Quito. The beginning of what is going to be an awesome month.
We landed pretty late last night and customs took us a long time but we got to stay over night at the Wyndham Quito Airport hotel. It was really a “shower and sleep briefly” stay. But it was a nice hotel and there is a free shuttle that can be arranged at the baggage claim.
After our short “sleep”, we woke up super early so that we could taxi into the city. It took about 35 minutes and we got to drop our luggage off at JW Marriott Quito. Then we walked briefly over to La Plaza Foch in Mariscal to meet with our tour! The plaza is pretty tiny but we were able to grab a quick arepa lunch with salchicha that was not anything to write home about but it came with orange juice that was freshly squeezed and I refuse to go back to America and have it any other way.
Let me talk a little about Quito because it is a super interesting city. It was the first city to be declared a UNESCO world heritage site because of its well preserved historic center and it lies in valley surrounded by the Andean Mountains and surrounded by Volcanoes (Pinchincha and Wawa Pinchincha, which all have amazing tales about how they came to be). It is also the second highest capital city in the world at 9,350 feet (and boy, can I feel that altitude with such even the slightest exertion right now). It is also super populated here with buildings EVERY WHERE and 2.24 million people to boot.
We hopped onto our tour bus. Our tour for Otavalo market was a little pricey but worth it. We used viator but it was through bucketpass.com and our driver and tour guide were really amazing. We first headed to the Quisato Sundial, which is the true “mitad del Mundo,” or middle of the world. I am choosing to call it Middle Earth. It is 0 degrees 0’ 0”. There is another more popular monument that actually was built off of the equator because of the French explorers who found it. It was fun to straddle the northern and Southern Hemisphere at the same time. Crazy to think we were exactly on the equator!!!
Left is north and right is south!
Then we headed off to Mira Lago where we tried some local biscocho (a salty biscuit) which was pretty dry but pretty tasty.
ALL THE ALPACAS
We then headed to a windy but lovely boat ride on Cuicocha Lake (also known as Guinea Pig lake or Rainbow Lake). It lies at the foot of the Cotachi Volcano in a crater in the Andean Mountains. We got to see most of the lake and all the volcanic rocks with numerous birds flying around. We sat right in the front of the boat and although our view was uninhibited, we got soaked in the clear lake water. The cool thing is that the boat stops in the middle of the crater and teaches you about the history and ecology of the lake and really let’s you enjoy watching the bubbling of the lava flowing into the river, even if it could technically erupt at any point in time.
Somehow our boat fit through this narrow passageway.
We then finally left for Otavalo Market. Saturday is by far the busiest day because instead of being only in the square, the market expands extra blocks. The indigenous people of Otavalo are clearly so proud of their heritage and so clearly good at convincing you to buy goods made from Alpaca. It is easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the market but most places are selling similar things. Little souvenirs like keychains and coin purses and then the more well known items like the Alpaca scarves and ponchos. Alpaca fleece is super soft!! We tried to haggle a little bit and I don’t think we did too terribly but probably could have done better. It was also super hot under the Ecuadorian sun and I was tired of having to ignore sellers, so we sat down and ate a small meal at Inyit Hausi right near the parking lot. Julia got arroz con polio which was pretty delicious and surprisingly had mostly chicken. I got the Locro de papa (which is an Ecuadorian soup of potatoes). Both of these came with MY FAVORITE, AVOCADO (or aguacate). I do not think I truly understood the potential for being in Ecuador and my love of avocados. Anyways, I really enjoyed my soup. It was the perfect blend of potato, salt, cheese, and avocado. I’ll have to get it again.
Not pretty but it was delicious
We then headed to Peguche Waterfalls! We were forewarned that it was Carnival and it would be a huge celebration of water throwing, foam spraying, and color flour tossing. As we walked the 15 minutes to the falls, I saw all the locals DRENCHED in some mix of all of those things. I was fearful for my electronics as well as my clothes, but the locals are EXTREMELY respectful of tourists and although some kids like to pretend they will harm you, they actually avoided us for the most part. I really wish I could have watched the early celebration from a distance as the floor was covered with colors, water, and many pieces of latex. I could imagine growing up here and loving every minute of this SOAK fest. We got to the falls and it was a great natural site. It was decorated with tourists and locals alike and people were even trying to swim in it. It was a nice addition to the tour.
Note the fellow in the front throwing a lot of foam around.
We then finally headed back to the hotel where we discovered an amazing heated pool (DEF spending some time there) and an awesome gym as well as a private indoor jacuzzi and sauna, which we hurriedly changed and used to relax from such a busy day. Now it’s time to get some real sleep so we can see more historic sites of Quito.