Feb 16th 2012
"We’re coming in kinda hot, aren’t we?"
The little display embedded in the seat in front of me indicated Time remaining to destination: 25 min. I glanced up seconds later and it read 19. Moments prior the captain had indicated that we shouldn’t be concerned with the woman lying in the aisle, and that she was well taken care of. He kindly asked that we stay seated while they rush her off the plane after we land. He didn’t mention we’d be landing almost an hour ahead of schedule.
"The way Quito is situated at altitude, in the valley, they have to be very careful when they land"
Our neighbor on the plane, a native of Quito had struck up a conversation to take our minds off of the dicey landing we were about to make. He picked a brilliant ice-breaker. We moved on quickly to topics ranging from work-life balance and former jobs, but mostly he focused on recommendations for things to see in Ecuador. We were grateful for the suggestions and the conversation, and hardly noticed as the plane dove from cruising altitude and roughly touched down. It raced down the runway in the rain much longer that it should have, and when we came to a complete stop, the cabin erupted with applause.
On our way out of the plane, a passenger asked the obviously harried pilot how much runway he had left. 3000 feet. We would later find out that we almost landed in Panama instead of Quito, Ecuador to get the woman in the aisle off the plane. Luckily the passenger in front of her was a doctor, and took good care of her while we sped towards our real destination. We got off the plane and headed for the taxi stands, unsure of whether or not our hearts were beating too quickly from the altitude or the landing.
A ten minute taxi ride later and we were at our Hotel. It would be a mistake to call it a hotel of course, we weren’t staying at the Marriot. Cary found a place called Jumbo Lodging, a highly rated bed and breakfast style lodging in Quito’s Old Town. Despite its name, Jumbo has four rooms, a kitchen and a common area, which is very similar to the havelis we stayed in while touring India. The rooms are brightly painted, open to the street below, and feature few unnecessary adornments. There isn’t a TV in the place (though wifi is available). Luis runs Jumbo with his wife and daughter, and is an extremely knowledgeable native of Quito with an endless supply of suggestions. This next part is very important. Luis makes the best cup of coffee I have ever had in a hotel anywhere. It turns out that he has his own coffee and chocolate bean farm, which is the source of his fantastic brew. With any luck I can talk him into selling me a batch of green beans to roast at home before we leave.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we could experience the coffee we would need to sleep. And sleep we did. Tomorrow would be our first day in Ecuador.