Quito Postcard

Foolish to try to mark the precise start, but there is the descent into yellow streetlights mist, shatter of engines against buildings leaning against the mid-city airport. Unusually gentle tackle after passing through customs, I always expect that the bike box won’t have made it, we laugh together when I correct my kindly old cab driver’s speculation that it’s a plasma tv. Cobbled cracked streets at outlandish pitches, unmistakably Iberian peninsula architecture like San Juan or a very shabby Seville, comforting. Thin air, notable chill in spite of the handful of kilometers to the equator.

Then the first day of a hundred and fifty, conceptually a formality, thoughts still a smooth continuation of where you know, which doesn’t diminish them but their arc will have to be let go, maybe with traces of regret. The alien facades are novel from specific contrast, rather than from intrinsic difference, which they will be in time. Walking a city, alert for the tides that will be relevant for cycling. In this case only the mildest lawless piloting. Ascend a hill to the military cartographic institute, friendly soldiers direct me to an immaculate room displaying maps at every scale, heavenly, I lose myself there for an hour. I order several topos for detail in regions I expect difficult route finding, US$2 each, handing the slip to the professorial looking man behind the copier window where they are digitally rendered. A visit to a museum for calm and context, two equally robust vectors, the indigenous history, sophistication in stonework and pantheon, and the exogenous Spanish Catholic imagery, the Virgin in a half thousand postures.

Unpacked and repacked with gear arranged in its place, enough hours have gone by so that bewilderment yields to craving movement, anticipating exhausting meditative circles at 12,000 feet.