Thursday, October 20, 2011

Random adventures are the best kind

Wednesday October 19, 2011

Ahhhh... my lovely friends! Day two of my trip is about to begin. I just need to pull myself out of bed and crawl upstairs to where there is coffee. But first I wanted to write about my adventures so far!

This picture of Quito's Basilica was taken from the roof of The Secret Garden, my home here in Quito. This hostel is quite wonderful, and lives up to the praise that led me to book 10 nights here. The people are friendly and helpful. The bed is comfortable. There is plenty of hot water for showers. And it's just a lot of fun hanging out meeting and talking to people! I'm on the 4th floor (walkup... and dear GOD this is either going to kill me or make me stronger, I am not yet sure which) and the view out of the window directly opposite my bed is a wonderful thing to go to sleep to and wake up to. There are a bunch of places inside where you can chill outside of your room. There is a lounge area around the corner from my dorm room. But the best spot is the roof. It's where their restaurant and bar is located. And it's where I have spent a lot of my time here so far. *smiles*

Ok... so adventures! Yesterday was a glorious day. Not a rain cloud in sight. I have lots of time to explore, so I didn't want to push myself too much my first day here, so I decided my first adventure would be a short walk up to the Basilica. I learned that while the altitude isn't giving me a great deal of trouble, walking up and up and up was quite painful. But I pushed on, and I made it! Paid $1 to go inside, and another $2 to head up into one of the towers.

This Roman Catholic church is I believe the largest neo-gothic Basilica in the Americas. I'm particularly interested after my experience in Europe last winter with the gothic churches I saw there. When I have more time I want to pull out all of my pictures and do side by side comparisons. Construction began in the late 1800s, and it is still unfinished. According to Wikipedia, local legend says that when the Basilica is complete it will signal the end of the world.

First day here and I forgot my hat and sunblock. So my face is sunburned, but it just serves as a reminder not to forget again! I noticed a few interesting things while out and about. a) Loose dogs are everywhere! It's sad to see so many of them with obviously broken legs or hips. b) While up in the tower I noticed a distinct difference in architecture and roofs in particular throughout sections of the city where the poor live vs the probably more affluent. And c) OMG the cheap! I picked up a bottle of water and a breakfast roll for 55 cents on my way back to my hostel.

I spent a good two or three hours exploring. I have no sense of time down here. It's both nice and maddening. But I am trying to learn to deal. Got back to the hostel happy, but tired. I had arrived around midnight, woke up around 7, and wandered around hatless in the sun and decided to just take it easy for the rest of the day. I finished a book. I got a financial hiccup smoothed out. (Calling from my gmail account meant that being on hold for 45 minutes was, while annoying, was not costly! Was able to make the call for free). And I talked to people.

After an afternoon nap I went back up to the roof to hang out until dinner. And while eavesdropping on a conversation a few others were having I heard them talking about fútbol. Since getting a chance to see a fútbol match while down here was high on my list of things I hoped to do, I opened my mouth and found myself asking them if there was a chance I might be able to see a match while here.

"ACTUALLY..." drawled Remy. "We were going to a game tonight. Want to come with us?"

We ended up being Remy, who works here at the hostel and was the instigator of this little adventure. Allen, a young guy from London who has traveled all over the world following his favorite fútbol teams. Tom and Helen, a young couple from England who have the twin room right next door to me. And me. The five of us piled into a taxi and got dropped off in La Mariscal, the more modern hip section of Quito. We dropped into a pub called Finn McCool's for a few beers and a bite to eat before continuing on to the stadium. I had considered whether I want to stay in this area at some point during my visit, but I looked around me and it is full of bars and clubs and I'm just not the bar or club kind of person. So I think I will stick to the Old City.

I was really feeling the beers I'd been drinking, so made the decision to cut myself off. Finally, Remy said it was time to go, so we walked to the main square and managed to hail another taxi and piled in. The stadium is at the edge of the city, and fútbol is HUGE here. So traffic was absolutely wretched. Remy was saying that this stadium officially holds about 40,000 people... and unofficially holds about 60,000. Liga is also one of the best teams around, and it was a home game. So things were going to be crazy.

I swear it took us an hour to get to the stadium. And I had to pee the entire time. That sucked! We grabbed tickets from a scalper for $8 each and with Remy leading the way we hurried into the stadium. Found the bathrooms and then found a place to sit. We had to sit in the lower stands, so the view wasn't great. But who cares? OMG it was crazy. Huge, powerful drums. Singing. Shouting profanities at players and the ref. I got to show off my cussing in Spanish skills! :D There is a massive police presence at fútbol matches here. Apparently things have a tendency to get quite rough. $1 cervezas (which I declined). Here are a few pictures from the game!

Liga won, 1-0. It was quite the thrilling game. Both teams played exceptionally well. The crowd was insanely boisterous as we tried to leave. Didn't want to get separated, so Tom and Helen and I held hands as we followed Remy and Allen up and away from the Stadium to where we could find a cab that would bring us back to the hostel.

Dudes... cab drivers here are NUTS! This guy drove in the opposite lane to get around lines of traffic. He drove in bus lanes. He ignored lights. I'm sure if he'd wanted to he would have ignored any one way signs, too. He just didn't need to last night. We got back in record speed, and tipped the driver well. All five of us were grinning hugely as we told him awesome driving and buenas noches.

A glass of wine up on the roof with a bunch of people talking and laughing til they closed the roof at 11. Then I read for a bit and futzed around online before passing out. Plans for today are supposed to include a walking tour of the city. I should get up now and get ready and go get coffee and breakfast.


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