Train, Interrupted

Quito in Blue

Quito in Blue

The Tren Crucero tour was three nights and four days of travel, but we decided to skip the fourth day yesterday. Instead, we stayed in Quito, switching from the big, impressive Hotel Quito room included in the tour to the more personable and cozy Hotel Reina Isabel, where we have stayed several other times during our month in Ecuador.

I loved the first three days of Tren Crucero, but the Cotopaxi eruption in August resulted in a change in the itinerary that necessitated lots more bus riding between times on the train itself. On the last bus ride, day before yesterday, a two-hour slog from the gigantic Nevado Roses plantation to Quito, my legs were restless and I was jumping out of my skin. If we had stayed with the tour yesterday, we would have been on the bus six hours and on a different train in the Otavalo area for just three. That didn’t appeal to us.

By comparison, a full day in Quito to prepare for this morning’s depature was just right. We took a taxi from Hotel Quito to the Oswaldo Guayasamin Museum. He is Ecuador’s most famous painter. His work is passionate and fiercely tuned to the plight of the oppressed. I bought a print of his rendering of Quito, showing the surrounding mountains in blue. I also bought a black and white t-shirt of a painting he did of a guitarist, to remind me that several times this trip I have felt promptings to return to regular guitar practice when I return to the States.

Darlene and Deb visited shops near the hotel, and I spent a few hours at a good coffee shop recommended by Margaret of Ali Shungu, The Magic Bean. It began raining steadily yesterday afternoon, so my Panama hat got wet as I walked the four blocks to the hotel to get my rain jacket. The ATMs here have worked about half the time, but I was able to make a last withdrawal across the street at Bank Guayaquil. Then supper, then my usual fitful sleep before a long flight, and here I am now at the desk in the outer room of the suite, catching up with impressions of Ecuador with a Styrofoam cup of weak coffee from the hotel lobby and not enough sleep to write more than a blur of the past 24 hours of travel.

To conclude with more about Tren Crucero, I can heartily recommend the trip for train buffs, especially sometime in the future when the Cotopaxi alert is lifted and the train can resume its normal route between Quito and Guayaquil. The tour staff were phenomenal, making sure 50 people ended up where we were supposed to be at each juncture in the journey. Our fellow guests were an interesting lot, including a group of about 20 people mainly from Canada who have been traveling together for years. We met an engaging couple who spend half the year in Colorado and half in the Caribbean, Bob and Althea Turner, and enjoyed hanging out with them and a Swiss pair, Francoise and Charles, at dinners. Plus Sandra from Germany, my multi-lingual tablemate on the train. You get to know strangers quickly when you travel on a tour, which is generally a plus.

Next up: breakfast buffet at Reina Isabel, featuring their very clever orange-squeezing machine where you feed the oranges into the top, and fresh juice dribbles down into your glass. Perfecto!

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