When we first arrived in Quito on Friday, we took a taxi from the new airport about an hour out of town to our hostel, la Posada Colonial, located in the old part of the city. We heard about a walking street called la Ronda (that turned out to be about 100m away from the hostel) that was lined on both sides with traditional Ecuadorian restaurants and cafes, and live “folklore” music. It’s the oldest street in all of Quito, and was the street surrounding an old walled city, and the restaurants were built into the walls. The street was the center for the artistic community of Quito and some very famous Ecuadorian songs were written here. So to start our South American experience, we went there for dinner that evening. We spent quite a while looking for the perfect restaurant, with live music, but not too loud, and reasonable prices. We found one, and had shrimp and chicken burritos, fish, salad, and some of the best fries I’ve ever had! Potatoes are native to the Andes mountains, so they don’t need to be drenched in salt and butter to taste good. There was a musician playing traditional music, and people were dancing. It was so lively all down the street, and in the park right beside it, people were selling jewelry and wool clothing. It was a great start to our South America.
The next day we went to Intinan museum on the equator, which Kaia will write a blog about. On Sunday, on our way to a travel agency to book our Galapagos cruise (on the 21st, so excited!!!), we stumbled onto the Mama Negra parade, a celebration in Ecuador. Mama Negra is a festival which originated in 1742, from the eruption of Cotopaxi volcano. Many towns were completely destroyed, but the town of Latacunga was not, and it was believed that it was saved because they prayed to the Virgin of Mercy. It became a tradition that every year, to save them from later Cotopaxi eruptions, a festival was held where people prayed to the Virgin of Mercy, which eventually mixed with african culture and became Mama Negra. Now, it is a festival to celebrate many things, including homosexuality. That explains why a man walked up to my dad, grabbed his crotch and kissed him on the cheek (nothing personal, he did it to a lot of people).
There were people dancing in traditional clothing, marching bands, and even someone dressed as Mama Negra on a horse.
We followed the parade until we got to a park which happened to have a great market, where we bought a bunch of Ecuadorian snacks, and alpaca wool hats for all of us.
The next destination was to be Cotopaxi mountain, which we were told would be surprisingly and painfully cold, given it being on the equator, so the hats would and will be put to good use. We walked around the park a bit, then went to the travel agency. We decided to walk back to the hostel along a street that was closed to cars for a day. My dad and I were due for a haircut, so we stopped at a barber shop along the way. It was quite different from the usual buzz cut by my dad! The barber shaved the sides and back of my head, spayed my head with water and alcohol, combed my hair, cut it with scissors, trimmed around my ears with a tiny razor, and so on.
Next, we’re headed to the Black Sheep Inn in a remote part of the Andes. Our 5-week visit to South America is off to a good start!