On Sunday, Adam and I left Baños and headed to Quito, Ecuador. In Quito, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the night in the UBelong volunteer house. Although it was a bit of a struggle to find the house, when I finally did find it, I was greeted with kindness and hospitality. The UBelong volunteer house in Quito is run by Geovanna Coello and her family. It was really great that I got to experience living with a family, which was a completely different experience from Cusco.
The next day, I met Adam in Quito to see the city. Many travelers told me of the dangers of Quito, but I found it to be an enjoyable city. As long as you’re aware of your surroundings and you don’t do anything stupid, you’re not going to be robbed. However, as part of my preparedness, I didn’t bring my camera around the city (wahhhh). When we got to the Presidential Palace in Quito, we we were fortunate enough to see the changing of the guard. The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, came out and greeted everyone. So cool!
In the afternoon, the tour of Quito continued. We checked out the Basilica. For $2, you can make your way to the top to check out the city. For lunch, we found a small restaurant that served soup, juice and a plate of chicken, rice, and salad for $1.60. It turned out to be a good meal, and you can’t beat the price!
At night, we decided to go out to get a glass of Canelazo, a traditional drink in Ecuador made of water, sugarcane alcohol, lemon, sugar, and cinnamon. I’m not really a fan of cinnamon, but I thought the drink was delicious. It was surprisingly difficult for us to find a restaurant that was open. Apparently, everything closes early on Mondays in Quito.
On Tuesday, Adam left early to head to a village north of Quito. I stayed a bit longer to I could explore the city further. I went for a walk and got to see some more of the city, including the Monastery of San Francisco and the Company of Jesus Church. In the afternoon, I got a cab to my next destination: Otavalo.
Otavalo, which is known for its famous outdoor market, is only a few hours north of Quito. The buses run frequently so it was easy for me to get there. When I first got there, I explored the town, which didn’t take long. Otavalo is pretty small and everything is within walking distance. I met two sisters in my hostel who were from England. One of the sisters had spent the past 8 months in Guayaquil volunteering and the other sister came for a month to visit and travel with her sister. So many possibilities for volunteering in South America! If only I didn’t have to be back at school in a month…
On Wednesday, I woke up early to check out the market. I expected one of the markets that I saw in Cusco, but this was different. Not only was it overwhelmingly big, but the booths that were set up actually sold different things! In Cusco, most of the booths sold the same exact stuff and it got old. It was a nice change of pace in Otavalo.
Aside from the market, Otavalo also has a really beautiful downtown area with a church and a few government buildings.
In the afternoon, I made my way to Colombia. A few blocks from my hostel, there was a bus stop for buses going to Tulcán, the Ecuadorian city that borders Ecuador. When I got to Tulcán, I took a cab to the border. I got stamped out of Ecuador, crossed a bridge into Colombia, got stamped into Colombia, and then took a cab to Ipiales. It was that simple. I spent the night in a hotel near the bus station because I heard from other travelers and from the guy that worked at my hostel in Otavalo that the bus from Ipiales to Cali isn’t safe at night. I thought it’d be fine, but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry. On Thursday morning, I woke up early and caught the 7:00 am bus to Cali 🙂