Friday, November 6, 2015

Breathless Day Touching The Sky.....In Ecuador

The next morning was bright and sunny which seemed like the perfect time climb the Pichincha Volcano to 15,696 feet.  How we chose to do so was with the help of a cable car which is Spanish is called a "telefèrico." Our taxi dropped us nearby and we had to hoof it up a long hill to buy our tickets. The cable car whisked us from 10,000 feet up to 13,451 feet in a matter of about ten minutes. Even the slightest amount of exertion caused us to become slightly breathless and we had to take it easy.  Clyde and I walked around climbing partially up the trails to the top.  Quickly we were both breathing hard with little exertion since the air was thin and oxygen was minimal.  The trails to the top of the volcano could be tackled by foot or horse since there were some for rent. But since Clyde was already experiencing a slight headache, a sign of altitude sickness we opted for safety and didn't venture out too far.

We're Going Up There?

Heading Up On Cable Car

Those Squiggly Bars Are To Take Bikes Up
For Riding Down

Baby It's Gonna Be Cold Up There!

I'm Not Drunk Just A Bad Picture

Posing Near The Top

On Our Way Down We Caught Some Pics Of Cyclists Going Down
Clyde And Some Llamas On Top
This Is A Mother, Father And Baby 

But it was on our way back down in the cable car that we were alone with no other passengers. Perhaps had enough togetherness and were getting on each others nerves? Perhaps Clyde was tired of me and decided to jump out of the cable car at 13,000 feet?  Or just maybe I'd had enough of him and decided to give him a bit of a push? Or maybe the reality of it all is that there was a photo shop at the top that was making cutsy photos for the tourists?  Yes it's the later that's true!  We had this photo made for just $4. It was done against a green screen with me standing on a stool and Clyde lying on the floor propped up on his elbow. Then he was made to lift his leg and arm so I could hang onto him as if I were trying to save him from falling to his death. Afterwards the girl carefully edited out all of the green from the background before adding a new background of our choice. No we aren't tired of each and get along wonderfully wherever we are and are looking for more adventures in the future.

Here's The Proof That I Saved His Life.....Maybe?
View Of Volcano In Background

Back in the city we went out exploring as this was our last full day in Quito.  First stop was at the Presidential palace to see if we could get in. The next tour wasn't until 5:30 and since we needed to get to a hotel near the airport for an early flight out the next day, we had to pass. Instead we took a taxi over to La Basilica for our next adventure.

Heading To The Church Towers
The Streets Were All Uphill And We Were Tired Before We Got There

La Basilica allows tourists to climb 375 feet to the top of its clock towers, but this climb is not for the faint of heart.  We paid our $2 each and began our trek up the first set of stairs which were rather easy.  We came upon a platform thinking the worst was over when we noticed a rickety, wooden suspension bridge.  It spanned over the large arches of the basilica which were nothing more than a deep pit of concrete.  It did have some ropes to be used as handrails and wasn't as bad as we thought it would be. In front of us was the first ladder we'd have to climb up to the next level.  The ladder went straight up to a tiny platform which led to more ladders of the same kind. Eventually we made our way to the top which offered up a 360 degree view of Quito in all its splendor. But now we had to make our way back down the step at a time.

Yep We're Going Up There!

Looking Down Into The Church

Another View

Wobbly, Wooden Bridge To Cross
See The Tiny Ladder At The End

Going Up

We Made It!!!

What.....More Stairs? There's Another Tower Over There

And Another View From The Top

Large Stained Glass Window

Large Organ

After leaving the basilica we were tired but pumped that we'd made the climb after already tackling some thin mountain air and hiking.  Since it was way after lunch time we managed to find a place that was still serving.  A tiny hole in the wall family run restaurant offered soup, a hamburger with salad and rice for just $2.00. For some reason the women thought we only ordered one meal which worked out being fine.  Clyde ate the soup with some of my rice while I ate the burger patty which was served without bread, and the salad.  Alongside we were served a bowl of "canchas" similar to corn nuts. They are a special type of corn that's toasted and to me they tasted like burnt popcorn.  But Clyde liked them and even took the leftovers in the plastic bowl to go.

Lunch....Bowl Of Toasted Corn Nuts

The Menu Of The Day Sign
Sopita Colada de Haba con Tostado
Segundo Amburgesa, Jugo $2.00

Toasted Corn Nuts

Since we had just a few hours left to explore the city we opted to pay $4 each to check out a local church.  The Church of the Society of Jesus, (Iglesia de La Compañia de Jesus) is one of the best known churches in Quito.  A Jesuit church most famous for being covered entirely in gold on the inside is a breathtaking spectacle of Baroque architecture.  While I was against paying to enter a church I'm glad we did.  It was worth seeing this magnificent, opulent building completely covered in gold leaf.  On our walking tour our guide explained that Ecuador become world known for its technique of gold leaf before it was commonly used. The church took 160 years to complete and is to this day rather expensive to maintain and that's why they charge for admission.  We were absolutely forbidden to take photos inside but I managed to borrow some from the internet to be shown here.

