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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)

Easter Sunday in Quito

Quito


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Emma, Mark and I had to head off to the airport at lunchtime today, I back to Guayaquil and Emma & Mark back to London via Amsterdam, so we decided to just wander around Quito Old Town in the morning and see whether there was anything particularly Easter-related going on.

After having breakfast and opening Easter things from home, we hopped on the Trolebus and got off at Plaza Grande, before heading to the Cathedral. Before going in Emma, Kate and I chose a candle (blue because it was Dad's favourite colour), I bought it and we then lit it inside for him.

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While we were inside an Easter service started, somewhat startlingly with the first couple of lines of the tune to 'Joy to the World' - perhaps in Ecuador it's the tune to an Easter hymn? A little later on the cantor and congregation sang a hymn that we all recognised, despite it being in Latin American Spanish: 'When All the Saints Come Marching In'. It felt a little odd hearing a normally familiar hymn in a foreign language! Shortly before we left they started singing another hymn that was clearly Eastery because it mainly consisted of alleluias, though going by the tune and the proportion of alleluias to other words it wasn't 'Jesus Christ is Risen Today'.

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On the pavement on the road to one side of the cathedral there were some artists working on paintings (in oils I think) with completed works for sale. It was interesting seeing them at work. Emma and I both bought a small painting from one of the artists. We then wandered up to Plaza San Francisco to see whether anything much was going on there. There wasn't really, but we did stop at Tianguez café and some of us had drinks. Kate and I had big glasses of thick, delicious, freshly squeezed guanabana juice.

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After this we wandered round a bit more.

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We went into a centre with a museum in it and, I think, the Ecuadorean national archives, but all we could find was a gift shop and a smallish gallery of religious art, so we didn't stay long. Then we made our way to the right Trolebus stop to get back to the hostel; as we passed through Plaza Grande we stopped to watch some traditional dances that were being performed.

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After getting off the Trolebus at the other end, we nipped into a branch of 'Oki Doki' convenience store for me, Emma and Mark to stock up on snacks for our flights. Then a quick stop back at the hostel to finish packing, check emails and have a lovely unexpected Google Hangouts video chat with Mum, before Emma, Mark and I left for the airport. It was sad saying goodbye both at the hostel and the airport. Their flight left before mine did. Kate and Andrew were staying in Quito for the night and flying back to the UK the next day.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:57 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art airport cathedral sisters dad mum quito andes ecuador explorations unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_grande plaza_san_francisco traditional_customs easter_celebrations Comments (0)

Easter Saturday at the Equator: Cayambe and Quitsato Sundial

Cayambe, Quitsato Sundial, the Line of the Equator and Quito


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We were only in Cayambe for about twenty minutes because we were there to get a taxi to our next destination. We did however make sure to buy some 'biscochos', the town's speciality. These are very buttery biscuits sold in fingers. Then on to the line of the Equator! The Quitsato Sundial is at the roadside about 3km south of Cayambe, on the road to Quito. This place is very untouristy in comparison to the much more famous Mitad Del Mundo complex, which is a tourist trap and peddles several equator myths as if they are facts. The Quitsato Sundial is much more scientific.

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The sundial is huge; big enough to walk around on. I would guess the diameter to be about 50 metres. We had a talk (in English) about the site and about the work of the Quitsato Project. We found out such interesting information as the fact that from the Equator you can see all the constellations visible in both hemispheres, that many pre-Inca sites have been discovered in the area that align exactly with the position of the sun at various equinoxes etc., that the Equator runs right through Volcano Cayambe (a snow-covered peak that we could see from where we were standing), and that the word 'north' means 'left' and is so called because it is on your left as you face east, the direction of the rising sun.

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After the talk we couldn't resist taking photos of us standing with a foot in each hemisphere, standing on the exact Equator, etc., some including a post at the centre of the sundial that announces that it is at 0 degrees latitude.

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To get back to Quito we flagged down a passing bus and jumped on. It was around 7:30 by the time we got back to the hostel.

