So I did it, I actually managed to leave Montanita! Sounds strange but it's amazing how quickly you can become attached to a place, and more specifically, to people, so a big shout out to the Montanita massive, missing you already!
This past week travelling on my own I've found it near impossible to find exact information on how to get from one place to another so bear with me if I put in some unnecessary details (you never know, it might help someone else).
So I left Montanita on Sunday with a heavy heart and even heavier rucksack - I swear it has trebled in size! I caught the 5pm bus from Montanita to Guayaquil, a pleasant enough 3 hour journey, but was recommended to buy the ticket in advance as a lot of guayaquilians (?!) go home after a weekend partying. The bus terminal in Guayaquil is fairly easy to navigate and I located a company called panamericana that had direct buses to Quito for the princely sum of $9. Had to wait a couple of hours and amused myself watching the locals, was expecting there to be a whole load of gringos waiting for the same bus but no, just me. When the bus arrived I was a little perplexed as it looked pretty shabby, but what do you expect in South America right? When they started frisking people as they got on my consternation grew but I took a deep breath and on I got (not frisked however!). Although my plan was to sleep for most of the 8 hour overnight journey I barely got a wink as I swear the bus was going to flip over at any moment due to the crazy driving. I was bloody glad it was dark so I couldn't see the ravines I was sure we were about to fall into on either side of the road! (Sorry mum, I know you probably don't want to hear this!) When I eventually did fall asleep I was awoken by a police officer who had boarded the bus to check ID, he looked at my passport for a long time - I assume he was trying to work out how long I'd been in the country! That test passed, we eventually made it to Quito at the ungodly hour of 5:30am. As my hostel didn't open until 8am I decided to wait in the bus terminal for a while as opposed to roaming the streets of Quito. I then got a taxi to my hostel, which actually cost the same amount as the entire bus journey to Quito but was marginally safer!
Hostel Revolutions is based near Alameda Park on the border between the new and old parts of Quito and I can thoroughly recommend it. I was in a 6 person dorm, but only actually had 2 others sharing, comfortable beds, hot showers, a good sized kitchen and a nice terrace with a view of the city. It's a good job too because thats where I spent most of the next few days! Quito is the second highest capital city in the world and at 2850m above sea level I think I fell victim to altitude sickness. It's like the worst hangover you can imagine but without any of the fun preceding it! I managed to do a quick tour of the old town on my first day - a UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of colonial charm set against a backdrop of volcanic peaks so very beautiful but felt a little uncomfortable as I had been warned by several people about safety and as I seemed to be the only tourist around I felt a bit of a target. Spent the evening at the hostel with the 2 guys in my dorm, had a couple of beers and watched the sunset on the terrace.
Next day I got up early to visit 'Mitad del Mundo' or the equator line, which is about an hour and a half away - you need to catch the trolebus to the Ofelia terminal, then catch a feeder bus on to the site for about 40cents in total. The equator line is marked by a monument and there are a couple of museums and shops etc but not a lot else to warrant the 3 hour round trip but I felt it was a must to get a photo straddling both hemispheres! However, GPS actually now says the equator is 100m from this spot - modern technology huh! Again I appeared to be the only tourist here, where is everyone or am I just being too gringo for words?! The return journey was a bit fraught as that's when the altitude sickness kicked in and I all I wanted to do was get to bed.
The following day I'd planned to go to Otavalo Market but as it was a 2 hour bus ride and I was still feeling pretty ropey, I really couldn't face it. I was quite disappointed as this was one of the places I had planned to visit before I came away but no point stewing over it, so I decided to have a stroll around the new town instead which to my surprise was a lot like Leicester Square so not really for me! Then walked up to Park Itichimbe which has spectacular views of the whole of Quito, which just seems so enormous as it's in a valley so you can see it stretching out forever, quite mind boggling really. And that I'm afraid was enough for me. Quito didn't quite do it for me but I'm not sure if that was feeling unwell, or whether it was too overwhelming after the Montanita bubble, or whether I just didn't feel the vibe but never mind, plenty more places to discover!
So on to Latacunga and the Valley of the Volcanoes next... Let's hope I've acclimatised!