Saturday, March 19, 2016


I've been doing a lot of adventuring on this trip, but sometimes I just want to hang around and pretend like I live in the city and have a few days off. Quito was a perfect place to do that, especially since the altitude prevented me from doing the adventuring I'd planned when I got into town.
I started off with some McDonald's, and started looking for a place to stay. I'd starred a little place called Casa Helbling on my map, but I couldn't for the life of me remember why. I decided to check it out anyway, and after deciding it was pretty nice little place, I checked in. The place is a large house with a number of different areas, and lots of small private or shared rooms spread out. Toss in a few eccentric German guys at the desk (and one cute Ecuadorian girl), and it was a winning choice. I later figured out from talking to the owner that Mitch (who I'd shared a shipping container with from Panama to Colombia) had stayed there, and I'd marked it after reading what he'd said about it.

First stop was to get some food. I got a recommendation from a local (that I may or may not have been talking to on Tinder) that there was a place around the corner from my hostel that brewed their own beers. Good enough for me, so I stopped by and had a few beers. The food also all sounded amazing, but I ended up going for something that I hadn't had for a really long time - coconut shrimp. You don't find that much down this way, and if you do it's usually not done nearly as well as this place did it, so I was in heaven (even if it did cost $10).

A good selection of craft brews.
The next morning I woke up and headed down to the historic center to wander around and admire the architecture. I ended up spending most of the day there, picking up a pair of "Yans" shoes (not quite Vans) for cheap, and also going to a barber shop where over the course of about half an hour I got my head shaved and the beard and mustache trimmed. The shop was quite cool, with the whole old school barber chair setup that leans back, and a few older guys in there making conversation while they worked. I was a little worried when I saw my barber shuffling and sometimes seeming to have trouble picking things up or putting them where he wanted them, but as soon as he picked up the razor his hand was steady as a rock.

Some of the buildings are really cool.

Stopped in this '70s spaceship diner for some breakfast.

I gave this woman some money - she was really good.

Statues in the square.

My barber was in one of the stone doorways on the left.

Talked to this guy for a bit about his bike, and then snapped a pic when I saw him in traffic a few minutes later.

Every once in a while I'd catch an awesome view of the hills around the city through a street.

Another big square.
I went out in the evening since it was Friday night and got some dinner - I saw a place advertising Mexican tacos, and I've been missing them ever since I left Mexico. I'm never taking Mexican food for granted again. The tortillas were clearly out of a bag, the meat was dry and bland, the guacamole had absolutely no flavor. And for three tacos and a beer I paid three times what I would have in Mexico. It was actually worse than Mexican food I've had in my hometown, a place where Taco Bell was voted best Mexican restaurant.

I wandered around the streets thinking about going into a bar and dancing for a bit, but found myself turned off by the people who were wandering around the area - mostly the guys. Besides the guys who would come up to me and say (in English) "Sup bro, how's it going?" and then would get pissed if I didn't stay to have a conversation long enough for them to offer me drugs, there were also guys grabbing girls, catcalling them, and a bunch of other expressions of the "machismo" culture that dominates much of Latin America. I got turned off by it pretty quickly and headed back to the hostel to play guitar for the evening.

The next day I was planning on taking the cable car up the mountain and doing a hike to the nearby peak. I'd heard it was pretty hard, but I'd given myself a day to acclimate to the altitude and I'm still in pretty decent shape despite not having worked out much on this trip besides a few hikes. Unfortunately, I hadn't acclimated as much as I thought, and I woke up in the morning having trouble breathing - while just laying in bed. I would be breathing normally, and then on an exhale would just find myself desperate for a breath.

So that plan got canceled for the day, and instead I decided to walk over to Freedom Bike Rental, a motorcycle rental shop that sets people up for multi-day tours of Ecuador with bikes and all the gear they'll need. They're pretty well known on some of the motorcycle forums, and for good reason - they were awesome guys. Court and Sylvain (an American and a French guy) are fun to talk to about adventures and super helpful - they took their giant whiteboard map of Ecuador and gave me routes to take on my way south, even though they were busy outfitting two Canadians for a week-long trip.

You can tell the Canadian because he's got the Canadian tuxedo on. That's Court in the back.
I spent more than an hour at the shop hanging out and talking with them, the Canadians, and another couple who was looking to take a multi-day trip. Afterwards I headed back to Plaza Foch near my place to grab some lunch, and ended up buying an awesome orange hand-knit wool hat from a market that was set up there.

Street art on the way to the plaza.

The sign in the center of Plaza Foch. Clever.
In the afternoon I made a trip over to the rock climbing gym not far from where I was staying and rented some shoes to do some bouldering. As I expected, though, I couldn't keep it up for too long, for two reasons: my forearm muscles have gotten much weaker, and I don't have the callouses for it. As it turns out, it was the second one that finally got me to stop.

It wasn't a bad bouldering wall, but I missed having defined and labeled routes like I had back in San Diego.
Yup, time to quit.
When I got back from climbing, this little girl was walking by saying "Moto! Moto! Moto!" over and over again, so I let her try it out for a bit.
That evening I met up with a girl I'd met on Tinder for dinner in the plaza, but we split somewhat early in the evening as I was heading to a couchsurfing meetup I'd seen on the website. It pretty much looked like a Tipsy Tuesday sort of deal (the meetup I did in San Diego for two years), except it was Saturday and therefore involved more dancing. I spent a bunch of time mingling with the couchsurfers including one from the States, but headed out before much of the dancing as I was pretty tired out.

I had originally planned on leaving Quito on Sunday, but decided I'd hang around one more day. (It might have been influenced by me deciding to meet up with the girl from the day before one more time.) I spent the morning hanging around the hostel, and then made a trip over to Freedom Bike Rental once again, this time to rent a helmet from them. Nice guys that they are, they let me use it for free when they heard it was to take a girl on a ride.

So in the afternoon I went to pick up Felixbel and we went on a ride around the city. As I didn't know my way too well, I basically just picked out a few curvy highways outside the city to stay out of traffic, and cruised. There really aren't many things in life better than being on a motorcycle in good weather, on curvy roads, with a girl on the back. Eventually I ended up heading back into town and went by a big park, so we left the motorcycle in the parking lot and wandered through the park for a bit, seeing a BMX competition in a skate park, some awesome street art, and some cute puppies. After relaxing in the park for a bit, we headed back towards my part of town and got some dinner, followed by me playing some guitar in the hostel before she headed back to her place. I rested up for the ride the next day by getting a good night's sleep, and then headed out in the morning to the south.

Really cool mural in the park.
Quito was fun. I did very few of the things I planned, but it was very much the kind of thing I was looking for when I started the trip - enjoying a city, spending time there, and just sort of living there like it was my home and I had I few days off. I could definitely see myself going back there in the future.

A view of some of the buildings on the hills on my way out of town.

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