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Our next stop in Ecuador was Quito. Nestled in the mountains, it’s the second highest capital in the world and our third capital on our trip. Getting there from Otavalo took about 2.5 hours on the Panamerican Highway and getting from the bus depot to our home for the following few days, about 30 minutes on a cab across town. In this occasion, we decided to stay in Old Town at one of the most famous hostels in the city; Secret Garden.

The hostel is set up in a colonial house only a few blocks away from the historical center, which is easily accessible walking. One of it’s main attractions is it’s rooftop terrace, overlooking the historical center and it’s kitchen, well know for it’s affordable yet really good food.

We rented a room for $34, much more than we were used to paying in Colombia and in most of the other countries we visited. Quickly, we realized that Ecuador, and specially Quito, were turning out to be twice as expensive as Colombia and from what we were told by our fellow travelers, one of the most expensive in South America.

The first few days came and left without much to report due to both Danielle and I being sick. We only ventured out for lunch and a couple times for dinner, when the hostel did not have a gluten free option. After visiting 8 countries and eating the local fair just about every time/day, we were rather disappointed by the lack of options that Old Town and Quito in general presented us. It was more likely for us to end up eating at some “gringo” spot (usually around La Mariscal) for a similar price than the Ecuadorian fair that consisted of a massive amount of rice and potatoes and a tiny portion of protein.

Once we were finally able to stay out for more than one hour, we took two days to get to know as much as we could of the city before moving on. We visited most of the plazas and churches within the Old Town with a special mention of La Compañía de Jesús ($3), a church that took over 160 years to built with over 7 tons of 23K gold. After a little break from walking around the city, we headed up to the top of the Teleferico, ($4.25) to catch one of the most amazing views of the city and at 4100 meters, just the ride alone was worth the ticket price. We ended our day by eating at La Mariscal, as most of the other spots in the city are closed on Sundays.

Another one of the most visited attractions in Quito, its the 0 latitude or “Mitad del Mundo”. Secret Garden has a taxi service that will gladly take you to the see 3 spots for $40, including waiting time and dropping you off wherever you please back in the city. We teamed up with two other guys from the hostel and purchased the tour with a couple of extra additions trying to stay away from the extremely touristy stuff for a bit. The first stop of the tour is the Pululahua crater, an extinct volcano that was turned into a 32-square-kilometer natural reserve. Then, onto the additional stuff: there are two indigenous ruins within 5km of the famous Middle of the World monument that not a lot of people visit. The first one was Rumicucho, an ancient solar temple that overlooks the little town of San Antonio de Pinchincha. The second, Catequilla, the actual 0 latitude site used by indigenous people that does not see many tourists because of hard and (told by our not so happy cabby) unsafe road. We even had to push the cab a couple of times when it got stuck in very soft sand/dirt as we went up. We also ran into another car heading opposite directions and since there was only space for one car, I drove the old Land Cruiser in reverse until there was enough space for both of us. Our last stop was the Museo Solar Inti Ňan ($4) where I became an “egg master”, when I balanced an egg on a nail head as part of some (very dubious) demonstrations on how the Equator/earth’s magnetic field works.

On the way back from our day of adventure, our dreams of becoming Ecuadorian soap opera stars almost became a reality when we got asked to be extras in a production that was taking place only a few houses down from our hostel. The only catch was that we had to be in Quito again the following Friday, but we would be a few hundred kilometers south near the (at the time active) beautiful volcano of Cotopaxi.

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