Quito

We said goodbye to Joanne in Lima, she’s heading home, and flew to Ecuador. We arrived mid-day at a brand new airport, with instructions to put the TP in the toilet (a change from Peru). The ride from the airport took about 45 minutes, longer than it takes me to get to SFO. For the most part, the roads looked newly paved, though we saw unfinished bridges along the way. Quito is the biggest city we’ve been in, about 2 million inhabitants, stretched out between an active volcano and a mountain. We stayed in the old town; to the north is the middle and upper class, to the south, the poor.

Our hotel room was the nicest we’ve had yet – a spacious triple corner room overlooking Santo Domingo cathedral. We were chastised for hanging our laundry on the balcony (the laundry service at our hotel is much more costly than in Peru, even more than at home). We walked over to the main plaza, saw a crowd enjoying street theater (again I wished I was fluent in Spanish), shared a yummy meal, and retired early.

The next day we took a half-day Quito “Reality Tour”. This took most of the day and left us exhausted. Our first stop was a hilltop with a statue of the Virgin Mary with wings. An impressive monument and view, though less so on this overcast morning.

For our tour of a large local market, our guide parked his car quite a ways away, to prevent it from getting broken into. We were warned to put away our cameras and jewelry and then headed uphill on foot. Nancy was still struggling; we’re over 9000′ (one of the highest capitals in the world). The market was teeming with activity with everything imaginable for sale – stolen cell phones (I didn’t see mine) and other electronics, used shoes and clothing, shrink wrapped furniture carried on the shoulders of strong young men to waiting pick-ups, more produce than I’ve ever seen in one location, roasting pig heads, and much more. I was disturbed to see many live animals confined to small cages – guinea pigs, chickens, rabbits, puppies, kittens. It was a relief to leave this crowded place.

On our walk back down, we visited a candy shop that has been in operation for over a century. Everything I tried was very sweet. We briefly walked through La Ronda, a upscale area full of restaurants, and sampled chocolates. While our guide retrieved his car, we found a small cafe and enjoyed beers and a platter of snacks (popcorn, crunchy corn kernels, and dried banana), all for about $5 (sometimes it pays to get away from tourist areas).

Our tour continued with a drive north to Museo Guayasamin. I was very impressed with this communist’s depiction of human suffering; his work was amazing (and, for a communist, he lived in a surprisingly large well-decorated house).

We had our guide drop us off at the mall where I bought a small waterproof camera (incorrectly being assured that the charger was included). We also visited the only large supermarket we’ve seen and purchased food for dinner – crackers, cheese, refried beans, olives, yogurt, bananas, wine, and more chocolate. We stayed in all evening, repacking our bags and catching up on email, getting ready for an electronic-free week in the Galapagos.

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