her finger and very clearly telling me that it wasn’t safe for me to be in this area. PANIC! When a local comes and tells you it isn’t safe, you et a move on. Why I chose to move on UP THE STAIRS instead of down the stairs, I don’t know. I got to the top of the stairs and needed another break!
All along this trek I saw regular police cars passing by, a few security guards at stores and lots of people who looked at me like they might just run at me.
About a block from the area that I was steered away from, on top of another hill, was the beautiful Basilica del Voto National with construction dating back to 1892.
My next post will be about my tour of Old Town. Coming soon!