Quito - Quite a city!
Trip Start Feb 02, 2013
41Trip End Mar 25, 2013
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Here is another place I have been to that I had never heard of previously. And now I am asking myself - How could I not have heard of this fantastic place before now...? And I hear my Mum explain that I was always a bit crap at geography anyhow...
What a great place! We spent the afternoon after we arrived simply wandering the streets. What we found was this amazing city that is surrounded by mountains - some of them volcanos. I think the city is a little like Cairns in that it is surrounded by mountains, only these are mountains on testosterone!!! It went from warm to freezing in that one afternoon but luckily we had been warned so we were prepared in the wardrobe department.
Helen and I found a cafe on a square and stopped for a coffee and a piece of chocolate cake. We just watched this totally different world go by. The police love to use their sirens, a stop sign is a sort of arbitrary concept, $10 will get you a fantastic meal, there is no "work place health and safety" requirements, the footpaths are an adventure in their own rights, there are no clear give-way rules except that he with the biggest set of balls will get to merge, and that people live amazing lives in places we can only dream about.
Julie stayed in the room so Helen and I went to a traditional Ecuadorian food restaurant called Mumma Corinda's. There I feasted on the best chicken soup I have ever eaten and had a bite of cuy. You have to try the local delicacy - so, my apologies to Grog and Whiskey, and the rest of the family, but I can see why you are considered a delicacy! I have now eaten guineapig!
The following day we were collected by Florianna, our personal guide to Quito, and we found out about the rich history of this area. They have the verbal history going back thousands of years and the some of the stories are fabulous. There are many Catholic churches and we visited some amazing places. The history is something that is not so apparent in our day-to-day lives in Australia. Here it is in the architecture, as well as in the environment and in the faces of the people I encounter as I wander about.
We hear about the sculpture of the winged Madonna and see her elegance watching over the Colonial area of the city. We visit a cathedral that had an arts school attached hundreds of years ago and therefore has an enormous collection of artwork with the expected theme, we saw church organs and walls thick with gold leaf, we saw the newly re-elected President overseeing the changing of the guard at the Palace, we saw unbelievable bargains for tailored suits (none of which were going to fit into my bursting suitcases), we saw Gothic architecture (my favourite) as well as shacks and dilapidated dwellings. Overriding the sense of hustle and bustle there is a feeling of safety, although apparently some of their pickpockets are at a world standard.
After we were returned to our hotel, we wandered through the local craft markets. The wares are aimed at tourists and the clothes and fabrics are gorgeous. Oh, but for (once again) suitcase size, I would have bought many things. I consoled myself with a fridge magnet... For me the most wonderful aspect of those markets were the faces of the stall holders and their beautiful children playing as we walked through.
Off again,this time with our new guide, Juan. As if being over 3000 meters above a level is not enough, Quito also boasts a cable car that takes you another 1500 meters higher. I could feell the thinness of the air as we wandered paths at the end station. It is only some of the way up to the top of the dormant vulcano that towers above the city. Quito is in a long valley that runs east west, so when wandering the streets below you can always orient yourself by this peak.
The final activity of e day involved water, drainpipes, eggs, balance and a misplaced monument. We went to the Quitian village that is situated where the earliest civilisations in these parts built their temples lined up precisely with the two equinoxes - what we call the equator. We balanced eggs on nail heads, watched water drain three ways out of a sink, learned that it is totally tricky to balance while walking on the equator line eyes closed (truly), and that the local Indians had more intimate knowledge of the area than the French. The French built a tower at what they had calculated as Latitude 0'0'0 and it is a couple of hundred meters from the spot our GPSs now identify. And, you probably guessed, exactly where the locals have always identified with a temple. It is amazing but you become a couple of pound lighter when standing on the line!!
Dinner was back at Mumma Corinda's and now it brings to mind the old adage regarding letting good enough alone. We were a bit disappointed with our meals... Such is life.