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Gold sun mask and traditional ice cream

Baños and Quito


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Edit from October 2019: The name of the restaurant where we had the traditional ice cream is (I'm pretty sure) Heladería San Agustín. Still going strong it seems, though I don't of course know if they still make their ice cream the traditional way...

Thursday 12/6/14

I knew the journey to Quito today would only take between two and three hours, so there was no need to get to the bus terminal particularly early. We had time for a nice relaxed breakfast (we also made up two jam rolls each for ourselves to have for lunch on the bus), a soft drink and a game or two of pool at the bar before walking leisurely in the sunshine to the terminal.

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Once we arrived at the terminal I had no problems getting tickets for the next bus to Quito. We left on time and arrived at the shiny new Quitumbe bus terminal in Quito on time as well.

We rested and used the internet for a bit on our arrival at the hostel. In the evening we went out for some dinner round the corner at a place recommended by our guidebook, but apart from the cheese humita we shared for a starter, which was delicious, the food wasn't anything special. My glass of guanábana juice was very nice though. After dinner we wandered down the street a bit until we got to Plaza Foch, which is the centre of the Mariscal Sucre district, a.k.a. 'Gringoland'. Today was the first day of the World Cup so the place was packed. Lots of security police around with guns, so there wasn't any trouble that we could see. We only walked around the square a little bit before going back to the hostel to bed.

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Friday 13/6/14

This morning we had breakfast early and took a very crowded Trolebus to Ejido.

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We walked through Ejido Park, in the sunshine, to get to our destination - the National Museum. We passed by sculptures and statues as well as a tree growing at such a right angle part of it had to be propped up.

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Sadly, while we were there an ambulance went past and stopped nearby - there were people crowded round someone who must have had an accident.

There were lots of fascinating exhibits in the museum, which was split into an archaeology room, a Gold Room and upstairs some religious art mostly painted by painters from the Quito School in the Spanish colonial period. My favourite items were the beautiful gold sun mask that is deservedly the flagship exhibit in the Gold Room; a ceremonial copper knife; a silver funeral mask; a mummy of a young girl found in a cave in Canar Province; obsidian arrowheads; bird-shaped ocarinas; a clay mask of a coca-chewer; and replicas of skulls showing the skull-flattening deformity that was practised by one of the pre-Columbian tribes in Ecuador. The Gold Room also contained a lot of information about how the various metal masks and so on were made - interesting to read about how they did this so many centuries ago. Dave especially liked this part. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take any photos in this part of the museum.

After finishing looking round the archaeology, gold and religious art rooms we went up another level to a room containing a photo exhibition set up by the Turkish Tourism Board. Not quite what you might expect to find in Ecuador, but the photos were fabulous! Obviously they had picked the best possible photos of Turkey, in order to make people want to go there, but still. Turkey was already on the priority list of countries I'd like to visit in the future, and this exhibition did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm!

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After that we got the Trolebus into the Old Town and the first thing we did there was go to a particular restaurant/cafe for lunch. I was keen to try this place because it was founded in the present building in 1858 and still makes its own ice cream in traditional copper bowls. We shared a humita to start, then Dave had seco de chivo, I had shrimp ceviche and for pudding we both had a scoops of lovely coffee and chocolate flavour ice cream. The ice cream came in bright silver-looking cups that looked almost like vases.

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We then went on to Plaza Grande...

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...and Plaza San Francisco for a look round, because I was really keen to show them to Dave.

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Our next destination was the Basilica, which lies up a hill. We looked around inside first...

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...and then I went up to the top of the tower and took some photos of the wonderful views over Quito.

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On our way back down the hill I stopped at a bakery and bought five chocolate buns for us to have on the journey to Otavalo the next morning. We took the trolebus back to the hostel from Plaza Santo Domingo.

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For dinner we walked round the corner to an Italian restaurant for some pizza.

Posted by 3Traveller 16:18 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art basilica turkey museum hostel buses dave quito banos ceviche ecuador unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_grande plaza_san_francisco plaza_santo_domingo pre_columbian_artifacts Comments (0)

Arrival in Baños

Cuenca and Baños


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No time to wait for our free breakfast in Cuenca this morning because we had a marathon journey to Baños ahead of us. The first leg, from Cuenca to Ambato, started at 8.10am and took just under seven hours; the scenery was even more spectacular this time than it was yesterday.

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On our way into the centre of town we passed some restaurants with whole roast pigs hung up outside. The one in this picture is just out of sight.

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Instead of Ambato bus terminal we were dropped off at the side of a road on the outskirts of the city instead, something I was momentarily slightly concerned about. Dave got a nosebleed just then as well. Luckily it stopped after a minute and then I noticed Baños buses passing by so I knew we were in the right place. We had to cross the road but only two minutes later the right bus came and we got on with no problems.

