Me and the stunning Lilian

Me and the stunning Lilian

I was ready to leave Baños and take on my next adventure. Luckily for me, I ran into a lovely young Dutch woman called Lilian the night before I left, at her hostel. I’d gone there to meet up with four other travelers who’d agreed to go to eat together. None of them showed up, so Lilian and I chatted. She had had a rather rough day because her ATM card had been skimmed. I told her about my scary waterfall experience and a little bit about how tough things had been for me emotionally of late, and we sort of bonded over that. Turned out she was planning on leaving Baños to go hike the Quilotoa loop the following day as well, but was feeling a little wary of taking the bus alone as she’d also recently been robbed on a bus. So we made a plan to head out the next day together.

Within an hour of our bus ride together, I knew Lilian was going to rate as one of the best traveling companions I’ve ever had. Which is impressive given our significant 17 year age gap. She has the fortitude of someone ten years’ her senior and always does what she sets her mind to. She is a Speech Therapist and is five months’ in to her six month journey around South America. I am constantly impressed by her opinions, thoughts and maturity at how she handles herself. And she’s stunningly beautiful to boot. I am so grateful to have met her.

On the Quilotoa Loop

On the Quilotoa Loop

In addition to that, we have so much in common! She is also a rock climber/hiker who loves the mountains, and a singer who loves musical theatre. Incredibly, we discovered pretty early on that our iPod libraries were shockingly similar and we spent hours the first day of travel together singing songs that would make most people cringe.

It is fantastic.

Arriving in Latacunga, we quickly discovered that this was a very bizarre city indeed. First of all, the lady at reception of the Hostal Tiana (whom I referred to as lady with the scary eye-make up because she had two solid luminous pink thick lines of eye shadow defined across each eyelid) gave us a couple of recommendations for restaurants for dinner by drawing them on a photocopied map of the city and highlighted the street and corner where they were located. She also assured us that if we didn’t like those restaurants, that this was the street to find lots of other options.

After walking up and down this street several times and visiting the exact locations she had highlighted, we had not found a single restaurant and our bellies were starting to really growl. Why had she told us to come to this street? Was she just having fun with us? Or was she crazy? I’m guessing we will never find out.

We asked lots of locals where there might be somewhere to eat. They seemed shocked that we were asking for a place to sit down and pay for a meal like it were a request for a place that offered a full Brazilian wax and butt bleach. Some simply said “No hay restaurantes” and others each suggested the same Pizza joint that we’d already passed several times and given the thumbs down because it was completely empty.
Eventually we stumbled across another pizza place that also offered savory crepes and we devoured one with chicken, cheese and mushrooms together with a salad. This was wonderful in spite of the fact that we had to experience the typical Ecuadorian service drama that ensues after every meal order regardless of venue.

The day before in Banos, I really wanted a burger after my morning in the waterfalls. I went to where I’d been told had the best burgers only to discover it was shut. A kid there told me it would open at 3pm, so I decided my belly could wait a couple of hours.

Baby chicks for sale.  Waiting for these to grow up, get plucked and served as food would be quicker than most food service in Ecuador

Baby chicks for sale. Waiting for these to grow up, get plucked and served as food would be quicker than most food service in Ecuador

Returning at 3pm, the doors were all still shut. At 3:15pm there was movement…but I was told to come back in a few minutes. At 3:25pm I gave them my burger and fries order and went in search of diet coke as they didn’t sell it. I eventually bought the diet coke at restaurant up the hill because none of the stores in the immediate vicinity sold it. Going back for my burger at 3:35 I was met with blank stares and zero responses to my questions about when my meal might be ready. Eventually when I got my burger around 3:45 – I asked where my fries were? The guy said nothing, but just ignored me, turned around and went into the back of the restaurant. Where had he gone? Where were my fries? My burger was getting cold in the meantime…

Eventually, the other worker responded to my pleas for information by mumbling something about needing to turn on the fryer to make the fries. Turn it ON?! Why the F*&% hadn’t they turned it ON an hour ago? How long would fries take? “Tres minutos” I was assured. Ok. I could wait 3 minutes.

My fries arrived 20 minutes later at 4:05pm. I was not happy. These were handed to me without apology, smile or acknowledgement.

Its moments like that that I miss the United States. There, I would have gotten 1 – a fresh burger because of having had to wait so long for my fries 2 – a refund for being forced to wait so long and 3 – an apology.

Welcome to Ecuador. Especially a touristy town in Ecuador.

So, similar blank stares, a long wait for food, and drinks arriving way after the food was our experience in Latacunga as well, but at least the crepe itself was delicious.

Finding super poor internet back at the hostel I ended my evening with a lovely glass of wine and some writing at a bar across the street. By the way, the wine was white. Because the bar didn’t have any red.

Didn’t have. Any. Red. Wine.

Welcome to Latacunga.

Super tired after almost 5 days of very troubled sleep, I was so grateful for the wonderfully comfortable beds at the Hostal Tiana. I needed rest for we were starting our 2 night/3 day hike of the Quilotoa loop the following morning.