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Quito: Historic, bohemian Guápulo district

Mindo and Quito


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Wednesday 23rd July

Originally I'd planned to go back to Quito as early as I could, to give me more time to go to places I wanted to see before I left for good, but I ended up not leaving Mindo until 1.30pm because before that I had an interview for a job at a small language school in Bulgaria! I successfully found the only computer with working Skype in a reliable internet café. The interview went really well and I was offered the job at the end. If I accept, I'll be due to start work in the middle of September.

The later leaving time from Mindo meant that when I arrived at the usual hostel in Quito it was late afternoon and I decided I was too tired to go out again properly. I just rested for a bit and then went out for some dinner at Achiote, a restaurant Dave and I went to last month. It does Ecuadorian food and the quality is really good. I had shrimps in a coconut and vegetable sauce with yuca chips and a cold salad as accompaniments.

Thursday 24th July

In the morning I went for a walk in Guápulo district, which runs picturesquely down a hill within walking distance of the hostel. It was really hot and sunny. Before I walked down the hill I took some photos of the amazing view next to a statue of Francisco de Orellana, a conquistador who was the first Westerner to cross the Amazon region to reach the Atlantic Ocean (he was also the founder of Guayaquil, out of interest.)

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I went down the hill to the beautiful white Sanctuary de El Guápulo, which unfortunately was closed apart from the entrance area.

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Then I climbed all the way back up again, packed my stuff and took a taxi to the airport for my flight to Guayaquil.

Posted by 3Traveller 15:56 Archived in Ecuador Tagged airport hostel quito andes ecuador mindo explorations english_teaching colonial_church Comments (0)

Mindo: Cloud forest, butterflies, waterfalls and ziplining

Mindo


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Sunday 20th July

Bus journey from Quito to Mindo. Mindo is a tiny village surrounded by mountains covered in cloud forest, which makes up one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth. This setting is certainly dramatic.

My hostel was very quiet. I'd booked a bed in a 2-bed dorm, which along with the other dorms was within the owner's house, but nobody else arrived to take the other bed. In fact I seemed to be the only person booked into a dorm the whole time I was there! This meant it was very quiet, peaceful and relaxing.

For dinner I had a whole steamed tilapia fish, learning through the process of ordering that the Spanish word for steamed is 'al vapor'... makes sense considering what the process of steaming is. I'd never come across steamed food on a menu in Ecuador before.

Monday 21st July

At breakfast I saw hummingbirds for the first time since Dave and I did the Inca Trail in Peru five years ago!

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After some scrambled eggs, pineapple juice, melon slices, toast, jam and coffee I looked round the little orchid garden attached to the hostel, but it evidently wasn't the right time of year to see them because not very many were in flower. It was still nice to wander round though.

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After that I booked a ziplining trip for the afternoon and walked to a butterfly farm. It was very hot and sunny and I soon left paved roads behind; as I walked along the whitish dirt road in the middle of lush greenery, with the sun beating down on my head, I got a sudden image in my head of the cover of my copy of 'As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning', which shows the back of Laurie Lee as he walks by himself along a road in the middle of nowhere in Spain.

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At the butterfly farm I saw some bright shiny silver jewel-like chrysalises that are designed to look like water drops, a butterfly in the process of breaking out of a normal-coloured chrysalis, and lots of brightly coloured butterflies! I especially liked the ones that were grey, brown and black on one side of their wings but then electric blue on the other side when they opened them. There were bowls of overripe bananas around, food for the butterflies, and when I dipped my finger in the juice, butterflies would then land on it.

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My afternoon ziplining trip was an exhiliarating experience, zipping between beautiful valleys and mountains within the cloud forest. There were ten lines. I was put with two small groups of Germans and one of Ecuadorians. We saw two toucans in the branches of a tree at one point - I was so happy! I love toucans and I hadn't seen any since Dave and I saw some in Brazil on the same trip five years ago that I just mentioned above.

