• Brian D. Hinson

Quito, Ecuador and the Norte Oriente

Back in the 90s you could contact certain shipping companies, give up your luggage space and get a deeply discounted international airline ticket. When you had a free week or so, you made a call and they would tell you what routes were open for what times. That’s how I got a round-trip ticket from Detroit to Quito, Ecuador for about a 70% discount.

I had mere days to grab a travel guidebook and pack my carry-on daypack. Once in Quito, I managed a little hotel in a quiet part of town and took walking tours every day, eating food from street vendors (usually $1!) and cafes, seeing music gigs at night. Cathedrals and museums are my main go-tos in cities, and Quito has bunches.


Also, it’s short trip to a monument to the actual equator, Mitad del Mundo. Here you can straddle the hemispheres among the bronze busts of the folks who discovered its location back in the early 18th century.

I arranged a guided group trip out to the Norte Oriente—the Amazon rainforest. Hiking through the jungle we spied howler monkeys. Yes, they do howl and it’s an odd, unearthly sound. The guide caught a snake. She pointed to edible ants and we all tried them. They tasted lemony. It wasn’t until I returned to my own shores that I had the thought she may have been pulling all of our legs to get us to eat live ants. Well done, guide. We also went fishing on the river and caught piranha, which we cooked for dinner.

The rainforest is amazingly noisy at night. So many creatures are nocturnal and aren’t the least bit quiet about it: screaming, chirping, and buzzing.


Back in Quito, I met up with a German couple that I had befriended in the jungle. The bar was called No and the gentleman and I got into a tequila drinking contest. Seven shots in, I rested my head on my arms for a mere second, room spinning, and when I looked up, more than two hours had passed and the bar was emptying out into the street. My friend was passed out on a bench behind me. I’m supposing he had won.

One of the native guides was giving us temorary tattoos. Mine lasted for weeks.

I staggered out to the street and hailed a taxi. As it pulled up, I bent over, hands on my knees, I puked on the sidewalk for what seemed like ten minutes. Somehow, I convinced the driver to take me back to the hotel, where a magnificent hangover was in store for me the following day.

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