The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

We have both quit our jobs and sold our possessions in order to do some long-term traveling. Some have said

Pretty colonial architecture in Old Quito.

Pretty colonial architecture in Old Quito.

they are a little bit envious – that they wish they could do the same thing. I love to post photos of the beautiful sights we see; no one wants to see photos of poverty, and ugliness, and I want to be careful not to show a country in a bad light. I’ve heard it said that people can feel depressed or inferior by comparing their lives with what other posters on social networks post. It is never the whole picture. Today I intend to post some of the truthful and unglamorous points from our travels in Quito.

Travel is luxurious hotel suites with porters, maids, concierge service, fine dining, swimming pools and spa treatments, right? Ha! That is not how we live, therefore neither is this kind of travel. I’m sure you’re curious how we can take this trip; you know Steve and I are not rich nor have we inherited a large and unexpected sum of money. Our goal is to travel on

Hotel Andino not a luxury hotel.

Hotel Andino not a luxury hotel.

a very small monthly budget. I track every penny spent on the Trail Wallet app. We’ve gone over budget everyday.

I wasn’t planning to share a photo of our hotel room. It’s not glamorous. I discovered Hotel Andino online and reserved a room for our first 5 nights in Quito. It is $38 a night and includes breakfast. There is no closet, no luggage rack, no desk or chair, just a TV high on the wall, a small cabinet, a private bath, 2 night stands, and 3 beds: 2 singles and 1 double which means that our suitcases are resting on one, we lounge and sit on the beds, and are sleeping in separate beds!  Regarding the pillows I am reminded of Goldilocks. One is too fat, one is too thin, and one is too hard. In fact, none of them are just right! On the other hand, the lighting isn’t bad and it’s been extremely quiet.

Toilet paper is not flushed in toilets here in Quito (and in most if not all parts of Central and South America.) I’m sorry to have to share this personal information, but it is quite the ordeal in a narrow toilet stall like at KFC to hang on to my bag (no hook), hold my clothes up off the floor, keep my money belt safe, use tissue paper, and before disposing of it, to open a sometimes lidded or overflowing wastebasket. Use your imagination to fill in the blanks. image

We are standing in different hemispheres!

We are standing in different hemispheres! 

It has been proven that travel is good for keeping one’s brain cells active. This is true. We are lost or confused a good deal of time. We are also using a foreign language.

The other day we wanted to go the Middle of the World Monument on the equator. We were confused whether the $25- $30 the taxi driver quoted was for one way or a round trip, so we decided to take public transportation. We had to choose between 1) a long walk and two different buses, or 2) short walk and 3 buses. Coming home we reversed our course, but when we needed to transfer at the Ofelia Station we had no idea which bus we needed. And where was our map? Turns out it was left in our hotel room. Thankfully I remembered the name of the street for our bus stop so I went to ask the attendant, and she pointed and said “Third.” I asked “Third what?” since there were 4 long platforms with buses and she replied, “To the end!” We tried the 3rd platform first and walked to the end where there was a line and asked those in line, but they pointed to the 2nd platform. We walked to the end of the 2nd platform and in the third line from the end we found a sign for our bus. Looking back now, maybe the platforms were numbered (we didn’t see any) because with 4 platforms what we thought was the “2nd” could have been the “3rd” if numbered from the other direction.

Immediately we encountered a new dilemma – the first bus to arrive was “Express with limited stops” and while we were trying to decide whether to take it our not, it departed. We took the next bus, but that’s not the end of the story.

We weren’t sure how we would know when we reached our bus stop. The bus was extremely crowded with standing passengers (we had seats thankfully) and we were unable to see out the right side windows of the bus plus it was lightly raining. Eventually I saw a street sign and knew we were traveling on the right street. Suddenly, we thought we saw a landmark, but weren’t positive. While discussing this, we noticed another street sign and the name on the avenue we’re traveling is no longer the same. Should we get off and backtrack – in the rain? Suddenly the bus turns, and turns again and we wondered if we were going to travel closer to where we needed to disembark. After more turns we were completely unsure of our location so we decided to ride it out. Eventually we arrived at another station where we decided to bale. Here there were two platforms, so I told the attendant the street we needed and she pointed to the other platform. I recognized this different line from the map and realized that it would drop us closer to our final destination thus eliminating the long walk. We paid the .25 each and got on another packed bus. Since we had to stand, I planted myself on the right side of the bus and told Steve to watch out the left side of the bus looking for any familiar landmarks through the rain splattered windows. I finally got a quick glimpse of a familiar street sign, and then recognized something else and hollered to Steve to get get off at the next stop. We did it! We knew where we were! We congratulated ourselves with a “high five” and contentedly walked the remaining few blocks to the hotel. We had barely entered our room when the skies opened and it began to pour down rain. On the positive side – $1.20 was the grand total for our day’s bus transportation. We also saw how orderly people line up at bus stops! (You’ll understand what I’m saying if you’ve traveled in Italy.)

Finally, travelers are more active than when at home and we are pleased with ourselves to be walking long distances every day. One the downside, here in Quito we are breathing horribly polluted air – black exhaust clouds billowing from the ever-present diesel buses.

While walking I love looking up and around, and reading signs, but I have to keep my eyes on the path before me. I hang on to my husband’s arm as he guides me around the holes, cracks, missing tiles, ups and downs, high steps, ramps, puddles, and dog poop, and supports me when I trip! While crossing in sidewalks we must be continually watching for cars turning into our lane both in front and behind. Finally, we must remain ever conscious of the people and situation around us.

The accurate equator discovered 18 years ago by GPS. The painted line is the equator.

The accurate equator discovered 18 years ago by GPS. The painted line is the equator.

If we keep busting our budget we may have to find work!

If we keep busting our budget we may have to find work!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  Would you make a good world traveler?  Would you rather be home working so you can take a once a year 2-week glam trip?  I’m thankful for this opportunity!

5 responses to “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

  1. Thanks for painting us a mind picture of every day life in Quito. LOL Hey Steve….does your personal GPS work there? Tim

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    • We haven’t seen the sunrise or sunset so we are confused as to our location and the streets don’t go straight. Steve’s good at guiding us back after walking around, whereas I’m lost. As a visual person I look at the map and have a big picture in my mind.

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  2. I really enjoy reading all of your stories, Merrill. Your experiences in Quito are familiar and bring back many memories. I think I was on the same bus route as you going to and from the equator! I also remember the Incan lady asking me if she could have the bread on my plate at an outdoor cafe and giving left over pizza to another lady and her hungry child. These are some of the memories I recall when I am tempted to have Facebook envy. I leave for Costa Rica in two weeks and I am looking forward to returning to paradise. I met my group yesterday and everyone seems really nice and compatible. Keep writing. I am enjoying your great adventure.

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    • Patty, thanks for reading and your nice comment. Costa Rica sounds lovely. It’s been raining heart heavily the last several days and is calling for rain all week. I can’t wait to get down to the coast – after Carnaval.

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  3. I just read your post and have to say that although I don’t know what your budget is you will find our house in San Clemente far more comfortable and spacious at considerably less money per month then your hotel room in Quito. Oh and the Saturday market in Charapato is where everyone gets their fresh produce for the week (bus ride 25 cents) but right across the street from us is a little tienda that has all the basic necessities. It’s run by Carmen. Also I should mention that if you need medical attention the community health clinic is next door and free of charge to all.

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