4 hrs @ Cuenca a'port, Quito views from up high

Monday, December 26, 2011
Quito, Ecuador
Alarm set for 5.45 am, breakfast at 6 am and at 6.45 am the rest of the Tucan group departed by taxis for the bus station and their border crossing into Peru. Farewells but for most … “see you in Cusco” which I hope to do when our travelling paths cross again and I can hear about their Peru and Inca Trail experiences.

Dirk and I were transferred to the airport for a scheduled 8.30 am departure. The plane eventually left at 11.30 am for the 30 minute flight to Quito. During the 4 hour wait and with the airport wifi, at least got my blog text right up to date.

On request, I had a right hand window 17F to look over the avenue of volcanoes with Cotopaxi towering above the puffy white clouds at 5,897 metres and behind it was Antisana at 5,758 m.

Again it was fine as we descended between the city buildings on either side of us into Quito airport and our pre-arranged transfer service to the hostal had been waiting for those 3 extra long hours.

With a scheduled 9 am arrival, I had planned in my mind to do Old City today, an all day tour to Cotopaxi tomorrow and on my return from the Galapagos Island later was to enjoy for the day before leaving for Lima the 4 star facilities of Hotel Quito situated up high in the hill suburb of Guapulo, relaxing and probably uploading my photos etc as there will be no internet on board the boat. Lets see if that happens?

A few minutes to see if a travel agency in the same street as the hostal could arrange for me an all day trip out to Cotopaxi. By 1.30 pm, Dirk and I left the hostal and shared a US$6 taxi bound for the Telefriqo. This is the 6 passenger gondola car that takes 10 minutes to climb 1,100 metres (3,620 feet) to be just 215 metres (700 feet) short of the 4050 metres (13,300 feet) summit Volcan Pichincha. The summit was a 3 hour walk away and we did not have time for this. After reading the guide notes, I had expected it to be cold and windy being so high, but it wasn‘t. A relatively still and not that cold afternoon with clear views down below. I had taken up with me my pile fleece jacket and windshield jacket but they stayed in my backpack unsued. Yes, after the hour we had spent up there, I was puffing a little bit due to the attitude. So that was a change number 1 from my plans as one must take the opportunity if it is clear to see the city expansive view from up so high.

Then a US $8 van type bus shuttle over to El Panecillo (Little Bread Loaf) and from the top under the aluminium winged statue Virgen de Quito, had stunning views of the city, especially looking down into the Old City. Normally in the afternoon the clouds would have rolled in to mask the view but not today. The sun was behind me as well.

It took us just 12 minutes to descend the many steps and I am glad that the authorities are improving this access way from Garcia Moreno with a new wider steps and well lit access way as it renowned for muggers.

Limited time here as I had to be back to the New City around 5.30 pm - 6 pm to see if my all day trip to Cotopaxi was confirmed. So it would be just an hour to simply get a overview of the Old City.

Passed through the redeveloped wide open Calle de la Ronda and along Garcia Moreno. Yes, I will label the photos later.

For some reason I paid the US$3 and went inside the marvellously gilded Jesuit Iglesia de la Compania. No photos or videos were allowed so you will need to google yourself to see what the half ton of gold that was used during its 160 year construction (1605 - 1765) that was poured into the ceilings, walls, pulpits and altars looks like. In 2006 they finished after a 25 year a makeover. Words can not describe the ornate and beautiful interior. I spent just 30 minutes inside, sat to admire and walked around the inside at least 3 - 4 times taking in the many details. I agree with what has been written in that it is the most ornate and richly sculptured facade and interior. At the main entrance was a spiral stair leading upwards. Looking at it from the altar, one would think that there were 2 stairs but one was a fake as on the other side of the main door was a painting of the same spiral stairs.

Then quickly a peep into the Plaza de San Francisco and after passing the Cathedral saw the many people soaking up the late afternoon sun rays in the Plaza de la Independencia.

One thing I noticed was the presence of police in this area - like on every corner and walking the alley ways making it feel very safe.

Then tried successfully after a 5 minutes wait to catch a taxi back to the New City. It was 5.10 pm now and with the heavy city commute traffic in the narrow lanes, I wondered if I would make it back in time. It was only US$4 and got dropped off right on 5.30 pm but the travel agency doors were closed! Next door was another travel agency so I enquired there but after many, many phone calls was informed that there were no tours to Cotopaxi tomorrow, but instead to the Mindo rain forest. Having just been to the Amazon rain forest, this did not interest me. So change number 2 of my best laid plans!

On exiting the first travel agency had re-opened and Thomas told me the same story, No tours tomorrow but what about Wednesday! Sorry, off to the Galapagos Islands then.

More labelling and ordering of these photos to follow.

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