Iglesia de Compañia de Jesus Catholic Church

Inside......All That Glitters IS Gold!

Just Amazing!

Everything Is Covered In Gold! 
Then we stopped into the tourist information center and Clyde asked the girl what was the best museum in the city to visit?  She suggested the Museo de la Ciudad which used to be a hospital. Founded in 1998 it was once San Juan de Dios Hospital and featured various collections including some old hospital equipment. But once again no photos were permitted and there was not much to borrow from the internet either. I also think by this time we'd had enough of picture taking and were just looking to relax.
Puppies For Sale On The Street

Museum Of The City

Since we had an early flight in the morning back to Panama and the airport is about an hour outside of Quito, our plan was to settle in for the night in a hotel nearby the airport. Clyde had made reservations and we jumped into a taxi for the ride.  The taxi driver immediately knew where the hotel was but insisted that it was NOT near the airport.  With that in mind Clyde phoned a friend for advice on another airport hotel.  Our friend John called to make reservations for us in a family run hotel.....B&B sort of place.  Located in the town of Tababela, Hosteria San Carlos was a lovely surprise just a few miles from the airport.  Immediately I felt like I was at home with cozy rooms and a warm welcome. The hotel was situated on a large piece of land with beautiful trees, chirping birds and silence from the hustle and bustle of big city life. 
Outside Our Room

View From Balcony

Outdoor Patio

Dining Room

We enjoyed a home cooked meal in their dining room sitting in front of a nicely decorated Christmas tree.  The meal consisted of soup, grilled chicken, rice, mashed potatoes, green beans with carrots, fresh juice and a scoop of ice cream for dessert. We retired in luxury for the night with plenty of blankets on a soft, fluffy mattress after taking hot showers.  The cost for this luxury in Tababela, Ecuador was $70 not including the price of the meal that was around $7 each. The next morning they drove us to the airport bright and early where we waited patiently for our flight back to sea level. 
Sunset Over Tababela, Ecuador

Our trip to Ecuador was just wonderful filled with excitement, new friends, and reaching new heights in the Andes Mountains.  Perhaps if it was just a tiny bit warmer we might go back again to stay?  So many countries to visit, with plenty more on the horizons as we explore this wonderful world of ours.....along the gringo trail.,_Ecuador)

Straddling The Equator At The Middle Of The World.......In Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador sits at close to 10,000 feet above sea level which makes it the highest capital city in the world.  Add to that the hilly terrain that covers much of Quito as well as most of Ecuador and it makes for a great workout.

We joined several other gringos for breakfast in the little dining room of the hostel. Since space was lacking we invited ourselves to sit with two gringo ladies traveling together.  Soon another couple entered the room who were visiting from Oregon.  Our menu for the morning was scrambled eggs, sliced cheese, croissants, juice and coffee.

Our plan for the morning was to take a FREE walking tour around the city and invited several of the other gringos to join us.  Several blocks away was a place called Community Hostel where we had to go to meet our walking group. Our guide was a young man with a difficult name so it was shortened to OB or OP?

                                                            Our Walking Group In Quito
                                       Our Guide OB                                                     

Our large group headed down the street for several blocks where he took us through a traditional market. Like so many other markets we'd seen in Ecuador this was much of the same.  Produce, handicrafts, other food items, and plenty of places to eat too.  Since this was Monday we would be treated to a special event that happens every week.

The Changing Of The Guard At The Presidential Palace

Every Monday in Quito at 11am the Presidential Palace comes alive with pomp and circumstance as the changing of the guard takes place. Dressed in bright blue uniforms with gold embellishments and tall hats, the guards look like something out of a fairy tale.  Perched high above the plaza hundreds of them stand erect at attention waiting for their shift to end so that they can go home. These special guards are hand picked from the military and serve for one week at a time guarding the palace.  The current President of Ecuador Rafael Correa has chosen NOT to live at the palace since several other presidents have been killed in front of the building. So while we didn't see the president we did see the parade of guards some on horseback, military, orchestra and color guards process in and around the plaza.  The flag of Ecuador is raised while the national anthem is played and sung by the locals who stand and salute.  It was a grand spectacle to behold and something on my must see list of things to see!  But I did however forget about it so it was just perfect that we chose to do the walking tour on a Monday and happened to catch a viewing of this. And as chance would have it an acquaintance in Panama posted on social media that she was in Quito a few weeks prior to our visit and found this walking tour.  Thankfully she mentioned it online and we were able to take advantage of it. Our group included people from Canada, US, Japan, Australia, Holland, and Germany just to name a few.
The Presidential palace is owned by the people of Ecuador and therefore is OPEN to the public for tours.  We did try to catch a tour of the palace on our last day in Quito but it was too late for us to attend so we had to pass.

