Sunday, August 9, 2009
Beware of slick websites.
After yesterday’s early morning, we slept in, well relatively speaking. On the road we’ve rarely slept in past 9am. In fact most days, we have found ourselves wide awake by 8am. I guess that’s what happens when you’re not overworked, and you have something other than the daily grind to look forward to. However, getting up at 9am meant we’d missed seeing off the five from last night. We drowned our sorrows in bacon once again. Not really, but it was an excuse to get two orders of it. Now, don’t look at me like that - who knows when we’ll see it or taste it again. Then it was time to head out. Unlike when we arrived out on the highway, this time we only had to walk two blocks to the bus station where a bus was waiting. Once we were on it took off for the unremarkable two hour ride to Quito. Although we did pass through one town that had some bizarre fixation with prehistoric cavemen. In the middle of the highway they had built or carved a large display of dinosaurs and cavemen in a raised island of rock. Oh well, at least it something besides mountains to look at.
We arrived at the brand spanking new northern bus terminal ahead of schedule. Just a month or so before, Quito had replaced its infamous crime-infested downtown stations with two new stations on the outskirts of town. Getting rid of the crime was good although it now meant that we had to take a taxi ride the 15km into town. I wasn’t looking forward to hearing how much that would cost. But was surprised when the driver said only $7. Then he turned on his metre and when we arrived at the hostel his quote and the metre matched – actually the metre was less but we still gave him the full $7. What a pleasant taxi experience – I may now have to mark down August 9th as Be Nice to Taxi Drivers Day. Too much? Probably. Anyways we were now in the New Town or Mariscal Sucre area of town. It’s affectionately known as Gringolandia and I could see why. Besides every third place being a hostel, the rest looked like a cross between Yorkville and the Club district. This area is where the locals come to party. But after so many small towns, it was a nice change. What wasn’t nice was our hostel. Although our room is big and clean, the rest of the hostel is dumpy. The shared bathroom is mouldy, the rest of the hotel is dirty. And although it calls itself a hostel there is no common area, no kitchen and no nothing. Even the attached sushi restaurant is closed Sunday to Thursday. All this for $30 US. No wonder they replied to my email request so quickly. At least the guy at the desk was nice. As we checked in, he let us know that today all the museums in the old town were free. We’d been looking forward to just chilling at the hostel but since it wasn’t such a great place to chill, we decided to check it out.
Getting into the old town was cheap and easy. Just a block away was a stop for the new Trole – the bus/tram/streetcar thing that only cost 25 cents to ride. Within 15 minutes we were in the old city and surrounded by people. It seemed like every person in Quito was there. I’m not sure if this was an every weekend thing or, as the banners announced, because it was the Independence Day. Every square was set up for live music that evening. And those free museums, galleries and churches? Well, even the smallest ones had lineups that stretched around the block. There was no way we were going to get in to any of them. But that was okay because the historic centre of Quito was enough of an attraction and it was cost free and line up free. With so many families I also felt comfortable to take my camera out, although after so many beautiful colonial cities on our trip it was hard to get too excited by anything in particular – there were churches, squares, old buildings, older buildings, government buildings, more churches, etc, etc. And after a couple of hours of fighting the crowds, it also got tiring.
Before we headed back to the new town, we decided to walk up to the Basilica, although climb would be a better word. It was about 10 blocks up which gave our knees quite the work out. On the way there we found a little side street that opened up to a marvelous view of the city (photo above) so we stopped to rest and take some pictures. Good thing too, because when we got to the Basilica, there was an entrance fee of $2 and a 6-storey climb up the bell tower to get the same view we’d had for free. We passed. The Basilica wasn’t even finished – probably needed more money which they were trying to recoup one admission ticket at a time. It was pretty enough on the outside. So we walked back down into the old town and hopped back on the Trole to the hostel. The lack of atmosphere (and food) sent us straight back out to a local Irish pub (Adrian’s choice, go figure). We milked our beer and pub grub for as long as we could, then went back to the hostel. Even with a bit of alcohol it didn’t feel any better. Tomorrow we would have to do something about that.