I crossed the equator on the 17th of October, 2013, nearly 15 months after we left Vancouver. I don't have a picture of this momentous occasion, because there wasn't even a sign. Apparently if one wants to take a picture of the monument on the equator, one needs to take a different route. Sigh.
Every so often I email a community via the Horizons Unlimited website. You never know who will reply, or even how many people are on the list you are emailing. In Quito a man called Ernesto replied to my email asking about where to stay, and invited me to stay at his house where he lives with his daughter. (I don't have pictures of Ernesto or his daughter either, because I took them on my phone, which has since been lost.)
Ernesto rides a BMW and owns a company that provides security guards to companies and private individuals. He was very welcoming. His house was a lovely apartment, with underground parking, and maids who cooked me meals and washed my clothes. I was truly spoiled! His 17 year old daughter was there with her newborn daughter, because she had had a fight with her 18 year old husband, who had gone out with his friends and lied about it. His other daughter, the one who normally lived there, was away for the night.
That first night I was in Quito, Ernesto took me out for dinner and we fell foul of the 2 for 1 cocktail special. Too many cocktails later we stumbled home and I found myself having to explain to Ernesto that I was not interested in a relationship with a grandfather who had a daughter nearly the same age as me. He suggested that I should stay for a month and then we could travel around together, I explained that that wasn't going to happen.
Oh the perils of being a single motorcyling gal traveling solo - of course I must be in need of a man to look after me! I took it all with a grain of salt (and some headache pills in the morning when the mojitos came back to bite me). At least I could sleep as late as I wanted in a comfortable bed and I had the lovely ladies to make me coffee and breakfast.
Phil and Kelly were on their way to meet me, and unfortunately, with the teenage drama, there wasn't room for all of us in the luxury apartment, so I put in some Quito couchsurfing requests. Phil and Kelly were planning to ride all the way from Colombia to Quito that day. Having just made that trip, I suggested they may want to stop for the night in Otavalo.
Back in Quito, Lenin, a university professor, came to our rescue. He accepted our couchrequest, and that afternoon I packed up my freshly laundered clothes and rode to Lenin's house. Lenin lectures about cinema, and spent some time in Paris. We spoke a crazy mix of French and Spanish, which most other people would not have understood!
Lenin's apartment overlooks a beautiful valley, and yet is still walking distance from the trendy La Mariscal area. As I had predicted, Phil and Kelly decided to stop in Otavalo for the night and so Lenin and I made dinner then went out to his favourite bar.
Quito has an exciting night life, with a good mix of locals and foriegners.
The next day I set out on the bus to explore the historical centre of Quito.
My Quito lunch bill (in a nice restaurant in Old Town) hot chocolate cost the same as my 2 course lunch (with juice). Total bill? $5 including $0.21 tip!
As I was on my way home, Phil called to say they were also close. We got to the apartment at about the same time. We had to move some wood to park Jugs beside Cricket and then we settled into Casa Lenin. It was good to be back together after nearly two weeks apart.
I enjoyed traveling solo a lot. There's a lot to be said for being able to make your own schedule and choose your own route without having to take into consideration other people's desires. I made a lot of great friends, and felt a lot more adventurous when exploring places by myself. However there were moments when I felt lonely, and I was always worried about Phil and Kelly, hoping that they were okay. I love my brother, and it felt right to be back together.
That evening Phil and I met up with Fernando, another motorcyclist whom I had been in touch with through the Horizons Unlimited community. He took us to another trendy bar, where we met two of his friends, who were also motorcyclists. They introduced us to "canelazo," a hot cinnamon and orange drink, and they gave us loads of tips about what to see and where to go in Ecuador. It was this trio that encouraged us to visit the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle, a thought that had not occurred to us previously.
The next day we went and played Ultimate Frisbee with the Quito Ultimate team. They were incredibly welcoming as Ultimate people always are, and several of them invited us to come and stay at their houses.
Our stay in Quito was extremely pleasant. Lenin was an incredible host who gave us the keys to his apartment, and took us for typical Ecuadorian food down in the valley.
We managed to regroup and relax in Quito, however soon it was time to say goodbye, get out of the big city and head towards volcanoes and jungle.