Years ago we met some Ecuadorians when we visited Lima, Peru. They extolled the beauty and sights of Ecuador and that we should tour Ecuador.
They were right.
Dave and I loved Quito. The high altitude (9,350′) made for wonderful weather and it is the second highest capital city in the world. It was sunny and high 70’s during the day dropping to 60’s at night. The Old City retains its Colonial Spanish influence through its architecture and street layout and was one of the first UNESCO sites established. City Fathers (and Mothers) maintain the streets and buildings and second floor balconies are lined with planters with colorful geraniums. No bugs either. Quito lies in a valley that stretches north and south surrounded on all sides by the towering Andes.
One day we visited the Basilica del Vota Nacional (National Vow) which is the largest neo-Gothic Basilica in the Americas. But it wasn’t its size, architecture, gargoyles or altar that amazed us (although these aspects were impressive) – it was the stunning finely-executed stained glass windows. Each was a work of art. Most had a religious theme but approximately 20% were generic. All the religious ones had the same glass framework, but every scene’s theme, highlights and floral edges were different. The windows were approximately 15′ high but the individual glass panes were small (3-4″) and intricately pieced together. By now we have seen many churches, chapels, cathedrals and basilicas but this one was by far the most impressive. (Even if not heavily-adorned with gold.)
Another day we took the Teleférico (góndola) up the western slopes out of Quito up to the flanks of Cerro Guagua Pichincha and Volcán Pichincha. After a 20 minute ride we arrived at 12,943′. We were just getting used to Quito’s elevation too. Needless to say, Dave and I didn’t do any hiking or much walking at that elevation.
Gorgeous views of Quito and the Andes to east and south of Quito were highlights at the top. Cerro Cayambe (18,996′) with its snow-capped peak kept peaking in and out of clouds. But we never could see the Volcán Cotopaxi’s peak (19,334′) at all because it stayed in clouds. (On our day driving into Quito Cotopaxi was clear and the day we left.) Cotopaxi is the second highest summit in Ecuador. And it is active – smoke and ash were bellowing out on southern flank facing away from Quito while we were in Quito.
An unexpected side to Quito was the cuisine. Even restaurants we stumbled across were serving fine cuisine; similar to a Chez Panise or other restaurants serving ‘California Cuisine’ but at half the price.
Other days were spent catching up on errands like finding a dentist for semi-annual cleaning, a medical clinic to get our prescriptions refilled, truck’s oil changed and regularly scheduled maintenance done, finding replacement sunglasses, getting stamps to mail postcards home and lunching with another Overlander couple we ‘met’ through Facebook who are our age and are basically traveling the same route as us. However after leaving native Australia, they toured Alaska and parts of the US before heading to Mexico and Central America so they have been on the road approximately a year longer than we have been.
One of our tasks was to find out about going to the Galapagos – one of our Bucket List items. We knew most people take cruises around the Islands but we didn’t want to do that since Dave is so susceptible to sea sickness. So we opted to do a land-based visit instead. But that entailed arranging 2 long-distance flights to and from different islands, 2 inter-island flights and three hotel accommodations on three different islands. And making arrangements to leave the ‘Green Hornet’ truck and camper in a secure place.
But we did it. And here we are. Our Galapagos adventures will be posted later.