Quito, Ecuador, South America
I had a pretty busy day today, without actually seeing too much. It started out with a bus ride ($3.60) out of Pasto, to Ipiales. As we were driving out of Pasto, I witnessed my first and only mugging in Colombia. It was hard to see what happened because we were driving by, but an old man in his 70’s or 80’s was carrying a bag full of plantains. A young guy, around 20 ran up behind him, grabbed something and ran away. I couldn’t see what he took, but the bottom of the man’s bag ripped open and all his plantains fell onto the street. I felt really bad for the man because he looked immediately depressed. I’m guessing the kid stole a bag with his money in it or something. Unfortunately, because we were stuck in traffic and had to keep moving, the kid got away. It was a pretty sad situation.
It was about an hour and a half to get to Ipiales and we arrived at the really small bus terminal. I found a baggage locker and paid to leave my big bag at the terminal so I could go explore Las Lajas. I got a shared taxi ($1) to Las Lajas with a family of five Colombians to the top of the hill for the sanctuary. It was a pretty good walk down the hill to get to the church, but it was worth it. This building is absolutely beautiful, built right in the middle of a gorge, with a couple of waterfalls around it.
It was really busy there. I mean really busy. I don’t know if this was a special Saturday thing or what, but there were tons of people. I spent about an hour walking around some of the walkways outside the church to get different views of it. I was going to check out the museum beneath the church, but I was told that there is nothing in English, so most of what I saw would be lost on me. I made my way back up the hill toward the road and stopped on the way for a bite to eat. It was perfect timing, because that was a pretty big hill and I needed a break anyway.
I got another shared taxi ($1) back to the terminal at Ipiales and started looking for a bus to Quito. Unfortunately, there are no busses from here to Quito, so I had to get a taxi ($4) from the terminal to the border, and then walk across the border. It was a simple border crossing and there is no need for a visa to enter Ecuador, so it was free as well. Once I got into Ecuador, I had to get an Ecuadorean taxi ($3.50) from the border to the town of Tulcan, which has a bus terminal. From there I was able to jump on a bus to Quito just ten minutes later.
That bus ride down to Quito lasted about six hours and cost only $4. The prices of the transportation around here is crazy. The bus was not so nice, but I’ve heard that Ecuador doesn’t have very nice busses. The scenery was absolutely stunning though. We passed by a couple of volcanoes and lakes, and everything was so green. I wish I had had a window seat to take some pictures, but unfortunately there was an old man next to me and he was the most nervous bus rider I’ve ever seen. Every little bump made him jump out of his seat to see what was happening. It was pretty annoying.
We got into Quito around 8pm and I got a taxi ($8) to the hostel that I have booked for tomorrow night and Monday night. I wasn’t expecting to get to Quito so early, I thought it was going to be an overnight bus ride to get here. Luckily, La Rosario Hostel had a free room for tonight as well, so I checked in one night early. The people running the place seem really nice, and it’ll be a good chance to practice my Spanish since no one speaks English at all. It’s a nice place though, so it’ll be a good place to base myself for a few days to check out Quito.