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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

I think we’re going to Ecu-adore it here

ECUADOR | Wednesday, 11 August 2010 | Views [2311] | Comments [1]

We arrived at the Ecuador border town of Macara where, with the heat and humidity, we could have been fooled in to thinking that we had somehow been transported back to South East Asia. Despite the sticky bus journey the change in weather was something that we had been looking forward too, not least as it will mean that subsequent photos will involve me wearing something other than my green fleece!

Loja

Our first experience of Ecuadorian life was in the southern provincial capital of Loja which is famous for its cuisine. Thankfully the city’s signature dish, Cuy (Guinea Pig) is only widely available on Sundays, so we were able to stick to more traditional local fare, such as Tamales, Humitas and Empanadas.

Strolling around the city it was nice to find a central square named something other than Plaza de Armas and we also stumbled across some great murals of Bolivar and Sucre. However, it was from the lookouts of the castle like gate to the city that we received the best views of the Venezuelan liberators of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia and their native Venezuela.

 

Loja was a nice staring point for Ecuador, but it wasn’t long before we moved on to...

Cuenca

Cuenca is a city in southern Ecuador today known mainly for its colonial architecture. However, the people of Cuenca would rather they were known for their traditional local hat, the Montecristi. In the 1800’s the Spanish liked the sombrero de paja toquilla (Toquilla straw hat) so much they started to export them back to Spain via Panama. Workers on the Panama Canal started to wear the hats as they were light and durable and protected them from the sun, and thus the Panama Hat was born. To make things worse for the people of Cuenca, today in order to sell their Monticristi they have to brand them as Panama hats to help them sell!

There is no danger of going hungry in Cuenca or the region as every morning in the towns and villages you pass people roasting pigs on spits and by lunch time the whole pig is laid out on a slab in the market for a pork lunch that can feed hundreds.

The city’s architecture is stunning but we didn’t spend as much time exploring the city as we could have done, as most things were only open for a half day on Saturday and closed for the rest of the weekend. As our next destination was another colonial city that is said to rival Cuenca for its beautiful buildings we decided to push on so as not to get too ‘colonialised’.

 

Quito

The Capital is divided into a New Town, Mariscal known to the locals as ‘gringolandia’ due to the amount of tourists that roam the streets and the amount of establishments that cater to their every need, and the Old Town with its beautiful, yes you’ve guessed it "colonial" architecture. However, it was here that we decided to base ourselves to see Quitos historic sites. On our first venture out to the main square the Plaza Grande we bumped into the Ecuadorian President, his full entourage and adoring public before we managed to escape the crowds to the more tranquil Plaza de San Francisco.

Much like with Cristo Redentor in Rio when walking around the Old Town your eyes are drawn towards a statue that adorns the skyline, that of the La Virgin de Quito.

So we decided to head up El Panecillo that lies behind the ‘Pueblo Viejo’ to get a closer look at the Virgin Mary herself.

From the summit you get an idea of the sprawling nature of Quito which lies between two 400km volcanic mountain ranges, but rather than building up the sides of the valley like in La Paz it has remained along the valley floor which makes it a very long and narrow city, which can take a long time to traverse in local transport!

 

My favourite attraction in the capital is probably the Gothic Basilica Del Voto Nacional, which rather than being adorned with the usual gargoyles has been decorated with local animals such as iguanas, turtles and ducks. Within the Basilica there are also some rickety walkways and steep climbs that take you into its towers, which also provide views of the Old Town.

 

However, despite all of the historic attractions the main reason for heading to Quito was to finalize our plans with regards to the Galapagos Islands. Heading to Quito we had 3 options and our minds changed almost daily as to which we would do. Our options were to sign up on a yacht tour, see the islands independently or skip them altogether. We had researched endlessly online and weren’t getting any nearer to making a decision and hoped heading to the hoards of travel agencies in gringolandia would help us decide what to do, so that we could enjoy our time in the rest of the country. It soon became apparent that signing up on a boat tour would cost the equivalent of 2 to 3 months travel elsewhere and seeing the islands independently although viable would only allow us to scratch the surface of what the islands have to offer and if you can’t do something right then why bother at all. So we narrowed the field down to a choice of the boat tour or this being the closest we would get to the Galapagos.

 

In the end we decided......

Until next time

Ryan & Jo

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/

Tags: colonial towns, cuenca, loja, panama hats, quito

 

Comments

1

and I thought Hanoied was a good pun.....

  dodd da nob Aug 26, 2010 7:01 AM

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