26 September 2010

the secret garden in quito, ecuador is looking for volunteers

I didn’t know my ass from my elbow when it came to my first foray traveling in Ecuador. I booked my ticket to Quito to volunteer with Santa Martha Animal Rescue, which in a most unprofessional fashion informed me that it had folded (basically because its founder is a thin-skinned cry baby who couldn’t handle criticism from volunteers). I scrambled in a state of non-refundable airline ticket panic to find a replacement project and stumbled across Sumak Kawsay Yachay (SKY) on the internet. Plan B was in effect!

I'm usually pretty organized with my travel logistics. I do a reasonable amount of pre-travel research and create a project itinerary (partially for my benefit, but also to leave at home in case something bad happens to me). But, when it came to flying into Quito, I really didn’t have a clue. My flight arrived at 6:05 p.m., too late to embark on the 3-hour bus trip to Salasaca (As a rule, I don’t like to arrive in strange destinations after dark), so I needed a hostel. Natch, I turned to my fave word-of-mouth resource, Twitter, and got several recommendations for The Secret Garden in the San Blas neighborhood of Quito.

I shot The Secret Garden an email to make a reservation and arrange for an airport pick-up ($10 USD), which was quickly confirmed. Upon touch down in Quito (a terrifying landing I wasn’t prepared for) I made way through customs and immigration and found a driver holding a “The Secret Garden” sign. We wove up and down hilly streets during rush hour traffic and arrived at the five story hostel a little after dusk.

Check-in was a breeze and I was quickly led to my fourth floor “Orange” dorm room, bunk #5 to be exact. Dorm-style rooms tend to be on the small and cramped size (my room accommodated six people), but they’re clean, beds are reasonably comfy and there are small lockers available to store valuables. For $8.80 a night, it’s a great value. Well maintained bathroom facilities are situated in the hall and shared by several rooms. Hot water was a bit iffy – I’ve found that when it is available in South America, sometimes it helps to turn the water pressure down to the lowest possible trickle to get heat. There’s also free WiFi, three computers you can rent for .50 cents an hour and a terrace with amazing city and mountain views, where daily, three meals are served for a nominal fee. The terrace is also a popular destination to grab a few Pilseners before a night on the town (the terrace closes at 11 p.m.). The hostel can also organize day tours or Spanish classes. Even though I’m a bit older than the usual hostelling age demographic, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at The Secret Garden. So much in fact, that I stayed there again the night before I flew out of Quito.

The Secret Garden runs on volunteers and is always looking for help. In exchange for volunteer hours, the hostel offers free accommodation, food, all drinks, 10 hours of Spanish classes and more. The hostel’s new Cotopaxi location is also looking for volunteers. Click here for more information.

1 comment:

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