July 12th and just two weeks remain of my time here in South America. Currently, I’m in Quito, Ecuador, where I have a total of fifteen days. Fifteen days of relief. It’s a relief to be in a slightly warmer climate after Cusco, Peru, where my foot hurt a bit more intensely due to the cold. My injury combined with the lower temperatures limited my ability to do much in Cusco. In my latest city, I’m finding it a little easier to get out and about.
Regarding Cusco, I’m not a huge fan. It was fun for maybe a day, but after that I found myself pretty irritated. Sure, there are more authentic parts of Cusco. But as a tourist, I stayed in the touristy part and felt like I was in a theme park the entire time. After a while (as in a few minutes), the marketing and borderline harassment get really old. During my stay, I just kept thinking that if I had wanted a massage or a taxi or a sweater made out of alpalca’s wool, I would have asked for it… no need to shove it in my face and incessantly pester me to buy it.
The highlight of my time in Cusco was, of course, the trip to Machu Picchu (read more here if you’re not already familiar with this UNESCO World Heritage Site). As previously mentioned, I had intended to do a four-day hike on the Inca Trail to reach the ruins. Instead, I ended up taking a different route involving some bus and train rides, which allowed for me to tour the Sacred Valley (more Incan ruins) before viewing Machu Picchu the following day. Just like Cusco, Machu Picchu has been taken over by tourism, which, in a way, soured the experience for me as a whole. At the same time, not even the commercial environment surrounding the site could take away from the wonder and awe I felt when I first took in the ancient city. Too, the view from the train through the valley after touring the ruins was unlike anything I had ever seen before and was by far one of my favorite parts of the excursion.
Quickly after touring the ruins, I was on a plane from Cusco to Quito. What a blessing it was to find a hostel with a comfortable bed after three really early mornings and what felt like one-hundred hours of travel. Though not in the safest part of the city, the hostel has given me a fairly authentic experience, being located next to the central market and a short walk from the main plaza, which fronts the presidential palace.
The best part about Quito has been the fellow travelers I’ve met. I’ve really enjoyed all of our conversations and have learned a lot through them. As usual, I spend a lot of time at coffee shops, but I’ve also done several tours, one of the historical center and another of the presidential palace. While I’d like to do more hiking, I’ll have to save that for my next trip, when my foot feels better.
My next and last stop will be Colombia. I’ve heard only good things about Ecuador’s northern neighbor and hope to dedicate more than just a week to it in the future. As far as this trip goes, in two weeks I’ll be ready to return home and take a break. I won’t lie, I’m very much looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.