El bús de hell

Despite being only 25 cents a ride and having routes that can take you anywhere in the city and several routes to nearby towns and sights, I’m 80% positive the buses in Quito are from hell. (but at least a ride to the Inferno will be cheap!)

First off, I’m pretty sure there was some kind of sale on charter buses because every city bus is essentially a giant charter bus. They aren’t just regular charter buses though, they are super-revved up charter buses (coincidentally the only kind of buses you’ll find in hell). I’m talking like Dale Einhart Jr. buses that can go from 0 to 60 in about 5 seconds and are not under any apparent emission standard. The bus driver’s have zero shame in stepping on the gas pedal like there’s no tomorrow. Seriously, if you’re crossing the street in front of one of these bad boys, you better be a fast runner because there is no slowing down, especially for pedestrians.

The front of these busses are usually decorated with neon lights, designated bus names that are printed on the windows in tattoo-like lettering and are equipped with grills like the devil himself. Inside, curtains, like the ones grandmothers like to hang in their living rooms shade the windows and music- including the likes of Madonna, Los Tigres del Norte, Drake, and Cher- blasts from the speakers.
My first ride is one I will never forget. My bus buddy, Lena, and I were lucky to find seats in the back of the bus, right behind the back door. As we zoomed off, we noticed the door right in front of us didn’t close. No big deal, though, we have a pole separating us from the street. It wasn’t a big deal until we starting travelling down the side of a mountain and could look down from the door and see nothing but huge cliffs beneath us and the only thing separating us from a plunge of probably more than 50 meters is a flimsy little pole. To top it off, we were probably hitting close to 70 mph, with no mercy for turns. I did what I always do in stressful situations like this, I began laughing uncontrollably to the point where I was almost at tears. My bus buddy later reminded me that I was also apparently yelling out, “I’m freaking out!” over and over. Not my bravest moment, but I was indeed a champ at it the next day, I promise.

This morning’s ride was slightly worse as I learned that if the bus is full, you’re way better off just waiting for the next one. Well I wish I knew that this morning as I hopped on the bus, had no room to go in and just held on for dear life at the stairs till the next stop. Mom, if you’re reading this I promise this was just a one time thing!! Luckily, another woman hopped on soon after me and served as my buffer between my body and the ground.

Quito buses are also notorious for simply ignoring established bus stops. With one yell, you can have your bus driver stop in the middle of a busy street or on the flip side, if you’re not paying attention, you can completely miss your stop. One advantage to being a female, however, is that the bus actually stops completely for you. I’ve seen countless men have to sprint to get on the bus and even met a boy at school who broke his leg trying to get on. So I guess, in some sense I do feel lucky that I can actually step on a bus that is at a complete halt for me.

* I just learned today that the bus drivers work in cooperatives but usually the bus driver is also the owner of the bus and profits from having more riders. However, you would think bus drivers would look out for each other in a cooperative but instead they tend to compete with each other to gain the most riders, thus, the high speeds.


Quito in Photos


Because I tend to avoid any sport that requires some sort of hand-eye coordination, it’s not very surprising that I’ve really never played soccer aka fútbol but holy guacamole (side note, I also never liked guacamole until now but that’s another story) this game is some serious FUN. I still have close to zero hand-eye coordination but the sheer aggressiveness and versatility of this game makes for a sweaty, dirty and sometimes painful experience that everyone will enjoy (I really made that sound attractive, didn’t I?)

We played our first game during our three hour lunch break from school today, us gringos against each other. We couldn’t get enough so we continued playing after school where a group of local girls asked us to play with them. So here we are, a group of kids who mostly have never played soccer before with the exception of a few playing against a team who had actual skill and what seemed like game plans. My strategy: when I get the ball kick it as hard as possible to my side. I’ll admit, this strategy may have it’s downfalls but I’ll stick to it until I find a better one that I can actually do.

With some beginner’s luck, we actually made the first goal… and unfortunately our only goal. All in all, the game is definitely one of community.. and cue my cheesy rant. It really does bring people from different walks of life together and on that field, even though we hardly spoke eachother’s language, we had one thing in common: we all just wanted to make the next goal. So tonight as I sleep with some small blisters forming on my feet and some pretty sore legs, I will be dreaming of that goal.

The Ecuadorian fútbol team. They may be just a bit better than us.

El TelefériQo

Hola y bienvenidos a mi blog! I’ve been in Quito for almost a week now and by far El TelefériQo has been my favorite outing so I though ‘why not make that my first blog?’ El TelefériQo is a multimillion dollar skytram built by the French that takes passengers on a ride 2500 meters up amongst the clouds of Volcán Pichincha. The six-person gondolas overlook the sprawled out and seemingly endless city of Quito and the numerous mountains that surround it.

View from the clouds

We took a $3 taxi to the foot of the skytram where an amusement park, which apparently offers 50 cent rides, was located and where Disney music in Spanish blasted from the speakers… Talk about surreal. The gondola ticket lines were nonexistent and besides us only a few other groups were there on this Friday afternoon. We were definitely the only gringos there.

The ride itself is pretty amazing as the gondola slowly takes you up past the tree line and into the clouds. Once we reached the top of Ruca Pichincha, we were surrounded by clouds and could not see down into the city at all but after a while the gods spoke and said, ‘let there be light’ and BAM patches of sunlight began randomly appearing until the entire city of Quito was visible (yes, I have been told that I should ditch science to become a preacher.) But it really was awesome moment, to say the least, when the clouds parted to open up a spectacular view of everything. At the top, we hiked maybe another 1000 meters, passing a gorgeous little catholic church where mass is held every Sunday and a horse stable where horses are rented out to ride around the trails.

Let me make one thing clear: hiking at an altitude of 4500+ meters is nothing like hiking the mountains of New England or Texas for that matter. The air is significantly thinner and needless to say, I had no shame looking like a hunched over, wheezing jolly old man trying to climb up. To be fair, we had been warned several times not to partake in any strenuous hiking for at least a week after arriving in Quito but as a group of tenacious- some would say stupid but I like the word tenacious- college students, of course we couldn’t listen to such ridiculous advice. The extra 1000 or so meters was well worth the climb until the rain clouds chased us back down.