Got lost in the Centro Historico – the Old Town – riding past crumbly colored houses stacked on hillsides, smushed breathlessly with a million other Quitenos on the bus. Accepting that I had no idea where I was, I tried to get off, but the doors shut sooner than I could finish climbing my way through the forest of thick sweaty limbs tangled together in the limbo between stops, reaching for steel poles and gasping for air. I got out at the next stop and walked who-knows-where – along a busy road strangling a vacant mountain – no people around except for in cars. Reminded me of long stretches of roads all over the U.S. with sidewalks unwalked on for ages – 15 miles to the next stoplight, islands of forest breaking up the homes from the roads – except that walking along the road in Quito I saw some abandoned building in the valley to my right; nothing really keeping me from the fall. About three walls survived whatever destroyed everything else – reddish, sandy pillars cascading in linear ruins overgrown with a wild green, hugged by a frothy river. The road curved to a bus stop and I waited there in the sun. Tons of buses passed by, men swinging by their open doors shouting destinations like superfast spoken word poems –Chillogallo Quitumbe Eugenio Espejo La Mayorista El Trebol todo el Colon; they stop and start with the coming and going of clients leaving great black clouds and whirlwinds of dust in their wake, all of Quito a terminal, the following stops all foreign; titles of books not yet read.
Very happy that my historical destination piece on Cuenca, Ecuador has just been published as the cover feature over at Travel Thru History. Check it out, yo.
Photo taken in Mindo, Ecuador.
I stood guard over Rocio’s pack and stared at the stuff being sold at the stands across the phone booths: long plastic bags stacked with small apples hanging from mysterious corners like appendages, lollipops of every color, fresh empanadas, bread wrapped in brown paper bags stained with margarine. An indigenous woman with two long braids sat on a stool between the stands and stared nowhere. Rocio said the call didn’t go through and I played with a tiny white puppy for a few minutes, I think. Who knows? Time flies when you’re playing with tiny white puppies at the bus terminal.
To the West, dark clouds hung low over the peaks, full of storm. To the East, the sun shown in a light blue sky and fluffy white clouds stuck onto it like balls of cotton. How could the sky fit all this contrasting madness? I hurt my neck checking it all out. This is Quito.
So, an eleven hour bus ride. Rocio took the window seat and fell asleep. It took awhile escaping the city for it to transform into country – cows grazing on steep mountains, indigenous women sitting on stoops with green or black fedora hats, flowing blue velvet skirts and their faces in their palms. A deaf black man got on the bus and handed out little pieces of paper that read “there is no work for people like me.” I gave him fifty cents and he gave me tons of tamarind favored candy – hard on the outside with a soft, chewy center. I felt like they were the symbol of something foul. I felt guilty. I ate them all.