On getting lost in Quito

The next morning, I set off to explore the old city, but spent most of the day haplessly circling it while perambulating its bleak back-streets.

Seeking directions, I was offered a bewildering range of options from growing knots of debating locals. While familiar with my congenitally poor sense of direction, I was less aware of the courteous Latin habit of giving a helpful-sounding answer – correct or otherwise. Nonetheless, I was touched by their concern. One man insisted on waiting 20 minutes with me until I was safely aboard a bus. Several buses and a taxi merely brought me down more blind alleys. I walked alone through an underpass hewn into the mountainside – choking on the fumes of the hurtling traffic, before retracing my steps to avoid exiting the city altogether.

I  stumbled across a wizened old man playing a lonely fiddle. The fiddle was as scratched and worn out as its owner and the awful screeching sounds they emitted sounded like the soundtrack to a shattered dream. Less profitable busking than a self-imposed public humiliation for his failures in life. As his playing endured, his symphony of profound sadness was accompanied by tears and convulsive heaving sobs. I threw my spare change into the battered dusty hat at his feet – mere pebbles in the deep well of his miserable despair. I had only been lost that day.