After a long day of air travel and airports we finally arrived in Quito late in the evening. The original plan for Quito was just a quick stop over while we organized our trip details for the Galapagos Islands: this plan did not change.
Our first impressions of Quito came while looking out the window of the airplane before landing; and it was quite an amazing city at night, from miles above. Quito is one of the longest cities in the world because the mighty Andes Mountain range sandwiches the city into a valley. It has no where to grow except north to south. Physically the landscape is beautiful (reminded me a bit of British Columbia) and the air is quite thin due to its extremely high elevation. The thousands of small, concrete buildings are very colorful and seem to endlessly connect to one another.
We stayed at a great hostel, the Travellers Inn in the Mariscal district (or the ´new´city). The location turned out to be a bit suspect but it was a very comfortable guest house with great hosts that are English speaking and always willing to help. We'd recommend this hostel to anyone traveling to Quito.
But that´s about it for the positives of Quito from us. Translation - we didn´t like Quito very much! Nor did many travellers that we´ve run into since.
We tried to put our finger on why we didn´t like it and it came down to the people. Although the city is very poor and the majority of homes are incomplete, it was the way that we were treated that had us ready to move on. In our brief experience the people were very rude, pushed their way past you, and offered very little more than an uncomfortable stare.
It wasn´t so much our dislike for the people but rather their dislike and disrespect for us (the tourist). Foreigners are highly recommended to stay indoors at night because there is a high probability that you will be robbed or mugged. All of the hostels are barred up and you need a buzzer to enter the premise (not something I´ve experienced at a hostel). A chinese quest at our hostel was actually robbed multiple times during his stay, once at knife point! There are policia everywhere but they do little to stop the petty crime. The feel of the city in general (at least from our eyes as a tourist) is very tense and unfriendly.
One thing that I did note was that those who did speak to us spoke about wanting to leave the city, but could not afford to due to the terrible economic conditions. That may be why they spend their time in tourism talking to tourists and dreaming of another place with less poverty.
Needless to say we couldn´t get out of Quito quick enough, so we left.
We immediately booked a tour to hike Volcano Cotopaxi, about an hour and a half south of Quito. The highest we got was just beyond the refuge at approx 16,000 feet... which is also the highest point that either of us have ever been. This trip widely changed our view of Ecuador... it was amazing, remote and peaceful.
Check out our photos when then finally get uploaded (uploading photos in Ecuador has been a huge and frustrating challenge!).
We returned from our outdoor adventure, packed up again, and caught the first flight out the next morning with our destination to the infamous Galapagos Islands!
The Galapagos Islands were truly spectacular... we´ll be writing a blog entry later this week so stay tuned!