Today I´m on my own -- the Norwegians headed to the Galapagos and Sarah left me for Buenos Aires. Slept in and then got up and packed everything to switch hostals. Then I decided to spend some time seeing the town. First I went to the Plaza Grande in the Old Town and wandered around looking at old buildings. I got frustrated, though, when the buildings I really wanted to go in were closed. Or being renovated. Or required money to walk around in them. The Presidential Palace is on the square, as is the giant Metropolitan Cathedral. I took a lot of pictures and wandered...and was gawked at by a heap of schoolchildren. I think the kiddos here are either fascinated by gringos and wave and say "hola gringa!!" or they see a scary white person and make mean faces and try to avoid having any gringo-ness rub off by coming too close. After deciding to leave the Plaza Grande, I headed up the hill, as everything in Ecuador seems to be, to the Basilica del Voto Nacional. It´s a giant cathedral built in the last century and climbing around in it is absoultely awesome. There´re the typical vaulted ceilings
and stianed glass windows, but the real fun (which did cost $2) is going up the towers. There are two giant bell towers and a third shorter tower, all of which you can play in! Each of the bell towers has an elevator, neither of which seem to be functioning, but there are also stairs and regular stops along the climb. About halfway there is a big open room and in one of the towers there is a nice souvenir shop. In the middle of the level though is an entry, which seemed to be a no-go zone until I noticed the signs clearly designed for tourists, is a rickety wooden platform that runs from the bell towers to the third tower. At this point, I was walking on top of the vaulted ceilings, with creaking wood underfoot. And at the end of the walkway -- a ladder. And a "take care" sign. And a radio playing Beyonce. I climbed up the ladder, which put me outside on the short tower, walked around and then climbed two more ladders to the top. I took some pictures, drank some orange juice, then climbed back down and went back across the walkway.
I then went back to stair climbing up the bell tower, until there were no more stairs - just ladders. Several of them. Each one more frightening than the last. The final ladder leads up to a "platform" made of mesh that could support a child´s weight but certainly not mine, and a few crossbars. And in each of the four corners of the tower there are nice lookouts that lack rails, mesh or any type of safety measure. So sitting out there was basically like sitting on top of Quito, but it was also pretty terrifying. And then there´s the whole descent, which is at times just as scary if not worse than going up. And the whole thing is AMAZING. But not if you´re scared of heights.
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