We made it to Quito, but not without difficulty. It seems that the bus drivers that took deposits and committed to deliver us to Quito stiffed the project by failing to show up. It took many phone calls to determine that we were really screwed and then to arrange for alternate busses on short notice. The Cangahua bus cooperative came through. They supplied two busses. One of them was one that we had been using all along. It was the one that took us to Quitoloma. It's an old clunker but it had got us into and out of some rough places and it got us to Quito. Another bus got the Casa folks to Quito.
The project provided hostel rooms in the Mariscal district for the night and will provide dinner at a restaurant across the street tonight. Our room is basic but it has a private bath and shower, something that most of the other rooms don't have. It also has free wireless and this connection is fairly fast. Tomorrow, we shop around a little to find a secure private room, preferably with internet and a breakfast, for $30 or less. Youth hostel rooms are available for as little as $5.80 a head but that is not quite what we want.
We've got some day trips planned for the next few days, we'll expand the list of day trips as we go along.
Sandy and I walked the Mariscal district. We stayed a couple of blocks from here before the project started but we didn't get around much because we were jet lagged, tired and it rained a lot. This place is chock full of bars, restaurants and shops. Food is available over the full range but most places seem to be charging about $5 for a meal. There are a couple of hot dog and hamburger stands that get about $1 and a steakhouse around the corner that gets about $10 to eat. Even though the project is supplying dinner tonight, we stopped at a taco place next door about 1500 for some food because the bus debacle had put a crimp in our lunch. They had a taco plate for $3 that was really good. They also had a jalepeno version of the same brand of hot sauce that we had been buying in Cayambe that was really good, better than Tabasco Green. I am trying to find if I can buy the Ole brand of sauces in the US. If not, I'll take some green home as I already have 7 bottles of the Chipotle Gold in my suitcase.
We are staying at the Crossroads Hostel in the Mariscal (tourist) district of Quito. It is located at the corner of Mariscal Foch and Juan Leon Mera streets. There are hostels all around here but we've got a basic room with a locked door, a private bath and free internet for less than $30/night tax inclusive.
The building is old and the room basic, but it will do. There is also a terrace outside (which is the roof of a steakhouse) where Sandy can do her needlework with good light.
The only real problem is the noise at night. The partying didn't shut down until about 0300 this morning and there was traffic with lots of horns honking until about 0400. Then it got quiet.
The room had bunks as well but they are not currently occupied as the project rented the whole room and only put Sandy and I in it. We'll stay in it for a couple of more days when we have to move because a larger group has reserved it. We'll move into another smaller room in the hostel with only a double bed for the rest of our stay.
A group of us to walked up to the Banco Central Anthropological Museum which is maybe 10 blocks away. We were not allowed to take pictures inside however. This is one of the nicest and museums that I have been in in quite a while. They had hundreds of artifacts, mostly ceramic, all in complete condition. We were lucky to find big pieces of pottery, I don't think that we found a single complete piece. There were also statues and paintings from the Spanish and colonial years as well.
We also stopped at a market of vendor stalls that took up a whole city block. This is a permanent installation with each stall having a roll down door and covered passageways. I am full up on trinkets, nothing interested me. Sandy got a couple of nice refrigerator magnets.
We went back to the mexican food place next door to the hostel for lunch. I had a veggie burrito which may have been the best I have ever had. Sandy had a margarita. Tuesdays, they offer drink samples and half price drinks. I don't think that we'll be back there for that. Then we returned to the hostel to relax.
We were going to try to ride the train to Cotopaxi today, but 0630 seemed to come too early and Sandy didn't sleep well so we passed until next weekend. We'll contact them and make sure that it is running and we can get a ride next Saturday.
Instead, we rode the TeleferiQo cable car up the side of the Rucu Pichincha volcano. The cable car goes to an elevation of 4,050 meters (13,287 ft) with a trail to a hilltop called Cruz Loma at 4,100 meters (13,451 ft). It was a $3 cab fare to get there but we had to haggle with the driver to get that rate. The ride for gringos is $8 but that also got us into the express line. The regular fare of $4 for locals would have been a significant wait.
Each car has a bike rack on it and mountain bike riders in full motocross regalia were riding up. This is because the way down is crisscrossed with mountain bike trails. It's about 1000 meters from the top to the bottom and it is steep. This would be a very good ride.
