Last night, before I went to sleep, I took some time and I looked up interesting facts about both Quito and Ecuador. Now, in saying that, I feel obligated to be clear that "before I went to sleep" can be construed as anytime before 5am... because that is when I think I finally dozed off. Jet lag sucks...
Onwards and upwards... Quito is the highest capital in the world and it sits at 2850m above sea level (no wonder I'm so bloated)... Honestly- my face and my fingers (and my ankles) are double the size right now. I'm the walking, talking blimp... drinking loads of water and being quite active, as I conquer this city in the rain, without proper attire.
This altitude can suck it. I worked out before I came, I drank that putrid coffee and inundated myself with water... and now I'm at the top of the world, living off deep fried mystery pockets, soaked to the bone, bloated, and trying to squeeze my way in to a bunch of old, tight summer clothes... FML lol ... but I'm loving every minute of it :-)
In Ecuador, the dry season is June-September and is considered winter. The wet season is October to May, and is slightly warmer with more rainfall, and considered summer. That is EIGHT months of rain.
So, I have decided that they definitely NEED rain jacket shops.
I actually had an epiphany... if anyone found themselves without work here, a rain gear shop is a brilliant idea. It could cater to tourists, locals, rich, poor (of all ages!)... offering a literal buffet of fun rain apparel like; rain outfits, pants, jackets, hats, umbrellas... etc. Plastic ponchos... repellent gear... waterproof jackets and vests and bags... boots... all sizes, all colours... the possibilities are endless.
Right around the corner from my hostel is a Plástico Shop... specializing in all things 'plastic.' Not kidding. If you actually zoom in on the picture, you can see that inside the door is a presentation of assorted plástico items they offer. Spoons, plates, containers, cups...
Hey- maybe it's a gold mine. I have no idea.
Today I wanted to visit El Panecillo. This is an enormous Virgin Mary mosaic statue that overlooks the north side of the city of Quito. It didn't really look too far away- just a lot of climbing... and hey, I've been at the gym every day for over a week... so I should be fine, right?
Then I start reading horrible reviews on line about the terrifying excursion to the moment. Muggings, wild dogs...
No biggie for me, of course. I'm a fierce, brave, independent, warrior woman with low income clothing, not carrying a lot of money... I should be fine. Plus... I really like dogs.
Then it dawns on me...
I opted out of having the tetanus shot.
Suddenly, a taxi is starting to seem like not quite a bad idea. Or am I just being lazy... cuz I'm not really afraid, am I?
I venture downstairs to speak to the girl at the front desk. Her name is Johana, by the way. She told me that we are destined to be friends now because of our names...
"Is it safe for me to walk up to El Panecillo alone?"
Reasonable question. Then, out of nowhere, Henri, the hostel activities organizer, who I have never met & also didn't notice sitting in the corner of the room, jumps right up!
"We will go to El Panecillo together."
Sounds good. Be ready and in the lobby by 10:30am. Done! Right away, I had my own personal tour guide and buffer for muggings and wild dog attacks.
Ok... it was 864 steps UP UP UP... not kidding. I usually pride myself on the strength of my legs, but for the love of Dios... I thought I was going to collapse. I want to be honest and say that it's a 200 metre hill, but saying that, to me it maybe doesn't seem as tough as it should... but it was real steep. Real, real steep. 3016m above sea level. Mari, my host sister in Guayaquil, told me that she would take me to Las Penas when I visit (because I found a picture of it and it's so beautiful!). She warned me that we might not make it because it is 400 steps. Oh my hell, I'll be running that backwards in my sleep now! I kept stopping on the journey up, and saying to Henri, "cuéntame otra historia sobre la historia de la ciudad" (translation - "tell me another story about the history of the city")... he saw through my antics and trickery quickly though and made me get going!
Henri was a super nice guy- and really interesting... but absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, an absolute stereotypical Ecuadorian man. Don't get me wrong, he was not creepy at all. I felt absolutely comfortable on the hike with him, but he had all the lines, he used them and then he used them again.
And he sang "Step by Step" by the New Kids on the Block, almost the entire way up... I didn't get mugged... at least, as far as I know, nothing is missing. BUT- the dogs... WOW! Everywhere, feral dogs.
It's actually overwhelming and I heard that it's become a serious problem in the city. At one point, when we were almost at the top, I heard a bunch of barking behind us and turned to see about seven of them bolting towards us. It was unnerving, to say the least... and they kept advancing. These aren't cute little puppies either, these are hungry, wild, dirty, disease ridden animals of the street. Henri shoed the off finally, but I don't know what I would have done if I had been alone. He told me that they were probably just hungry. Were they going to... eat us? So up to the mosaic monument of the Virgin Madonna with wings, who is standing on a globe and stepping on a snake, and who's name means 'small piece of bread.' You can't make this stuff up... Then Henri tells me that it was nice to meet me and he must leave now because his part of the tour is over and he has to go back to the hostel now. My first thought? I'm being thrown to the dogs! How the hell am I going to get out of here alive? But then I remember that I'm a fierce, brave, independent, warrior woman, who just conquered 864 steps... So I grabbed a taxi. Off to the Basilica del Voto Nacional. Another super exciting and fascinating church.. PS - Done with churches for the remainder of the trip... I hope. Walked a lot today actually... feel I'm really connecting with the ins and outs of the country again. I'm crossing the street willy nilly when I want to, I'm dodging traffic, I'm flipping people the bird and yelling PUTA when drivers piss me off... No... I'm actually not doing any of that... except for crossing the streets when I want... as long as there are no cars coming.
Tonight, Henri is doing 'activities' night at the hostel, so I think I will join in, if he'll let me. After 864 steps today, I told him that he's not very good at his job and his activities are quite shit. Apparently he wants to (and I quote) "cook food from all of the places of the world of the people that stay in this wonderful hostel of his country"... I'm in. Can't wait.