A lot has happened since arriving in Ecuador on Sunday! We arrived in Quito with no problems, and just as we normally do when we arrive in a country, we headed to the ATM to get out local currency. As it turns out, Ecuador uses USD which really shows you how much research we did before we arrived! We picked up a taxi outside of the airport with no issues and started on the very rainy, ~45 minute ride to our hostel (Hostal Casa Urbana).
On Monday we got ready to head out and attempt to book a last-minute cruise in the Galapagos at local travel agencies and explore Quito, but quickly saw that many restaurants and business were closed! We were very confused, and after talking to our amazing hostel owner Carolina, we found out that most people had the day off as it was a national holiday! After it started raining fairly hard, we decided to use the day to plan/book more things, e-mail places for cruises, and work on getting this blog up and running.
On Tuesday we went on a free walking tour with “Free Walking Tour Ecuador”. We met up with a guy named Ovidio at Plaza Foch and he showed us how to use the buses and took us to Old Town to meet up with the rest of the group. We went around with our guide Romulo and he told us a lot of interesting information about Ecuador and Quito and gave us many suggestions for restaurants and things to try. He showed us a place to eat almuerzo which was only $2.25 for A TON of food.
Then we went to the Happy Gringo office via bus to meet with Jonathan about an amazing discounted last-minute Galapagos cruise he e-mailed us about. It was a little difficult to find but people on the street seemed to know what we were looking for and gave us directions. Knowing some Spanish is VERY USEFUL, especially in restaurants and when asking for directions. Jonathan was very useful and had AMAZING English and answered any questions we had about the cruise. He even booked our return flights a few days later and arranged for us to be dropped of in Puerto Ayora so we could stay on the islands for a few extra days to hopefully scuba dive. We then came back to the hostel to grab some coffee/tea and then hopped on the bus to go to La Ronda to meet up with an Australian couple and an awesome surgeon from L.A. that we met on the free walking tour.
We went to a restaurant called Leña Quiteña for dinner/drinks and tried an alcoholic drink called canelazo which was delicious but very strong. I can easily imagine how you could have a very good time after a few cups of canelazo, but since Gerrod and I are responsible adults we stuck to just 1 (or 2). The Australian couple said they were doing a hiking/biking Cotopaxi tour the next morning and said if we didn’t have anything going on we should join. So we went to their hostel “Masaya Hostel Quito” with them and booked the tour last-minute! We didn’t even know what company it was with but figured it would still be great. On our way back to our hostel, we decided to walk to the bus stop to see if they were still running. A guy started harassing us and blocked our way so we started walking towards a group of taxis and then the guy FLASHED A GUN AT US!! We were terrified and quickly hopped into a taxi. Our driver took us straight to our hostel and charged us more than we expected, but we were glad to be safe. We decided to take Ubers from here on out at night following that terrifying mess. We are very lucky nothing bad happened.
Wednesday morning we took an early AM Uber to the Hostel Masaya where we booked the tour to Cotopaxi. There was a van waiting there so we hopped on and the Australian couple met up with us. Then the van went all the way back to Plaza Foch to pick up some more people for the tour, which was very near our hostel! That’s what we get for booking the tour so last-minute. They provided breakfast and gave us interesting information about the volcanoes and the Chaupi people. The views on the way to the start of the trail were amazing! We both could definitely feel the altitude getting to us, so we bought some coca candies as recommended by our guide Victor (P.S. coca candies are made from the same plant that is used to make cocaine! But they definitely seemed to help with the altitude sickness). We arrived at the Cotopaxi car park and started our trek up.
The trail was covered in snow and it was VERY FOGGY, but it was still cool to hike up to Refugio Cotopaxi. The way up was very slow, but due to the altitude sickness we found ourselves very winded the entire time.
We had hot coca leaf tea at Refugio Cotopaxi and then started our trek downhill, which was somehow more foggy than the trek up. It was SOOO FOGGY that when I (Lauren) had to pee, and literally walked 50 meters into the fog and couldn’t see anyone so I just popped a squat. We drove partway down the mountain and then got onto mountain bikes provided by the tour company and rode down the gravel road. It was very bumpy, so much so that I could feel my arm flabs jiggle, but it was still a blast. Eventually we were out of the fog and the views were incredible!!! Our guide Franklin provided some cool facts about plants (yay!) we were seeing while we were taking pictures of the views. He spoke mostly in Spanish so luckily I know enough Spanish to understand! We ended the biking portion of the tour at Laguna De Limpiopungo, and hoped on the bus to go back to eat lunch.
I had such a headache from the altitude! Gerrod napped a bit and then we got served a 3-course meal! They took us back to Quito, and this time we got off at Plaza Foch and walked back to our hostel (Casa Urbana). Later, we met up with the surgeon from L.A. at the Q Restaurant - Plaza Foch for drinks and then ended our night!
Thursday consisted mostly of getting things booked again, including accommodation for our Galapagos trip next week. We went to Gulliver Travels to try to book a trip to the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest, but were told none of the tours fit into our remaining time in Ecuador. I was a little heartbroken, but the travel agent worked with us and we managed to find an amazing place in the Amazon Rainforest in Peru. He gave us several recommendations following our return from the Galapagos.
It has been a whirlwind of a week with lots of planning, but we met some amazing people and got to see some amazing things. Although I am bummed we are not going to go to the Ecuador rainforest, there is a lot left to do in Quito that we missed out on while trying to get the discounted Galapagos cruise, so I look forward to coming back here following our Galapagos adventure!
Lauren (and Gerrod)
Links to some of the things I mentioned: