|Buenos días, Quito!|
After stepping out of the immigration, we were picked up by our driver, who was holding up a sign with my name, whom we had pre-booked through the hotel we were staying at in Quito. We reached about an hour later and hit the bed.
|Basílica del Voto Nacional, Quito|
|Presidential Palace at Plaza grande|
capital city in the world, after La Paz in Bolivia, and the first city to be listed on the UNESCO cultural and heritage sites, Quito has a feel of a small Spanish colonial town, but also has some great modern architecture which represents the post-colonial progress.
The old town Quito is a nice mix of great Spanish colonial, and modern Ecuadorian architecture. You can spend 3 hours or 3 days exploring the various monuments and plazas of this wonderful city. Some of the places we visited were the Campaña de Jesús church, the plaza grande where the presidential palace, Cathedral of Quito and the municipality of Quito are located. Our next stop was the San Francisco church and the corresponding plaza. We ended the tour at the near by plaza and had lunch. The Ecuadorian cuisine is a little on the blander side for my taste, and the banana is an integral ingredient in almost all dishes that they serve.
|The Telefériqo in Quito|
|Inside the Cotopaxi National Park|
|The Cotopaxi Volcano|
|Our lunch after the hike|
The hike was followed by a little cycling along the dirt road that lead back. Exhausted, we returned on our journey back to Quito but made a stop for lunch at the same place we had had our breakfast. The lunch consisted of potato soup as a starter, followed by grilled chicken with purple cabbage and chips on the side, and ended with a sweet dish make out of bananas. We reached Quito at around 5 pm and rested a little, before going out for dinner.
|El Pailon del Diablo|
|On the way to Pailon del Diablo|
|Manto de la novia waterfall|
|Tungurahua spitting out ash|
amazing. Owing to the fact that the whole area is somewhat humid but in a pleasant way, you might get drenched.
There are two routes to get there a longer one that takes you behind the waterfall, and a shorter one that takes you above the waterfall, but you can still walk to the waterfall.
|Dugout canoe ride inside the Amazon!|
|Hola vida watefall|
tiny towns like Shell, named after the oil company, who did some digging here back in the day.
Petroleum is an important export for Ecuador, but a dip in the oil prices have had a negative impact on the country's economy and an increase in local taxes.
After a few minutes we stopped by a place which had some of the biggest fish I've seen. The above video shows our guide feeding them little fish nuggets. Fortunately, these giants don't have teeth, hence they do not pose any threat to humans.
Next, we stopped for dugout canoe ride in the river Puyo, inside the Amazon! The half an hour ride with the river's current was a wonderful, memorable experience.
|Maeto: Lunch in the Amazon!|
After lunch, we relaxed for a little bit and headed back to Baños, but stopped by at an indigenous village for short time. The village people here lead a simple lifestyle, making some pottery and handicrafts for a living. Their staple food, is plantains and other fruits that are easily obtained near by. After sometime we headed back, picking up dinner on the way, since we were too tired to head back out after the day we had had. By the time we reached the hotel, it was 6 in the evening.
|View from the tree house|
|The swing at La casa del arbol|
Day 5 (La casa del arbol, Baños): Before heading back to Quito, we had our taxi driver take us to La casa del arbol (Tree house), which is famous for it's swing. La Casa del Arbol is simply a small house built in a tree used for observing Mt. Tungurahua, the active volcano in the near distance. The crude swing hanging from one of the tree's branches has no harness, net, or any other safety feature. Adventurous visitors are welcome to take a ride on the swinging seat, with nothing but a fabric belt to hold you in place. The actual swing is not over a cliff, but over a steep hill. After our little adventure, we took the taxi back to Quito along the scenic mountainous terrain, stopping on the way for some lunch and sugarcane juice (yum!).
|From the top of the monument|
|The equatorial monument|
The monument is also surrounded by restaurants, which gives it a little commercial feel. The UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) headquarters is located just next to the monument.
There're also several art museums honoring the French expedition that came here to learn about the equator.
This brought to an end a wonderful week, in the most geographically diverse country I've been to. It's hard to believe that after spending about a week in the country, which is smaller than Kansas, we'd only explored about one-fourth of the attractions. I urge you explore this beautiful country, including the Galapagos islands, if you have time. It really is a life changing experience!
What businesses did we use?
Hotel: Casa CarpeDM (Quito) and La casa verde (Baños)
Tours: Quito free walking tour ($50 private tour), CarpeDM adventures for Cotopaxi tour and Oswaldo, a private guide hired through La Casa Verde for the Amazon jungle day trip.
Travel: United Airlines and San Francisco Bus for Quito to Baños one way trip