I got to surf on Waitangi Day in Quito, but not on a surfboard
in the ocean.
At 6pm on the 6th of February I decided I wanted to
celebrate Waitangi Day (New Zealand Day) but I was short of one
thing... Kiwis. So I logged into couchsurfing.org and searched for surfers in
Quito, including the key words: NEW ZEALAND in my search. I found
Chloe, an Aucklander living in Quito so I sent her a message
requesting some urgent kiwi-flavoured fun. Within an hour I already
had a message back from her.
2 hours after sending the first message Chloe was at my hotel,
ready to celebrate with 4 of her friends.
If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll hear me talk
about couchsurfing fairly often. In short, it's a community of
travellers who like to meet new people from different places and
share some kind of cultural exchange.
Often the host will provide a couch or bed but it's so much
more than a free place to sleep.
It was a Monday night and we were in the quiet and sleepy Old
Town with zero options for partying. Luckily one of our crew was
Javi, a local who knew where to go. We walked down narrow cobbled
streets and entered a wooden door which revealed a courtyard,
tables and chairs. We sat drinking the traditional fruit drink: Naranjilla. (A cross between an orange and a
tomato) served warm with rum. My new friends were full of stories
and we shared many laughs while nursing our warm brews on the crisp
Chloe is a tree-hugging biologist who is doing her thesis here
and listening to her talk about her field work was really
interesting. She has invited me to join her to count trees in the
forest, 2 hours out of Quito this Thursday - another unique
experience that can't be found in a guidebook.
The alternative to last night would have been to drink a beer in
my hotel room, watch tv and quietly toast my national day. I'm so
thankful for couchsurfing's ability to connect like minded folks
all over the world. It allows you to bypass the tourist traps and
get straight to the heart of what it is like to live in a place.
People from all over the world, of all ages participate so If you
haven't checked it out yet, have a nosey around my profile first:
Many people voice concerns of safety when I tell them about CS.
While you need to be smart about it, there are lots of safety
measures in place to weed out any bad eggs. They verify surfers'
locations, there's a vouching system and every person you meet
writes a comment about you and comments can't be deleted, so it's a
self-regulating system like ebay. Plus you're under no obligation to
host/surf and many people participate by meeting up for a drink, a
hike or a uniquely local experience. These kind of encounters
happen organically when you're travelling but Couchsurfing helps
increase the likelihood of their occurance.
Couchsurfing is sweet as in my book. Happy Waitangi Day!