I(n) Quit(o)

nodus tollens n. The realization that the plot in your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore.

So the day came when I needed to board yet another airplane… my favorite.  Our flight was actually quite decently timed, putting us getting into Quito with plenty of daylight remaining to find our way from the airport to the center.  That also meant we were leaving Panama city fairly early, as 10:30am.  It wasn’t exceedingly early, but still just early enough that it was a hassle.  We needed to leave the hostel precisely as breakfast would be starting.  Though we had arranged the night before to still get some breakfast before leaving, the kitchen staff seemed to completely forget by morning, leading to a complicated conversation about how we were told we could get breakfast.  Finally, they caved and prepped some food for us. 

But their mistake in memory paled in comparison to the fact that the shuttle the hostel had arranged to take us to the airport had also forgotten about their obligation.  As 8am came and went with no shuttle outside to pick us up, I began to panic.  By 8:20 I was pacing back and forth like a madwoman.  We explained to the hostel workers what had happened and they arranged for a taxi to instead take us for the same $30 price as the shuttle would have been.  It meant we were a little behind schedule

The drive to the airport took nearly and hour and the line at the ticketing took even longer.  Of course, it didn’t help that the signs were incredibly unclear, leading us to switch from one line to the other because we thought the previous was only for business class, then having to switch back to the end of the other line after finding out the new line was only for those who had already checked in.  I started getting nervous that we would miss our flight, but was at least comforted that a dozen other people behind us in line would also miss it then.  At last, we had checked our backs and dashed to the gate with tickets in hands.  As is typical of airports, the rushing had been for naught as the flight had yet to begin boarding. 

From Panama City, we flew to Bogota, Colombia, for a short layover before continuing on to Quito.  We picked up our bags and got quickly through customs.  And despite the fact that we had pretty much only gotten travel vaccinations because we had read that Ecuador required proof of them, we were not asked for our vaccinations records.  Thank God we hadn’t paid full price for them.

As is tradition, Quito’s airport was far from its center, but thankfully a little more economically friendly.  We had three options for getting from the airport into the center:

  1. Taxi: $26
  2. Direct tourist bus: $8 per person
  3. Public bus: $2 per person

Being the cheapskate that I am, I’m sure you can imagine which option we chose.  The public bus leaves from the street just outside the main airport doors.  It’s blue and a little ratty looking, but at least it’s cheap.  From there, we had about a 40-minute ride with eleven stops to Terminal Rio Coca, Quito’s north main bus terminal.  Along this ride, we got a long, sweeping view of the marvel of city planning insanity that is Quito.  Unlike most cities that replace mountains, or, even better, are built in places without any mountains, Quito is constructed around the mountains.  It’s as if someone said, “Alright, we’re going to build a city in the mountains, but we’re not going to change the mountains at all.  Surely there can be no problems arising from drastically uneven elevations.”  Quite is a massive urban sprawl that sprawls right through the high Andes mountains, curving around mountains and into valleys.  Driving from the outskirts to the center requires navigating lanes upon lanes of traffic on winding mountainous roads.  I had never seen anything like it.

From where the bus dropped us off at Rio Coca, we walked across the street to catch a tram on the ECOVIA line to central Lima.  A mere $0.25 and the rush hour crammed tram took us all the way into the historic center, to a stop called Simon Bolivar near our hostel.  Because Quito is built directly on the mountains, the streets are all extraordinarily steep.  Think San Francisco and make it about ten degrees steeper.  Our hostel, the Chicago Hotel, was located precisely at the top of one of the streets, and thus requires a slow slog up the hill to its doorstep. 

The Chicago Hotel hardly looked like a hotel from the outside, just a narrow little building that looked squished between the two flanking it.  Inside was a small reception area occupied by an elderly woman and a small Yorkshire terrier.  She checked us in and led up the narrow staircases (and up some more) to our room, a large private room with a private bathroom.  The room itself was probably nicer than most things we had stayed in thus far, even if the wifi signal was all but naught in there.  We could always go sit at the top of the stairs for that.  Despite how nice it was, it was also one of the cheapest places we had stayed in since El Salvador, at just under $20 per night.  It was a bit depressing to consider that we had paid more for the spaceship hostel.

         This hostel was designed in two separate, parallel towers, connected only via a rooftop courtyard with a phenomenal view of the historical center of Lima.  Our room was the in tower opposite the reception desk, so getting there meant we would either need to go all the way up to the roof of that tower and down into the opposite one to our room, or we would need ask the reception to unlock the door to the opposite tower from the street.  Getting out of our room created the same process, because we weren’t allowed out of the hostel unless someone buzzed us out.  Bad luck if you needed in or out at night after the front desk closed.

