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We Are Flying Solo

September 13, 2010

Day 1: Arrival!

*cue dramatic opening music*

We left Miami about half past four on Friday the 3rd and hopped across the gulf and the isthmus of Panama to curl south into Quito.

Long river deltas reach silt fingers into the Gulf beyond Miami and clouds hover over salty marsh systems. Before we got to Panama, though, the sun set in a blaze of fire over the wing and I didn't get to spy on that skinny little country from above.

Quito welcomed us around 7:30 pm (Ecuador is on Central US time); a long string of lights nestled between two strings of mountains. First impressions: I am a pale giant. And the first thing I see as I step of the plane is a person wearing a pair of pale blue crocs. It appears tastelessness and a penchant for ugly shoes is a global phenomenon.

Gloria meets us after we pass through customs and fills us in on life in Quito, the capital city which is her home. Traffic is typical of Latin America; signs are merely for decorative purposes and horns are used more often than brake pedals. "Passing lane" means any lane into which your vehicle will fit, whether or not you can actually see oncoming trucks. There are trams and buses at $0.25 a fare, but not enough to carry the bulging population with no room to expand within the narrow valley.

Gloria tells us that there are no jobs here in Ecuador and many have chosen to go to Spain to work. Children stayed behind, living with relatives or even on their own as parents struggled to make a living an ocean away. However, the European markets have fallen as well, especially in construction, and now there is no work there either. The government of Ecuador has offered incentives for workers to return home, allowing them to bring any goods they have acquired, including vehicles, and many are cashing in on this offer.

Our van finally (and somehow safely!) arrives at Cafe Cultura, our hotel nestled in a garden in Old Town, a section of Quito that dates back to the 16th century. As the gates are unlocked and we walk in, I stagger back with mouth open. I am sure I heard the porter giggle as I breathe, "Holy crap," unable to contain myself.  Everything is beautiful.  It is all frescoes and creaking wood floors and balconies and a Taj Majal room with gauzy curtains and a claw-foot tub and candlelight.  We eat dinner in a candlelit hush, feeling like we are in a church, afraid to breathe too loudly and break the spell.

The white doors lead to the library, where lilies set in front of a fireplace. The candlelit angel fresco flew above the fireplace in the dining room.

Our room:

Tomorrow:  we transfer to Otavalo and the adventure truly begins!!


  1. I once spent a week in El Salvador and I have to say you've described the traffic exactly as I remember. How on earth does anyone survive? The buildings look amazing! I so want to go on a horse vacation someday!!

  2. Oh my word!!! Oh my goodness!!! It looks so divine!!! I so want to go there. Sigh......

  3. Gorgeous! And, yes, here in Miami (where the joke is, "Miami is nice because it's so close to the United States"), that is exactly how traffic is! Going doing the highway at 85 mph in the far left lane and your exit is mere feet away? No problem! Just go veering across five lanes of traffic (without looking or using a turn signal -- turn signals are for pussies!) and come mere inches from death; but, hey, you made it to your exit!
    Yeah. That's why my car insurance doubled when I moved here.
    Can't wait for more!