Reaching new heights in Quito

quito airportWe arrived back to Quito airport again after our adventure in the Amazon – this time we had planned a 3 night 2 day stop in this high altitude city. We checked into our downtown Quito apartment late on Tuesday night. Our airbnb host met us in the lobby and spent a few minutes showing us around the apartment and complex. Most importantly, he showed us the free laundry with washing machine and drier on the rooftop. It was a pretty nice place, with a very functional kitchen too. Straight across the road was a large mall with a supermarket. As it was closing within an hour, that was the first place we headed after we were fully checked in. We bought enough to cover breakfasts and dinner for our short stay. By then it was definitely bedtime. The next morning, we got on top of our washing and chilled in the apartment. Then around midday we went across the road to the mall and had sushi for lunch. Also across the road was a large park (Parque la Carolina) and the botanical gardens (Jardin Botanico de Quito). We wandered across to the park and then saw a gate into the garden …so we strolled in and were at once immersed into the many beautiful gardens. We didn’t realise how big the gardens were… we’d spent almost an hour there when we came across what suspiciously looked like an entrance gate with a ticket booth. After walking around a bit further, we realised that the gate we had walked through had been a maintenance entry -whoops!

After exiting through the correct gate, we found ourselves in the beautiful park grounds. We came across a water park which had small paddle boats for hire (only $4.90 for half an hour). So we paddled around the man-made canals through the fountains. After about 20 minutes, we’d had enough.

We made our own dinner in our apartment and had an early night. The next morning we set out on foot to explore the old town of Quito. “The historic center of Quito has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas and was one of the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO in 1978” (Wikipedia). It was about 5kms away from our accommodation, but we found the walk very interesting. We passed many different buildings and people along the way.

The first place we came to was the Basilica of the National Vow. Walking up the hill to this grand building we could see people climbing way up the steeple. We paid the $2 entry fee each and went inside. The cathedral was stunning with large stain glass windows and many statues inside. We timed it perfectly as the priest began Mass. We then ventured out into the courtyards around the church where we found a small cafe, so we had our lunch there.

We paid the $2 fee each to get access to the church towers. The stairs were numerous (there was an elevator option) but the view worth it. Just when I thought we’d reached the top we found an entrance that went through to the cavity above the church ceiling and under the roof tiles. There was a very scary looking wooden boardwalk going along the ridge of the roof. My fear of heights was definitely challenged walking along here and the creaking wooden planks did not help the situation. But oh no… it did not end here… on the other side was a rather steep ladder to climb. With some apprehension I made the climb up this ladder which emerged above the church rooftop. From here the heights were dizzying (for me quite literally) …

…and then I realised there were still 2 more levels of those steep ladders to climb! Here I decided to let Kadin have the honour of getting the last photos from the very top of the Basilica…

We carefully made our descent from the building. I must mention there were many other anxious looking climbers along the way. It was a pretty good feeling when we’d made it back down to the bottom and then incredible when craning our necks up to see the height of our climb. Next, we followed the street downhill into the historic old town centre. We spent over an hour wandering around the streets admiring the architecture and people watching. You really didn’t need to spend money here even though every woman, man and child were willing to sell you almost anything. We did find a really delicious cake shop and treated ourselves to a piece each with a bottle of water (the total bill reaching $4.70).

We then embarked on the 5km return walk to our accommodation. Of course, we could have paid for a taxi but walking the streets of Quito was quite interesting for us and a good way to finish our visit to this city. Our morning flight to the Galapagos the next morning treated us to more amazing landscapes…

Have fun at work!

Gemma

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