|Ecuador and the Curse of Quito||1 | 2 | 3 | 4|
QUITO, ECUADOR — We tried so hard to like Ecuador.
|View of City from Cerro Panecillo|
Ecuador is a small country, yet it has a lot to offer: elaborate market towns, towering volcanos (said, questionably, to be the highest in the world because of their proximity to the equator), majestic train journeys (though still crippled from El Niño), and the spectacular Galapagos Islands, six hundred miles off the coast. Unfortunately, there's also the capital city, Quito, and just about all points in Ecuador go through it. Were it not for that, we'd be leaving Ecuador with pleasant memories; instead, it has challenged our trust and faith in people, and turned us into much warier travellers than we have been.
Ecuador is currently on the US State Department's "danger list", making it the first time we chose to put our lives at risk, assuming you don't count our taxi ride in Panama. Most of the serious problems revolve around random kidnap and ransom cases, but anyone who saw the movie Proof of Life — which Ecuador proudly boasts was filmed there — knows this is only an issue if you look rich. Fortunately, we maintain a low profile of wearing hi-tech clothing and $300 glasses, so we're perfectly safe.
Most of the trouble stems from the fact — as it usually does — that Ecuador's economy is in a downward spiral. For the past several years, inflation has been steadily rising in the double digits. One year ago, they tried to salvage things by switching to the US dollar, but about the only thing it did was change the inflation rate from going up in sucres to going up in dollars. In reality, inflation is still rising as much as 50% a year, whereas salaries and standards of living are barely increasing at all.