Ecuador and Galapagos: Part One - Quito
We have been back from Ecuador for one week now and the laundry is done, we've stocked back up on food and are slowly putting away the travel memorablia. It also Christmas time - so we are preparing for a rode trip to the midwest to see family that we haven't seen in almost 3 years now.
What can I say about Ecuador? We planned the trip really at the last minute after deciding not to go to Solvenia or the Carribean. So we didn't do a lot of planning and didn't know what too expect at all.
It turned out to be like three different trips. We started in Quito, the capital city and did what we usually do in cities - a lot of walking and exploring. Quito is an expansive city, nestled into the valley between several volcanoes - active and dormant - and at 9300 ft above sea-level it is the second highest capital city in the world. I was concerned that I would be affected by the altitude, but I really didn't notice any difference. The old town area is very hilly and stairs (I mean BIG stairs) are everywhere. We stayed in a studio apartment that was lovingly restored in a 500 year old building near Old Town. What we was was a struggling lummox of a city, coping to get back on its feet from the pandemic.
The metro hadn't opened yet - being years behind schedule - the traffic was horrendous and smog permeated the already thin air at this altitude. Add to this a pickpocket problem. We didn't lose anything but noted that zippers on our packs had been opened. This gave us an uneasy feeling for the rest of our time in the city.
After a day of exploring on our own, we decided to go on a private tour of the area around Quito as there is no easy way to go places on crowded public transportation. The full day tour was by private car with an English speaking guide. He was delightful and we learned a lot about Ecuador and Quito. We went to the obiligtory tourist sights like the "Middle of Earth" - the point at Latitude 0'0" as determined by GPS. Now a kitchy tourist attraction, the spot requires that you take a photo and a guide gives you a brief explanation of geography and surveying science. Then a stop at a dormant volcano that is home to a farming community on the edge of the city and up to 11,000 ft by gondola to the top of Pichincha Volcano. The view is spectacular and you can walk higher to swing in a swing near the top. From here you can really see the sprall of this city.
Our last day in the city we decided to walk to the new part of town, an area where most of the big tourist hotel chains can be found. In the center of this area is a huge urban park - Park La Carolina - one of several in the city. It houses the botanical garden, several sports fields, and lovely walks. Unfortunately when we were there it was raining all afternoon so we were not able to enjoy it. It was, however, a safer feeling place than the old town area, though we didn't let our guard down.
After four nights we hired an Uber to take us to our next adventure in Ecuador - Chilcabamba Lodge at the foot of Cotopaxi Volcano, near the National Park.