Despite the oddity of being locked into our hostel, things seemed to be looking good for Ecuador… or so we thought.  That evening, as we were laying in bed on the computer, Chris began tickling me.  Somewhere in the flail of limbs and creams, the computer slid from the corner of the bed and onto the floor.  We quickly picked it up and found the screen to be completely shattered.  And that folks, is why you shouldn’t tickle your girlfriend. At the time, however, I was in no mood for jokes.  As it became clear that there was no fixing this thing, at least not for anything under $600 at an Apple store, I began crying at yet another stroke of bad luck.  It was so stupid, so avoidable, and could have just as easily happened any day at home.  But no, it had to happen on the trip, adding to our belief that the whole trip really was cursed.  Worse, the curse seemed to be getting more expensive. Ecuador was supposed to be a fresh start, but it seemed like we had just landed in the same old shit.

After a night of crying, despite Chris’ attempts to console a completely hysterical person, we woke up the next morning in a bit of a daze.  Had the previous night really happened?  Impossibly hopeless, I turned the computer on to check only to be sent back into a depression pretty early on.  Rather than sit and mope, we decided to take action.  Quito was an actual city, a real city with high rises and shopping malls, so we hoped we might also find a real computer repair shop, too.  After a little bit of research, we found a certified Apple service shop a few miles to the north of us, coincidentally near one of Quito’s four climbing gyms that we had been hoping to visit.  We packed up the laptops, the climbing gear, and headed out for the morning.

Our first priority was, naturally food.  Having flown into Quito, we had no remaining food in our backpacks and had to instead rely on the off-chance of actually finding a place that would serve us food at 8am on a Sunday in a heavily religious country. Needless to say, we weren’t having much luck.  Asking locals got us little more than amused grins and head shakes as if to say “stupid gringos”. 

This was all part of a strange phenomenon that I liked to call the “necessity paradox”.  Essentially, it means that whenever you need something, you can’t find it, and whenever you don’t need something, you’ll find nothing but it.  It applies to a lot of things while traveling: hostels, restaurants, grocery stores, you name it.  Taxis are some of the worst perpetrators for it.  Whenever you don’t need one, like a block away form the hostel, you’ll find them in droves, honking and yelling out their windows to you: “Taxi? Taxi! TAXI?!”  Sorry sir, the different intonations do not affect the fact that I still don’t need your service.  Then the second you’re walking from a bus station in the pouring rain with heavy packs on both your front and back, no taxi will be anywhere to be found.  That or they just won’t stop for you.  I never thought I’d be thankful for American taxis until I experienced the alternative to having laws banning taxis from refusing fares. 

Finally, we managed to find a tiny restaurant that served breakfast, or at least some loose definition of it with their chicken and rice dishes for $2.  It was no bowl of Lucky Charms, but we were too hungry to be picky.  Just a couple blocks from the restaurant was the bus stop we needed that would take us to the city district we needed.  Quito had two main forms of public transportation: trolleys and buses.  Trolleys are great is you’re traveling along the main gridlines of the city and want fast transportation, considering they run on their own lanes in the middle of the regular traffic lanes.  Public buses are better for getting to the more unusual corners of the city but they’re slower, often getting caught in the slog of Quito traffic, which seemed to be rush-hour bad all hours of the day.

The bus ride took about fifteen minutes, the entire duration of which we were graced with two teenage boys dressed in suits blaring popular American songs rewritten with very Jesus-y lyrics and trying to sell CDs.  I was starting to understand the copyright laws were virtually non-existent in South America. If they were, those two boys would owe Simon and Garfunkel a lot of money.

The bus dropped us off alongside a busy main road with little activity along it.  Other than a few stands selling live crabs bound together with twine and netting, there was little to see until we reached the shopping center with the Apple repair store.  We walked in only to find the woman spoke no English and since specific technology terms were not exactly high on the list of Spanish words I deemed necessary and useful to learn, the conversation was complicated.  Eventually, we found out they wouldn’t be able to fix his screen for a reason that I couldn’t really understand. Well, if they couldn’t fix his screen, perhaps they could at least replace my battery so that we would once again have one fully functioning computer between us.  But the woman simply informed us that they had no battery for my specific model of MacBook in stock and that it would take weeks to order in, weeks we simply didn’t have to wait around.  It looked like we were stuck toting around two broken computers for the next few months. 

