The Secret Garden Hostel in Quito, Ecuador
Writing 101’s prompt of ‘where would I be?’ takes me back to my trip to Quito in 2006 and is definitely a trip I would love to repeat with the added benefit of a little more knowledge of the environment and what to expect along with the added flavour of knowing it’s been almost 10 years since my initial visit.
I’d never stayed in a hostel before March of 2006. I happened on the Secret Garden hostel as I was researching places to stay for my upcoming trip to Equador. It was a very well-reveiwed place and an extremely affordable place to stay.
The word hostel had always left me with the vision of rows of bunks and youth mentally equating to parties and ultimately no sleep. As I started researching the Secret Garden I came to realise that it did not fit into my preconceived notions. It had to be too good to be true! The Secret Garden as it turns out has the option to reserve your own room with a shared bathroom (shared with one other room) for at that time $14 a day.
I arrived in Quito knowing no-one but ready to venture out. A modest taxi ride from the airport brought me to the colourful front door of the Hostel. It was after dark and I could only hope I was in the right place. It’s not like there were illuminated neon signs floating around (thank God!).
I rang the doorbell and was able to check in and receive a key to my room. Uneven colourful stairs took me to my room where I settled in with a fullsize bed a nightstand and a beautiful wall hangings. Everything about the hostel and the room was clean and just right. There was a common area just outside my room that had virtually no furniture in it but that was probably just as well in terms of keeping there from being loud gatherings there.
The two primary meals at the Hostel were breakfast and dinner. You could order a cooked sort of breakfast as I recall or just have a bowl of cereal and fruit. The kitchen and seating area were upstairs on a covered porch that overlooked the historic area known as Old Town.
I’ve never really been a very outgoing person so I was a little apprehensive about the meeting of new people in this shared environment. It was perfect and I quickly found myself very comfortable and at home in this paradise. The dining veranda area was like a hang out area where you could hear the travels of others and get tips and advice or take part in signing up for one of the variety of trips offered by the staff. There was a variety of day-trips etc you could arrange through the Hostel.
People of all ages were guests/residents there. Some people had traveled there intending to spend a short time and wound up staying and working for the Secret Garden.
I fell in love with Quito and the Secret Garden. I did find a hostel close by that was a few dollars cheaper and went by to take a look. I don’t recall the name of the place but remember it being dark and the room tiny and no sense of comradery -it really came across as a cheap room with no view or atmosphere.
I really enjoyed the people at the Secret Garden. The weather couldn’t be better and probably is what would seal the deal for me as far as living there if that were an option. Due to it’s elevation, though Ecuador is on the equator as the name implies, Quito itself is not a hot or humid place. It can actually be quite cool and very reminiscent of the the San Francisco Bay area where I currently live.
My trip to Quito was an aside to my final destination of the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos are a part of Ecuador and the only way to get there besides by boat is via an aeroplane ride from Ecuador. I was meeting friends in the Galapagos and cruised with them on their sailboat for about a week around a couple of the different islands. The cruising part was fun but I cannot foresee myself ever returning to the Galapagos. The heat was torturous and the only relief was the water and swimming. The sights were certainly spectacular but if you didn’t go do your sightseeing and adventuring in the very early morning – well it was a miserable day otherwise. I felt sorry for those who came on the cruise boats with their schedules pre-planned by their hosts with real regard for the intense heat.
I digress. To summarise: Quito wonderful, cool, comfortable, very friendly people and very affordable. I would walk all over in the day time and catch a taxi back the hostel at night that would never cost more than a3-5 dollars. (The currency in Quito is the US Dollar and that’s what you get from ATMs there too so no money denominations to learn as a foreigner). Galapagos, lots to see as long as you don’t mind the unbearable heat!!