Next Stop Ecuador – Starting in Quito and Climbing Cotopaxi Volcano

Quito, Ecuador
Day 40 – 45 of our South America trip (read more)

How we arrived:
Just a quick and easy 24 hour bus ride from Cali, stopping at the border in Ipiales to walk through immigration and catch another bus to Quito. Although it sounds horrific and was a tough aul schlep the overnight bus from Cali to the border was decent as we had booked first class tickets meaning our seats reclined most of the way. We did have to queue for 2 hours at the Colombian border to get an exit stamp at 8am which was irritating but from there to Quito it was a 6 hour bus and then taxi to the hostel.

Crossing the border into Ecuador

Quick overview:
The capital of Ecuador was a real pleasant surprise. We left Quito after 4 days having really enjoyed the city and the people. It doesn’t get too much attention from many travelers so we weren’t expecting much. When we got to the bus terminal in Quito I hopped off the bus to grab our bags and was very out of breath. I told Heather I needed to go for a run or something! Turns out I’m not that unfit – just a bit! The altitude in Quito is 3,000m above sea level. The city is pretty much in the clouds. Getting used to the altitude takes a few days and leaves you out of breath and a bit dizzy.

We decided to head up to “La Mitad del Mundo” – the centre of the world – on our first day there. Heather seemed determined to head on a local bus so we hopped on the bus out there. Cost 15 cent each on the bus… total rip off ha! The bus in itself was an experience. As squashed as the tube in rush hour in London with the added excitement of potentially being pick pocketed. La Mitad del Mundo which claims to be the centre of world due to being the highest point on the equator line (think the valve of a rugby ball) was a bit of a gimmicky and touristy place but we had a really good day. Plus I managed to learn a few things about the earth and sun which alcohol must have pushed out when I learnt about it in school.

The second day we went on a brilliant free walking tour with a passionate local guide. He brought us through the centre and to the historical spots in Quito. He also gave quite an embracing speech about the economic crash where the Ecuadorian currency, the sucre, failed in 2000. For the past 17 years Ecuador has been using the US Dollar as its currency. Great for us tourists but not so much for economy as it stunts its opportunity to grow. Ecuador exports its products at less of a gain due to not having its own currency to negotiate with and that seriously effects the their export margin. Despite this we were left feeling that Ecuador and its capital Quito was on the up. One of the smallest Latin American countries the people give off a pluckiness much like the Irish. The city itself is fairly rough around the edges in places but also has well maintained buildings giving it a colonial feel and not dissimilar to some Spanish cities. It is a little unsafe to just wander about and we were encouraged to always get taxis at night but luckily we didn’t have any issues. We met a chap on the walking tour who was good craic so we had a few drinks with him that night which was good fun. Bars on a strip in a place called “Plaza Foch” were lively and the beer was nice and cheap 🙂

Early the next day we went to one the largest active volcanoes in Ecuador (there are 8 all together) called Cotopaxi. We climbed up to 4,864m and stopped off in the refuge. You cant currently climb the rest of it as it erupted just over a year ago. And then cycled back down to a lake on a very bumpy road that Heather didn’t like so much (all sorts of curse words coming from the yank). The views were really cool and we survived the altitude which was good prep for Machu Pichu. Coca leaves help slow the heart rate and get rid of the dizziness apparently. They work but taste shite ha.

We had some decent meals in Quito too and it’s very good value for money.

Accommodation:
We stayed 4 nights in Mogen’s Pod Hostel. With Japanese inspired pods to sleep in it was really cool and very comfortable. Definitely one of the best places we’ve stayed and they had a restaurant with good food and drink too.

Rory’s rant:
God forbid a man wants to buy a pair of new shoes! I assumed clothing brands would be cheaper in South America but they are actually more expensive! In need of a new pair of runners and everything is nearly double the price of London. Sports Direct needs to get over here.

Heather’s highlight:
Prior to coming here, Ecuador was one of those places people advised us to travel through rather than spend time in. After arriving in Quito I quickly relised that Ecuador has plenty to offer to tourists. In Quito especially there is a good food scene, rich history and friendly locals. You can also get to amazing destinations like Cotopaxi Volcano and Quilotoa Lake within a few hours by bus. Mogen’s Pod Hostel is highly recommended as a place to base yourself in quito. It’s not a party hostel, but it’s located a few mins walk away from the buzz of bars and restaurants. The staff are the most friendly we experienced in South America and they will help you where they can.

Read from the start of our South America trip

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