Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quito -- The Capital of So Much

Arriving in Quito at midnight, I arranged for a pick-up at the airport for an extra $5.00, given that I am travelling sola this time. Ah, South America! I am so thrilled to be back, this time to explore Ecuador. Landing at the airport at once felt so familiar yet not. Discoveries and experiences were spread out before me, from the superb Andes to the cloud forests to the Pacific Coast to the Amazon. Hola Ecuador!

Quito is spectacularly located high in the Andes at 2,850m. The airport is a 40 minute cab ride from El Centro, the area of Quito I chose to stay in (this area is referred to as "the old town" by travellers.) It is the colonial part of the city containing fine architecture celebrated in the government buildings, numerous churches and cultural centres. And, as in other well designed cities, there is a grand square in the centre where people congregate, families eat ice cream together, flowers bloom, street merchants sell their wares and you can get your shoes shinned.

In addition to the many fascinating museums and cultural centres to visit, Quito offers a unique sky tram (the teleférico) that zips you up to 4,100m for a spectacular view of the city's mountainous landscape -- if you catch a clear day, that is. I arrived to cloud cover, as I was told I would, but cared not for I was at the top of Cruz Loma.

On a Monday, I happened upon the weekly changing of the guard at the Palacio del Gobierno. It was quite the spectacle complete with a marching band, guards on beautifully decorated horses, and rows of seated school children decked out in their crisp uniforms as part of the ceremony. The president, Rafael Correa, together with the vice-president, Jorge Moreno, presided over the crowds of office workers stepping out for the occasion, residents, school children and tourists alike. My heart swooned hearing the Ecuadorians sing their rousing national anthem.
The president, Rafael Correa, and the vice-president, Jorge Moreno, waved to the crowd gathered in the Plaza Grande. The flag was raised as part of the ceremony.

Nothing drab about the ceremonial dress of the guards and horses alike.
As one would gather, Quito is one of the main transportation hubs, with many flights around the country passing through it. Quito also has two bus stations, one at the north and one at the south, each serving the respective parts of the country. To travel to Mindo, next up on my meanderings, I needed to go to the northern bus station. No problem, I thought, I will take a cab. (Cabs are inexpensive, although I did not need to take many because of where my accommodation, Hostal Minka, was located.) When I flagged down the only female cab driver I had seen, she told me that, no, I did not want to take a cab because it would be too expensive. Take the bus, she said, as she gestured "that way." So off I went "that way" and after more directions from police officers (of which there are many patrolling the streets), I found myself standing on a bus platform ready for my 25 cent ride. You go far for your money on a bus! I do truly love taking local buses because you see so much of the place and get to take in citizens' regular day -- and be part of it. With seven minutes to spare, I boarded the bus for Mindo. I did not know then that I would be so enchanted by this town in the cloud forest.

1 comment:

  1. I can just see it now. Your descriptions are awesome. Let the road greet you and take you on many adventures!

    Be safe,