We had such an early start and given we had to park at the airport anyway, we decided to stay at the Pacfic Gateway Hotel right at the airport. For anyone looking, the price is right if you’re going to park anyway. Saved us a valuable hour in the early morning!
5am breakfast at the airport and off to Dallas, for lunch. BBQ it is! Not exactly a health food choice but when in Texas one must eat like the locals. Is it bad we have a favourite BBQ place in DFW?
Then we were off to Quito for a midnight arrival. Of course we left late and so we didn’t get to the hotel until 130am. Long travel day.
We are at the Swisshotel which is absolutely lovely. Excellent breakfast buffet and being South America, quinoa is plentiful. We made up for the BBQ yesterday by eating some incredible fresh fruit with quinoa and chia seeds along with some eggs. Great start to the day.
This was the view out our window when we woke up this morning. This is the Cayambe volcano. Those are clouds, not smoke, but it did erupt in 1999. Later in the day, when the afternoon clouds rolled in, the volcano was completely obscured. We would never have known it was there!
Quito is at 9300 feet above sea level. We feel the elevation but aren’t stopped by it. It also feels fairly prosperous compared to Lima. The roads are good and we haven’t seen much homelessness or begging. I’m sure there is a slum somewhere, but we didn’t see it. All in all a pretty modern and decent place to be. The city came to be as the original locals were the ones to figure out the stars and were able to map the wet and dry seasons pretty accurately. That made them good people to know and so trade started to occur. The Inca were only here for about 70 years before the Spanish showed up so while there is a strong connection to Cuzco there is much more history from before then.
Andrew is our guide here and he whisked us off at 8am (yes only about 4 1/2 hours sleep for us!) to the old town. Quito is about 5000 years old but when the Spanish showed up around 1534 the locals pretty much destroyed the place so the Spanish wouldn’t have much to work with. Once the peace was almost sorted out the Spanish set about rebuilding. Of course the cathedral was first. It looks like Notre Dame but has some local flavour. The gargoyles are local animals like slothes, puma and anteaters. The Condor is the one set highest as it represents the Inca god as well. Ironically the local aboriginals who built it were then not allowed in. So they built an even nicer one next door, with more gold. 5 tons of it we were told.
Here is the Cathederal
Here is the inside of the church next door built for the locals by the locals:
We visited the local tourist trap for gifts but at least this one is a collective for local artisans. It is built in the old Inca tunnels that were used to hide from enemies.
As well we saw the Presidential house and the Independance Square:
Lots of locals were hanging about because it’s Sunday. The roads around the main square are closed off to traffic and a few markets pop up. The photo below taken from the square looking up at El Panecillo (Bread Loaf Hill). The rest of the week the locals go to the mall locally referred to as the Three B’s – Bueno, Bonita y Barato. Which stands for Good, Nice and Cheap. 😜
At one point Ecuador had over 300 currencies. One smart group of farmers got together and formed the farmers bank and from there they had one official currency. Until just before 1999 when 25 000%!!! Inflation became rampant and they ditched it for USD. So now the building below is a museum.
El Panecillo (Bread Loaf Hill) – there was an Incan temple to the sun at the top which was destroyed by the Spanish. Now home to the Virgin of the Apocalypse statue – a madonna image on top of a globe stepping on a snake. Made of over 5000 pieces of aluminum. She is proudly 10meters taller than the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Jianero 41M vs 31M. Nobody is competing right?
From here it was off the Intinan museum at the equator.
This is a bit of a tourist trap, but hey, we’re tourists and how often do you get to play on the actual equator? Llamas as greeters.
This is an Ecuadorian sundial. It was close to noon so the line is almost vertical. We didn’t throw shadows either at noon. Cool stuff.
You get the opportunity to balance eggs on a nail which is supposed to be possible only at the equator. I’m not so patient it seems. I failed.
But Kris was one of 3 that day that could. She got a certificate of proof too!
There is a of course an opportunity to view (and buy) some local handicrafts. We’ve learned the best way to help the locals is to spend. So we did. Rosalita is a local aboriginal woman who spins wool into thread by hand.
Around the corner is where they thought the equator was in the 1700’s (before GPS). They were off by 400′. Not bad in my books given the tools they had to work with. We snapped a quick photo of that monument as well as the UNASUR building. Its the South American EU lite ;). Very weird but cool looking building regardless.
From there we were hungry and Andrew knew of a place with excellent empanadas. He was dead right, the chicken ones were incredible. Fried plantains and flour stuffed with chicken, egg and some lettuce/cabbage and carrot. So yummy. Two each was enough for lunch.
We saw the local graffiti in Quito. It is legal only on certain walls, and as you can see, some are incredibly artistic.
From there we attempted to get some mobile wifi access but Claro wasn’t having it. Andrew has a contact, Oscar, that met us after dinner to sort it out. We bought a cheap Samsung phone that will do hotspot work and we’ll activate it tomorrow. I kind of feel like a drug dealer having some guy come to the hotel to sell me a local cel phone. Or maybe a spy. Spy is better.
As we often do, we look for a local market to buy bottled water and other stuff. We paid $0.67 for a 2L of water. Oh and we found some local craft beer on the shelf. So we had to try that too. Latitude 0 00. Great marketing, made me buy it. And very good to boot.
The biggest star fruit we’ve ever seen. All produce is local except kiwis apparently.
Across the street is a really cool building with a living wall. They have some very forward thinking architecture here. Vancouver could learn a thing or two.
After a nice rest at the hotel we had a very tasty dinner at Lo Nuestros around the corner. Local specialties. The portions are insanely huge. Neither Kris nor I finished our plates. It will be an early bedtime tonight so we can start again bright and early tomorrow.