The Ambato - Baños leg took one hour. At one point we passed through Pelileo, a small town full of jeans shops - many of the shop signs had an apostrophe where there should not have been any ('Pelileo Jean's' instead of 'Jeans'), something I point out because this type of English mistake is actually so rare here. I see it much more often in the UK!

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The scenery continued to be fantastic right until we got to Baños.

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We arrived at Baños bus terminal at 4.10pm. Since then we've spent our time playing free games of pool and having a couple of cocktails at the hostel, going out for dinner at a restaurant (we had half each of both a shrimp ceviche and a Pizza Continental; I also had a blackberry yoghurt shake and Dave had a Coke and some iced tea) and looking inside the Basilica briefly just as the last service of the day ended.

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We also took some photos of the Basilica from the other side of the main square.

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Posted by 3Traveller 07:39 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains basilica hostel buses dave cocktails banos andes ceviche ecuador cuenca ecuadorian_cuisine ambato Comments (0)

Dave's here!

Guayaquil


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Dave arrived late yesterday afternoon. He's here with me in Ecuador for three weeks of holiday... tomorrow we head off to the Galápagos Islands and once we return from there on Friday, we carry on to Cuenca, Baños and finally Quito. In Quito we're going to go on a couple of day trips to Otavalo Market and the hot springs at Papallacta.

I met Dave at the airport. I'd been following his flight on flightaware.com ever since I'd got back from my five-hour Saturday teaching stint in the morning. I knew his connection time in Amsterdam was tight so I did worry that he'd miss the plane to Guayaquil, but he made it thank goodness! We took a taxi to my new flat, rested for a bit and then joined in the barbecue that I and my flatmates and colleagues 'A' & 'T' had decided to put on. Many bottles of beer, pieces of chicken, sausages and steak & vegetable skewers were consumed, though neither Dave or I had any beer (Dave didn't feel like it due to feeling the jetlag a bit; I'm not keen on beer at any time).

This morning we had a lie-in. After getting up at about 10.30 we had some breakfast and took a bus two minutes down the road to the bank so that I could get out my rent money and also money for the Galápagos Islands; we could have walked, but it would have taken at least twenty minutes in the heat each way and I wanted us to preserve energy for later.

On our way to the bus stop I took this photo of Dave next to graffiti near my condo block - tribute to a photo I took of Dave in front of a similar wall in Santiago, Chile, on the day we arrived in South America on our round-the-world trip 5 years ago.

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An ice cream man passed us on our way down.

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Before we got another bus back again I bought Dave a bottle of chilled water from a bakery because he really needed one - he's finding the heat and humidity of Guayaquil quite hard to deal with so far.

We left the flat again at around midday and took a bus into town. We went to Iguana Square first, then a walk along half of the Malecón (including the botanical garden and a trip up one of the viewing towers over the river) to Las Peñas and Cerro Santa Ana.

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Dave has brought his DSLR camera with him to Ecuador and took it with him into town today, so he got some really good pictures of the iguanas, amongst other things.

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In Iguana Square the turtles had arranged themselves in a pile, which we both thought looked quite funny.

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At the Malecón I noticed that they have recently installed drinks vending machines, so I bought myself a Pepsi and Dave a bottle of water. Due to today being a Sunday, the Malecón was absolutely packed.

It was cloudy by now so it wasn't as hot as it could have been, but it was still pretty humid. We both got extremely hot and sweaty climbing up Cerro Santa Ana. Before climbing the hill I made sure to get a photo of Dave underneath the 'Barrio Las Peñas' plaque.

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Dave took some photos from the terraces at the top with his DSLR.

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Before we descended the hill I bought us another cold drink each from one of the metal-grilled shops that are so common in Ecuador.

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On the way back to the flat we stopped at a supermarket and I got a 5-litre bottle of water for Dave for 82 cents and a litre of Fanta Naranja for myself. Whatever we don't drink today we'll save for when we get back from the Galápagos Islands on Friday.

After a rest for a couple of hours we headed out and had some dinner at one of the Lebanese shawarma places nearby, before going on to a morocho café. Morocho is a delicious Ecuadorian pudding that I only discovered a couple of weeks ago - it's a lot like rice pudding but made with a certain type of white corn, broken up, instead of rice. The taste and texture is a lot like rice though. They even add a little bit of cinnamon to it. It's amazing! I can't believe I never came across it before. Dave loved it, like I guessed he would.

