Photo Feature by Onel

On horseback in the Andes.
On horseback in the Andes.

HAVANA TIMES — I landed in Quito on the day of the Pope’s visit to Ecuador, accompanied by my girlfriend and the nausea that assails all first-time travelers, happy to confirm that a world beyond the island actually existed.

We were assailed by a rather strange wave of cold air that immediately became mingled with the effects of the high altitude. We’d put behind us the stifling heat of July.

In the almost 20 days I spent there, I never ceased to feel the welcoming energy that emanates from the heart of the Andes. Quito’s landscapes made a deep impression in me: the eyes bombarded by the colors of the immense signs everywhere, McDonalds at every corner, graffiti, many buildings under construction and indigenous women in bright dresses carrying children on their backs.

Cuban Criollo cigarettes are even available in the center of the world.
Cuban Criollo cigarettes are even available in the center of the world.

Had someone told me that, in the heart of the Ecuadorian capital, I would come across a stand selling Cuba’s Criollo-brand cigarettes, I would not have believed it. The variety of root vegetables and greens sold on the street gave me an appetite and the gray or sullen tones of some of our urban markets came to mind.

Protests against unemployment at a city square and signs demanding justice for those disappeared caught my attention.

Our eagerness to get to know the place as much as possible in the little time we had led us to do a quick tour of the city “in the center of the world.” We visited the Cotopaxi national park, the Quilotoa volcano, Guayaquil and Ecuador’s Pacific coast. We also visited the Isla de la Plata (or the “Galapagos of the poor”, as those of us who cannot afford to travel to the beautiful and extremely expensive Galapagos call it) and the cruel animal market of Otavalo, in the country’s north.

Two months and a half since my visit, I still dream of snow-covered volcanos, indigenous people speaking Quechua and whales dancing in the Pacific Ocean.

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