The plane coasted out of the clouds and down into a city-filled valley surrounded by verdant hillsides. My companion in row 19 was a young Quiteño. As we descended he scooted a seat closer, into the middle, and looked over my shoulder intently. Soon he produced a small video camera and began filming the airial scenes. We had a conversation that was characterized by long pauses between sentences as I tried to remember how to say certain things. He told me he was from Quito and that there were many amazing sights to see in Ecuador. ¨Buen viene,¨ he said, wishing me a good trip. Thus evolved my first conversation in Spanish since high school. I was giddy.
The taxi driver was even more garrelous than my neighbor on the plane and as he sped me through the city towards my hostel he pointed out the sights as we went. “Alli esta la Plaza Fuch.” He pointed it out and told me that is where I should go to dance with beautiful ladies and drink drinks and have a good time. It looked upper class and spendy. All the locals wore suits with tappered pants and pointed leather shoes. More style than I´ve seen in months. My one collared shirt and mountaineering boots probably wouldn´t fit in, I thought, but was intrigued all the same.
I arrived at the hostel, La Casa Helbling, around 2:30 in the afternoon, feeling exhausted from the last 18 hours of travel during which I hadn´t got a wink of sleep. The ladies at the reception commented on how good my Spanish was, a comment with which I immediatly disageed. “Pienso que es muy malo, pero gracias.” I used the words “cada vez, por favor”–once again, please–more often than any others, but everything worked out fine. They showed me my room, El Balcòn, which, as you might have quessed, has a gorgeous balcony and huge windows that overlook the street. The lush hillsides shrouded in mist are visible in the distance behind Quito´s tall buildings.
After a shower, I layed down on one of the three beds in my room, all of which are mine, intending only to rest my weary feet, but the next thing I knew it was nighttime and I had been sleeping for I didn´t know how long. I got up and stretched and went to the window and there in the street were my friends, Tyler and Nuria, getting out of a taxi. Perfect timing. They had just returned from what sounded like an intense but amazing hike in the jungle and paramo. We went out to dinner together and talked about our plans for the next couple weeks, which are grand to say the least.
We will spend a few more days in Quito and then begin our adventures in the mountains. Today we went to the market and had some tocino y papas–pork and potatos–that was amazing and cheap, only two bucks. The stalls were filled with fruits I have never seen or tasted and I wanted to buy all of them and try all of them, but I reminded myself that I have plenty of time.