Pushing My Limits in Quito

After the Galapagos and before the Amazon, we spent two nights in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

Quito, Ecuador
Yay Quito.

It sits at an altitude of 2,800 meters and kind of has a reputation for crime. I wasn’t over the moon about spending time in Quito (altitude and crime don’t do it for me), but I was curious.

If I hadn’t known I was supposed to feel unsafe, I wouldn’t have. The day we spent in Quito was all blue skies and sunshine, a pleasant environment for a whistle-stop spin through the old town.

Quito, Ecuador
Hanging in the square.

We bought overpriced grapes from a street vendor, watched people chase pigeons, and had a leisurely sit on a bench in the middle of the main square, admiring the buildings.

There wasn’t much that we wanted to do, but with a nice afternoon and several spare hours, I suggested walking up to the Basilica del Voto Nacional, a neo-gothic cathedral that I’d read about in this post by Arianwen of Beyond Blighty.

Basilica del Voto Nacional
The Basilica. 115 meters high in those clock towers.

In it, she details how you can climb to the top of this beautiful building, via a sketchy staircase.

At this point I am compelled to remind you of this fun fact: I am afraid of heights.

Yet, I suggested the cathedral. I readily agreed to pay the small entrance fee to climb it. I happily traipsed up the interior stairs and barreled down the corridor above the nave.

Basilica del Voto Nacional nave
Inside the nave. Oooh, aaah.
Basilica del Voto Nacional above the nave
Above the nave. Whoa.

When we got inside one of the clock towers, my enthusiasm waned. Aware of just how high we were, my insides started to curdle and I gripped the iron railings of the staircase.

We had the great misfortune of being inside the tower at the stroke of noon. Bells clanged, echoing in the little chamber, and I nearly shat myself.

Basilica del Voto Nacional bell tower
Stupid bells.

After a few brief minutes at the top, with me testing every step and quivering whenever I got near the ledge, we went back down.

Basilica del Voto Nacional bell tower
At the very top of the tower, pretending to be totally cool with it.

Then we got to the viewing platform that Arianwen wrote about.

It was awful. These iron ladders go straight up, with a thin safety net dangling behind them. The thing about the safety net is that you can see right through it, making you viscerally aware of just how high you are and for no good reason.

Basilica del Voto Nacional stairs
I feel that this doesn’t adequately capture the terror. Keep in mind, you can see right through those stairs.

I almost turned around right then.

The weird thing about the fear of heights is that somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m convinced that some dark, spontaneous force in my body is going to take over and pitch me over the edge.

This is totally illogical and probably weird.

And I know that, so I fought the fear and slowly crawled up the ladders.

Basilica del Voto Nacional
My I-am-not-enjoying-this-one-little-bit smile.

The view was spectacular, but the feeling of getting back down was even more fulfilling.

I guess that’s travel for you. Pushing the limits of your comfort zone, without any real understanding of why you’re doing it.

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  1. Thanks for the mention. After reading this, the horror of that ladder is fresh in my mind. I’m proud of us both! Can’t believe the clock chimed. I’d have had a heart attack and fallen to my death!

    1. No worries. You inspired me to go, even though I had a love/hate relationship with the heights part! The clock chiming, though – that was not something I enjoyed.

  2. We had a very similar experience, but in the jungles of Borneo! My husband is terrified of heights as well, and yet, for some reason we decided to sign up for a rainforest canopy walk… we were on these rickety swaying rope bridges 30 – 40 m off the floor and my husband was in hell. The walk was supposed to take about 1.5 hours, yet we were done in about 30 minutes because he just motored through and refused to stop and look at anything. If we ever make it to Quito, we’ll be sure to give this a wide berth!

    1. I can totally identify with your husband! I, too, have this compulsion to sign up for things that involve heights even though I know I don’t like them. I don’t know what I would have done for an hour and a half! Probably exactly what he did, heart pounding the whole time.

  3. Haha I can totally relate with being afraid some dark force inside yourself will pitch you off! I have the same fear when I’m near heights/anything dangerous. Definitely weird but true!

    1. It makes me think of a scene from ‘Happy Feet,’ when a penguin voiced by Robin Williams has to pretend he doesn’t know a big drop is coming to trick himself into having the guts to jump. That is totally me when it comes to braving heights!

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