Friday morning, I headed back to CarpeDM tours, put a giant bundle of cash on the desk, and booked my trip to the Galapagos. Sure, it cost the same as a month of travel in Central America, but how often am I going to be in Ecuador? The trip goes from Monday the 30th, to Friday the 4th, and will cover most of the southern islands. During the trip, I’ll be eating all my meals and sleeping aboard the Merak, a recently renovated 16 meter sailboat. This is the beginning of the high season for Galapagos travel, which should mean an abundance of visible wildlife, including recently born sea lion pups. I can’t wait.
For now, though, I’m still taking in all that Quito has to offer. As the sun set yesterday, David, his family, and I went up to El Panacillo, the large hill toward the southern end of town. On top of the hill stands the large statue of La Virgen. Yesterday was the start of the celebrations of Quito’s Foundation (the actual Foundation day isn’t until Dec. 6, but Ecuadoreans know how to stretch out a party), and we got up to Panacillo just as the fireworks were being set off.
Afterwards, I was dropped off at The Secret Garden hostel, where I met up with some of my friends. My old buddy Matt, who I last saw in Guatemala was there, and we got to catch up a bit. A large group of people then decided to head out for some drinks on Calle La Ronda, a small street with a handful of bars. About 5 minutes into our walk from the hostel, we stopped and boarded a bus with a live band playing on the roof, and people with flags and whistles hanging off the back drinking cups full of Canelito (or Canelazo – a warm, spiced, alcoholic cider-ish drink). The bus dropped us off just a few blocks from La Ronda.
La Ronda proved to be a ton of fun. There were plenty of bars and restaurants lining the narrow cobbled pedestrian street. We stayed at one with a live band for a good portion of the night. La Ronda was a nice change of pace from the Gringo-only bar we went to in the New City. Ecuadoreans are incredibly friendly, and very generous with their Canelito.
Today, I went with David’s family to see their new house, which is still being finished. Unfortunately, I only got to see the outside (which is very nice), as the person they were supposed to meet there never showed up with the key. David and I then headed off to Plaza de Toros for my first bullfight. I didn’t know what to expect. A lot of my friends from the hostel went to a bullfight the day before, and opinions ranged from distate to absolute disgust. Even many of the locals I’ve talked don’t feel comfortable about the way the bull is treated, but going to the bullfight is a long standing tradition, and I was ready to take it in.
By the end of the day, the show on the ground hardly mattered. The atmosphere in the crowd was the real attraction. There was plenty of drinking, delicious empanadas, lots of chanting, singing, shouting and general merry-making. We even got to see a former Queen of Quito (part of the Foundation day celebrations include the crowning of a Quito Beauty Queen) sitting two rows in front of us. I don’t know if I’m in a rush to get to another bullfight, but I did have a great time.
Afterwards, David and I met up with Andrea at a nearby steakhouse, where I had a sampler plate of traditional meats, which in Ecuador means liver, kidney, heart, blood sausage and intestine. Unsurprisingly, I found all of it delicious. Of course, the generous portions of conventional steak and pork were great too.
I don’t what tomorrow will bring during the day, but the night will likely be a quiet one, as I need to get up early for my Monday morning flight to the Galapagos!