To keep myself from completely shutting down again (though I did start crying again for a little while), I suggested that we go climbing.

“Are you sure you’re in the mood to do that?” Chris asked.

“Yes.  I need to distract myself.  This is how I’m going to get over all this.”  So off to the climbing gym we went.  Just a few blocks north of the shopping mall, in some quiet residential streets, we found Campo 4, but it wasn’t open yet.  To kill time, we grabbed lunch at a small home restaurant just across the street.  For $2.50 each, we ordered lunch that consisted of one option.   In Ecuador, many restaurants don’t have menus; they only have a menu of the day that consists of a soup course, a large main course, and some sort of refreshment.  These almuerzos are almost always cheap and huge.  If you’re not picky about the sorts of food you eat, it’s a blessing both for the appetite and the wallet.  Chris and I left the restaurant stuffed (a miracle for Chris) after paying a total of $5.  Even better, we were the only gringos there, and probably the only ones that had ever been there.  It struck us as a very local type place, not exactly one on the tourist map, even setting aside the unusual location in the city in which we had found ourselves.

After lunch, we went to the gym.  The young woman working the desk welcomed us in, speaking English thankfully, and asked us about ourselves.  A day pass cost $7; more expensive than San Salvador, but still far cheaper than any gym back home.  The gym consisted of a lower level of one big square of walls with a center island of walls and two caves in the middle.  The upper level held the reception desk that doubled as a café, and a separate fitness room, despite the climbing specific training mechanisms below on the walls.  The gym itself wasn’t huge, but it definitely seemed to make the most of the space available, and it was far better constructed than the San Salvador gym had been.  There, I felt like I could climb onto an overhand without fearing that I pull the board straight off the wall.

Rather than use the Yosemite “V” grading system to rate the climbs, this gym used a color system, which broke climbs down into one of six color categories ranging from beginner to you’re basically Chris Sharma.  Even Chris couldn't get far on the top tier white climbs.  We quickly learned that these grades were all fairly difficult.  Even the yellow climbs, the easiest of the categories, were more difficult than the easier grades in American gyms.  I was able to flash the first two colors, yellow and orange, pretty consistently and with little trouble, but blue became problematic for me.  The problem with the lumped grading system was that it reduced climbs into too broad of categories.  A blue climb could have meant something as easy a V3 and as hard as a V5.  A three-grade range is a huge gap in the world of climbing, and thus it was incredibly difficult to place ourselves onto problems within our capabilities (more so for me than Chris, obviously).  The day was pretty much all trial and error, as climbing often is.

By the end of the day, I had worked extremely hard not to accomplish very much.  I had climbed pretty much every yellow and orange in the gym but had failed to do a single blue problem.  And yet, I didn’t feel frustrated.  Maybe I was too exhausted from all the other frustrating things going on, or maybe I was finally starting to learn that not every climbing ay had to be a “good” one.

We topped off our day of hard climbing by messing around the strands of aerial silks hanging form the ceiling to the side of the climbing area.  Aerial silks had always intrigued me and I had never found a place that let me try them, so I was going to give it a shot.  As with most things that look effortless and graceful, it was fucking hard. Aerial silks were not only about core and upper body strength, but also largely about grace.  If you were to list out all possible human qualities from greatest to least that I possess, grace would be at the very bottom of the list (just below patience, probably).  I flailed and fumbled and tangled myself in the silks, only to slide right down the knot in the bottom.  Chris was an immediately natural and had a little bit too much fun posing gracefully for photos with stupid looks on his face.  It’s a sad day when your boyfriend is more graceful than you.  We messed around taking tons of photos, some graceful, most… not so much.  I was lucky to get maybe two semi-graceful photos out of a large crop.  Use your imagination because I attempted saved myself the embarrassment and only included one of the really bad ones below.

We crashed almost immediately upon returning to the hostel only to find our night of rest quickly interrupted.  Just before midnight, we both woke up to the sound of music blaring from the street.  We got up and blearily looked out the window to identify the source of the music as a house just across and left of the hostel.  The music was uncomfortably loud in our room, closed windows and all, so I couldn’t imagine how loud it was over there or what could possibly prompt someone to blow their eardrums out as such.  And it didn’t stop.  It kept going.  All. Night.  Long.  We lay awake for hours listening to the unbearable steady bass beat that was exactly the same from one song to the next.   That was the moment we realized that all Latin American music used the same exact beat, a realization that would haunt us every time we herd music for the next few months.  It was a hard beat followed by three lighter and faster beats, over and over again.  Finally at about 5am, the music stopped.  Because midnight to 5am is the logical time to play music that loudly, apparently.  We drifted back to sleep for a couple more hours but still woke up groggy and cranky. 

