So finally we return to Quito, looking forward to a good nights sleep at long last. Too many nights on our cruise were disturbed by the strong swell rocking us back a forth a little too violently. Our first night was spent at the Hotel Rapa Nui although unfortunately we did not manage to get a lot of sleep, its location on the main road saw to that! However, a quick room change the next evening made a big difference and at last we were able to grab more than 40 winks.
We were back in Quito to add to our Spanish skills, this time at the Acedemia Kolumbus. Andrea enjoyed her place as star pupil in our 4 person group, the extra hours of studying whilst cruising the Galapagos obviously paying off! However, we both gained a lot from the week (including past and future tense which makes our conversation more bearable!!). Andrea even got to demonstrate her folk dancing skills (which I had no idea she possessed) by showing the class (with fellow classmate Matias from Sweden) how to do "Shot-ees" (spelled wrong!) but it is a Swedish folkdance - I couldn't believe it! Any way, we are looking forward to using our enhanced skills in the next few weeks, in Ecuador and Cuba.
Quito is a beautiful city, set at 2800m and in the valley of some beautiful mountains. On a clear day it is breathtaking... and you can even see the volcano Cotopaxi in the distance.
Other than spending 6 hours a day in class - from 8:30 - 4 with only an hour break, we also enjoyed staying in an area of Quito where we actually saw Quiteños as opposed to only "Gringos" as we saw in the area of Quito we first stayed in. It was called Mariscal Sucre but it is referred to by locals as "Gringo-landia". All the restaurants we have eaten in had only Quiteños (all dressed nicely and having to deal with us in jeans and sneakers!) so it made for a different experience than our first week here sightseeing.
As I am known the world-over for my interesting factoids (!!!!) I thought I would share another. "Gringos" are specifically Americans (although used in Quito to refer to all tourists). The name comes from the Spanish-American war, where the American soldiers were wearing green. The Mexicans, saying the few words of English they understood to the Americans would say "GREEN-GO!" and hence the new term.
We have found Quito to be an interesting city. There are quite alot of VERY wealthy people here and lots of new, expensive cars. There is also huge poverty (60% of the population) and hence much crime. There is a huge gap in wealth here as well and we have found it to be one of the most expensive places we have been on this trip (bar the usual suspects of Hong Kong, Australia and Tahiti). Apparently this was caused by their change in currency to the US Dollar. The country is wealthy (a shock to both of us) and their main exports are oil, bananas, sugar, and roses (they are the largest exporter of roses in the world!)
Crime is also bad. We have been warned to not even walk around the block in a very good area after dark. We witnessed at lunch today a group of clearly wealthy businessmen sitting down to a business lunch at a great Ecuadorian restaurant called La Querencia. As they took off their jackets, we immediately noticed they were "packing heat" - and we are not talking water pistols here!!! Andrea was shocked - even in South Africa we didn't see this!!
The restaurants here are excellent (eventhough usually only filled with wealthy Quiteños or foreigners or oil men) and we made a nuisance of ourselves at a few. We recommend them because they are great for food but also atmosphere... and as they weren't located in the main tourist area, you get to speak Spanish! These include San Telmo (yep, Argentinian), a great Italian called Il Risotto (address is wrong in LP!) and La Arcate (in Gringo Landia) for some great pizza. I felt like Norm when we walked into the pizza place as a man recognised us from the Italian place at lunch and came over for a hearty handshake (am I becoming a local???) - maybe he knows my alter poker ego - Juan Cardaway!
Finally, the other excitement of the week is that on Tuesday, we experienced our first earthquake. It was about 5 on the Richter Scale but I was awake as our whole bed shook! I thought I had dreamt it until our hotel owner asked it we felt anything. Andrea was disappointed as she slept through the whole thing (probably owing to her ability to sleep even on the crazy boat!!)
Our farewell to Quito party is tonight at La Bodeguita de Cuba - a Cuban bar / restaurant / discoteca (great....) Matias, our Swedish classmate will join us and show us his moves that he picked up on a Salsa holiday to Cuba (and once again... I can't wait!)
Our next stop is Baños, about three hours from Quito. We'll see you there.