Colonial beauty

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Thursday, October 31, 2013

Quito is an interesting city, nestled between mountains it sprawls for miles along the valley, but from wherever you are you can see the cloud covered hills either side giving the sense of it being somehow smaller than it actually is. Most impressive is the beautifully restored  historic town centre, easily the best example of Spanish colonial architecture either of us have ever seen, not just in South America but anywhere- including Spain!
 
The large basilica, sitting on a raised area in the middle of it all, is visible from all around and most interestingly to us had famous Ecuadorian animals protruding from its buttresses rather than more traditional gargoyles (think tortoises, bears, iguanas and even whales).
 
This beautiful centre feels very safe and almost European, but the incredibly high number of armed security guards and armed police on every corner suggests otherwise. Like many places it seems they are trying to hide the true income inequality that exists across the country.
 
After relaxing here for a couple of days we took a day trip out into the northern mountains to Otavalo, where we were promised a fantastic local crafts market bustling with life. In reality it was all the same tourist tat, what a shame! Though all was not lost, the views of the Andes here were spectacular, and we did find an abstract painting of local women which we both loved and haggled down to what we could afford, as well as take a trip to a bird park to see Condors (we've been looking for these magnificent, enormous vultures across the Andes and finally gave up trying to see them in the wild. Even captive they are hugely impressive and more than a little scary).
 
We didn't have much time in Ecuador altogether before going to Guatemala to meet people through Bob's work (more on this later) so, keen to follow up on recommendations of people we meet, we jumped on a bus to Banos the next morning to explore a little of the lower valleys to the East and South of the country.
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