I arrived at my smelly hostel in Quito late at night after several days of bus travel, three weeks strong without a hot shower and really over roadside fast food. It was less than ten degrees (Antarctic by Ella’s scale) and I pretty much immediately made plans to tick off the necessary sights and vamos to warmer winds and bluer skies. After three weeks of no shoes, sleeves or worries, I was not ready for winter.
The next morning I was a dutiful tourist and set off to Old Town (conquering public transport solo, no less!) determined that my gringo boots would walk me round everything lonely planet deemed important and then get on the next bus outta here. But five minutes out on Quito’s cobbled calles was all it took… My cold, “I love being single” out-of-practice heart was in LOVE. Either this city is sick or someone pulled a Romilda Vane and snuck me a love potion because Quito, te amo. The old town is a step back in time to a cross between a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel and southern Spain, with museums, galleries and ridiculously beautiful cathedrals on every corner. Seriously they LOVE Jesus here and I can feel it in my fingers and in my toes… Christmas is all around me. I could spend hours every day admiring every square spedazzled shining centimetre of the godhouses in this city. Imagine one of those blingy hello kitty jewellery shops in China town, except someone has walked in and gone “more saints, candles there, and if there isn’t one crucified poor bugger on the wall by this afternoon I’m done”. They go waaaay overboard on LED lighting and *fabulousness* but I love it. The public transport system works, food is cheep cheep cheep cheep chickety cheap, people are cute looking and friendly, streets are griddled and therefore possible for me to navigate, parks are plentiful, buskers are creative and coffee is Colombian (bueno).
So you get it, Quito rocks. Given this I quickly found myself a Spanish school so I can take my lingo to lengua level, and before you could say “a la orden” I moved in with Mariana, my new mamá for the next couple of weeks. She’s an adorable scrawny ball of gooey grannyness, living off coffee and cigarettes and calls me ‘my life’, ‘my love’, or ‘my little girl’. Partly because ‘Ella’ is really hard for Spanish speakers to remember, but mainly because I am a Dream Daughter (right mum and dad?)
Other adventures this past week include bussing a few hours up to Otavalo, a small town which turns into a massive market on Saturdays. I overspent on jumpers and scarves that are really definitely without-a-doubt bona-fide alpaca (uh huh) but unfortunately had my day partly ruined by a creepy restaurant owner who tried charming me into ‘indigenous ceremonies’ with gifts of jewellery and compliments and really just wanted to cop a feel of a white chick’s boobs. It was daylight in a public space and obviously I just left straight away and nothing terrible happened, but it really pisses me off how many men here are total sexist pigs. Latin women are famous for being fiery and they need to be, sexual objectification isn’t an occasional nuisance here but a full-time affliction. It makes me realise how lucky I have been to only have to put up with the occasional “bring me a sandwich” joke from a dumb Scots boy!
Bad moments aside, today I climbed a hill South of the centre called Panecillo, meaning ‘little bread roll’, for views of the city. The views were 10/10 but I definitely felt like a little bread roll on the ascent… Altitude messes you up! (Excuses excuses, I’m on an all-carbs diet in this continent and cheap chocolate isn’t helping either). Before that my new mate Stuart and I stumbled across a free concert in the Casa del Cultura and witnessed absolutely zero showmanship, complete disorganisation, ridiculously loud (and horrendous) music and 100% audience participation. It was an experience!
Funny moments: someone asked me what language we spoke in Australia and I told her Australian and she nodded like she knew what that was. Someone else asked me if we spoke French there and I said ‘in some cities’ and once again this was taken as gospel. I have also been informed that all Muslims are Taliban and all Chinese are dirty. Also Uluru is a myth and drop bears are real.
Okay unstructured wordvomit over! Off to watch Sherlock in Spanish with mamá. Benedict Cumberpatch speaks at incomprehensible speed but mamá thinks he’s a sexbomb so it’s not up for negotiation.
Churches and chocles,