For the first time in a while, I managed to reach Quito, the capital of Ecuador without losing a single possession. Huzzah! Arriving in the city at 5:30am was rather inconveient, but I found a little corner of the lovely, modern bus terminal to relax for a while until the sun came up. I eschewed the touristy La Mariscal region of the city and chose instead to stay in the colonial center where my odds of being pickpocketed were slightly lower. I first stopped at a place called the Secret Garden, highly recommended in the guide book, but there was no one around to talk to so I stole some wi-fi and checked to see if there was any other options nearby. I settled on a place called Hostel Revolution, only five blocks further down the road. I got to the front door at 7:15 and then found a sign saying that they don’t answer the door until 8. Lovely. Quito is pretty cold in the morning owing to its elevation and I had no desire to continue wandering the streets so I hunkered down on the doorstep like a well-dressed vargrant to wait it out. When I was finally admitted to the building, I found out the place was full, but someone would be checking out at noon. I curled up with my backpack and some pillows in the TV room and stole a much-needed nap.
The hostel was worth the wait, finding that fine balance of being really social and fun without nightly drunken assholes ruining your sleep. The place was owned by a Croatian lady who had lived in Toronto for the past 20 years- she had just purchased the business from an Australian guy and was in the process of updating the place with more plugins and better stairs. Because of this, I was informed that I would have to check out by September 25; it was only the 22nd so I figured I would be fine. Some aimless wandering finished up the day followed by a proper sleep in an actual bed. Ah the simple pleasures.
On September 23, the equinox, I attempted to leave the hostel early but the combination of sleeping in and crowded transit meant that I didn’t start out toward the equator until after 10am. The actual site of the equator is only 25km from Quito but I had to take a combination of metro and bus so it took a while to get there, especially after my bus broke down.
The Ecuadorians have built a bit of a tourist park around the monument marking the equator, as measured by the French Academy of Sciences in 1736. So while the spot is impressive, the equator is actually slightly off from that location. Sadly, my camera battery died before I got to take some shots of the official equator, but the sun was still directly over my head at noon, and that was just damn cool. Fun fact, “Ecuador” just means “equator” in Spanish… not a terribly creative country name, in the end.
In the afternoon I caught the wrong bus back to town and ended up completely lost, but I was too stubborn to catch a taxi so I walked for about 3 hours to make it back to my hostel. I think the pollution got to me and I spent 2 very unexciting days being sick. With nothing to occupy my time, I mostly surfed the internet and after a bit of googling I decided, “what the hell, why not go to the Galapagos?” and bought a ticket leaving September 26. I occasionally have a problem with impulsiveness. Of course I was supposed to leave the hostel by the 25th so I made a plan to sleep in the airport the night before my flight. When I told this to the hostel owner, she took pity on me and let me sleep there one more night for free. This is why I love travel culture. Next stop Galapagos Islands!