First thing, we went down to the reception desk and asked what the hell had happened that night and why had no one done anything about it.

“It is weekend before national holiday,” he shrugged. Ah, so that was it.  In two days, it would be December 6, the day that Ecuador had been founded and apparently a huge source of celebration.  How fortunate for us.  While I respected their holiday, I hardly saw why things needed to be so loud.  Even on the fourth of July, the most obvious of all American holidays, people weren’t that inconsiderate.  Public disturbance laws, especially in city limits, didn’t just disappear on the Fourth of July.  After listening to shitty South America hip-hop all night, I definitely would think twice before complaining about fireworks.  Strike one, Ecuador.

“Look, we need to sleep tonight.  This is a hotel.  That’s unacceptable for them to do that and for you to let them do that.”

“No party tonight,” he assured us.

“Really?  No party tonight?  You need to make sure because if this happens again, we’re leaving and we want our money back.”  I felt a little bad about being so harsh to the hostel when it wasn’t really their fault.  But still, I was paying for literally nothing more than sleep, essentially, and if I wasn’t getting that, then I wasn’t paying.  I didn’t care if it meant they needed to call the police or just go talk to the house; I just wanted silence.

It was worse that we were now running on little sleep and had a meeting that morning with Eva, the woman who owned the hostel we would be working at in a week.  Since she actually operated the Happy Gringo Travel Agency out of Quito, she was rarely on sight at the hostel and asked to meet up with us while we were in the city to discuss some things.  This was an unusual request for volunteers, but then again, we weren’t your typical volunteers either.  Eva had emailed me a few weeks prior with a proposition: Since we had determined our arrival dates and they fell a little earlier than she originally intended, Eva asked if we might be willing to help do some information gathering on the Quilotoa Loop as a whole for an information website she was in the process of building.  In exchange of our work, we would be compensated transportation and accommodation costs for the time we spent traveling around the Loop as well as paid $15 each per day we spent gathering the information.  This meeting was to get all those details sorted out.

We met Eva in the central area of Quito at a coffee shop called Juan Valdez, which, from what we gathered by seeing them on every other street corner and by the high coffee prices, was pretty much the South American equivalent to Starbucks.  For about an hour, we sat down and discussed the sort of information she wanted and how we would go about gathering it.  We asked more specific questions about the hostel and how our time volunteering there would work.  As she explained it, we found ourselves feeling more and more unease.  The description on Work Away, the site we had used to obtain this volunteering job, had been extremely misleading in its description of the work.  The site described each day as working for five hours, five days a week.  In reality, it sounded more like we pretty much needed to be at the hostel at all times, even if we weren’t really working.  We needed to be on call just in case someone arrived.  So even when we wouldn’t be working, per se, we would still be working.  It wasn’t exactly what we had signed up for and we quickly kissed any hopes of taking weekend trips out to nearby climbing areas goodbye.  But it was too late to back out at that point so we surrendered to what looked like it would be a boring and isolated month.  The defying of expectations in the negative direction seemed to be the theme of this entire trip so far.

Strike two for Ecuador.

After our meeting, we had a bit of a heart to heart talk, trying to get around the disappointment we had just been dealt and figuring out what we would do next.  If nothing else, we could always try to leave the work away a little early.  Time would tell. 

To distract ourselves from the disappointment, we went to a nearby shopping mall and wanted the day wandering in and out of the many stores.  I even bought myself a nice double layer waterproof coat with a removable down liner for a reasonable price.  I wasn’t sure about the brand itself, but the coat seemed nice enough for the price and I was really regretting not having any warmer clothing there in Ecuador.  A purchase of necessity, I told myself.

That evening, we crawled in to bed with our fingers crossed that we might actually be able to sleep.  For a while, everything seemed calm and quiet, at least until the goddamn beat found its way into my sleep just enough to draw me out it.  But it wasn’t the house this time, rather a car parking in front of it.  The driver wasn’t in the car, but was instead banging on the door of the house that had been loud the night before.  We waited a few minutes, hoping since it was just a running car, that it would leave soon. 