There are branches of the bike trails everywhere, the one in the middle has some jumps in it.
There is a 3 mile or so hike up to the top of one of the triple peaks of this volcano. It would be a chug at this altitude as the peak is well over 14,000 ft. This volcano last erupted in 1999 and spewed a major amount of ash, but it was mostly blown westward away from Quito.
The view of Quito from this spot was excellent. My camera just couldn't get a really good overall view. I need to check Sandy's shots to see if she has a good one. Quito sits on a shelf on the east side of the volcano. Further to the east is the valley down the center of the highlands and then further to the east are the volcanos of the eastern range, Cayambe and Cotopaxi being the two largest ones. Further east is the Amazon.
After we got back from the cable car, we just lounged around all afternoon. I took a nap and did some testing with Sandy's iPod touch. It won't load this whole page because the page is too large, some images don't display. This is a problem only with this page and two other travel pages which are also large. I may or may not elect to fix it.
We had an early dinner at a Mongolian BBQ on the other side of the block. It was good but I don't think that the griddle was hot enough. We'll see what it does to us. I had veggie, Sandy had beef.
We're settled in for the evening, it becomes less safe to walk around after dark and it's getting that way now.
We slept in today as the street noise kept Sandy awake until about 0200. I slept through it all.
We took a trip out to the Instituto Geografico Militar this morning. The IGM is the Ecuadorian version of the US Defense Mapping Agency. It is also the place were anybody can buy the latest official topographical maps of Ecuador. Sandy bought three maps encompassing the areas that we worked to support her UCLA project due in about three weeks. We had to surrender our passports to get an ID to enter the facility. We took a taxi there and back, a $2 ride each way, as it is some distance and we were carrying our passports and some cash.
After we'd stashed our valuables in the hostel lock box, we walked up to the Amazon Museum bookstore and Sandy bought three Spanish language books on the history and art of Ecuador. We then walked a couple of blocks on the Av. 12 de Octobre to the SuperMaxi to buy more snack stuff and then walked back to the hostel carrying our loot. We plan to relax the rest of the day, no more outings are planned except to pick up our laundry from the lavadoria (laundry) next door and score some dinner. The lavadoria charge $0.40/kilo.
The main job for today was to switch hotel rooms. We moved from room 11 which had a double bed and a bunk bed to a smaller room, number 17, with only a double bed. Room 11 had been reserved for a larger group as of today. This room is newer than the other rooms in the hostel. It is built in a three story addition at the back of the property and the window faces to a courtyard outside the kitchen instead of onto the street. We believe that it will not be quite so noisy in this room.
After the room switch, we walked back to the vendor market for a few more trinkets and then walked back stopping by a large Gothic style church along the way. Services were in session so we didn't stay very long.
Just after noon, we went to the mexican place next door for lunch again. Sitting on the 2nd floor terrace, gave us a good scenic view of this fairly neatly arranged (by Ecuadorian standards) power pole. 3 phase high voltage comes in on top through 3 fuses down to the insulated standoffs on a transformer. From the front of the transformer comes 3 phase probably at 110 VAC per phase. Secondary power is brought through more fuses below the transformer and then bussed to the individual buildings. Below that is a mess of what appears to be telephone and cable TV wiring.
My lunch was two shredded pork tacos, rice, beans and a Fanta. All this came to about $4 and is among the best Mexican style food that I've found anywhere.
After lunch we settled back into our room to relax. A tour of the old town is planned in the next day or two via an organized tour company. We've received several warnings about walking around the old town on our own so were going to pay a tour operator for a little added security, primarily in numbers.
Later in the evening, we started hearing loud cheering that we hadn't heard before. It turns out that just north of us by a couple of blocks there is a soccer stadium and a game was in progress. That explained all the blue and white flags that had been flying all day. When the game was over, the area flooded with soccer fans intent on getting drunk... if they weren't already. There were horse mounted police, police on dirt bikes and on foot all around the area when we went out for an evening snack. The crowd could have been filled with pickpockets too so we just hoofed it back to the hostel.
We didn't do much today besides book a side trip to the Galapagos Islands. We didn't want to stay in Quito for another week. We'll be leaving in the morning.
© 2009 George Schreyer
Created 24 Jul 09
Last Updated July 30, 2009