In Quito, the clouds arrive at your doorstep. In three days in Ecuador’s capital, the second-highest capital city in the world, they signal the day’s arrival as surely as the sun crests over the mountains each morning. From my view out the sliding doors of my friend’s living room in lofty Guapulo, the fog rolls in until nothing is left to see of the valley below. It’s dry season now, but you wouldn’t know it from the forecast; I’m greeted with showers often enough to be on a first-name basis with my umbrella. I learn the words for rain (lluvia) and cloud (nube), words I’ll repeat often in the days to come.
I arrive in town on a brisk Tuesday — although to be fair, the temperature doesn’t change all that much; near-constant highs of mid-teens to low twenties are pretty much the norm here, with single-digit overnight lows. From the airplane window, I look down at a country carved with deep valleys and sheer rock faces, as if at any moment, the very Earth might fold in upon itself. Tall, skinny trees line the roadside, and giant cacti cling to cliff edges as though hanging on for dear life. Most everything is bathed in rich hues of green, fitting for a country famous for its biodiversity.
To travel in South America as an Anglophone is to undergo a crash course in language learning. Unlike other places where tourists are found, English is less common here, and you either learn to adapt or fall behind. The adjustment isn’t without its growing pains; on my ride into Quito’s historic centre, I tell my taxi driver that “I want the mountains,” although really, I wouldn’t know what to do with them if I had them. I’m made aware of my foolishness just hours later, when my friend explains the difference between yo quiero and me gusta.
Undeterred, I produce my own “Ich bin ein Berliner” moment a day later. Strolling through Quito’s Parque El Ejida, I come across what appears to be a bathroom, but in order to make doubly sure, I ask a woman standing at the doorway: “Soy un baños?”
Ecuador: 1, Pride: 0
Things I’ve seen:
1. Historic Quito