Cool Quito and Beautiful Baños

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Cool Quito and Beautiful Baños
Cool Quito and Beautiful Baños, Ecuador

Cool Quito and Beautiful Baños, Ecuador


J here … I have been delegated this entry. I left San Cristobal on Tuesday 28th on my own as Caroline was on Isla Isabela, it was very sad driving through the main town for the last time with no one to talk to on the back of the taxi. The flight was painless and my first glimpse of Quito from the airplane window was just as we suddenly dropped out of the cloud and turbulence and hugged a huge mountain on the approach over the city. Every flat area is covered with buildings, and all around the cloud hides the surrounding hills. A beautiful location at 2800 meters for a capital city. The climate immediately dropped from what I was used but and the air felt the same as at sea level. Taxi drivers are a nightmare in Quito so you have to be firm and have some idea how much you should pay. My first evening it started to rain and I was in heaven to be cold for a change rather than hot. The food options were so confusing after the Galapagos restaurants for 3 months … all excellent food for 4-5 USD for a main. The main gringo area called “La Mariscal” is loaded with bars , restaurants , cheap fast internet and international calling places (to the UK for 9c or 5pence a minute !). The restaurant quality compares to Argentina (but without the wine) and as I was on my own I could choose seafood, steak or what ever I wanted. But after a week the choice didn`t make up for eating alone or with people I met that day or the night before. Quito is a long narrow city from North to south, and there are 3 main tourist attractions that stand out. “La mitad del mundo” or equator line is about 20km further north out of Quito, the Teleferico ride up to 4200 meters to enjoy the view of Quito and the Old Town and view from “Panecillo” of the old town. I went on the Teleferico on the opening day July 2nd and it was very crowded, but a safe french installation. The ride up just keeps going and going and it is surprising how long it is. From the top there are amazing views right across Quito and it`s mountains. The equator line was also nice to see … the last one I saw was on my Africa trip in Gabon. This was a bit more substantial than a line across the road in Gabon. There is a huge monument with a 4.5m diameter globe on top that houses information on the indigenous tribes of Ecuador. There is also a little city with restaurants and shops, all with gringo prices. Little did I know that 1 block away is another unofficial site of the equator, so I have only just been today (2 weeks later) after meeting Caroline back in Quito. This site claims to be the equator line as determined by GPS, and the main monument 200m away was not on the proper line. When they show you the water in the basin trick I would tend to agree. By moving the basin literally 2 meters from the line to the north and south the water does actually drain anti-clockwise in the Northern hemisphere, clockwise in the southern and on the line it drains with no circular motion. You can also balance an egg on a nail. So I believe it is the real line and I don`t know why they built the huge monument in the wrong place ?? Maybe for the tourist dollars ?? The old town is gorgeous, but very dangerous at night. The Sunday I visited there was a violin concerto and an amazing atmosphere. The architecture is all colonial and the streets are laid out in a grid system. There are a few lovely leafy plazas surrounded by brightly colored colonial buildings and 15th Century churches, it is reminiscent of Spain or Italy. From wherever you are there is a view of a very odd statue of the Virgin Mary (she has eagle`s wings, a crown of stars and a dragon..) on top of a hill or “Panecillo”, similar but much smaller than the Rio statue. It is reputedly too dangerous to walk up the hill so a 30 min taxi ride is worth the amazing view over the old town, the buildings and churches and plazas. It was a shame to leave Quito, but I noticed that the altitude gave me a very dry mouth and throat every night while sleeping and I regularly got bleeding noses for no reason. Flying in from sea level was OK but the first few days I was tired and had a little headache. Everyone is effected differently. I tried to arrange a climb of Cotopaxi but every company wanted a minimum of 2 people and I had to find that second person or pay double wack. So I decided to cycle down from 4500m rather than climb up to 5800m. The view of Cotopaxi was amazing (see photo) .. it stood out above the cloud like a proud soldier. The cycle down from above cloud level was fantastic. Maybe my best day trip so far. The climate changed as you descended, the vegetation changed, and the effort v enjoyment was high because you could just sit on the bike and try not to fall off. Some parts were very steep and the gravel made it hard to steer and stop. We then cycled about 15km out of the national park. I was then dropped on the Pan Americana highway to flag down a bus to Latacunga (there are no official bus stops, you can get on and off where you like, a good system but the drivers go around each little town soliciting more people so you go no-where fast). Latacunga is a small traditional market town with lovely Chinese restaurants, and the best base to visit the bigger and famous Siquisili Market each Thursday. This market was my first experience in the continent and was a little different to African markets. There were an abundance of fruit and vege´s where in Africa you fight for them. The animals I would have to say are treated worse because in Africa the Muslim traditions are very strong for animal welfare and animal killing. I saw a local eating house with a large queue of people and a conveyor belt of baby Guiney Pigs (the local delicacy) for the cooking pot but a “tini wini tiny” kitten was in the queue ! I thought by error, he hadn`t been recognised, but after saying in Spanish that he wasn`t a Guiney Pig and seeing no reaction I walked away saying loudly “you all like eating cats”. Hopefully that caused an uproar but I was out of there. Everything is for sale, dogs, pigs and the upsetting thing is that none of the animals looked like pets. But the market was an experience not to be missed. And no matter how hungry you get I didn`t see one gringo eating there. Caroline wasn`t with me but I would like to see her re-action. At this point it was 10 days apart for us, the first period in 8 months and I was starting to really get lonely not having a buddy to talk to and share with. I don`t know how I made 1 year in Africa, sometimes Caroline and I don`t know how we made 8 months together 24/7 as it is testing. But I had a week of freedom left so it was off to Baños .. the premium holiday resort for Ecuador (apparently more popular for Ecuadorians than Galapagos). Baños is in a stunning setting with huge hills on all sides and built on a flat precipice near a river and right in the middle of a major valley or artery for active Mount Tungurahua. The FCO website recommends not to go to Banos due to volcanic Activity. The town was evacuated in 2000 and recently the activity has settled at a lower level but apparently it is still possible to see streams of ash and smoke on a clear day. It has thermal hot pools which are a major attraction, and the minerals are good for you but the browny color makes you think otherwise. I went rafting again on grade 2´s (claimed as grade 3-4!) but a really enjoyable day and I met a group of others that we hooked up for the trekking and cycling. There is excellent trekking up to the Cross on the hill which is illuminated at night time, along with horse ridding and quad biking, and cycling right down the valley 61km out of the cordillera range to the Orient town of Puyo. It is lovely safe town with a nice mix of locals and gringos. I had agreed with Caroline to come back to Quito to meet her and show her around Quito as she was just recovering from Salmonella after a week of misdiagnosis. Now we are happily back together after 18 days solo in Quito and she is seeing the Quito sites with a guide (me) and making the most of the food and restaurants and the cold ! It was a different experience travelling alone, more press
ure to drink and mix with a much younger crowd (teen gap years). I was glad I met some cool people on the rafting trip in their late 20´s and early 30´s. Perhaps the best things about travelling alone is that you get to speak and practice a lot more spanish. so until next time .. caio


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