After five minutes of it staying there, I decided I had had enough.  I threw open the window and began screaming so loud my voice cracked, “Silencio, por favor! Estamos tratando dormir!”

The man at the door turned and staged across the street until he stood below my window.  “But I love Quito!” he slurred back at me.  

"Le amo dormir," I yelled back.  I love to sleep.

"I love Quito!" he said again as if saying it a second time would suddenly cause me some magical epiphany of understanding and acceptance. Oh you love Quito? Well then by all means please do keep the entire neighborhood, especially those who have no emotional connection to your stupid country, awake with your grand and romantic profession of love. Because nothing says love like brassy mariachi bullshit.

“I don’t care if you love Quito!  Fuck Quito!  I just want to sleep!”  At that point he returned to banging on the door, but gave up a few minutes later and drove away.  I would like to think it was because of me, but I knew it wasn’t.  His tiny drunk attention span had just finally had enough.  We settled back into bed.  Just as we were about to drift off again, the beat returned. 

“No fucking way,” Chris said, as we lay still in the bed.  It slowed for a moment in the front of the hotel and kept going once again, the last we would hear form the dreaded beat that night.

 The next morning, we debated about what to do.  Staying one more night in Quito was an option, but since it was actually December 6th that day, we weren’t sure we wanted to be in town.  Instead, we opted to stay in the city for the day and take an evening bus down to Latacunga, where we would begin our information gathering on the Quilotoa Loop. 

For the day, we returned to Campo 4, recognizing that it might be the last chance we would have to go climbing for the next month.  The same young woman was working the desk.  Recognizing us from two days ago, she gave us a two-for-the-price-of-one deal and we got right to work climbing.  Knowing a little bit more about the grading system, it was easier for us to pick-up where we had left off and actually make some progress.  Right away, I sent a couple blue climbs and even started working some red climbs at Chris’ encouragement, surprising myself by quickly sending one on the slab wall.  With that, I became far more motivated to work harder climbs, pushing myself on things I hadn’t even considered the last time we had been there. By the end of the day, I had sent a funred traverse that Chris had determined was the equivalent of a V5+, my first ever V5.

One of several people we had befriended at the gym was a fellow traveler named Nobu, who was traveling around South America on his bicycle.  For as much as I complain about buses and airplanes, that seemed just about the least fun method of travel ever.  To each their own.

After a sent my V5+ Nobu asked me how long I had been climbing.  I did the mental math.  “Nine months or so.”

Nobu’s eyes widened.  “You’re really strong.”  I blushed and thanked him.  It was the first time I had ever really been complimented on my climbing (except by Chris and Bud, who don’t really count).  It was also the first time that I felt like a good climber, like I belonged in the climbing community.  Often I feel a bit like a poser, tagging along with Chris and people he knows who are all far better than I and who have been climbing far longer.  Despite Chris’ attempts to assure me that I am in fact making remarkable progress, it took that small success for me to believe it myself.  Even better that it had come at a time in which I was out of shape and not exactly consistent in the time I spent climbing.  I wondered to myself where I would be had been training consistently over the last few months.

By late afternoon, we decided it best to start making our way to Latacunga.  Buses to Latacunga only took a couple hours, but they departed from the south Quitumbe bus terminal, which, to our understanding, was quite a jaunt from where we were.  We asked some of the locals at the gym how we might go about getting there only to be told radically different things.  We picked the one that seemed most viable and set off for the trolley stop.  We arrived only to find out that the trolley wouldn’t take us there; instead we needed a different trolley.  We set off walking in the direction we were told and asked at the next stop. Nope, not that one either.  A young woman noticed our frustration and told us she would walk us in the direction we needed to go.  For ten minutes, we followed her through the busy streets until we finally reached another trolley line.  She pointed to the station and told us that was where we needed to go.  Inside, we were once again told that the trolley was not going to Quitumbe.  At that point, we had no other option but to take a taxi, which was unfortunate because we hardly wanted to pay $20 when we thought we could get away with paying $2 instead.

Once again, the necessity paradox kicked in as taxi after taxi passed us by, either already holding a fare or just completely unwilling to take us to Quitumbe.  Finally, one pulled over and volunteered to take us there for $15 after we haggled him down from $20.  The ride to Quitumbe was terrible, taking well over an hour on the crowded and traffic jammed streets of Quito on the night of the national holiday.  At one point, we ran into a parade and got stuck there for a while.  By the time we finally reached Quitumbe, we decided to give the driver $20 anywhere just for being such a trooper on the drive.

