written by Hannah
The first days of our long journey we spend in Quito at an altitude of 2850 m. For us northern Germans that sounds a lot, but it’s not compared to what’s coming. So we can get acclimatized here, so far I have no problem with the altitude, Marius sometimes gets a little out of breath as we walk the steep streets. Allegedly, the real complaints begin at 3500 m.
There are beautiful cities and there are less beautiful cities whose run-down roughness still has charm. Quito belongs to the second kind, only with less charm. The cityscape is dominated by unkempt facades, many cars that produce dark smog (every second car is a taxi) and abandoned dogs. When I look over to them, they come running, with drooping tongues, wagging tails and sad eyes, because they are all hungry. I would like to bend over and stroke them, but I have to suppress this impulse, because their behavior is difficult to assess. In contrast to that our Hotel is very nice and clean.
At every corner there are small tiendas, shops, a few square meters in size, in which the goods are stacked: sometimes electrical appliances, then rice and corn or shoes. In a narrow entrance three people are sitting at old Singer sewing machines and working non-stop. The machines have been retrofitted with self-built motors that drive the needles so fast and powerful through the fabric that I fear they could accidentally sew their fingers. We ask one of them to stitch a secret pocket into Marius’ pants to hide some money and the credit cards there. Cost: $ 1. The dollar is the official currency of Ecuador. Services are really cheap here, a bus trip costs $ 0.25, a 15 minute cab ride $ 2.30. We try not to attract attention in the city, but since Marius is about two heads taller than any native and I also at least overtop all women, we do not really succeed. At each bus stop a barker gets in and out in 90% of the cases, without having sold something to the bored passengers staring out of the windows.
The one item you always forget
I have never left without forgetting something at home, and this trip is no exception. We forgot the straps in Amsterdam. Something that does not sound so bad at first, but at the second glance, the straps are an essential part of our equipment. We use them to put wet clothes, flip-flops and food on top of our bags. So when we leave on Saturday to look for a replacement, we’re on the road for several hours. Finally, in the sixth shop, after some communication difficulties, we find what we are looking for. There is no real word for these straps in Spanish, as the seller explains.
A bit of Sightseeing
Quito has a central square in the old town with lots of greenery. We visit it on the first day, because it is within walking distance of our hostel. Since the city is drawn very long between the mountains, Old and New Town are a few kilometers apart. We also visit the Basílica del Voto Nacional, an impressive building. Ecuador is strictly catholic and unlike in Europe, colorfully painted, pompously dressed and brightly lit dolls of saints are part of the interior decoration.
Back on the street, the Catholic orientation of the country is once again clearly demonstrated. In Ecuador, marriage for same-sex couples was allowed shortly before our arrival. Now, many people are demonstrating against it, they carry posters with images of Jesus and Bible quotations and loudly praise the classical family: husband and wife with children.
A name for our Lama
We have a local guide: our stuffed animal llama. We have not been able to agree on a name so far, even though some suggestions have been made on our Instagram account. But, as always, the correct answer simply comes to us. In the evening we go to a tiny restaurant on a street corner, Omotos. As we think about what that means, I flick through one of the Spanish neighborhood magazines lying around and find the answer: Omotos means the little ones in the local dialect. So we decide to call our lama “Omoto”.