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Irene's Adventures

Ecuador - Quito

ECUADOR | Friday, 27 December 2013 | Views [599]

We only had a few hours in Quito, so this is short. Overall, definitely a city to return to and explore further.


After 24 hours of traveling, we finally arrived in Quito at about midnight. We didn't arrive at the Secret Garden Hostel until 2:00AM. They were waiting and ready for us, which was really nice. We were put on the 4th floor into a basic room with double bed. The bathroom and shower were shared, but clean.


We slept in until about 10:00AM, then had to finalize our tours with CarpeDM. Paul, whom we had been dealing with, had been absolutely awesome. However, he was on a tour and would not be back until 17:00. We decided to venture out for a late lunch and see what we could of Quito in a few brief hours.


We wandered to Plaza de San Blas then turned left onto Guayaquil, looking for the restaurant that someone at CarpeDM had recommended. We found it, but it was closed, so we settled for a little diner that had fast food, but good food. We then continued up the street in the direction of El Panicillo hill, a 200-metre-high hill located between southern and central Quito. Its peak is at an elevation of 3,016 metres above sea level. Clearly visible at the top of the hill is a 45-metre-tall monument of a Madonna. It is made of seven thousand pieces of aluminum. The taxi driver had pointed it out the previous night, as it was all lit up for Christmas, and very beautiful. We contemplated taking a taxi up there to have a closer look, but the 17:00 appointment with the tour agency had us hesitant to wander too far from the office.

El Panecillo hill with statue of the Madonna

We wandered into Plaza de Santo Domingo, with its statue of Antonio Jose de Sucre, where there was a street concert going on. There were a few food and trinkets vendors where we found some homemade maize frito. Yummy!! There was also a long bike rack filled with Public Bicycles. There are about 425 bikes at 21 stations which allow you to pick up a bike from a one station and return it to any another station, all strategically located in places near the busiest points, attractions or commercial interest. Very smart and very Eco-friendly.

Plaza de Santo Domingo   Public bicycles

We stumbled upon Plaza de la Independencia, the principal and central public square of Quito, and the monument to Heroes de la Independecia There were some street performers getting the crowd involved in something that was taking far too long to hold our interest and two preachers waving their Bibles and shouting in that combination of volume, tone and something else that I can’t quite put my finger on that was undeniably the Preacher Voice. It would have been interesting to truly understand the language to know what they were saying to hold such a captive audience. Everyone seemed to have an ice cream and there were no shortage of vendors selling it. Did I mention it was about 36C? We sat on a cement flower bed edge, in the shade, for a few moments, taking in the atmosphere, before heading on.

 Heros de la Independecia

We wandered up the street to the Basillica del Voto Nacional, where we ran into Maria and Ursula, whom we met on the airplane from Houston to Quito. They were just walking out as we arrived. We were in a large entry which looked like a foyer and it took us a minute to realize we were in the catacombs, which had a library feel to it. All the crypts were perfect boxes in what looked like bookshelves. Off to the right was a large iron gate which lead into the long corridor with off-shoot alleys filled to the ceiling with crypts. At the very end was a circular chamber with a lovely table/alter surrounded by more crypts. I believe this was where the remains of the heads of state are contained. Then around the corner was a chapel with stairs with a locked iron gate leading up to the main nave of the Basilica. Some of the crypts were very plain, with only the deceased name and dates. Others were amazingly ornate. It was a bit creepy to see the empty chambers, awaiting a new loved one like a gapping mouth.

 crypt   crypt

We had to exit the catacombs and go around the corner to enter the Basilica. There was a tiled courtyard with stairs leading up to the next street that reminded me of the step wells in India. The front of the Gothic style building was breathtaking. The two frontal towers are 115 meters high. There are three pitched arched entryways with a heart shaped window over the middle entry. There is a massive stained glass window above the central arch, also.

Basilica del Voto Nacional   Basilica del Voto Nacional

We went in and bought our $2 ticket which allowed us to to into the towers. On the next level we got to see the large stained glass window up close. It had to be about 5 meters across. The sun was shining through and it dazzled with brilliance. Directly across from the window was the railing where we could look down into the chapel. There were huge stained glass windows above every archway along the nave as well as surrounding the high alter at the far end. The Basilica is 140 meters long, 35 meters wide and 30 meters high, so it has a very elongated appearance.

 Basilica window  Basilica del Voto Nacional

We continued up more stairs to what was the original roof now covered with steel sheeting. Along the original roof was a wooden walkway to take you to the tower at the far end of the Basilica. We had to crawl up a ladder to take us to the base of the tower, where we had to crawl up a couple more ladders which brought us into the interior of the tower. We had a 360 degree birds-eye-view of Quito. One interesting thing we saw was a basketball court on an apartment building rooftop – complete with bleachers. We were also able to scope out the shortest path back to our hostel from up there.

Basilica del Voto Nacional - old roof   

We carried on up more stairs to a spiral staircase that took us into the clock tower. None of the clocks seemed to work, but that was beside the point; it was still interesting to be inside the clock tower. We continued up the spiral staircase higher into one of towers. It was from this point that we got a good panoramic picture of Quito, including El Panicillo hill.


On our way back down we stopped in a small coffee/gift shop and had a drink with Maria and Ursula, who we bumped into again. Then it was back to the hostel to finalize the tour arrangements with Paul. We ended the evening having a nice dinner of calzones and meeting new friends, Jace and Mesa Spring.


Off to Lago Agrio and the Amazon......


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