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Posted by 3Traveller 13:31 Archived in Ecuador Tagged airport buses botanical_gardens dave iguanas barbecue ecuador guayaquil explorations cerro_santa_ana las_peñas malecon_2000 ecuadorian_cuisine river_guayas Comments (0)

Cuenca to Guayaquil

Cuenca

We got up early this morning. Breakfast was scrambled eggs, toast, jam and juice. Once we'd had that we headed out to a launderette for my benefit, then once I'd found it, which took longer than I expected, I stayed there while the others went back to the hostel to use the toilet and pick up Mark (who hadn't had breakfast before we left due to a mix up).

After I'd put my clothes in the dryer we went straight to the market in San Francisco Square. Kate and Emma ended up unknowingly buying the same type of alpaca jumper, which was the same or almost the same as the one I bought from the same place last November! Mark and Andrew both got alpaca jumpers too. I had helpfully written down some useful phrases so they could haggle a bit and ask for different sizes. After half an hour or so I went back to the hostel to check out before going on to the launderette, with all my stuff, to collect my clothes. Then I rejoined the others at the market. Once they'd finished there I walked to the bus station, but the others went part of the way with me so that I could show them where the Skeleton Museum was.

The first part of the journey back to Guayaquil was enlivened by a natural remedy salesman who gave a long speech, handed out products from his case to every passenger who would take one (talking as he went), gave another speech and then walked back up and and down to collect money from the passengers who wanted to keep the products and the products from those who didn't. This was all in Spanish, and he spoke very quickly, but I understood that the claim was that it was some kind of remedy for children which could also help cure cancer, stomach problems and other medical issues in adults.

Posted by 3Traveller 08:18 Archived in Ecuador Tagged market spanish hostel buses sisters andes ecuador cuenca guayaquil unesco_world_heritage_site Comments (0)

Palm Sunday in Cuenca

Guayaquil and Cuenca


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This morning Emma, Kate, Mark and Andrew got a taxi to Citymall, a shopping mall very close to me, where I met them and took them to see my flat. It felt quite strange, in a good way of course, to have them there with me in person when I have spoken to them so often online from the same room!

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After that I went back to their hostel with them by bus and waited while they finished packing up their stuff and checked out. Then we all went to the bus terminal to start our journey to Cuenca. I'd decided to go to Cuenca with them and stay the night there because I don't teach until the evening on Mondays. I'd been on this particular journey before on more than one occasion but obviously this was the first time the others had been. It takes about 4 hours and goes through flattish country at first, then up in the Andes.

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While still in the flat area we saw houses on stilts, rice fields, banana plantations and more, and when we were getting closer to the Andes Emma and Kate spotted what they think might have been a condor flying overhead! The journey was typically hair-raising, though, because although the inter-city and inter-provincial roads are very good in Ecuador, the driver had to deal with some very tight bends in the road and with driving through clouds as well.

We arrived in Cuenca in the new town, but walked over to our hostel which is in the old town just down the street from the main square. Once we'd dumped our stuff and Kate had emailed to say we'd arrived safely, we went for a stroll to the main square. This was very interesting because we saw lots of people walking around carrying palm leaves, flowers and various decorative palm crosses with foliage attached. It's Palm Sunday today. There were some people selling them on one or two of the benches, so Kate bought a palm cross with rosemary and another, unidentified herb attached to it.

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We then wandered past a market spread along on side of a street, through the flower market in an attached little square, and then into a bigger square where the main clothing market was almost completely packed up. On going back through the flower market Kate and I bought ourselves palm baskets, into which the seller threw free small branches of rosemary.

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On turning back into the main square, next to the cathedral, we could see people streaming in, most of them holding palm leaves etc, and in the cloisters and around the cathedral entrance there was a big cluster of street sellers selling the same things to people going in.

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After reassuring the others that the cathedral was big enough for us all to go inside to see what was going on without disturbing people, we went inside. On going in we could see lots of people sitting in the nave, and that the paraphernalia around the altar had palm leaves as decoration. We walked a little along one side of the nave and saw that the statues on one side of the main altar bit were decorated with palm leaves, too. We presumed that the service was a special Palm Sunday one.

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Once the priest began the service we made our exit and had dinner at a restaurant next door - I'd been there twice before, so could recommend it. The meal I had was amazing - a fish, vegetable & white sauce dish with a side of rice - but unfortunately Emma's and Kate's were the opposite. They ordered a fish dish where the fish turned out to be salty and quite tough, and the salad tasted strongly of capers or pickle despite not having capers or pickles in it. The restaurant had some artistic lampshades and vases made from painted cutlery.

After dinner I took Emma, Kate and Andrew on a quick tour of some of Cuenca's churches, because at weekends the fronts are lit up at night.

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We took some pictures of the side streets as well.

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Posted by 3Traveller 07:49 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains market cathedral hostel buses sisters andes ecuador cuenca guayaquil unesco_world_heritage_site traditional_customs colonial_church palm_sunday Comments (0)

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