- Published: December 19, 2006
- Written by Grant
Breakfast time came and went before we got up the next day. Having missed breakfast we took to the streets figuring there'd be something there. The area that we were in is called New Town and the main street is Amazonas. If we headed south on Amazonas we'd eventually end up at Old town after cutting through two parks. Old town is the old Spanish built Quito and comprises of mostly colonial buildings. I've heard that old town Quito is very pretty and is on the UNESCO list of protected areas so I was anxious to see it. The weather was warm (but cooler than Guayaquil) and it wasn't raining. We found a small shop run by black ladies that offered Empanadas and yogurt with fruit. Mo stood her ground on not eating doughy things with meat in them so Natalya and I had empanadas and Jade and Mo had yogurt.
Both were very good. The empanadas cost 75 cents each and the yogurt with fresh fruit cost about a dollar. I didn't try the yogurt but she said it was very good and not like the kind at home. I can understand this as the yogurt we had in Poland was much better than the stuff we have at home. With that we headed toward old town. On the way we passed through a large park with an indigenous market where I bought a shawl. Don't ask what I'm going to do with a pink alpaca shawl because I don't know. Maybe give it to Piper because she likes pink. It was really pretty and the alpaca wool was so very soft. This isn't like the course scratchy wool in Mexico. The cost – 7 dollars! Shawl in hand we continued and found in the next park a spiral staircase that let us get up high enough to see the surrounding mountains. Quito if you don't know is at about 10,000 feet and rests in the inter-andian valley so it's surrounded by even higher mountains that are very green and the tops of them disappear in the clouds they're so high. We change to Agost (August) street and continue our trek to old town.
On the way it starts to rain. Jade didn't bring a coat so Mo loaned him her rain parka and at some point it got so bad we decided to go inside and get something to eat. For $6.70 all four of us ate more food than we could stuff in our mouths. We got chicken, rice, peas, soup and drinks. Not great food but ok and darn cheap too. A couple blocks later we're at old town and the rain had slowed to a drizzle. I've seen plenty of colonial Spanish towns and I don't think Quito stands out among them. Sure the main plaza is pretty but they have about 10 restored buildings and that's about it. We took pictures and then started climbing Chile street since that's where the locals were going. Along Chile street is store after store selling everything from shoes to stereos. This is apparently the Quito outdoor mall. When we got quite a way above the city we headed south once again on a deserted cobblestone street. I didn't really know where we were going or where we'd end up I was just curious. All over the city we'd been seeing indigenous people wearing the typical Ecuadorian hat, shawl and tons of necklaces. I don't know why they wear 30 necklaces but some of them are really pretty.
I haven't figured out how I'm going to take their picture yet. We walked past one indigenous lady and she smiled real big which I noticed. As she got past us she stopped in the middle of the street , turned and just stared while smiling. I too turned and to watch her and she started walking again only to look over her shoulder to smile some more. Apparently there was something humorous about a white haired lady, two kids and a gringo man walking around in untouristed Quito. On the way down the hill toward the main plaza again we heard a lady in one of the stores talking about the gringos. Quite the spectacle we are. We still don't see hardly any tourists.
The rain started to really drop on us so we spent about 30 minutes hiding under a ledge. Our new mission was to find the bus station so we could head to the Amazon the next day. Our original plan was to take a taxi since their cheap but my map said we were only about 10 blocks away so we decided to walk it to see what we could see. We found it soon after and my first Wizard of Ozian impression of it was that we weren't in Mexico anymore. In Mexico the bus stations look like airports and the buses are very nice. In Ecuador the bus station looks like a turkish market with people yelling out their destinations and prices. It was dirty and dilapidated. We did find someone that was selling tickets to Tena our jump off city into the Amazon.
Here is another impression that I'm sure Ecuadorians won't appreciate is that the people here try to rip you off at every opportunity. People say that about Mexico but I think it's far worse. I think they're as bad as the Turks. Anyway if you don't complain here the price will climb as you're talking then they'll try their hardest not to give you any change. In order to get them to give change you have to pry it from their fingers. That is if they don't outright steal your stuff in front of you. Anyway my Spanish is bad, Mo's is only slightly better and the ticket guy knew 20 English words. I had to communicate to him that we had to leave Tena at 2:30 so we could get to the lodge at 4:30 where we were being picked up by a canoe on the Napo river. The best I could do was to tell him we had to leave at 8:00. He had a bus at 8:30 that would get us to Tena at 1:30 according to him which didn't quite add up to me.
We bought the tickets for $24 and headed out to find a taxi. I've learned how to hail taxis in Ecuador to. You just stick you hand straight out toward the street and shake it like you're saying “so so” and the taxi will pull over and pick you up. I showed the taxi driver the address and he had no idea where it was. I showed him the map and he still had no idea. He stopped and asked another taxi while the crowd of cars behind us honked their horns impatiently. The other driver gave him some directions and off we went. Confused he just went north. We got to Agost street and I knew from there how to get home so I directed him. Quite strange that I a gringo that had only made the trip from New Town to Old Town once knew the way and the taxi driver didn't. We got to our one way street (that went the wrong way) so he let us out on the corner. Immediately 4 little kids about 8 years old came up trying to sell us chicklets. They were very very insistent and followed us while we walked. They swarmed around us like little hornets and we finally got rid of them and got a block down the street Mo noticed her camera was gone. By then they had disappeared and we went into our hostel to get ready to leave. This act impacted Mo considerably and she even decided to go home so she wouldn't be a bother to us. I've a very logical rational person so that wouldn't have ever occurred to me at all. To me we were down one camera but nothing else changed. Tired and hungry we went out to find food and get on the intenet to get the directions to our Amazon lodge.
We ate at this really trendy but pretty pink restaurant. I could try to describe the decor but a picture is worth a thousand words so I'll leave it to the picture. I ordered the Ecuadorian croquette type things that were quite good, Natalya had Moussaka, Mo had salmon with a cinnamon spice from the Amazon and Jade had rosemerry sea bass. All was real good. For an appetizer I ordered some brandy and ham empanadas. Mo insisted on being stubborn about her no meat in dough policy but I insisted on her trying one and she loved it. Maybe later when we get to Peru she'll try a larger empanada. The feeling of not being ready for the next day was growing in my stomach so we left to find an internet connection. The problem was that I'd written down the times we were supposed to catch our buses but no real directions. I'd scribbled the times down solely for the purpose of buying our bus tickets and not to travel with so I needed to get to the Internet and write more thorough instructions on how to get from Quito to Tena then from Tena to Puerto Barantilla and the lodge. I walked the others home and headed out to be enlightened by an Internet connection only to find that all had closed down for the night which didn't help much. Beck at the hostel I found they had a computer with Internet. It was an old old machine with 64 megs of ram and Windows 98. After 20 minutes of trying to get it to do anything ( I mean anything) I gave up. I didn't sleep a lot because I didn't like not having decent instructions. As much as it may seem from the outside that I take risks with my kids this isn't true. Every place we go and every decision we make is over researched and thought out. This traveling with two lines of arrival and departure times wasn't how I did business and it bothered me. I would try again to find Internet inthe morning.