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Published: April 7th 2008
An interesting way of directing traffic... Or celebrating Lara's birthday (10 August)
We arrived in Quito after a nightmare transfer through Miami. We had 3 hours between flights and the majority of that time was taken up clearing immigration, picking up our bags, clearing customs, rechecking our bags and then reclearing security. It was not the quick and fun trip through Miami that we were expecting! But we managed to arrive in Quito safely.
We spent our first few days in Quito having a bit of a look around and trying to sort out our Galapagos trip (see The Voyage of the Intrepid
for details) which took up a lot of our time. We did however manage to see the Old Town, which is the beautiful historic centre of Quito and got a great but scary view over Quito from the Basilica del Voto Nacional. In order to get to the top of the Basilica´s tower we had to cross a rickety bridge and then climb up some precariously placed ladders welded to the outside of the cathedral. It was our most nerve-racking church experience ever! We also went to the top of the Panecillo which is a small hill in Quito with a huge Virgin of Quito on top - another great place for views
The Basilica - The only thing that makes you realise you aren't in Europe are the clocks!
of the whole of Quito, which is a huge but charming metropolis.
After a few days when we knew exactly what our plans with Galapagos were going to be we called an Ecuadoran friend of one of my work colleagues, Alegria and had a coffee with her before departing for Galapagos. She invited us to stay with her and her family on out return, which we did and it was great. The Vasconez family took us under their wings and made us feel extremely welcome in their home. They also made sure we tried lots of Ecuadoran food including ´tripa mishqui´, fried cow´s intestines, ´fritada´a plate of fried pork, potato, avocado, mote, plantain and more, ´chuchucara´similar to ´fritada´but with more, plenty of empanadas and some fantastic icecream made by Nun´s in a convent. The nuns use local fruits and dry ice to chill the fruit - so although it has the consistency of sorbet it only has fruit and sugar in it. Delicious! Ecuador also has fantastic fruit and juices which we sampled a lot of. We probably put on weight eating all the delicious foods!
Between sampling all of the Ecuadoran delicacies we did actually manage to
Quito - Old City
The climb over the roof of the Basilica to climb the tower!
see some of the sights of Quito and the surrounding areas that we hadn´t managed to see before our Galapagos trip. So we went up the TeleferiQo which is a cable car up the side of one of the mountains next to Quito. It takes you to 4100m above sea level - Al´s highest altitude to date. From the top (if you are lucky and get there before the clouds roll in) you get a beautiful view over Quito and the surrounding mountains.
We also headed to Mitad del Mundo with Alegria, which is a monument on the equator where you can take pictures on the equator and see some interesting museums. We saw the Ethnographic Museum which explains all the different cultural and ethnic groups in Ecuador and then we went to El Museo de Sitio Intiñan which claims to be truely on the equator while the monument is apparently 150m off. The museum has ´demonstrations´on the coriolis effect and how it works. ie. they had a tub of water that they made go staight down through the plug without spinning and then it spun clockwise in the southern hemisphere and anti-clockwise in the northen hemisphere. Al had
Quito - Old City
The stairs up the tower on the Basilica
to bite his tongue quite hard during all their examples but Lara got a diploma for balancing an egg on the head of a nail, which is apparently harder on the equator due to centrifugal forces. Alegria then took us to the second largest inhabited volcanic crater in the world and to the pre-Incan ruins of Rumicucho before taking us to get the delicious icecream! That night Alegria and a few of her friends showed us the Old Town during the night and then took us dancing in the Mariscal which was good fun even though neither of us have a clue how to dance salsa!
The next morning dreay-eyed and really wanting to stay in bed we got the bus to Otovalo which has a large market selling indigenous wares. Luckily the trip took 2hrs so we had a chance to sleep before we arrived. We went to the market on a Wednesday so it was quiet as the large market day is Saturday, but we spent a few hours wandering around looking at the handicrafts and the locals market full of fruits and grains etc. We bought a few little things before making our way home.
Quito - Old City
Looking South over Quito. It just seems to go on for ever!
The other really exciting trip we made, which we didn´t think we would get the chance to do was Parque Nacional Cotopaxi which is a few hours south of Quito. Alegria insisted on taking us on our last day in Quito and it was wonderful. When we got to Cotopaxi we had to hire a 4-wheel drive because Alegria´s little Barina was not going to be able to cross the river leading into the park. Our driver had only one arm which made for an interesting experience - especially because he was missing his right arm meaning that he had to change gears with his left arm and let go of the steering wheel for awhile. Alegria was sitting behind him cringing everytime we swerved slightly off path but we lived and Cotopaxi was worth it. The National Park is all above 3600 metres above sea level and is beautiful. There aren´t many plants or animals at that altitude but we did get to see wild horses and our first llamas. The landscape is amazing - cragged snowy peaks rising above the altiplano and peaking through the clouds and although we didn´t get to see very much of Volcan Cotopaxi
Quito - Old City
The presidential Palace
itself it didn´t matter. On the way back to Quito we stopped at ´La Cafe de la Vaca´(the Cow Cafe) and had a late lunch of really great, fresh food before heading back, saying goodbyes to the Vasconez´s and heading to the airport for our flight to Peru and for further adventures.
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