Quito and Banos (before and after Galapagos)


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South America » Ecuador » North » Quito » Historical Center
August 10th 2016
Published: October 5th 2016
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QUITO

Our first day was spent wandering around the old town of Quito. The old town is split up between beautiful and grand old buildings and squares and alleys that can seem quite poor. Usually however there are great little gems such as small local restaurants around these areas that are great to try out. We were meant to go on a walking tour first but sadly the tour person never showed up, so from San Blas square we headed, guideless into the main squares. Our first stop was to Plaza de la Indepencia and the cathedral where we saw how the Spanish tried all sorts to get the people of Ecuador to believe in their Catholic gods rather than their existing Inca beliefs. They even painted a picture of the last supper in the cathedral complete with Jesus and co drinking chicha and eating guinea pig!!

Our next stop was to have a guided tour around the Presidents Palace, surprisingly small, but a great place to see where the president lives and has his cabinet meetings and social events. He even had all the gifts he is given from other presidents and prime ministers displayed in cabinets around the building. Some pretty expensive jewellery and weird ornaments that must make tourists angry that their country spends so much money on donating gifts that aren’t even particularly necessary. I’d just be happy with chocolates if I was a President J. The President doesn’t currently live there as he has a house further out of the city with his family, however he still conducts a lot of meetings and social events there. Amazingly the idea of a tour of these areas must make him look more human like and that it is possible for anyone to go for his position. It must be quite a boost for people.

We then wandered past the theatre quarter, which did feel pretty empty and then onto the Basilica. The Basilica was just a giant church, but the main attraction was the fact you could walk across the roof and up the two towers. One tower was the bell tower- complete with guys painting the whole stairway. It was difficult walking up trying to dodge painters and trying not to inhale too many paint fumes despite the already high altitude we were at (2800m), then the climbing tower height on top of that. The second tower, on the other side of the church made you walk across the roof on wooden planks and up a narrow set of metal stairs with only a bit of thin wire mesh separating you from the group. Quite nerving but a great view at the top of the highest tower, overlooking Quito.

Later that evening we checked out the parks of Quito, complete with nice boating ponds, small tower and an observatory.

The next day saw us getting ready for Galapagos, so lots of errands and a change of hotel. (A separate blog for the Galapagos will be added shortly).

Back at Quito after the Galapagos we checked into an air bnb before wandering around the old town. We then headed to the Teleferico (cable car), using the bus transit system and got to the top of the Cruz Loma hill in Pichincha Volcano, to check out the view, it was pretty cold at the top but was such a fantastic view overlooking Quito, which includes 11 volcanoes and peaks that are in the surrounding area. The Teleferico climbs from 2850 meters to 4050 meters. Some people use this as an opportunity to get into the hillsides, or bike down the hill again.

BANOS

The next day we headed to Banos. This included a half hour taxi drive out to the bus station, which is still very much in the city, yes Quito is huge!!

We first checked into our air bnb and met Sebastian the guy who was going to take us into the jungle to meet his family. He had been born in the jungle and most of his family were still there. He had 8 siblings, him and his sister lived together in Banos and another was in the USA now. His sister took us to the hot springs in Banos whilst he headed out for supplies for the next morning. We then ate some food before going to bed ready for an early start. We didn't sleep much as there was a local cockerel who didn't seem to understand sunrise is not at 2am!! We bounded into a small pick-up truck with our equipment and food and headed out in our 2-3 hr drive to the jungle, stopping only for and Ecuadorian breakfast and a view of where the jungle and mountains meet, next to a river, which had eroded most of the old road into the jungle.

Visiting their family was great and we had some fantastic local cuisine served on a banana leaf, surrounded by hens, tried a blow dart gun and even did tribal dances with me playing a drum and another guy wearing an anaconda they had just found a couple of weeks back in the jungle!!!!!

Then it was off on a 1-2hr trek into the forest with all our stuff. We were joined by Sebastian's German girlfriend, his uncle and nephew.
The walk showed us walking trees. These are trees whose roots grow from the top of the tree downwards and help the tree to move closer to sunlight. They can move up to 50cm a year! We also tried huge thick jungle style coca leaves which tingle your lips and discovered a sharp tree that’s leaves can rip your skin open with just an accidental brush up to it. After dropping off our stuff at our makeshift campsite, consisting of branches and leaves as the roof, we walked on crossing small rivers and swam in a nearby river that would flow into the Amazon. This river was called the Chinimpi river and was extremely fast flowing. We had collected fibres from leaves, whilst it was raining and we were sheltering, to make jewellery from leaf fibre and seeds the next day back at the family home. We had dinner all made in our makeshift shelters then had a night walk checking out all the night bugs and awesome fireflies that were like mini LED lights flickering around us in different colours. Then we headed to bed, fortunately in tents. We did hear the dogs bark in the night, so that could have meant a puma was nearby, or someone was just being noisy in a tent, I'm hoping for the first option as that would have been cool.

After breakfast we packed up, again in the rain, they don't call it the rain forest for nothing!! Then headed to Sebastian's family home in the jungle to make our jewellery from seeds and leaves, having some food and headed then back to Banos and Quito. It was also a good time to use a toilet that wasn't covered in branches and leaves and was a hole in the ground that you were paranoid about meeting an anaconda in your most vulnerable state!!

QUITO

Finally back in Quito and pretty tired after our jungle adventure we checked into another air bnb in quite a nice district of Quito overlooking the Botanical gardens, which was more like a park with some boats in it. Our final day was spent checking out the centre of the world- ie. The equator. It is important to note that the Centre of the world city isn’t actually where the equator is. When asking the locals where the equator is you will be told it is 5km away in some difficult community to reach, which is actually a lie. There is a small museum which discovered that the equator ran straight through their area, not as the French thought in the 1800’s where the current massive monument is located. In order to keep money coming into this theme park area they have built galleries and a planetarium as well as a monument which depicts where the (fake) equator is meant to be. There are experiments that state that water going down a plug will actually only flow in the direction of how the water comes out of the tap. However, when you visit the actual museum they have a bucket which they show you how water comes out on the equator and Northern and Southern hemispheres. The most impressive experiment there is the increased gravitational pull found at the equator. If you put your hands up, someone on the northern or southern hemispheres will try to push them down, depending on your strength will depend on the ease of the other person being able to push your arms down to the ground. Do this right on the equator line and no matter how strong you are a tiny 10 year old child could pull your arms down with only 3 fingers!!!! How this can happen is incredible. This is also one way that you know when you are on the real equator line…… as we discovered when we snuck into this museum to see the equator line, despite it just about to close.



It was then back to Quito for our final night before flying back to the UK.


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