To continue on with our adventures in Quito, Ecuador:
On Thursday March 22 we had a free day to explore the City of Quito. It turned out that it was also the same day that all of the indigenous Ecuadorians from the South decided that it would be a good time to stage a demonstration at the presidential buildings (3 blocks from our hotel) to protest the opening of new mines Ecuador. It made for a very exciting day in town! Luckily it was a peaceful protest, so other than traffic issues and insane crowds it was no big deal and we could still go explore the city.
We took a cab to the “old town” section of the city with the intent of doing a self-guided walking tour of the colonial churches and buildings. Unfortunately, due to the protest we could access some areas of the town, but we still got a good view of the area. We ended up at the Basilica del Voto, which was absolutely amazing. It was of gothic architecture and instead of gargoyles they had aardvarks, pelicans and iguanas surrounding the building. We paid the $2 entrance fee and agreed it was the best $2 we’ve ever spent. .
After seeing the sanctuary you get to climb up to the top of the watch tower spire as well as to the top of the clock/bell town. And it’s not just a bunch of stairs that you climb, there are full on catwalks, spiral stair cases and crazy ladders to get you to the top. The views from the top are incredible! After the Basilica we walked back to through the old town and back to our hotel and that afternoon we went to a museum, “Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana” to learn a bit about Ecuador’s history and culture
On Friday March 23, we went to Cotopaxi National park to explore the Cotopaxi Volcano. The trip started with a drive along the Pan-American Highway through an area called the “Avenue of Volcanoes”. Unfortunately it was cloudy, so you couldn’t fully see all the volcanoes, but there were 5 or 6 that we drove past on the way to Cotopaxi. Once we got to the park we drove for about 25km up a 4x4 road until we reached a high plateau.
We stopped at a visitor center where we drank some cocoa tea which is supposed to help with dealing with the elevation. Our next stop was the top parking lot at 4500m EL. From there our hike began; we hiked up a loose scree trail to a refugio at the edge of the glacier. It was only a 900m long hike with 300m of elevation, but it felt super hard with being at such a high elevation. It took us about 25min to get to the Refuge, the last 5 min through a hail storm.
Once we got there, at 4810m EL., the highest elevation I’ve ever been to, we enjoyed some snacks and hot chocolate before heading back down. The hike down was great, it only took 10min due to awesome scree surfing! We lucked out and had a break in the clouds once we reached the bottom and had some great views of the spectacular glacier covered volcano before heading out of the park and to our 400 year old hacienda, “Hosteria la Cienega” to spend the night.
The Hacienda was beautiful with flowers and humming birds everywhere and great, old buildings to check out. Our room even had a wood burning fire place! We spent the evening enjoying a nice dinner and relaxing in the gardens by our room.
The next morning we had a sleep in (after a not so great night where a rain storm sent buckets of water down the inside walls of our room!) and a great breakfast at the Hacienda. Fredy picked us up after breakfast, dropped us off back in Quito and we spent the day meeting the people we are going travel with for the next few days and preparing for next adventure in the Galapagos!
Click Here for Cotopaxi Pics
Click Here for Quito Pics