Cities are usually places we only pass through on the way to smaller towns and remote locations. Oh and they’re a good place to get groceries. But since we’ve gotten to South America, we’ve been spending a little more time participating in city life. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Cartagena and Bogota, so we thought we should give Quito a chance!
After a bit of running around to see if we could source a part for Megan and Nick (we couldn’t), we settled in to our city camp spot at Parque Carolina. This huge city park is in the middle of the business district of Quito and is full of work out areas, Zumba classes, and Ecuadoran athletes running past you at speeds that should not be possible at 9,000 feet! KP was in heaven. We spent our time working out in the park, watching movies at one of three cinemas within walking distance, eating and drinking delicious gringo foods (ya we’re those people), and chatting with our neighbors at the park, both Ecuadoran and Overlanders.
One of the definite highlights of our time in Quito was our city tour with Free Walking Tour Ecuador. We wandered around the city learning about the highlights, both new and old of its 500+ year history. In recent years, Ecuador has seen a lot of change. A little more than 10 years ago, the country’s economy completely collapsed after 60% of money in the country "mysteriously" disappeared. This left millions of people without access to their life’s savings, and most of them never saw it again as almost all of the country’s financial institutions went under. The president fled the country for the United States as protestors stormed the presidential palace and a new opportunity for financial stability opened up. At this down point, as the value of their own currency, the Sucre, was dropping daily, they decided to adopt the US Dollar as their new currency. A new president came in with the intention of bringing economic stability and growth to the nation and brought with him something that we as Overlanders appreciate immensely: beer Good Roads!!! Though at their economic low point more than a million and a half Ecuadorans fled the country to rebuild their lives and savings, now their open borders policy brings in people from around the world looking for new opportunities. More than a million Venezualans have immigrated to Ecuador due to their own instability at home, and many Ecuadorans have returned now able to build new lives in this growing economy.
After learning all this on our walking tour, we needed some time to digest this information so we (of course) went to the brewery recommended to us by our beer loving Kiwi friends Hannah and Hamish of Mowagon! We sat down at the bar at Bandido Brewing and as KP perused the beer menu, I looked at the brewery stickers behind the bar. We simultaneously came to the conclusion that this brewer must have some connection to Oregon as KP read that their IPA was made with Willamette hops, and I noticed the stickers from Burnside Brewing, Vagabond Brewing, Gilgamesh, and more of our favorites from home. We asked the bartender and he confirmed that the owner was from Oregon! After several rounds of delicious beer and some amazing food, we wrote a love note to the owner and sent one of our stickers with the bartender, but before we could leave a young guy about our age came out of the kitchen and greeted us with smiles and hugs thanking us for the sticker and for visiting his brewery. We all talked about home, how he had gone to Willamette University in Salem, explaining the Salem brewery stickers, and he invited us to hang out with some of his friends who also happened to be from Oregon. We enjoyed another couple rounds of beer and all talked about how amazing Ecuador is, but how Oregon is pretty great as well, until it was time for KP and I to take an Uber back to our park on the other side of town!
Quito turned out to be a city that we not only felt at home visiting, but was one of the first places on the trip we felt could become home. When we left, we made sure that we were in a position where if we wanted to settle outside of the states we were able to, but after more than a year on the road, we realized that the comforts of the states and the familiarity is something we really appreciate. We are still leaving options open, but I see us settling back in the US with a new appreciation for all it has to offer.