Sorry for disappearing for a month – it was finals season, and straight after I was whisked away to Ecuador and the Amazon, where the connection was either spotty or nonexistent. No matter, now I have photos upon photos upon photos (and videos!) of my vacation and stories to tell!

A little backstory on why my family decided to go to Ecuador: my dad has wanted to go to the Amazon ever since I can remember. After probably what’s been years and years of begging my mom, we finally decided to book the trip to Ecuador, near the source of the great river itself! We had no idea of what to expect – we were so unprepared that no one bothered to look up the currency of Ecuador until we had landed and we were waiting for my mom to finish renting the car.

Ecuador uses the U.S. Dollar as their national currency, in case anyone was curious. To be honest, I don’t quite understand how that works, but it was very convenient to not have to exchange currencies and to be able to withdraw money from the atms (which had no withdrawal fee!).

We spent our first day in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, just exploring the city, trying out all of the exotic fruits, and eating chocolate. Since we didn’t know where to go and how to get there, we asked our hotel for where to go and Google Maps for the way there. The drive there, while on rather bumpy and hilly roads, was breathtaking – the small, colorful Spanish-style houses, all huddled close together and climbing the hills, looked like layers and layers and layers of pixelated bright colors.

houses on houses on houses!

Our first stop was Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal, which was a large one-story complex of artisan stalls filled with woven fabrics and leather goods and weird foods and exotic fruits and beautiful white peasant blouses. We tried out a 65% mint chocolate that was mostly bitter – surprising to us, considering even a 75% in the US is fairly sweet – and a weird green candy that tasted a bit like sugary soap.

Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal

The weird green candy that none of us liked

We also tried a weird fruit that was about the size of a date but was reddish and tasted like a hybrid of a mango and a plum. It contained a large seed inside and it was really sweet and juicy and yummy, but we still don’t know what it was.

The fruit we couldn’t identify are under the mango slices

Our next stop was the Old Town near Santo Domingo, where there was another little market and we tried some fresh ice cream. We walked around the area and ended up happening upon a tiny, hole-in-the-wall chocolate and coffee shop called Chez Tiff Artisanal. The shop had two cases full of beautiful little truffles, and with the server’s recommendation, we picked out four truffles: a passion fruit, a coffee, a blackberry, and a regular milk chocolate truffle. The truffles use fresh fruit, apparently, and the chocolate tasted richer and the truffles tasted better than anything I have had before – all for 80 cents each! Hera’s favorite was the passion fruit truffle, which had fresh passion fruit juices inside.

Left to right: milk chocolate truffle, coffee truffle, passion fruit
truffle, and blackberry truffle

We also got hot chocolates, which had no sugar in it and was just a combination of pure cacao with milk. It was tasty, but I added a bit of sugarcane sugar to make it sweeter – I think my sweet tooth has grown since living in the States for so long.

Incredible hot chocolates

The end the day resulted in us trying to get back to the hotel using Google Maps and us learning that Google Maps has trouble differentiating between pedestrian roads and car roads in Quito. It directed us down a ridiculously steep hill of a road (maybe even steeper than 30 degrees?) which was so narrow it barely fit the width of two cars and ended in stairs. Our pathetic little rental manual car had a lot of trouble backing back up – we all got out of the car, found rocks to block the wheels from rolling down more, and my mom had to carefully back the car up the hill and past the car that happened to be parked on the side. Pretty much all of us had multiple heart attacks during this time, and after my mom succeeded and we all got back into the car, the car smelled foul because we had been overworking the gears and the engine so much.

Thinking the worst was behind us, we got on the highway. Unfortunately, the highway also had a bit of an incline and the car wasn’t a fan. We were on the right side of the highway, thankfully, when we heard a bang and pungent gas started to come out of the ventilation system. Long story short, we saw small pieces of the gears on the highway after we had gotten out and were sitting on the side and we had to get the car towed. It was quite an adventure, and I’m glad we were all safe – and that the car didn’t blow up or waited to break down the next day when we would be on our way to the Amazon.

Say hi to mom carefully maneuvering the car onto the tow truck

Stay tuned for part 2 next week, where my family and I go explore the Amazon!

Read about part two of this trip here.
Read about part three of this trip here.

One thought on “Christmas 2015: Ecuador, part 1 – Quito!”

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