Hostal de La Rabida

Country #24 - Ecuador Day 2

The Equator and the Firecrackers

Today I woke up early and set out for the Equator! It is about a thirty minute (and $20) drive from the heart of Quito through the outskirts of the city. There is quite a bit of debate over the exact correct location of the Equator, but I chose to visit the more common tourist location, as there is much more to see and do. When you arrive you see a massive monument in the distance marking the Equator. Admission was not too expensive ($8) and gives you access to museums, the shops, the Equator monument, and even llamas!

When I entered I walked around to get a feel for everything there was to see. I took my obligatory pictures standing over the Equator line and then set out to see the llamas. They were pretty cute! I then took pictures with the “Middle of the World” giant letters before climbing up the monument. From the top of the monument, you can see the beautiful hills surrounding the area. You take an elevator to the top, but take the stairs down through a museum about Ecuador and the Equator.

I then ate lunch at one of the many restaurants (my choice was not a great one, but I had a good view so it was not too bad) and then I watched a cultural dance performance. Next, I headed to the chocolate museum, then to a museum about the Equator’s discovery, and lastly to view a miniature of the city of Ecuador. Everything was included in the price of admission, and it was a pretty full half day adventure! I took a taxi back to my hotel, said goodbye to brownie the bunny, and then took another taxi (my same driver from this morning) to the airport.

I had Johnny Rockets for dinner in the airport. Lame, I know, but also I really wanted chicken fingers and an Oreo milkshake and there were few other options so it was actually a great comfort food meal. After dinner, I took a two-hour flight to Lima, Peru. The flight was fine but the airport was a nightmare.

I think tonight was absolutely the most frustrated I have been on my trip, followed by the most scared. The Lima airport is a free-for-all for the cab drivers, which in my opinion benefits absolutely no one. It just terrifies travelers, and causes drivers to compete vigorously with each other. After exiting the terminal I was bombarded with requests for taxis. This is nothing new - I have seen it in many countries so far. However, one taxi driver would not leave me alone, and I grew very angry telling him no over ten times. It took me growing visibly angry to get him to leave me alone. It is crazy to me that an airport for such a large city has such a poor system in place. All of this was going on while my Uber driver took forever to find me. While he took forever, I was completely relieved to get away from the airport. But my night of fun was not over yet!

I arrived at my hotel, TUPAC Airport Hostel, around 10pm. Thank you so much to TUPAC for sponsoring two nights of my trip! It was definitely a hostel, but I had my own room and everyone was very nice. Around midnight, however, I heard what I thought were about 5-10 gunshots in very close proximity. I was definitely panicked - I hid in the bathroom and spent thirty minutes trying to get in touch first with the hotel and then, when that proved unsucessful, with the US Embassy.

I got through to a really helpful guy at the embassy who was eventually able to get in touch with the hotel. The hotel was very apologetic and sent someone up to my room to make sure that I was okay and to explain that the neighborhood right behind my hotel regularly sets off firecrackers on Sunday nights. I was fine, especially after ten minutes or so of not hearing anything other than the initial loud pops. However, it was still a scary situation in the moment. I really appreciate how helpful the US Embassy was! They even let me know that I did exactly the right thing in the situation.

After the whole ordeal, it took me a few hours to fall asleep. I knew I was safe, but according to my Apple Watch my heart rate was at about 130 for a while after the incident, so I was just wide awake. Eventually, though, I fell asleep. Looking forward to exploring Lima tomorrow!

24 countries down, 172 to go.

Read about my first day in Ecuador here.

To learn more about Hostal de La Rabida click here.

To learn more about TUPAC Airport Hostel click here.

Country #24 - Ecuador Day 1

The Bunny

This morning I had an 8am flight from Colombia to Quito, Ecuador. At the airport, I took a taxi from the airport taxi stand into Quito (for $25). Interestingly enough, due to a financial crisis in 1999/2000, Ecuador actually uses the US Dollar as it's currency - so I had zero confusion on exchange rates today! The drive took around an hour, and it was equal parts beautiful and car sickness inducing. The roads were winding but the scenery was amazing. I arrived at my hotel, Hostal de La Rabida, and had a really cute room right off of the courtyard. The hotel is so charming and, the best part, there is a pet bunny! The bunny is named Brownie and he is so sweet and tolerant (of being petted) and I just was made probably abnormally happy by this really cute bunny. I cannot thank Hostal de La Rabida enough for sponsoring my stay and for their incredible hospitality. After bonding with Brownie (and facetiming everyone in my immediate family to show them Brownie) I had to take a nap. I was exhausted from an early morning of travel.

After my nap, I decided to head out to explore the heart of Quito! Ecuador does not have Uber or anything like it, so it is always best to ask your hotel to call you a taxi. I had read horror stories of people being mugged by accidentally getting in unofficial taxis in Quito, so I made it a priority to be really aware during my time in Ecuador. I got some recommendations on sights from the hotel and then headed out. My first stop was the Pre-Columbian Art Museum. While this definitely is not my favorite type of art or museum (which has been a little rough considering the plethora of them in Central / South America) this museum was actually really great. It was the perfect size, had an English translated audio guide and descriptions, and the art was all really unique and interesting to learn about.

I finished the museum in under an hour and headed down the street to the Church of Saint Francis. It was stunning on the inside and outside. The church sits on Plaza San Francisco, which was a really great place to just stop and observe for a while. While this was definitely a tourist focused area, I was amazed by how many locals were out and about in the old town area of Quito.

From there I headed to Independence Square, which was a really pretty park near Plaza San Francisco. The buildings in this area of Quito were immaculate and definitely historic. I then walked to a chocolate shop right off of the square to buy the first presents (a few chocolate bars) of my trip!

I next sat off on an unfortunately uphill journey to the Basilica of the National Vow. The walk was supposedly not very long but I had no idea how exhausted I would be afterward. Quito sits at an incredibly high elevation for a city at over 9,000 feet. Other than La Paz, Bolivia, Quito will be the highest elevated capital city I will visit over the course of visiting 197 countries. So the altitude sickness is a very real thing. Bogota sat at over 8,500 feet so at least I have had a few days of altitude so far, but with La Paz and then Cusco, Peru still to come I will probably be pretty light headed and extra tired for the next few days to come. Those are the only symptoms that I have and I hope that it stays that way! The uphill walk to the church was definitely worth it, though. It was absolutely incredible and huge as well. It was one of the largest Cathedrals that I have ever seen, and I took so many pictures (tons of which are in the slideshow below).

I walked all around the church for a good while and then found a taxi stationed outside to take me back to my hotel. After resting in my room for a while (I’m telling you this altitude is killer) I decided to eat dinner at my hotel. I ordered fettuccine alfredo and it was really tasty. I then had such a nice surprise when the hotel made my meal complimentary! It was so nice and I really cannot thank Hostal de La Rabida enough for their generocity. After a busy day, I had no trouble falling asleep, and am so excited to visit the Equator tomorrow!

24 countries down, 172 to go.

Read about my second day in Ecuador here.

To learn more about Hostal de La Rabida click here.