Next Stop, South America

Boston was home for two nights as a stopover on my way to Ecuador. They had one of their rainiest days on my full day there and so a day of planned tourism activities became a self care day; treating myself to a haircut, a chai latte with a muffin and my iPad in a nice cafe, some Vietnamese food and some Mexican food. I certainly made the most of my presence in a western country before another three months without. 

I landed in Quito, Ecuador on Wednesday night and realised that my lack of Spanish may be a harder experience than I expected. My airport transfer driver didn’t speak a word of English and we had a very stilted conversation where each would try to figure out what the other one was saying but to no avail. I got straight back in to my duolingo lessons but decided I would need to take the time to have some real Spanish lessons if I had any chance at learning how to communicate. 

I was back to planning out what needed to be done with no one to do it for me, spending my free time trying to work out how to get from place to place and how to experience the big landmarks that were situated outside of Quito. A walking tour was a suitable first activity, learning about the history, politics and culture of Quito while walking around the old town and then around La Floresta in the new town with street art to enjoy and more of a hipster vibe. 

The Basilica church is a recognisable landmark from wherever you are in the old town, standing high above the other buildings and giving tourists the opportunity to go all the way to the top and look out at the city, providing beautiful panoramic views of the colourful, densely populated area against the mountainous backdrop in the distance. 

Otavalo markets were a more intense experience but less unsettling than the markets I had encountered in Africa. There were less people to begin with, and the shop owners were less pushy, giving you prices if you picked something up but not begging you to have a browse as you walked past. The items on sale were all beautiful and I had to remember how little bag space I had and how I didn’t need anything that was on offer. I’m proud of the fact that I haven’t bought any souvenirs while I’ve been away, because I’ve learnt that for me they don’t hold valuable memories and eventually they’ll end up in the charity store bag. 

The Teleferiqo is a cable car that runs up to one of the dormant volcanoes in Quito, providing you with an even better panoramic view of the city from 4000 metres high. We attempted to walk the distance to the volcano but knew we would run out of time, walking so slowly as we struggled to breathe in the high altitude with such little oxygen in the air. Where we made it was still rewarding and gave us a beautiful view, with the higher areas looking too cloudy to continue anyway. 

Without having had any expectations for South America and for the most part, largely unsure on what I was in for, I found myself walking the streets of Quito and realising that this was exactly what South America should look like. It’s far more built up than I expected and a different experience to Africa in that it’s less of an assault on the senses. There’s traffic noise, random music occasionally, the hustle and bustle of people but it’s not as busy as I expected, and I know it’ll decrease the further south I go, away from the city. The people seem nice enough so far, although I have no idea what they’re saying so I could be completely wrong. But they see me struggling with the language and attempt to communicate in a different way. 

I think South America will be the perfect end to my trip; I can almost see these places holding some of my favourite experiences when I’m finished. I’m scared of the fact that there’s only three months of traveling left. I know that may seem like a long time to most but for me, the past six months have gone ridiculously quickly and I can only imagine this will feel even quicker, leading me up to a ‘normal’ life when I start work in Whistler, Canada in November this year.