The alarm went off at a horrible 530am so we had enough time to get ready and get to the airport. We booked an über to take us to Tocumen International, apparently the busiest airport in Central America. Our flight wasn’t until 936am but we wanted to make sure we had enough time to get through immigration etc. The über driver dropped us at the Copa Airlines terminal and we grabbed our things to head in. There wasn’t much of a queue and we had our boarding passes and dropped our luggage in the space of about fifteen minutes. Next stop was immigration which we passed through in seconds and lastly it was the hand baggage check. Always the worst part. Everything taken off and my bag set off the scanner as it did at LAX. One of the machines seemed to break so everything came to a standstill for a short period of time. Soon enough, I was passed through and and we set off exploring the airport.
It was quite large. Our gate was fifteen, but there wasn’t much near it so we wandered around aimlessly. It was only eight am but we located a Quiznos and treated ourselves to two roller wraps, with the language barrier causing a slight delay again when ordering no egg or tomato. It was delicious though. Despite the airport being big, there wasn’t much seating at all. We headed to the gate for about an hour before we started boarding and ended up sitting on the floor as the seats were taken up by bags, people sleeping across six seats, none of which moved despite the fact the floor was filling up. The flights around us started boarding as as always, despite the fact that they clearly say they board by group number, the whole of our flight stood up to rush forward. One of my pet hates. I mean, everyone has their seat right? The plane won’t go without you, unless you miss last call. If you’re rushing forward to get room in the overhead locker, don’t bring such huge hand luggage!! I mean Copa Airlines allows you to check in two bags weighing a total of 32kg, and you can take hand baggage too. So surely the logical thing is to pack as much into your cabin baggage and take as little as possible onto the plane? Nope, clearly everyone needed to bring their whole house on the flight with them. The best part was that it was only a two hour flight!!
Anyway, like civilised human beings, we boarded at our right time and easily out our stuff above in the overhead lockers and took our seats in the emergency exit seats. Oh. My. God. The legroom was immense. Literally, we had so much room! Ok, yes, so we’d be in charge of opening the exits if the plane got into trouble, but that’s a small price to pay for the leg room, and comfort we had on the flight. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy with seat choices. 😃. And it got even better. We got given food! Choice one was a banana and cheese sandwich, which quite frankly is just weird, and the second choice was a burger, which was actually yummy. And finally, they even gave us a beer! It was only 1030am, but the whole flight so far had been wonderful. All I needed was a massage and it would have been perfect.
The flight was only two hours, and we flew over snow capped mountains on our descent into Quito. The scenery from the window was stunning. We landed smoothly and the plane erupted into a round of applause. It was weird. Then came the mad rush to get off the plane as everyone fights to get off first. We patiently waited and eventually disembarked, following the signs for immigration. This time, there was no queue for international passports, so we literally sailed straight through, whilst the nationals had to wait in a queue. Hehe! This was the easiest journey ever so far. Carousel four had our luggage. We waited. And waited. And waited. Our entertainment consisted of a selfish woman across the way who was blocking people from getting their bags off with her trolley and the people next to us who had about fifty bags that also stopped people getting their bags. Honestly, what is wrong with people! That’s always the worst part of an airport for me. You have the angst of waiting to see if your luggage actually got on the plane. Then you have the ignorant people who won’t move just a half inch to allow you to get your bag off and then tut at you when you accidentally hit them. And the relief as you finally get your bags. A whirlwind of emotions at the luggage carousel.
Luggage got, we headed out through customs, where they didn’t check our bags, just our passports again and then we were out in the cool Quito air. Across from the airport there was like a food court place, taxi rank and public busses. We had zero idea how we were going to get to our hostel as it was twelve miles away. The über from Occidental to Tocumen cost $25 and we couldn’t afford to pay that again, so our choice was public transport. There were signs up for three busses going to different parts of the centre. The closest one we could get to was Rio Coca, which would take us five miles away from our hostel. The bus was bright green and didn’t have air con, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable ride at all. It only cost $4 for us both too! We got off at Rio Coca and then thought we’d try and get another bus to the vicinity of our hostel. That failed as we had no clue which district our hostel was in and despite my trying to learn Spanish, I still can’t understand some sentences.
Still, we ventured out and grabbed a taxi. It was metered so we weren’t going to get ripped off. The funniest part was that the taxi driver had no idea where our hostel was, despite it being pretty much one straight road, so used Nathan’s phone as a sat nav the whole way. Surely we should have got a discount for that right? Nope. But it did only cost $6 and we were at the hostel. It was quite hidden down a cobbled street. We went in and the lady told us that we originally booked a room with a shared bathroom, but we were going to be put in one with an ensuite. We certainly wouldn’t turn down a free upgrade. 😀
The next few hours were spent researching how we could get to Peru, but having next to no luck. We also wanted some food and the hostel was advertising all sorts of cheap yummy food, such as pizza, hotdogs, chicken wings etc so when four pm came round, we went to order a pizza. No no no. They only had a corn in the cob with some sort of cheese on it and a leaf wrapped round some potato thing. Neither looked appealing and the Pilsener tasted like smelly armpits. Why would they advertise food and not have any to cook? Grrrr it was like hostel 1110 all over again. Next best thing was KFC 0.3 miles away.
