Sunday, May 15, 2016

Quito, Ecuador: We Join A Squad

I have a crazy random, how-small-is-this-world story - for the 10th time, I know. But SERIOUSLY. THIS IS CRAZY.

Crazy Story Time:
Nadine and I arrived in Quito late in the evening from Quilotoa, and tried to check in at a hostel I had looked up, but they were fully booked for the night. We had to go up the block to another hostel - which was peacefully empty, so we checked in for the night.

The next morning, we got up for breakfast, and met the only two other people staying in the hostel - Hunter and Linden; two guys traveling together from Utah and Australia, respectively.

First off, Linden has the same name as my niece. (Has your mind been blown yet? No? Read on). Secondly, when we Facebook friended each other later that night, I noticed that we already had a friend in common. AND IT WAS BILL. You know, Bill?? Bill from Budapest?!  Ok, I'm not expecting any of you to have memorized my blog over the past year......so let me help you.

Bill was the Aussie guy I met in Budapest on a walking tour almost a full year ago last June - we spent two days together hanging out at the Budapest baths, attending late-night museum parties, and going out with my four 19-year old Irish hostel roommates - yes?

Here is Bill

Anyways, when Bill and I were hanging out way back when, he was telling me that he had just come to Eastern Europe from South/Central America, where he'd been traveling with another Aussie guy he'd met for a couple weeks. AND THAT PERSON WAS LINDEN.

And here is Bill and Linden! PROOF.

And then here I was, an entire year later, randomly meeting Linden in a hostel in Quito!

TRIPLE PROOF. This was the photo we sent to Bill with no explanation. Certificate of authenticity.

HOW SMALL IS THIS WORLD. I'm going to keep saying this every time, because I absolutely can't believe it sometimes.  

What It's All About:
Quito is the capital city of Ecuador - like every other large South American capital, it's at high altitude, it's got cool colonial buildings and churches, and it's full of people. The historic center is one of the best-preserved, there's tons of hills, and the city sits super close to the Equator line.

Charming streets of Quito

On a personal note, I just have to say that Quito was an amazing time - the entire two days we were there, Hunter, Linden, Nadine and I had the entire hostel to ourselves. Not only that, we had our own private dorm rooms - the boys stayed in one room and Nadine and I stayed in one room, and they were connected by a short hallway, private bathroom, and even a mini-kitchen.  It was like having our own private house in the middle of Quito, where a delicious breakfast was served every morning and we could do whatever we wanted. The four of us ended up extending our time in the city by a day, and hung out together the entire time. #SQUAD

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • After breakfast the day we met, Hunter, Linden, Nadine and I (I'm just calling us the #squad from now on) decided to wander around the historical city center together. We had absolutely no idea where we were going, with Hunter having a vague idea of where a couple of churches were.

How pretty are some of these buildings in the historical center!?

Colors! I love South America the most, for its colorful buildings

  • We somehow magically ended up at the main, most famous church in the city, called Basílica del Voto Nacional.  I like churches and all, and I've seen a lot of them at this point, but this one was truly spectacular.
Basílica del Voto Nacional!
The church doors even have a heart on them! Love.

The rest of the church. You can not only go up both tall towers, but you can also climb up into that crazy spire in the middle! And it's AMAZING.

And of course, in the most beautiful church ever, the boys were checking out and discussing the grout used in the tiles

A huge, super-super impressive stained glass window. The boys are actually also doing impressive poses, which is the only reason I've included this terrible-quality, hard-to-see photo.

Hunter: "Charlie's Angels!"

Cool view of the tower over the city

And in the back, the Mirador de Bellavista (which we climbed later).  One thing I've learned, South Americans also love their overlooks over the city. 


The interior halls and stained glass windows. Gothic architecture, obvs (Nadine may have taught me this).

Crossing the middle part to the cool middle tower. Technically, the cathedral remains unfinished because people believe once it's finished, the end of the world will come.

The view of the main two towers from the middle one. SO. PRETTY. Also, not sure why the clocks seem to be totally wrong.

Sorry not sorry for posting so many of these

Tower selfie with L to R: Hunter, Linden and Nadine

Then we walked on down to the presidential square

This is Quito's version of the White House, where the president lives.

  • With no set plan, we wandered on over to the Mirador De Bellavista on the other side of town. And climbed the (roughly) million steps to get to the top.

Views over Quito

And of course, the South Americans love putting their religious statues on top of said viewpoints. Here is the Virgin Mary, giving lots of attitude. (I'm afraid this post is just turning into a "let's make generalizations about all South American cities" post). 

The Swestie and I at the top. Where we always are.

I can't stop taking photos of the magical city streets.

That evening, we played drinking games in our private hostel and then Cards Against Humanity and then went out to another hostel party, and then Nadine and I went to get pizza and met a local guy and his father, who we dragged with us to said hostel party, and then we meant to go out to the club but then got tired and went to bed. Amazing night.

  • The next morning, Nadine and I meant to leave for Colombia. But it was Sunday, so we couldn't find a single place open that sold bus tickets, so we delayed it a day - and convinced the boys to do so as well.  Instead, the Squad took a day trip out to La Mitad del Mundo, which means "the middle of the world" - a.k.a. the Equator Line!  It's about a 1.5 hour local bus trip out there - there's an entire city that shares the same namesake.

On the first bus, this adorable little girl kept reaching out to hold my hand. CUTEST. WHY ARE ECUADORIAN KIDS SO CUTE.

But first, encebollado for lunch!  Which is a local seafood/fish stew - and you put fried plantains and popcorn in it sometimes!

And then we made it! Here is the Equator Line (I don't think that's meant to be capitalized, but whatever).
Linden and Nadine are standing on both sides of the Hemispheres

Latitude 0' 0' 0''

Inside the monument, there's a cool little museum that explains Northern/Southern hemisphere phenomenons and science-y stuff.  And at the top, you can look out over Mitad del Mundo.

Photo booth inside the museum.
When in Ecuador, dress like a local and try to blend in


And then I made us all hold hands and stand on opposites sides of the Equator

And then Hunter made us do a yoga pose because that's his jam.

There was some exhibit that showed you could balance an egg perfectly at the Equator line. So the boys pretended to play chess with the broken eggs


There was even a Planetarium included in the exhibits, which explained the history of the universe in Spanish and where Linden and Hunter promptly fell asleep and missed the entire thing

  • That evening, we all went out to the La Mariscal neighborhood and had dinner and drinks. Amazing, amazing ending to the Squad adventures.
Seriously, for two days, the four of us did everything together.

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • Ecuador means Equator in Spanish! So fitting!
  • You weigh less at the Equator than you do at either of the Poles - due to centrifugal force being strongest at the Equator. #neverleavingtheEquator
  • We were advised many times not to walk around Quito at night alone.
  • But to end on a brighter note, Quito is also a World Heritage Site!

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