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On the way back I started walking but was then given a lift the rest of the way by a group of girls who'd been in my group. It had clouded over by the time the ziplining had begun, and just as they dropped me off at the end of my road it started pouring with rain.

A couple of hours later, when I went out for dinner, the rain had stopped. I went to a café known for its brownies, though I didn't have room for one after I'd had my main. They didn't actually have any hot main dishes left by that time, only salads and sandwiches, so I had a really thick tuna sandwich with a side of yuca chips and a chocolate milkshake. I made a mental note to come back the next day for lunch.

Tuesday 22nd July

First thing this morning I went on a cable car over a forested gorge to a protected forest, where there was a long walking trail leading to and past six different waterfalls. I was one of the first people there so I had a lovely peaceful walk with nobody else around for the majority of the time. It was very sunny again this morning.

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It took a couple of hours to do the main walk, which went past five of the waterfalls. Then there was a shorter, separate path to the sixth waterfall, which was also the biggest. I swam in the pool and river beneath it - the water was so refreshing and cool - very very welcome considering how hot and sweaty I was after my long hike! The current was very strong so when I tried to swim to the waterfall itself to get underneath it, I couldn't because the current pushed me back so hard. I was trying to swim forwards but ended up just swimming on the spot.

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I wanted to stay in there for hours but eventually dragged myself out, got changed and hiked back to the cable car station. Then I walked the 4 km back to the hostel (I'd got a taxi on the way there in the morning). It was all downhill but because I was already tired from the long hike, I arrived pretty exhausted.

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It was about 3pm when I arrived back, so as soon as I'd dumped my stuff I went straight back out again for some lunch at the same café I'd been to for dinner the night before. This time I went for the soup of the day (cream of broccoli and asparagus), a chocolate milkshake, Fanta and one of their famous chocolate brownies. I was stuffed by the time I finished.

I then went back to the hostel for a bit before going to an internet café for a couple of hours. I wasn't particularly hungry for dinner because of how late I'd had lunch, so I left dinner as late as I could and then only had a plate of chips.

Posted by 3Traveller 15:23 Archived in Ecuador Tagged waterfalls mountains birds spanish hostel butterflies ecuador mindo ziplining hummingbirds explorations toucans ecuadorian_cuisine freshwater_swimming Comments (0)

Last full day in Quito

Quito


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Today in total I visited two churches, three museums, a Republica del Cacao shop, two bookshops with English sections, and a tiny little traditional restaurant underneath the cathedral where I had some very tasty seco de chivo for lunch.

The museums I went to were the Museo San Francisco, right next to the monastery of the same name (beautiful courtyards, religious art, portraits of European rulers from the 17th and 18th centuries, and up some stairs to a choir stall looking out over the beautiful interior of the monastery, where a service was taking place); Casa del Alabado, a small museum full of fascinating and dramatically well-lit pre-Columbian artifacts; and the City Museum, set on the grounds of a former hospital. It had an exhibition about the old hospital as well as more general ones about the history of the city.

Museo San Francisco:

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Casa del Alabado - pre-Columbian exhibits from the Valdivia, La Tolita, Jama-Coaque, Napo and Chorrera cultures, plus a view of the street outside:

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City Museum:

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One of the churches was Iglesia San Agustin. Due to a mistake on my map that showed it a block further away from the Plaza Grande trolebus stop than it actually is, it wasn't until I got there that I realised I had been there once before, with my sister Emma on Good Friday. The interior of this church is so beautiful and interesting I stayed for quite a while to look round it again and savour the atmosphere. Unfortunately no photography was allowed, so I couldn't get any pictures of the interior. I did get one of the street outside, though:

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On the way there I also took these pictures of Plaza Grande:

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Iglesia de la Merced, the other church (and the view from its steps):

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The museums and churches were all in the Old Town. I went back to the hostel for a little bit after that and then went for a wander around the New. The Republica del Cacao shop I visited because I really wanted to get myself one of their t-shirts - I had intended to get one at Guayaquil Airport on my departure date from Ecuador, but then I thought it might be cheaper to get one from a place outside the airport instead. As it happened the prices were about the same, but they only had unisex sizes rather than fitted ones for women, so I didn't buy one after all. Although I had a nice browse in the bookshops I didn't buy anything from them either.

