Friday, March 30, 2012

Ecuador - Part II

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

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Mt Rainier from the Plane

Hello from Quito, Ecuador! Mike and I have been in Ecuador for 6 days now and have been having a great time. We left Vancouver on Monday March 19 and after 14 hrs of travelling, arrived in Quito, Ecuador.  The airport was fast and efficient and our tour guide from G Adventures, Fredy, picked us up at the airport and checked us into the Hilton Colon Hotel  in the Mariscal area of Quito (also known as “Gringolandia”).

On our first full day in Ecuador we went on a tour with Fredy to the Papallacta Hot Springs. It took about 2 hours of driving to the North of Quito to get there and on the way we got to explore some of the smaller towns near Quito. On the way to the hot springs we had to pass through the highlands at an elevation of 4200m EL.
Hot Springs

The hot springs were located in the town of Papallacta in the highlands of Ecuador at 3300m EL. We spent a couple hours relaxing and swimming in the numerous pools in the area, all with different temperatures. Some of the pool had small waterfalls and the area was surrounded by jungles and wild flowers. The craziest pools were the cold plunge pools that we were supposed to jump in between the hot pools. So Cold! After the hot springs we enjoyed a lunch of grilled trout and carne asade at a small Ecuadorian restaurant  in Papallacta before making our way back to Quito. 
That night we tried some Shrimp Ceviche for dinner and then had to spend some time sorting out our apparently non-existent reservation at the hotel. But luckily after getting in touch with GAP our hotel and itinerary was all sorted out.

The next day we found a great little bakery for breakfast and then Fredy took us to the equator line where we got to straddle the line, take some pics and learn about the Equator and about how the indigenous people of Ecuador discovered it hundreds of years ago.  We also learned about how the Ecuadorian volcanoes line up with the Equator. Very cool!

Equator Line

After the Equator we headed to the town of Otavalo where we explored the market and went for lunch.  After we left the market we drove through the country side of Otavalo where we ended up trapped in a traffic jam due to the President being in town! It was insane! Once the traffic started moving we joined up with the Pan-American highway (which goes all the way to Alaska!) and headed back to Quito.

Otavalo Market

Stay tuned for stories of our  next few days in Ecuador….

Click here for Equator Pics

Click here for Hot Spring Pics
Otavalo Countyside