For many holiday makers their visit to Ecuador is for one main reason, to visit the beauty and nature of the Galapagos. There are far too many warnings about all the bad things that could happen to you and the crime in Ecuador. I guess the Ecuadorian government take tourism really seriously, after all it’s a major income for the country aside of exporting bananas, oil and high grade cocoa. Despite the “Its not safe” warnings, many Americans retire here with easy opportunities to buy property, they have free access to healthcare and it’s all conducted in the US Dollar, which is Ecuador’s currency.
As the Evans couldn’t afford a trip to the Galapagos, we had only factored in 2 weeks travelling time for the county, unfortunately this was a big mistake as we loved it and would certainly want to return. Our trip took us from scorching hot Guayaquil on the coast, to charming Cuenca in the Andes, to the cosmpolitan capital of Quito and our last stop, a wet and muddy but wonderful weekend in the cloud forest of Mindo in the north.
Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America, but it has the greatest biodiversity in the world. There are 4 regions: the lush steamy Amazon rainforest on the east, the highland Andes running straight through the centre, the Pacific coastal expanses and the Galapagos archipelago, made famous by a certain Mr Darwin! Only 5 hours east of Quito there are still ancient communities that live isolated from the rest of the world and free from all modern conveniences.
Quito certainly surprised us with its incredible colonial centre, its high end Quicentro Shopping Centre (yay, I bought new pants!) and a variety of cultural neighborhoods. The capital city is huge, but as it is built up and down over a dense series of volcano tops and mountain ravines it seems far more compact that it actually is with its 2.6 million Quitenos who live there. Cotopaxi the worlds highest active volcano is just 3 hours away, although it wasn’t visible the whole time we were there! Quito is the second highest capital city in the world at 9,350 feet. So once again we felt the effects of altitude, but we were well adjusted after a good 6 weeks living above 8000ft, we’re like Mountain goats now!
Our fantastic modern Airbnb apartment was located near to Plaza Foch in the Mariscal area. This is the main entertainment and tourist district full of bars, restaurants of all cuisines and nightlife. We even found a delicious plate of Mexican Tacos Al Pastor in the city.
The old colonial town of Quito is fanastic, full of culture with plenty of museums, artensenial markets and beautifully preserved ornate churches are everywhere, exactly what you would expect from a UNESCO World Heritage City. The street of the Seven Crosses is one of the orginal Hispanic roads that runs from the former Incan Temple of the Sun to the Temple of the Moon. Dating back to the Spanish conquest, religious parades are still taken very seriously. The Cucurochos walk barefoot during the Holy Week processions. They wear purple robes and pointed hoods that cover their face and heads in supplication. Each step carrying huge religious statues represents their penitence and road to divine forgiveness. Purple clad figurines are sold in the markets, we did overhear Americans calling them cute little KKK dolls!!
At La Plaza de la Independencia there are four buildings that represent the ruling powers of the colonial period; the Government Palace with its colourful ‘Trumpton’ style soldiers on guard, the Municipal Palace, the Archbishops Palace and the main Cathedral with its gothic arches, baroque altar and Moorish ceilings..I’ve dragged Mr E into that many South American Cathedrals, I’m now a nerdy expert on the architecture!
In this main square, we watched people get their shoes cleaned, read newspapers and
buy fruit while listening to a local band toot out merry tunes. I got to fuss over a gorgeous fluffy working police dog while the friendly policeman took my photo!
Quito is known to have four seasons in one day – it can start our foggy, turn sunny, cloudy and then become totally chilly by nightfall! But due to its location on the equator it only has a winter and summer season. Our visit was just full of clouds, fog and grey skies, my rubbish photos of the city were totally missing light.
On a sunny, clear day I’m sure the panoramic views are spectacular. We decided not to venture up the Cable car El teleferico to view the active volcano Pinchincha as the mountain top was permanently covered in cloud. Even at the Mirador de la Virgin de el Panecillo our views were really hazy. This attractive monument made up of thousands of aluminium pieces looks down over the city. But the clouds certainly didn’t stop us enjoying our time in this busy city, we liked it!
Next up – taking the public bus to the Middle of the World.