For dinner I went back to an old favourite, the Italian restaurant Cosa Nostra. I went for something a bit different this time and had some lovely bolognese gnocchi for a main and a teacup of amazing coffee ice cream for pudding.

Posted by 3Traveller 14:23 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art museum hostel monastery quito ecuador explorations unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_grande plaza_san_francisco san_francisco_monastery pre_columbian_artifacts colonial_church Comments (0)

Arrival in Quito after a long day of travelling

Catamayo and Quito


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The bus trip to Catamayo was simple. The bus dropped me off in the town so I took a taxi from there to the airport - only a two-minute journey.

Catamayo Airport is tiny - about the same size as the airport on Baltra Island in the Galápagos. After I'd checked in and got my boarding pass and was waiting for baggage x-ray and the departure lounge to open, a professional football team arrived and waited too. I didn't catch which team they were though.

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I was lucky enough to get a window seat, so although it was partly over a wing, I still managed to get a good view of Cotopaxi Volcano as approached Quito. At the beginning of the flight I read an article about Guayaquil in the TAME magazine which was so full of hyperbole I had to chuckle a little to myself. I am genuinely fond of Guayaquil but even I can see that it is not quite the same level as Quito and Cuenca regarding beauty and history! This July edition of the magazine was a celebration of the Independence of Guayaquil, a public holiday for the whole country on 23rd/24th July every year.

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I'm staying at Travellers' Inn, the same hostel where I've been on each of the three previous occasions I've been to Quito. The older guy here, the head of the family who own and run the hostel, asked me where my husband was! He must have remembered my ring arriving when I was here last month with Dave, though not the fact that it was an engagement ring not a wedding one. This chap was the one who helped me and Dave with information about how to get to Papallacta.

I arrived late in the afternoon so I didn't do anything apart from rest a bit before going out for some dinner. I went to a tiny French crépe restaurant down the road, because I fancied something a bit different to normal. I had a ratatouille and chicken crépe and a chocolate milkshake. Then I realised I was still hungry so I stopped at a bakery/café on the way back and bought a chocolate bun.

Posted by 3Traveller 13:10 Archived in Ecuador Tagged volcanoes airport hostel quito andes ecuador guayaquil Comments (0)

Vilcabamba

Loja and Vilcabamba


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On Tuesday morning, a walk to the bronze statue of La Virgen at the top of a little hill in Loja and a look inside the cathedral was followed by a bus journey to a village called Vilcabamba.

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Vilcabamba is quite touristy, a contrast to Loja which is not particularly touristy for such a cultured and (in places) historic city. A few decades ago Vilcabamba became known for its unusually large amount of centenarians; due to this, plus the extremely pleasant climate and beautiful scenery, lots of hippies then moved in. Although nowadays the number of centenarians is no higher there than anywhere else, Vilcabamba still remains known throughout the country for the longevity of its people. Several students have mentioned this to me, totally unprompted. There also remains a distinct New Age vibe.

I fly to Quito tomorrow. Over the last couple of days in Vilcabamba, I have;

- been on some lovely walks in the local countryside. The setting of Vilcabamba really is stunning.

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- relaxed and not done very much. The hostel I'm staying in (Le Rendez-Vous Hostal Guesthouse) has a lovely courtyard filled with greenery and colourful flowers. It also offers great homemade bread at breakfast.

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- looked inside the modern but still beautiful church in the main square

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- applied for two teaching jobs starting in September; one in Krakow, Poland, and one in Tenerife
- had quinoa soup for the first time in Ecuador
- been told by the American owner of the café where I had the quinoa soup that the idea that unpasteurised milk is dangerous is not in fact true and is something that 'the mainstream' would have me believe...

Posted by 3Traveller 12:09 Archived in Ecuador Tagged hostel butterflies andes ecuador vilcabamba explorations ecuadorian_cuisine loja Comments (1)

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