Panecillo Hill topped with a state of Quito's Winged Virgin.
Quito. The capital of Ecuador at 9,200 ft. It's full name is San Francisco de Quito. Tina and I had two short visits there. While deciding how much time to spend there, I went through a struggle that I always have when visiting a country. Lots of people say that you have to visit this city to see this cultural thing or that. However, I usually prefer the rural and undeveloped areas. In the end, through the necessity of flying out of Quito, we spent a morning, an afternoon, and two nights there.
Parque La Alameda (Alameda Park).
The Basilica Church from the Secret Garden hostel balcony.
When we first arrived, we immediately went to the hotel and didn't explore. The next morning we walked from New Town to the hostel, Secret Garden Quito, to catch a ride to Cotopaxi. On the way, we cut across a couple beautiful parks that I almost got stuck in. I just wanted to roll in the grass on a beautiful day, but we had places to be. The hostel's balcony had the best view of the city that we saw. We had to wait for our ride, so we took a quick stroll around Old Town. Old Town was filled with the hustle and bustle of commerce and government. We dodged cars on narrow streets and narrower sidewalks while taking in the wonderful scenery. Say what you want about colonialism, but they left behind some beautiful buildings.
Typical colonial buildings in Old Town Quito.
Old Town, Quito.
To get on the public buses, you pay to enter these little enclosed sidewalk stops. Then, the bus will stop in front of them and let you on. This would have been a good stop to wait at because there was a band playing in front of the blue building and you could buy ice cream from out of that guy's bucket backpack.
On our second visit to Quito, we strolled around Old Town again trying to find a specific flea market. It gave a little purpose to our wandering as we asked person after person about where to go. We definitely had a more thorough wander around on the second try. We passed more old buildings. We found a couple schools and churches. We even found a mall.
The 500 year old Cathedral Church of Quito.
The Government Palace.
More old buildings and an Indian (Asian-Indian) boutique.
I'm not really sure what my impressions of Quito were. I liked walking around. The colonial governmental buildings didn't seem to fit with everything we had see in the rural areas. I'm sure the exact same could be said about the marble buildings in Washington DC compared to rural Virginia. They sold motorcycles in their appliance shops. Traffic was often horrendous. The roads were narrow and one way so if one truck stopped for a delivery, everyone else waited and honked. The buses seemed like a good way to go. They often had their own lanes and I wouldn't want to be the pedestrian who got to close to one of those lanes. Take a step off the sidewalk and you would have been close enough to get knocked down by a mirror.
A number of appliance shops were selling TV, stereos, washing machines, and motorcycles.
The Monastery of San Francisco.
El Panecillo towering over Old Town.
On our last night, we headed back to New Town to eat. We saw a side of it that we completely missed in our previous visit. There were cool hostels, hip bars, dance clubs, and higher end restaurants. This stuff might have been in Old Town too, but we didn't see it. Old Town didn't seem to be as trendy. If you were looking for a big night out, I think New Town is where you'd go. After a great meal, a super weird desert of tree tomato in something gooey, and a long night's sleep, it was time to leave Ecuador.
Quail and chicken eggs at the grocery store.
New Town, Quito.
I had a great time in Ecuador. I was surprised to see and enjoy so much in such a short time. On the other hand, there was a number of times that I was wishing that I was traveling on my bicycle and moving slower. I'd definitely like to go back to visit the Galapagos Islands. I didn't go this time because it was pretty expensive. I've been spending for months without a job lined up, but now that I really close to being in one place, I am reluctant to spend a lot without an income.
A small statue of a lion in Old Town.
I love that the Ecuadorian take on Catholicism doesn't need to be represented with expensive materials (though their churches are pretty ornate). They were happy to create this nativity creche with rubber duckies and other things that could easily be children's toys.
The world's game, soccer, can be played anywhere. I can't imagine how far downhill the ball goes if you miss the goal.
Originally, the idea to visit South America was to round out my 7th continent of the year. I was pretty sure when I threw the idea up on Facebook that it was a shallow goal and that I would only go if it was cheap. However, Tina took the bait and decided we should head to Ecuador. She was super excited about it so we were off. As it turned out when I got here, there was no moment of elation over the hard work that went into completing a goal. It had never really been the goal of my travels. It was just a tag on at the end of a year of adventures. Even though I was not overjoyed about the 7th continent, I was still excited about being in Ecuador. On the other hand, I recently realized that I biked on all 7 continents while I was traveling this year and that did make me smile.