Quitumbe bus terminal was huge and looked wildly around trying to find exactly where we needed to be.  Finally, we found a ticket window selling tickets to Latacunga for just over $2 each.  We bought our tickets and headed out to the bus platforms.  As we boarded the bus, a mean met us in the aisle, took our tickets, and motioned for us to take a pair of seats.  It wasn’t unusual for there to be ticket-takers on the buses so we thought nothing of this and handed him our day pay when he motioned for it and stowed it on the luggage shelf above us.  He knelt on the seat on front and began talking to us over the seat, giving us advice for taxis and things to do in Latacunga.  How nice of him, I remember thinking.  He bid farewell and we lost ourselves in thought. 

Then, just as the bus was about to pull out, I got up to retrieve out Hydroflask water bottle from the pack to find Chris’ computer and the black laptop shell missing.  I double-checked to make sure I wasn’t going insane, but it was gone.  The pieces fell together in our heads instantly.  

He had sat us in that seat so we were right in front of his buddy and then distracted us so he could steal it.  How nice, my ass! How could we have been so stupid?!  There we were, having survived two months in Central America, some of the most dangerous countries in the world, only to have that happen the second we got somewhere that was supposedly nicer and more tourist friendly.  I felt like such a fool.

We ran to the front of the bus, desperately crying and trying to explain what had happened to no avail.  Finally, the driver understood that we needed off the bus and we collected our things from the undercarriage bodega and the bus drove away with absolutely no concern for us.  We flagged down the nearest security guard and attempted to explain what had happened.  Again, no English.  It wasn’t long before we found ourselves surrounded by police officers all asking us what happened, not a single one of them able to understand what we were saying.

Chris took off to search the bus terminal as I stayed back and attempted to explain the situation.  Finally, the guy told me to wait and explained that a person who spoke English would be there soon.  I took that time to break down.  Chris was off somewhere in the bus terminal, running, I was sure, like a madman trying to find the guy who had stolen from us.  I collapsed on the ground sobbing, throwing my body over the rest of our luggage to ensure we didn’t lose anything else.  A nearby woman tried to comfort me for a while, telling me not to cry, but I was inconsolable, and man was I getting tired of being in that state on this trip.  I tried to be positive, to find comfort in the fact that he hadn’t taken the whole daypack.  It would have been much worse if he had, considering it also help my cell phone and both our passports. 

The only other iota of even mediocre fortune in the whole thing was that the screen was already broken.  Not that it excused the issue by any means.  The computer was still perfectly find and worth a great deal of money.  Plus it had all of Chris’ music and photos on it, something we could have easily recovered even with a broken screen.  I got a sick sense of satisfaction from picturing the thieves pulling out the computer and opening it up only to find the completely shattered screen.  Enjoy, you assholes.

Finally, a young police officer showed up who spoke fluent English.  I explained to her in detail what had happened as she wrote down notes.  When Chris returned, fuming and empty handed, she led us to an office where we could fill out a police report.

“What did he look like?” she asked us, but she may as well have been asking, “What star in the sky did you see?”  I mean, what could I say that would be of any use?  “Young, dark skin, black hair cut short on the sides and long on the top, and brown eyes”: Yeah, because that didn’t describe literally every male under 30 on the whole goddamned continent.  I didn’t know how any police work could possibly get done there, and I don’t say that to sound bigoted.  We finished the police report, but deep down, we knew it wouldn’t do anything.  The footage on the bus was too blurry and unclear to make out his face and since we had no travel insurance, it looked like we were just shit out of luck.  I know a lot of people who would now look down from their high horse and say, “See? This is why you always travel with travel insurance.”  Except that travel insurance is extremely specific in the things it covers, and gadgets often aren’t included in that list, especially not $2,000 ones. 

Instead, we got on the next bus to Latacunga, having nothing more to do but keep moving.  As much as it would have been nice to just shut down there and wallow in our own self-pity, travel doesn’t allow that.  It forces you to keep going when that’s the last thing you want to do.  In that moment, I resented travel more than I ever had in my entire life.  Why would any sane person elect to put themselves in such a situation?  I questioned why I ever fell in love with it in the first place, though I knew at least part of the answer had to do with the fact that I had started traveling in Europe, which is retrospectively baby stuff compared to South America.  As we pulled away from Quito, all I could think was, “I quit.”  I didn’t even know what I wanted exactly to quit (this trip? South America? Being a travel writer?) but I just wanted to quit.

It had only been three days, already Ecuador had three strikes.