Quito day 3, gorgeous views are worth the sunburn!

We had decided, last night before sleeping, that even if the weather hadn’t cleared up today, we should try to take the Teleferiqo and see the view of Quito from a height of over 4100m. We left Jose’s, and first made our way across the valley near his house to see another, lower viewpoint. Matt has some trouble with heights now and then, and he was a little white as we crossed a high bridge over the valley, but once on the other side, dodging traffic and climbing endless stairs between strips of roads and housing, he was fine.

We later learned that the place we arrived at and it’s view, a little disappointing at the time, were not, in fact, the viewpoint La Cappele des Hombres, that we’d been directed to. But it was a nice hike, and after enjoying it for a few minutes, we hailed a cab to take us to the Teleferiqo, the 2.5km gondola that would carry us up the mountain. On the way, we asked to be taken to a cash machine.

Brief interlude over Technical Difficulties…
We arrived in Quito much as we would arrive in any other modern city, and Quito is very much a modern city. We had a small amount of cash, euros and dollars, and all our various bank and credit cards. We had informed our banks that we would be traveling, and cleared our cards for use. We had checked that we knew our pin codes.
First, our US bank cards didn’t work. Matt’s gave a general error message, an mine informed me that it was reported lost or stolen. We needed to call our bank.
Then, Matt’s phone wouldn’t accept a charge, so we needed to get it repaired or the part replaced. I think I already wrote about that, so skip to the banking problems.
Calling the bank resulted in my cutting up my card, and Matt’s was a problem of incorrect pin. He discussed with them that he would try some more, which they approved.
Skip to our taxi ride. Matt went to the cash machine and tried the Trustone card. No luck. He tried the Rabobank (NL) card. No luck, and a message to contact his bank. I used my Rabobank card, and it worked. Hurray. We will still need to deal with his card again.
My skills in speaking Spanish are being tested. I’m not doing well with these problems. Explaining things to bank personnel and mobile phone technicians is really beyond what could reasonably be expected of me! Matt thinks I’m doing great, but I’m getting really stressed out and can’t wait to move on to the relaxing part of this vacation.

Enough Technical Difficulties!

On the taxi ride up to the Teleferiqo, my ears popped! Just in the taxi! We were speeding up steep hilly neighborhoods, and it was already amazing. I was enjoying reading the signs, one of which said, basically:

Attention criminals!
This neighborhood is organized and we watch our community.
Be aware! We are watching you!

We have been told stories of crime in Quito, armed and unarmed robberies, rape. We have been extremely careful with, for example, where we are if I want to take a photo, that we are not displaying expensive equipment too freely, that we stay in well-populated areas, especially after dark, that we don’t carry all cash or cards on us, etc. The security guards and police everywhere serve as another constant reminder to be vigilant. We consider ourselves pretty cautious travelers anyway, but I’ve seldom felt so obviously a foreigner AND potential target.

In Thailand or Morocco, for example, we are obviously tourists, but I never felt in danger, except maybe from pickpockets. In Russia I felt occasionally in danger, for example when being directed off the road by soldiers pointing sub machine guns at me, but I mostly didn’t feel so physically obviously a tourist. Here we are in Ecuador wearing rain jackets, quick-dry trekking pants, my dread locks, our fish-belly white skin, and I know we are obviously tourists. But I have had a couple of moments, noticeably on the Plaza Grande, where I felt a little like I was being scoped for potential gain.

On that note, at the moment I am sitting on a bus south to Banos, with a wide variety of companions, blogging on my iPad. I debated for about 10 minutes internally before pulling it out, but this is a 4-hour trip, and we’re going directly to our hotel once we get in, possibly by taxi, and I don’t carry my iPad around, so I’m thinking that hopefully my risk is minimal. Besides, my seat mates are playing video games, listening to loud music, and sleeping. None of us can exactly go anywhere. Poor guy next to me is trying to sleep, but very time he leans my direction, I gently nudge him back over, or accidentally elbow him while finger-typing.

Right. Teleferiqo.
When the taxi driver let us out, we were a little confused where we were. (I’m having trouble typing now… The guy re-adjusted and I can’t lean any further to be able to type.)

We met an Austrian mother-daughter pair with whom we rode to the top. They’ve been having similar Technical Difficulties as ours, but like us, having similar experiences with extremely helpful and friendly Ecuadorians.

Our ears popped more on the way up, but we took turns sticking our cameras out the window to try to get good pictures.

At the top, at first it seemed that we’d be unlucky with the view and the clouds, but we hiked around a bit. Here, I really do mean “a bit.” Although our legs aren’t giving us much trouble after the past couple of days of hiking back and forth from Jose’s apartment, our heads were going crazy. I felt dizzy and lightheaded, and even a few steps seemed difficult. We thought we might rent horses and ride them the last few hundred meters to the summit, but while we debated if we’d walk or ride, chatting also with some American tourists, a family showed up and the horses were no longer available. So we took some pictures to pretend we had gone to the summit, with the help of our friendly Austrians, who claimed (liars!) that they were also struggling with the altitude.

When we were finished goofing off, we had a couple of empanadas in the cafe, and rode the Teleferiqo back down. Our companions on the way down were a friendly pair of soldiers. I felt a little like we were being escorted down the mountain like criminals. πŸ™‚ I was too shy to ask if we coud take a picture with them, but I wanted to.

We hopped into a shared cab at the bottom with a group of Americans, and went back to Jose’s. He helped us try to sort out our Galapagos adventure, which may or may not happen, then we headed out to get Matt’s phone, which caused us to also need to go to a small phone repair shop. Amazing service. The guy carefully selected a universal charger for Matt’s phone, opening 4 boxes and testing each until he was satisfied, then selecting and ever so carefully applying a screen protector. When he was finished, we stopped by our friendly Movistar employee, Ruben, who again spent more time giving us advice and tips on what to do in Quito and Ecuador than he needed to get Matt a sim card. When we come back through, we’d like to try out the bar he suggested for us, based on our description of industrial and punk music, and his own of “where the weird-looking people go.” 7 Heaven, in La Mariscal.
I also bought some street food: grilled plantains stuffed with queso fresco. Delicious!

Then we found a restaurant and had dinner. Just as we finished, Jose called to say that he and his friends would be heading out for drinks soon, and of we wanted to join, we could get back in a half-hour or so and come along. We did.

It was a really fun evening. We went to a trendy bar with nice snacks and had a couple of cocktails each and chatted. Jose’s girlfriend (I think) is a concert pianist who studied in Moscow for a long time and lived in New York for 8/9 years. The other friend is one of his oldest friends from childhood, who lives most of the time in the jungle, leading tours for groups of new-agey folks who want to connect with indigenous people and share an appreciation of the land and the animals we share it with. Cristina herself was really down-to-earth and funny, and we really liked her a lot. We’ve just friended each other on fb, so if you’re reading this, Cristina, I hope I have adequately represented you and your work. Feel free to correct me! πŸ™‚

After a couple of drinks, we all paid up and headed back to Jose’s. Matt and I had a couple of glasses of water and crashed, leaving the other three to continue the party. I don’t think they got much sleep, as Cristina had to go to the airport at 06:00 and Jose drove her there and also took (oops I’ve forgotten her name!) home.

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