Friday night was Elysia's last night so we all went out. Lots of fun but sad too! Elysia's been here the whole 7 weeks that I have and she's the last volunteer to leave who was here at the beginning! Sophie (intern) and I (and Tracey of course) are the only ones left! We went to a couple different places and then Elysia, George, and I ended up eating soup at a little street stand in Plaza de Ponchos at 2:30 in the morning.
Saturday morning we went to Quito and got there a little after noon. We stayed at Hostal Posada del Maple and it was excellent! Pretty cheap, only about $8 for a dorm room including breakfast. It had a very nice homey feel and the breakfast was good! It's on a very nice street in Mariscal Sucre, the new touristy part of town. There are a bunch of hostals and restaurants in the area so it's a nice place to walk around. We had some pretty amazing sandwiches for lunch at a little outdoor cafe and then set off to explore Old Town. On the way walking to the bus stop we found a random church that wasn't
labeled on our map: La Iglesia de Santa Teresa. It was locked so we couldn't go in, but it was pretty cool from the outside! We also walked through a really nice park on the way. In Old Town we first went to the Plaza Grande. We had a tour in the Presidential Palace (not in use anymore but it used to be both where the president lived and where a lot of the government stuff took place). On another side of the main square was Catedral El Sagrario Once again, nice looking from the outside, but it was closed! I'm not sure why because it wasn't even that late in the afternoon! The Chilean Embassy is also right on that square, kind of random because it's the main Old Town Square. Cool looking buildings though! All of Old Town is very colonial looking and really nice! I was really impressed! It was a lot nicer than I was expecting! Really good to walk around and I want to go back another day to explore more!
We also went to Plaza San Francisco and el Monasterio de San Francisco. Also the Convento de La Merced. There was a service going
on so we couldn't explore much, but it was extremely ornate inside! From there we walked to La Basilica. Basically a really amazing church! Massive and intricate and impressive! There was a baptism going on and while we were sitting in a cafe outside, people started arriving for a quinceñera. Then a bus back to our hostal and dinner at El Pobre Diablo, a restaurant a little ways away from our hostal with amazing food!
Sunday morning we woke up bright and early to meet our guides at 7:30 to go bike Cotapaxi! We drove almost 2 hours to the parking lot 4600 meters up the mountain. We then biked down to a lake for lunch. Then almost 5 more hours of biking through the park and down the cobblestone road towards Quito. We had amazing weather! Supposedly it was the best day in 2 months! Sunny and clear a lot of the time! Amazing views of Cotapaxi! It actually isn't as big as I was expecting. It's 5897 meters (19347 feet) but it cheats by starting way up on a plateau (3700 m), just like Mt. Everest. There was still snow on a significant portion of it though.
View from the Presidential Palace
Courteney, Gabrielle, Katie, Kelsey, me
I wanted to hike up to the snow and have a snowball fight! The park was mostly bare. Not really any trees or bushes because it's so high. Lots of nice mountains to look at though! Towards the end of the park area there was a section that went through a bunch of trees. It was beautiful and they smelled delicious! We were on dirt roads/pathes the whole time. Going down the mountain there were a lot of bumpy washboard areas and lots of rocks and potholes on the rest of it so we had to pay attention, but it was a lot of fun! After we left the park it was biking through farmland and villages. At one point we had a choice to be done or keep going. We of course decided to keep going. It was a cobblestone from there on so it was constant vibrating. Our forearms and wrists are so sore today (Monday)! More uphills as well. 50 kilometers total (30 miles) and 2000 meters descent in altitude (most of it going down Cotapaxi) 10 out of the 13 of us went all the way, and everyone was back on their bikes when we ended!
Supposedly that almost never happens with groups! When we got back to Quito we went to this cute fondue restaurant for dinner. Amazing cheese and pesto fondue and chocolate/cinnamon/vanilla fondue for dessert. And free salad because they were competing for our business with the restaurant next door. It was really good! A perfect end to an amazing day! Then we got a bus back, getting home around 10. It only took us 2 hours to get back. On the bus. Usually it takes at least 2.5. That's how fast we were going. Luckily we slept through most of it because we were all tired. Another one of my favorite days. I'm getting a lot of those...
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