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Published: August 13th 2010
View from around the corner of Hostal San Javier
The first morning in Ecuador was cold. The temperatures had hovered around 40 degrees the night before and the morning was cool. This was a nice break from the 103 temps we had left behind in Kansas City the previous day. Dwayne and I met up with the rest of the group at breakfast. After the introductions and greetings, the first thing I was told was to try the orange juice. There was a glass of a slightly off color orange substance sitting at my place. I picked it up and took a drink and it didn't taste anything like orange juice. However, since I didn't yet know the sense of humor of the group I drank it and said it was good. Jeff, who I had just met said, "Really!?!?" Apparently this was a drink that was translated as "tree tomato" and was a popular breakfast drink in Ecuador. I really cannot describe the taste except to say that it must be experienced at least once in everyone's lifetime. Next up was the coffee. In America we fill the cup with coffee and then add milk, cream, sugar, etc... In Ecuador it is the opposite. The pour about 1/3 of
Hostal San Javier courtyard
The man with the rifle was on a rooftop just to the left.
a cup of coffee and then fill the rest with Leche (milk). Needless to say the coffee is good but not enough for my American tastes.
Prior to leaving the hotel Dwayne and I walked around the block to stock up on gum and bottled water. We went into a small Farmacia (Pharmacy) and did our best to ask for bottled water. The lady was extremely patient and went so far as to translate our request into Spanish for future use ("Su es imialda"???). After the pharmacy Dwayne had noticed a pig roasting outside of a nearby store. I kid you not, there was a whole pig, skewered and smoldering, on the sidewalk at 9:00 a.m. in Quito.
We made our way back to the Hostal and decided to take a few pictures along the way. When leaving the hostal we had noticed two men standing around outside a few doors down. One was wearing a white shirt, tie and slacks and the other was in a brown jacket, blue jeans, and had a Glock 9mm hand gun strapped to the outside of his leg. I had turned to snap a picture of Quito and when I turned
around the Glcok guy was shadowing me about 4 feet away. I said Hola and he returned with Buena and then walked away. I figured out he was a private security guard for the man in the shirt and was simply doing job...very well. I had also noticed a man on the roof next to our hostal with a rifle slung over his shoulder earlier that morning. This sight became pretty common as we drove through Quito and later Ibarra. There were private security at almost every bank and commons area in Ecuador. However, most of the did not carry firearms that I could see.
The plan for the day was to travel from Quito to Ibarra and do some sight seeing along the way. Danny had hired a travel company run by a guide named Fernando. Fernando, as we would discover, had an endless knowledge of Ecuador and was well-qualified to answer any and all questions one might have. We all boarded the bus around 9:00 and headed into Quito for a tour before moving on north to Ibarra.
The first stop was at an overlook. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name but along the way we
Me and the vendor
I bartered with this man for two wrist bracelets. We settled on $2 and a picture.
passed statues of Abraham Lincoln and Christopher Columbus. Apparently these two American icons also represented freedom and optimism to Ecuadorians. We arrived at the lookout and there was an old man selling colorful bracelets and Panama hats. I bought two bracelets for $2 and had my picture taken with the man.
The next stop was the Plaza de la Independcia. We got off the bus along the side of a narrow street and began our walk to the Plaza. Along the way we stopped at an area where there was a monument to Ecuadors independence and the Presidential Palace, where it just so happened the president was visiting at the time. While Fernando explained the significance of the Plaza we saw a group of indigenous people outside of a government building holding a protest over a labor dispute. They were holding signs and blowing horns as we walked past. From there we wound our way through more narrow streets towards the Church of the Society of Jesus, a massive old church that was covered in gold inside. Fernando explained how the Jesuits had used the church to convert the indigenous people and hold Catholic Masses as far back as
This little boy was also at the overlook. Im not sure if he was with the old man or someone else.
the 1600's. Each side of the Church mirrors the other except for the statues of the Saints. All of the adornments were made out of gold and the floor was an old wood. There was even a balcony that was designed to hide the identities of the Priests when they carried out public punishments during the Inquisition.
From the Church we headed to a large plaza and into a small shop for a restroom break and drinks. On our way to this plaza we found ourselves being approached by young children with shoeshine boxes. They were selling shines for about $1 but I was wearing tennis shoes so I kept passing up the offers. Once we got to the actual plaza there were groups of children with little boxes. I asked three of the them if I could take a picture and gave each $.10. I took the picture but they would not look at the camera. I realized later that night that I had given them the tip in Sucres, the Ecuadorian currency, and not nickles, which may explain why tehy would not look up. After that they kept following us and everytime I would say No Gracias
Statue in Plaza de la Independencia
This statue was designed with multiple images that represented different aspects of Ecuador's history and independence.
they would whine a bit. One little boy went so far as to break into uncontrollable sobbing as he wandered around with his box trying to give a shine to a gringo.
From there we made our way through Quito, heading to the Pan American highway that would take us to Ibarra. Along the way Fernando pointed out the acrobats at a stoplight. In America you might get someone holding a sign needing help or trying to clean your windows. In Ecuador people run out into traffic and start juggling for a few seconds and then walk between the cars for tips. I think our driver, Paul, gave them something.
For lunch we stopped at a restaurant along the Pan American Highway. As we walked in there were chickens, geese, and fresh avocado trees along the sidewalk. I would later figure out that everywhere we ate in Ecuador had such a setting because everything we ate was grown on the grounds. This included chicken, avocados, potatoes, greens, etc... I had Charrasco which was a huge step up from the breakfast experience. I also had my first taste of Ahi (sp??), a type of salsa made out of a
Note the guards marching in formation on the front deck.
very hot pepper, onions, and various other vegetables. Apparently Ahi goes well with anything because for the duration fo the trip it was always offered. We would put it on bread, in soup, and over rice.
After lunch it was a straight shot on the Pan American highway into Ibarra, known as the White City because of the abundance of buildings that were, at one time, all pained white. Today it is a very colorful but rundown looking city of about 150,000 residents. This was our base of operations for the duration of the trip. We stayed in a Hacienda called Hacienda Choralavi. Each day we drive 12 miles north to the Chota Valley to work in the community. The drive usually took about 1 and 1/2 half hours each way.
The Pan American Highway is a two lane blacktop road that runs the length of Latin America. Cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles travel the road and will pass each other on uphill curves, down hill curves, and the shoulder of the road. It is not as scary as it may seem because I always assumed that Paul had enough experience on this road and was still alive
Near the Plaza de la Independencia
so we were in good hands. That's what I always told myself. Everyday.
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