I had forgotten what noisy city Quito is. I knew there would be endless traffic, of course: buses belching diesel fumes, taxis, trucks, cars - all nose-to-tail and inching a path through the narrow streets of the old city. And, as Quito is built on a mountainside some of these streets are seriously steep, so there is the obligatory roar as buses and trucks change gear.
Then there is music, just too loud to be considered ‘background’ - every cafe, restaurant and shop plays music. And if there should be a corner where this music cannot reach there are buskers. There might have been respite in corner cafe in the Plaza de San Sebastián, if it weren’t for the renovations of the building on the corner: machines roar long into the night. Maybe the Plaza Major should be quieter - but even there the chatter is punctuated by whistles from the security guard each time a child begins to climb on the central statue.
And somehow the street traders make themselves heard: women on street corners selling fruit, or edging through crowds with trays of cigarettes. A man presses me to buy bright shoe-laces. There are hats, necklaces, lottery tickets, knickers, smokey plantain, ice cream, popcorn, cake, pashminas ... each trader’s cry is shriller than the next.
It’s wonderful, but it is noisy. It was time to head for the rainforest. I might find silence there?
Howler monkeys howl when they are upset. They are frequently upset.
Toucans toot. Hoatzin squabble. Parrots squawk (has anyone measured the decibels of a flock of squawking parrots?). Kiskadee chirrup and once started don’t know how to stop. Screech owls - you can guess.
Just as the light is fading and you think the birds might sleep, the cricket and cicadas join in - they’ve been mumbling all day but scream at sunset.
They have stiff competition from this little chap (not a great photo, but hard to photograph in forest light):
This is a small, sleeping tree frog. As the sun sets his one thought is to attract a lady frog. Apparently endless barking - a bark that echoes through the trees and bounces off the water - is attractive to lady frogs. It is a deafening cacophony of frogs. Most have sorted themselves out by about ten; the deed is done and they can enjoy the secondary pleasure of eating bugs. But sometimes one lonely frog is left barking his heart out until sunrise. You’d have thought he’d have got the message by then and gone home to put his feet up with Netflix and a beer ...
I’m back in Quito. I love the rainforest, and I love its orchestras. But on Monday I’m off to the coast. Maybe the shushing of waves will lull me to sleep there.