I’d like to say that I have successfully crossed the border, alone, from Colombia to Ecuador. This was the first major solo journey I’ve done completely alone since starting my trip and I was really nervous. I’d read that the crossing is dangerous and my Spanish is still pretty limited, but it turned out to be a breeze and I was extremely proud of myself once I was on the bus to Quito.
A wave of accomplishment came over me as I walked onto that bus.
A Journey to Ecuador
The whole trip took about a day and a half, starting at 6 AM when I met my taxi driver who took me to the Calí bus terminal. I was told the bus left at 7 AM but it actually left at 7:30 AM, but when everything was said and done it was closer to 8 AM at that point.
What should have been a 10-hour trip took more like 12 hours to Ipiales. I arrived at night, which I really tried not to do given that I’d be crossing a border. When I arrived in Ipiales, I took a taxi to Hotel Belmonte which had been recommended in my guidebook. It’s nothing special but it’s clean and a cheap place to sleep if you need a place to spend the night.
The next day I woke up early and took a taxi to the border. You can do this by bus but given my nerves I paid the three extra dollars for a cab. I waited in line at the border for my exit stamp from Colombia and then walked across the bridge into Ecuador, where I received my entry stamp. Then it was another taxi to Tulcán to catch my bus to Quito.
My first night in Quito I stayed in the La Mariscal neighborhood at Vibes Hostel. Maybe it was my separation from Mev or maybe it was the hostel but I hated that place. The layout was weird, the kitchen was gross, the staff didn’t know anything, and it smelled funny. So, the next two nights I spent at Secret Garden in Old Town Quito, which was so much better. It had great views, nice staff, delicious food, and friendly travelers. The only thing is that it was a bit pricey and there’s no kitchen.
Good Friday in Quito
I happened to be in Quito during Good Friday and the city had a huge parade celebrating the holiday. I’ve got to say, if you’re in the area for this parade you should go and experience it. It’s intense, for sure, and I’ve never seen anything like it before but it’s pretty interesting to see.
Parade participants wore purple outfits that looked oddly similar to the KKK, while others dressed up like Jesus Christ. Some carried pictures of Jesus, while others carried a cross or wrapped themselves in barbed wire or whipped themselves with rope and nettle to pay for their sins. It was unlike anything I’ve seen before.
Trouble in Quito
Unfortunately, the next half of the day went in a very different direction. After seeing about half of the parade, I decided to go up to a view point with two girls I was with that I’d met at my hostel. We’d heard it was unsafe to walk up to the view point and decided to take a taxi up there. The view was great and it was pretty cool to see the parade as we looked out over the city. After eating some lunch and purchasing a few treasures, we decided to go to another artisanal market in La Mariscal.
We’d each heard story, after story, after story of people being robbed and mugged in Quito and had been hyper-vigilant all day about watching our bags, but once we were in the taxi we let our guard down.
Sitting in another taxi with windows rolled half down as we slowly made our way in traffic to a different part of the city, the girls and I chatted together. All of a sudden, I heard the girl to my right scream and as I looked over there were three guys by our window. One of them had this hand in the taxi and was ripping the girl’s purse out of her lap and took off. It happened so fast we didn’t know what to think, but we were completely shaken and could barely leave the hostel after that.
Quito is beautiful, but I hate it. If I ever return it will be as a transition city to go somewhere else in Ecuador. My entire time in Colombia I felt completely safe, but in Quito I felt as if everyone was watching me and waiting for the right time to attack. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
That next day, I left Quito as quickly as I could and made a split decision to go to Cotopaxi Volcano, about an hour south of Quito. My hostel in Quito, Secret Garden, also had a sister hostel close to Cotopaxi and it was exactly what I needed.
What started out as two nights turned into three and I even hiked to the glacier on the volcano, which is 5,000 meters and the tallest active volcano in the world. While the hostel is pricey ($40/day, meals included) it was exactly what I needed after my scarring Quito experience. It’s also worth every penny because it’s insanely beautiful and relaxing.
Making Moves to Baños
Last night, I arrived in Baños, which was another adventure in itself.
I left with a couple from Austin, Texas who were also going to Baños and we took the buses together, arriving at about 8 PM. Some people told me about a hostel to stay in but couldn’t find it, so I went to one in the center of town and asked for a room. It was $12/night but I didn’t care and just wanted a bed, so I agreed. When I went to the bathroom, before doing anything else, a cockroach came scurrying out of the wall. Yes, I ran out fast and found another place for the night.
Tomorrow, I’m going paragliding. Yup. Paragliding. It’s a little pricey but the views are supposed to be incredible. On Friday I’m going to Cuenca, further south, and then maybe going to Vilcambamba on Sunday before going to Peru.
I’m starting to get more comfortable with being alone, and my Spanish is slowly improving. While I’m comfortable traveling alone, I continue to meet great people along the road and eventually have to say goodbye, which is hard but amazing at the same time. I’m now six weeks into my trip and can’t believe how quickly it’s gone – four months is not enough! I’m totally skipping the coast of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, but it just this means I’ll have to return and see the places I’ve missed.