Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, squeezing in 4.2 million people into the steep hills and narrow valleys of the metro area at an average 2,800 meters altitude, depending where you at. The metro has the population of Montreal and the infrastructure of Medicine Hat. Let’s talk traffic and road layouts. By the time you listen to the GPS and turn probably you took the wrong ramp. As generally in any city in Ecuador, there are traffic lights+traffic police at intersections which can be confusing as the light and the police waving could be contradictory. Traffic rules and signs are informative, drivers are extremely impatient. As any big city Quito has it’s rundown and super modern and clean areas. Generally the city feels clean, similar to San Jose, Costa Rica. Unfortunately the cars and especially the buses are not exactly new and the pollution is quite high, although it’s hard to beat LA or Guatemala City.
Human kind has been always keen to create grandiose things, bigger has always seemed to be better. This is the case of ‘Basílica del Voto Nacional’ too, right at the edge of Quito’s historical downtown. The humongous cathedral was built between 1892-1909 although it’s considered technically unfinished even today. The legend says that when the Basílica is completed, the end of the world will come. Nice excuse to save on budget. As the saying goes the ruling businesses will have the tallest buildings in town. Those days were the churches, today banks and oil companies shoot up above the rest. Now the sheer volume of this cathedral is hard to describe, it’ huge. I had problems fitting into the frame the whole block with a 16-35 lens on full Sony frame and that lens is wide I tell ya. It is the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas it’s impressing by towering volume. Not sure what was left unfinished, probably the original plan was even more grandiose. I did not go inside today, just around of it as Quito was a packed tourist zoo today. When am I going to learn at once that on Saturdays don’t go anywhere, stay put, have a nap, count dog hair in the van, do crosswords, name it. I forgot that it’s Saturday, blah. Being for so long on the road sometimes I have to check the calendar on the phone for what day is actually. Weekends are the worst, but Saturday is completely crazy day to visit anything in Latin America. It’s like Christmas shopping in a popular mall in US/Canada. I found a public parking spot on street right in the front of the cathedral and after half an hour or so when I returned a guy just walked up to me and asked for $3.00. I’m like for what? Ah, he watched my vehicle. Sometimes I feel like I’m a walking dollar dispenser, just because I’m a tourist aka gringo. ind an excuse to ask for some. Nice try buddy, I was like 100 feet from it all the time basically.
Then the van turned into a tour bus and I squeezed it through the old streets of Quito’s historic downtown. No chance for further parking of the monster, so after few rounds just shrugged and returned to base, as the ‘regular’ overlander boondocking spot in Parque Carolina was packed too. The base was Hosteria Hacienda San Joaquin, at the foot of Cotopaxi a nice and quiet place to camp a night or two at 3,000 meters altitude. Now don’t ask me about Cotopaxi itself, as we were turned away from the entrance, you know, Blaze the mascota. This time I just shrugged, it’s their country, their rules, I am just passing through. I’ll visit whatever I can, if it’s not possible, I’ll spend my pennies somewhere else. Simple. This is what I said to the Nicaraguan aduana too when they gave us a five day visa. Sure, whatever, we go somewhere else then. Shrug.