The Middle of the World
11.05.2010 - 14.05.2010 20 °C
Here we go again!
We managed to make it to Quito even with the looming threat of the ash cloud! Everything seemed to be going smoothly until we got on the plane at Heathrow only to be told we´d have to wait for 2 hours before we could leave due to volcanic ash. This would have meant missing our connecting flight from Madrid to Quito but luckily we only had to wait 50 mins and we arrived in Madrid just in time to board our connecting flight, phew!
First impressions of Quito was that it was a lot like Spain just further from home! It´s a really high city at over 2,000m and we´d been warned that we might have to take it easy for the first few days to acclimatise to the altitude. We tested whether the altitude had affected us by spending our first day climbing pretty much anything we could find! After tackling a few hills, stairs and ladders we came to the conclusion that we´d be fine! We spent the morning looking round the local Basilica climbing stairs, walking across a wooden plank and then ascending some precarious ladders all the way up into the spires for stunning views over the city. Then we headed into the main part of the old town to look around another cathedral and try some traditional Ecuadorian snacks for lunch. The old part of town is really beautiful with lots of spanish style buildings and leafy plazas with locals walking round selling everything from ice creams to brooms! After lunch we took a tour of the Monastery of Santa Catalina which is a 400 year old convent and monastery where the 20 resident nuns live in small and basic cell style rooms and are only allowed 1 hour a day to talk to each other. Takes dedication to a whole new level! The nuns also sell various natural products and elixirs but you have to buy them through a revolving door which keeps the nuns hidden.
On our second day we took a trip on the second highest cablecar in the world, 2.5km up the side of Volcano Pinchincha. It was a good thing neither of us are really afraid of hights as it was dizzyingly high at over 4,000m. We saw some great views over Quito and noticed that we were above some of the aeroplanes coming in and out of the city! In the afternoon we tried our first "almuerzos" which is a traditional set lunch in Ecuador which generally costs less than $2 and is usually some fresh local juice, a potato soup and a massive plate of chicken rice and vegetables!
Our last day was spent in a town around 2 hours from Quito called Otavalo which is famed for its traditional markets selling alpaca wool scarves, balnkets, ponchos etc. It was a bit of an effort to get to and the weekday market was only small, but it was nice to see all the local produce even if we did only end up coming home with a bag full of fruit! The trip also gave us an excuse to cross the equator by bus, as although only 2 hours away, Otavalo is in the Northern Hemisphere and Quito in the Southern Hemisphere!