Quito has a pretty bad rep for crime and muggings, so we opted to stay outside of ‘Mariscal’, or the New Town (AKA Gringolandia), and instead based ourselves in the historical quarter, which was really pretty and felt fairly safe (though we did see a guy being beaten up outside a supermarket, so maybe only safe in relative terms!)
There wasn’t much in terms of restaurants near our hotel, so after a disappointing ‘Chifa’ (nowhere near as good as Peru’s take on Chinese!) we stayed in and ate lots of tuna salad sandwiches pretty much every night, whilst catching up on Orange is the New Black on Netflix. We know how to PARTY!
We only spent a couple of days in Quito, during which we did some speedy sightseeing, taking in the pretty plazas, countless cathedrals, lookouts, parks, and the impressive National Museum which was abundant with archeological treasures from throughout the eras, alongside some fun dioramas of how the ancient Inkan folk lived (what’s not to love about mini shamanic rituals and sacrifices?!), and an interesting exhibition on how the Spanish conquistadors influenced Quiteno culture (spoiler alert: they stripped away all Inkan stuff and replaced it with Catholic Jesus-y statues and paintings instead!)
On our last day we did a free walking tour (inspired by how interesting our Cuzco one was) where an Irish ex-pat dude showed us around town and told us some factoids behind places – from the Gothic cathedral with its Galapagos-inspired animal gargoyles, to a LOL building where the Inkans added a huge penis onto one of the cherubs because they didn’t get paid properly for erecting (LOL) the building for the fancy Spanish folks. He also told us about ancient shamanic rituals involving guinea pigs that could suck out poison, and we even dropped into a local Shaman’s workshop with tons of weird animal skeletons on the wall.
We continued our voyage of Ecuadorian foods by trying ALL the corn-based snacks the country has to offer in a little cafe, from humitas to tamales, to quesadilla (confusingly a sweet cake, not a cheesy Mexican food!). They all tasted pretty much the same, like sweet/salty corn, some with meats or currents added in, and left a weird taste in the mouth so we got a BIG icecream sundae afterwards to wash that local flavour away! We also tried our first ‘seco de chivo’ (goat stew) which was nice until you realise there’s tons of bones hidden in the sauce. A tooth crunching experience!
Given that Ecuador’s accommodation was starting to feel a little pricey (average of $20 US a night), we hunted down a cheap summer-season one-layer tent and a soft, AWESOME blanket with kittens and rainbows and a PUN on it (‘Meow you doin?’!!) so that we could try and camp in some of the hotter places in Ecuador. We found a bargain HUGE 3-man army print tent at $45, so we pretty much made our money back in the first couple of nights camping, at our next location, Mindo!