On our exit we asked about laundry and the guy pointed to somewhere about five blocks away. That’s not what I signed up for when booking this hostel. So far, we had no TV that worked, a sidelight which didn’t work, no laundry facilities, no food and poor tasting beer. But we did get a free upgrade so can’t complain too much. We headed out along one road to KFC located on a corner of two roads. A bit of chicken and we were right as rain. Ecuador was so much cooler than any other country we visited so far. It was nice as it meant I wasn’t a sweat box as we were exploring. That was a win win for me. There was karaoke in the hostel Tuesday night but we gave it a miss as we wanted to be up early Wednesday to explore the city. The priority for Wednesday was to find the bus companies that can take us down into Peru. Online is zero help. Why can’t it be as easy as Tica Bus 😩😩. We caught a taxi to what was supposed to be Rutas de America. The first taxi driver had zero idea where it was so he offloaded us into a taxi who did. Or so it seemed. He had no idea. Instead he dropped us off at some traffic lights about two miles north of our hostel and then swished his hands in a circle saying we’d arrived. We got out and walked around aimlessly as we were clearly in the wrong place. Google maps came in slightly more handy as we put in Rutas de America terminal and we were half a mile away.
As we located the building, the guy spoke no English as he handed us a phone number. Dead end. We began our walk back but not before stopping at KFC again. There’s not many food chains in Quito so KFC is our only choice. Cheap too. Snack boxes for $1.99. Winner. Then we decided to find a post office as apparently we weren’t far away. The only downside to that was it was across a street which was all dug it and there was no way around it. So far, this walk hadn’t been successful. We just decided to walk back towards the Grand Plaza. What we did do though was stop in a travel agency and see if they could direct us to somewhere that sells bus tickets to Lima. He suggested Panamamerica, back the way we came. Everywhere seemed to close for lunch between 1 and 2 and we waited a few minutes in the office before the guy came out to tend to us. He spoke no English so he called someone and thy spoke to me in the phone in English. He helpful! So, it cost $90 each 😩 and would take 38 hours 😩. We’d leave 745pm Friday and arrive 11am Sunday. Why can’t flights be cheaper? I mean the flight is only 2 hours but would cost £700 for us both. Ridiculous. So we do it the loooooooong but cheap way. We had to nip to the ATM to get cash as they didn’t take card, and we also posted a couple of postcards as there was a post office across the road. With the travel sorted, we could enjoy the sites.
We came across Mariscal Artisan Market.There were hundred of stalls selling all sorts of crafts made locally. I love these places as they’re always so vibrant and colourful. We walked up and down some of the rows admiring their handiwork before moving on. This part of Quito was more modern than where we were staying. There were skyscrapers, parks, numerous car garages and bike rental shops. The bits of greenery had random statues on them.We came across a park which had an archway entrance and a few statues. In the park were more artisan stalls, pretty much selling the same things as the market was.From just outside here we could see Basilica Del Voto Nacional, a towering neo-gothic mesmerising Roman Catholic Church, which is the largest in the Americas. It was inaugurated in 1988 and according to local legend, it remains unfinished. Why? Because if it gets completed, the end of the world will come. This has to be my favourite church of all time. It was just stunning. We were back in the old historic district, which meant that the pavement abruptly stopped, the pavement was barely wide enough for one person, the roads weren’t flat. You were either walking uphill or downhill, sometimes at a slight angle, other times, what felt like forty five degrees or more. It was one road down to Independence Plaza.Independence Plaza is the central square in Quito. It is home to the Carondelet Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Archbishops Palace, the Municipal Palace and the Plaza Grande Hotel. Above is the Carondelet Palace where you can see the changing of the guards every Monday. It is the seat of the government of the Republic of Ecuador.The Cathderal of Ecuador is another building in this spectacular plaza. It was the seat of the Diocese of Quito from 1545 to 1848. Since then, it was made the Cathedral of Ecuador in 1995 and that makes it the senior most cathedral in the country. You could see the rooftop from San Francisco convent.As we walked out from the plaza we were greeted by the Compañía de Jesús, another old, magnificent religious building. The door and the interior were adorned in gold. It cost $5 to go inside but the doors were open so you could partially see the stunning interior. It is Quito’s most ornate and beautiful church. Inside, obviously. The basilica further up the post is still my favourite.The church and convent of St Francis is another structural wonder just off of independence plaza. It dates back to the sixteenth century and for some reason it was swarming with pigeons. It reminded me of Home Alone. The last church we visited on our tour of the historic district was Santo Domingo.We even had a beautiful view of El Panecillo as we walked the grid-like streets. The air was thinner in Quito, definitely, after all it sits at an elevation of 2850m at the foothills of the Andean mountains. It is also home to the middle of the world, Ecuadors claim to fame. We would be visiting there tomorrow…
Until next time…