Monday, March 22, 2010

Equinox on the Equator in Ecuador

I think I've really been caught off-guard by how much I have enjoyed Quito (and Ecuador as a whole). It's been so easy to enjoy and though we're off to Colombia (arguably a very similar country) - I'm identifying with this place, seeing myself on the streets, waking up to these bizarre sunrises day after day.

After four months of traveling, Kaitlin and I were both feeling a bit worn down. Our motto for Quito was to stay in the historic part of the city with less bars, less hostels, less chaos. I think it has really paid off in that we are so close to all of the historical sites that are the backbone of Quito's substance.

There are views of Quito everywhere. A block or two up the hill from our hostel and we're on the balcony of a greek café eating banana nut pancakes with café while the murmur of a Friday in Quito trickles up our way.

The next day we're in the top of the steeples of the Basilica del Voto Nacional. My feet sweating profusely as Kaitlin is practically running up the ladders. Another angle of the city with it's orderly traffic (never thought I would say that while on this continent!) and humble pedestrians.

We've spent an evening strolling Calle de la Ronda - a place for people seeking a little more culture with their nightlife. The Andean folk music pulsing out of every other establishment, much like the Mapuche tunes a few thousand kilometers down the range, but with its own Ecuadorian twist - adding fiddles and a more staccato vocal style. It made us dance, drink with ease, and attack our quimbolitos, empanadas, and corn tortillas. Warm red wine with sugar and hot cider that reeked of its potency, but tasted like middle winter relief.

I had my first straight razor shave by a beautiful old man in the Plaza del Teatro.

We braved the high noon sun, on the equinox, on the equator, for possibly the worst professional football match I have seen yet. El Nacional (13 titles and home club of Christian Benítez and Antonio Valencia) and Independiente del Valle/José Terán. As we hid inside of our shirts we watched a less than enthused crowd mumble as their team went up a goal and (but for the no more than twenty locos jumping and singing [although they were all Boca Juniors songs]) sit on their hands until the teams were reduced to 10v10, the game was tied, and the final minutes lurking. With true class, the El Nacional fans turned on their squad - hissing and booing every failed attempt at goal for the last ten minutes of the match. And to top it all off, the lethargic dispersed group, saved their one moment of unity for the end of the game when they all rushed to the point nearest the player's tunnel in order to shower their boys with expletives. What a club!

Everything else has been a mixture of markets, restaurants, wandering, and quality people back at the hostel.

Though we leave today, there is another full day in Quito. Plenty to do, too much to do, before we make our way to the airport around 8pm. But we'll try, botanical gardens filled with orchids, convents where nuns sell lotions through revolving doors, and more markets, more food, as much as we can stuff our stomachs, packs, and hearts with before we leave this hemisphere.

Tomorrow we'll be in Cartagena, back in the northern hemisphere, swapping also the Pacific for the Caribbean. But we know that Quito, and Ecuador as a whole, is a place we must return to.

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