Slow Travel – Does it Really Matter Where You Are?

Slow travel – Camping in a workshop in Quito, Ecuador (©photocoen)It’s weird, it’s funny, it’s incredible. We’ve been camping here for close to four weeks and I’m still somewhat in awe of us being here: in a workshop.

We had planned, for as much as we do, to stay a week in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. That should be long enough for our to-do list: new glasses, new business cards and decals for the Land Cruiser, getting our shoes fixed, and there were some items on Land Cruiser’s to-do list as well. Oh, and we wanted to do some sightseeing of course.

The Land Cruiser Needs Maintenance

Here’s the thing about traveling vs. living somewhere. When you live somewhere, you have addresses, contacts. You know where (not) to go. When traveling, this is hardly ever the case. Finding a place to buy new glasses, get your shoe fixed, go to the hairdresser are all time-consuming actions because you need time to shop around. It’s one of my least favorite things I do.

One morning we were searching for a workshop. Coen had two addresses but one no longer existed and the second couldn’t help us. While driving around we passed a Tattoo Outdoor Shop, and since Coen needed new pants, we checked it out. Here we met Diego, got talking and Diego gave an email address of a place where he got his car serviced. Coen went and had a look. He loved it.

Adding leaf springs, Quito Ecuador (©photocoen)

Coen toiling underneath the Land Cruiser, Quito Ecuador (©photocoen)

Setting up Camp in a Workshop

I will not get too technical here, but we went to this place because the hood no longer sat straight above the engine. That was one problem but soon the owner, Pedro, pointed out that the leaf springs needed work as well. However, that meant no more driving and thus no home as we sleep in our car. “No problem,” Pedro said. “You can camp here in the garage”.

“No problem,” Pedro said. “You can camp here in the workshop.”

Like I said, this is not the first time this has happened. We camped in workshops before. Yet, it’s quite amazing, isn’t it? Giving us the keys of his place so if needed we can always get out (I’m kinda paranoid about fires and fire exits and after bringing that up Pedro just gave us the keys). As soon as we entered Pedro showed me around: the women’s bathroom, the office where I could work (WIFI network), a room where I could cook, etc. I felt welcome.

As soon as we entered Pedro showed me around: the women’s bathroom, the office where I could work (WIFI network), a room where I could cook, etc. I felt welcome.

Lunch in a workshop in Quito, Ecuador (©photocoen)

Pedro’s birthday: eating ceviche with his family and friends.

We also met Santiago Sr and Jr. Father and son are working together on Jr’s future car. Junior is having vacation now. When he is sixteen, he can drive it. It’s a great project to be working on as father and son, I imagine.

Meanwhile Coen visited other workshops. Because that’s how it goes: put a couple of car freaks together (meant in a nice sense!) and they’ll always find other problems that need to be solved. Pedro and Santiago both have come with suggestions to improve the Land Cruiser. And so, among other things, Coen took off the dangerously rusted wheels so the rims could be cleaned, galvanized and painted, which took more than a week.

The Land Cruiser's wheels in an acid bath

The Land Cruiser’s wheels in an acid bath

Sightseeing the Local Way

“Let’s go,” Santiago instructed us one evening. “Time to get away from this place.”And so at six we took off and toured Quito. Santiago took us to the city’s highest point, Panecillo Hill, for a view of Quito lit by a zillion of lights, a city that counts close to 3 million inhabitants. On the hill stands a winged Virgin, which looked more like an angel to me. She stands on a snake – the statue represents the good & evil.

At six we took off and toured Quito. Santiago took us to the city’s highest point, Panecillo Hill, for a view of Quito lit by a zillion of lights, a city that counts close to 3 million inhabitants. On the hill stands a winged Virgin, which looked more like an angel to me. She stands on a snake – the statue represents the good & evil.

We drove downtown to the oldest part of Quito, called La Ronda. It used to be a derelict and dangerous neighborhood. The city cleaned it up and it’s among the most picturesque alleys we’ve seen in all of South America.Cobbled streets lined with adobe and white-plastered buildings with balconies, many with geraniums which always give color to a place. It was a Wednesday night but many people were milling about, eating and drinking while listening to music – it seemed most places had some form of live music playing. It was just the nicest evening out.

Cobbled streets lined with adobe and white-plastered buildings with balconies, many with geraniums which always give color to a place. It was a Wednesday night but many people were milling about, eating and drinking while listening to music – it seemed most places had some form of live music playing. It was just the nicest evening out.

Quito by night, Ecuador (©photocoen)

La Ronda, Quito's oldest quarter

La Ronda, Quito’s oldest quarter

We stepped into a small restaurant and had empanadas de mochocho, a kind of corn made into a pastry filled with vegetables. With it, we drank the popular canelazo, a sugar-cane liquor with a fruit juice which is served warm. Kind of like glühwein, nice and warm and incredibly treacherous – you easily drink too much.

Time for more touring, with Santiago pointing out all kinds of historical buildings, like La Libertad, where Ecuador’s gained its independence, but also his childhood neighborhood with stories about his youth (the soccer matches and subsequent fights between the different neighborhoods), and pointing many buildings about which he had stories to share: who lived where and what business once thrived where.

People taking the time and effort to show you around and making you part of their home are priceless. The time spent with Pedro and the Santiagos will be among our most treasured memories whenever we will look back on Ecuador.

An old gate in a park.

An old gate in a park.

On another trip the Santiagos took us to La Mitad del Mundo, the equator

On another trip the Santiagos took us to La Mitad del Mundo, the equator

And so, we are in a workshop and I don’t care one bit about mechanics. It’s not a place I would have chosen as a camping spot. However, I see the joy on Coen’s face working with these dedicated people, who really care about getting cars fixed and not just making money.

His mechanical outfit is black – he is black too – from lying under the Land Cruiser working on the transmission (yep, another unplanned yet necessary job) and getting help from a mechanic when needed. We cherish our new friends and feel grateful for having met, once more, such beautiful people on our journey.

And so, no, it doesn’t matter where you are. You can find beauty everywhere.

Spending the evening with the Santiagos

Spending the evening with the Santiagos

Empanadas and canelazo

Empanadas and canelazo

Additional Reading

All photos by Coen Wubbels. Follow him on Instagram here and here.

Enjoy more stories:

One thought on “Slow Travel – Does it Really Matter Where You Are?

  1. Your stories continue to amaze and mesmerize us! And it’s wonderful to know there’s good, kind,trusting folks out in the world.
    Blessings on your journey, Mrs. Kustritz and family

Leave a Reply to Barbi Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *