Quito and Basílica del Voto Nacional
On Saturday after our Galapagos adventure, we went shopping for groceries in order to save some money for the rest of our days in Quito following our big splurge in the Galapagos. We also stopped by a Farmacia to pick up some nasal decongestant, as Gerrod seemed to be getting a cold or something of that nature. We then headed down to the Basílica del Voto Nacional, a beautiful church in downtown Quito, to climb the tower and get a great view of the city. The church has been under construction for over 100 years, and according to the free walking tour we took in Quito prior to our Galapagos cruise, there is a popular belief saying that the day on which the Basilica is finished the world will end. The stairs to the top of the tower were very steep, and despite some scaffolding, the view of the city was stunning. We then walked from there to Calle La Ronda to see if we could go to the chocolate shop, but it was closed. With the disappointing discovery behind us we went to get lunch near were a gun was pulled on us not but a week ago. Before heading home we went by a local community/cultural center called Cumandá Urban Park. It had some interesting scenery complete with art exhibits, gym equipment, a pool, a rooftop herb garden, and a karate tournament.
On Sunday, we had an early morning waking up at 6 am to catch the bus from Q restaurant in Plaza Foch. After hopping on the bus and picking up other people on the tour, we headed out to the Pan American highway. Along the highway there was a beautiful volcano, and Gerrod asked me if I though it was Cotopaxi, and I insisted it wasn’t. Approximately 6.47 seconds later our guide announced that we were taking a quick stop to take pictures of a very beautiful and visible Cotopaxi. Oops, sorry Gerrod. Next we headed for Pujili marketplace, a Ecuadorian market where we wandered around and bought some mini bananas (cute!) for less than 1 US dollar. We then hopped back on the bus and headed to a local native highland family that only really spoke Quechua. We learned a little about their lifestyle, food (potatoes and beans mostly), and the hut itself, and we donated the bananas we bought as a thanks for the visit. Next we headed for Quilotoa! We started from the top of the rim and hiked down into the caldera and sat by the lake, which now fills what used to be the active caldera before it collapsed in on itself, to eat some snacks. Then we started the trek back to the top. It was really tough to hike back up due to the altitude, and it had a much worse effect on me this time compared to Cotopaxi. After eating lunch, we headed back to our hostel in Quito. At our hostel, we met a Finnish guy who had just finished hiking around the entire rim of Quilotoa and had been traveling for 5 years straight. His thoughts on Finland and most of Scandinavia were very similar to that of another Finnish guy Gerrod met in Japan; there is nothing to do there.
Changing of the Guard and Chocolate
On Monday, we headed out to Plaza Grande to go see the changing of the the guard at the presidential palace. The changing of the guards started promptly at 11am with kind of depressing almost oppressive marching band music. There were many protesters and tourists throughout Plaza Grande for the event, and we even saw a guy get kicked out by the riot police. We then went back to the chocolate shop, Chez Tiff, and it was open! Chez Tiff is an artisanal chocolatier, and we got to taste many different chocolates and even bought a few. Although we initially misunderstood the person working the cash register, we eventually figured out how to get a lecture on the history of cocoa beans and chocolate. Although the presentation was in Spanish, it was very informative, and we got to taste a raw chocolate bean, which was very fruity! In the evening, we relaxed in our hostel and stayed up with the guy from Finland until 2am!
Quito Botanical Gardens
On Tuesday, we slept in following our late night, and decided to go to the Quito Botanical Gardens, which were only about half an hour walk north of the hostel. There are several parks throughout Quito, and we got to walk through Carolina Park on our way to the gardens. The botanical gardens cost us $3.50 each, but it was well worth the money. The gardens were massive and had many different exhibits and quite a bit of wildlife throughout. They had a very impressive exhibit on native orchids in Ecuador, and I got to practice my macro photography skills. There was even a Japanese garden and bonsai trees! I am so happy to have my cameras back!
Quito to Lima
On our last day in Quito, we checked out of the hostel and left our stuff in the lobby while we visited Contemporary Art Center of Quito (Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Quito) to kill some time until we had to leave. The art center is free, and had quite a few exhibits. I like art, but they had some pretty alternative art exhibits and all of the tags were in Spanish. I kept using Google translate in an attempt to properly interpret the art, but for some of the pieces it didn’t help much.
We had a smooth Uber ride to the Quito airport and then got to hang in a VIP lounge prior to our flight to Lima thanks to our travel credit card.
There is still a lot to see in Ecuador, and maybe one day we can return!
Lauren (and Gerrod)