Quito and Mindo

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South America » Ecuador » North » Quito
February 15th 2018
Published: April 28th 2018
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In Quito we stayed at a very basic hotel in the historic centre next to Plaza Santa Domingo, a good choice as all the interesting sites were within a few blocks. We again took the city walking tour which provided great insight into the local history and culture. At one particular vantage point we could see 6 churches within a few blocks of each other. The Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits had different influences on the city and each built churches in very different styles. The Jesuits may have the most notable church in Inglesia de la Compania de Jesus in which the entire walls and ceilings are covered in gold reportedly amounting to 7 total tons. No photos are allowed in this church, so you have to look them up. Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency and at the Museum of the Central Bank we learned why: the country experienced hyperinflation in 1999-2000 reaching 107% pa. At the start of 1999 the Ecuadorian Sucre was 5000:1 against the dollar, by the time the government changed to the dollar it was 25,000:1. People lost their savings overnight and shopkeepers were changing prices hourly. A crazy and unfortunate time in Ecuador's history and since it happened so recently, the incentive to re-establish a national currency is very low.

The National Basilica is more modern that Quito's colonial churches, built starting in 1926 and instead of the typical gargoyles, it contains statues of Ecuador's native animals and birds . Much needed renovation work is being done as chunks of concrete are falling off, making it the perfect building to climb the spires! This makes us really ponder the contrast of our New Zealand life, where people aren’t allowed near earthquake prone buildings, vs Ecuador where people can climb 100m on rickety stairs in a building with concrete falling off in a city with regular earthquakes. It was a bit nerve racking climbing the slippery steps (thankfully it wasn’t raining) but the view over Quito was amazing! From Quito we organised an 8 day Galapagos Cruise which didn't leave for a few days, so off we went to Mindo, a small touristy mountain town a couple hours from Quito.

It rains a lot in Mindo so we really just chilled out for a few days, did a guided night forest walk, bird watching trip and took a cable car across a valley to some waterfalls. The town almost exclusively runs on tourism and we were amazed how so many empty restaurants manage to stay in business. The Mindo highlight may be El Descanso, a hummingbird house where we were so mesmerized by the activity and number of species at their feeders that we visited twice. On the night walk we spotted a kinkajou (small possum like animal) many frogs and insects and a false coral snake. Highlights for Becky on the bird watching trip were spotting several species of antpittas and a potoo.

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