“Welcome to Ecuador” is the greeting I received upon my arrival in Ecuador from the woman customs officer, after a few friendly questions – what a shift from North America already. Those were three of the sweetest words I had heard all day. My19 hour journey from Toronto had exhausted me and I was ready to be here, in the capital, Quito (kee-to).
Quito is a magnificent city. It is high in the Andes at 2850m above sea level surrounded by dramatic peaks. The ‘Old Town’ of Quito is its gem as it is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is layered with magnificent churches, chapels, convents dating from the 17th century with impressive ancient facades as well as cobblestone streets and grandeur squares great for people watching. Ecuador gained its independence in 1830 and now has a population of 14 million, with Quito having 1.2 million.
I spent my 3 days recovering from the journey and just wandering the streets of Quito. I started with the free walking tour that my hostel offered. I learned that roses and cacao are two major exporters for Ecuador, as well as oil. There is a constant fight between the indigenous communities and the oil companies to try to preserve the ecology and environment of the remaining 1 hectare of Amazon that lies in Ecuador, home to countless species of animals. 1 in 3 species on the entire globe you will find in Ecuador, in other words one-third of the world’s species can be found here.
Ecuadorians are friendly and warm and approachable. I feel comfortable here in Quito. It does help that there are police everywhere though. There used to be a problem with pickpockets and thieves but their increased presence in the tourist areas are enough to ward them off . I felt completely safe even with my big DSLR camera out. Safety first after all…