Those Tiny Little Things Are Guards

Entering On Horseback With Police Protection
A Better View

Notice The Military Behind The Guards
Aren't They Cute!
Raising The Flag As The Band Played
 The National Anthem Of Ecuador

Our guide spent about three hours walking us around the city pointing out many interesting things. We parted ways with OB around 1:30 just in time for some lunch.  Ecuador is known for having a menu of the day for lunch which is called, "almorzar," or lunch. Typically these meals have a set price of $2.00 to $3.50 and include soup, juice, rice, potatoes and some type of meat. Ours this day had chicken soup with rice, grilled chicken with rice and French fries since Ecuadorians apparently love double carbs.  It also included a salad with avocado and juice.  Since they were celebrating Day of the Dead we were given a special drink called, "colada morada.," This is a purple thick corn drink made with fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple and sweetened with cane sugar called panela. It's served warm and usually alongside bread in the shape of children, another way to remember those that have passed on.

Around The Hood

Local Women.....Is She Going To A Pajama Party?
No Walmarts In Ecuador So She Can't Be Going There

Another Church

The Art School Of Quito Made These Statues
Real Blood Was Mixed With Paint For A More Realistic And Lasting Look

Crypt Under The Church Is Only Opened One Day A Year
And We Just Happened To Be There On That Day
Day Of The Dead

More Views Of Church

Golden Touches

Local People

Stopped At A Candy Store

Strange Sculpture

At 2:30 we headed back over to Community Hostel where we met up with a smaller group for our next journey.  Since Ecuador in Spanish means "equator" a visit to Medio del Mundo, or Middle of the World was a MUST.
We Made It To The Equator
Standing On The Equator....Middle Of The World

A rather nice van bussed seven of us to the town which bears the same name.  There we met up with our local guide that would show us around.  Here we stood on the belly of the earth, the bulge or equator, which is closer to the sun that any other point in the world. At 00°-00"Latitude we were able to straddle the equator and learn about some unusual happening that occur only here. I remember hearing about how water flows in one direction in the northern hemisphere and the other way in the southern, but was that really true?

Straddling The Equator.....How Cool Is This!

The English Side Of The Sign
I Have One Foot In The Southern Hemisphere And One Foot In The Northern Hemisphere

With a sink, a plug and a bucket of water our guide demonstrated water draining on one side of the equator, then moved it to the other side.  On either side it DID drain in opposite directions and finally ON the equator the water ran straight down the drain. Then he showed us how he could balance an egg on its end and challenged everyone in the group to try. It still wasn't easy and only one women in the group was able to do so and was awarded a certificate for her accomplishments.


Balance is supposedly also effected at the equator and we were all challenged to walk a straight line with our eyes closed.  Whether at the equator or anywhere else in the world it was a challenge for me.
But it was VERY COOL to straddle the equator line and stand at the middle of the world in Ecuador!

Trying To Balance An Egg On The Equator

Trying To Walk A Straight Line.....Not Even Close

We were dropped off back in Quito around 5pm and made a quick stop back at our hostel before heading out for the evening. One stop along our walking tour was an area of the city called, "La Ronda."  Considered to be the Bohemian section of the city we headed over there for a closer look. While it didn't feel Bohemian to me it was a small touristy strip of restaurants and shops geared toward tourists.  Many of the food places features typical Ecuadorian food with loud music too.  After walking around we settled in a quieter restaurant where we ordered a fried fish meal.  What we received were six breaded balls of fish alongside a few fries and a salad for $5.50. With it we enjoyed some coffee and watched the people go by.

"La Ronda"......Dressed Up For Tourists

This Creepy Guy Kept Calling Me Over

More Costumes

A Night Photo
Fried Fish Balls, Rice, Fries And Salad
Ecuadorians LOVE Carbs And Sugar

Because we ate lightly we had room to enjoy one of the famous foods of the city called, "empanadas de viento."  This humongous version of an empanada is filled with cheese and sprinkled with a generous dosing of sugar.  To me it was more like a Mexican buñelo that we'd buy in Texas which was a fried tortilla sprinkled with sugar, only a much larger version. This large sucker set us back $5 and was so huge that the two of us didn't even finish the whole thing.

This Sucker Was Bigger Than A Large Pizza
A Little Fried Dough Anyone?

After stuffing our bellies with fried stuff we headed up and down the hills as we made our way back to the hostel.  It was another enjoyable but tiring day of exploring Quito, Ecuador......along the gringo trail.