Arriving in Quito, we were struck by the sheer size of Ecuador’s capital. It would have been daunting except that we were staying in the best hostel ever. The Secret Garden is a hostel often recommended by fellow travellers one meets along the way and it didn’t disappoint.
The staff uniform carries the slogan ‘life is better when you’re high’ due to the hostel’s incredible rooftop terrace situated at 3,100m above sea level (Quito itself is the highest capital city in the world). This terrace is where we spent most of our time as it was an incredibly social area where we met loads of people whilst overlooking the sights of the city. Each evening the terrace would be packed with fellow travellers enjoying music and drinks at the bar.
Our first day we decided to visit ‘Mitad del Mundo’: the middle of the world. In this place there is a yellow line which shows the point where the Northern Hemisphere meets the Southern Hemisphere. In other words we went to the equator which is, of course, where Ecuador gets its name.
Here we had fun taking clichéd photographs of us with one leg in each Hemisphere. There were also various exhibitions explaining the significance of the area with regard to the equator and also the fact that it represented the origin of the GPS measurement system (0, 0, 0).
Upon arriving back at the hostel, I (literally) bumped into my friend Alice from school. We had known we were both travelling South America but with me thinking she was in Columbia and her still believing me to be in Peru it came as a complete shock and we had a hilarious 5 minutes where we just stared at each other in disbelief. Small world.
We immediately went up to the rooftop terrace for some drinks and a catch up and when we heard there was a hostel quiz that evening we signed up at once. Despite being told that the other teams consisted of six people, we grabbed Tim and were quietly confident in our team of three.
Indeed, with questions on football, geography and Disney we turned out to be the perfect team and after a hilarious hour we emerged victorious. Our prize was a huge jug of rum and coke which, because everyone loves an underdog, had extra rum in. Such a fun night made all the more special because of the surprise reunion.
The next days were spent exploring the city both alone and with a walking tour and sampling the lovely cafes throughout the city. Ecuador also has a large chocolate industry and we learned about its production which stems from the dodgy looking Cocoa plant.
One down side to Ecuador and, perhaps, South America in general are the fumes you experience in the cities. South America has no emissions regulations and so each vehicle leaves a cloud of black smoke billowing behind it wherever it goes. Indeed, we witnessed in horror a young family completely disappear in a cloud of smog when a bus went past them. They emerged completely unfazed but Tim and I became accustomed to walking around with our t-shirts over our nose and mouth. It’s times like this that you envy the Asian population their face masks…..
Overall, despite the pretty rubbish weather and the fact that the city was too big to see properly, we had a great time in Quito due mainly to our amazing hostel and the people we met there. Moreover, Quito was the scene of a very important decision Tim and I made: a trip to the Amazon Rainforest…..