For dinner Emma, Mark, Andrew and I went to a Cuban restaurant round the corner, but it wasn't a great experience because the service was so incredibly slow, despite the fact that there was only one other group of customers there. I've been in Ecuador for nearly a year now and have never experienced service that slow before. My rice pudding was lovely but the portion was very small.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:18 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains hostel sisters quito andes ecuador cayambe ecuadorian_cuisine quitsato_sundial the_equator easter_celebrations Comments (0)

Easter Saturday: Otavalo Market

Quito and Otavalo


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I was the first of our group to sit down for breakfast this morning and while I was waiting, I experienced an earthquake tremor! Just a minor one but I did feel the earth shake a bit and coffee cups rattle on the table. Then Kate arrived and just as she was agreeing that it must have been an earthquake, it happened again and she felt it.

After breakfast we got a lift in the hostel's minibus to one of the bus stations, where we hopped on a coach to a town north of Quito called Otavalo. It is famous across South America and beyond for its street markets, in particular the big handicrafts market that reaches its apogee on Saturdays. It took over 2 hours to get there and the scenery was spectacular.

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On the way there some ice cream sellers appeared on the bus at different points - Kate bought a coconut ice lolly (the best ice lollies she had ever had, apparently) and I bought a lovely chocolate one.

We knew there was a morning animal market in addition to the handicrafts market and the daily market, so we made a beeline for it as soon as we arrived. Before we did that, however, we had to go on a toilet hunt. We looked inside the church on the main square - it looked really interesting so I will definitely look round it properly when I come back here with Dave in June - but they didn't have any toilet; luckily, after we had exited from there Mark then spotted some public toilets nearby.

Market sellers had spread across the town even outside the official market areas, so there was lots to see on our walk. Unfortunately the animal market had mostly finished by the time we got there, so almost all the big animals had been sold other than a few sheep, but we did see little pens and cages of guinea pigs, pigeons, chickens, ducklings and a rabbit.

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Next to the market I noticed a stand making and selling the same type of delicious batter things that I saw in Ambato at Carnival, so I bought and ate two; then some of the others bought one.

Indigenous Otavalo people still wear traditional dress and take great pride in it, even the young people who you'd think would more likely to wear modern clothes. Everywhere we saw women wearing their traditional bead necklaces and bracelets, distinctive white blouses with elbow-length flared laced sleeves and flower or other embroidering over the chest area, dark skirts, coloured bands round the waist and hair tied back with a cloth band. We also saw some men wearing their traditional clothing - white trousers, dark ponchos and hats.

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On returning from the animal market we explored the daily market a bit more. This was extremely untouristy, filled with butchers' stalls, lunch counters, fruit and vegetable stalls, general stalls with tins and packets of food as well as sacks of maize, flour and other grains, and stalls selling non-edible household goods.

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While walking past one of the lunch counters Kate noticed that it sold 'cuy' - guinea pig! The others all decided to have some for lunch but I originally decided I wouldn't, because I knew it would be fried and I've had that before in Bolivia five years ago; I remember thinking at the time that although it was nice fried, I'd have it roasted or as part of a stew the next time.

Guinea pig is expensive in Ecuador so the others decided to have just one between them. They sat up at the side of the stall on an inbuilt bench and waited 25 minutes or so for the dish to be prepared. At one point one of the women at the stall asked if they wanted to take photos of the guinea pig being cooked, so Kate went over and took a photo. Apparently it was indeed being fried in a pan, was flattened a bit and didn't have any fur on it - the same as what I had in Bolivia. When it arrived they each got a quarter on a plate along with toasted corn, some sort of boiled corn, tomato and onion salsa, potato in some sort of sauce, some tomato and lettuce. They also brought me out a plate and we thought that it was included in the $25 we'd paid for our meal, so I accepted. It was tasty but somewhat hard to get the meat off the bones. Of course, once we'd all finished eating it turned out that it wasn't included after all, but it still worked out as $6 each which was pretty good value.

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The famous handicrafts market (Plaza de Ponchos) was our next destination. I was tempted by a lot of things but didn't buy anything because I knew I would be coming back here in June with Dave. I can tell I will be loading myself up then! Kate and Andrew bought a lovely piece of artist's work that they plan to get framed and put up in their house, Kate also got a little carved stone turtle keyring and Andrew bought something that he thought was a carved wooden axe-shaped ornament that turned out to be a pipe. Emma and Mark also bought things but I've forgotten what they were.

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Instead of going straight back to Quito, we then caught a bus to the town of Cayambe.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:37 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains birds market sisters quito otavalo andes explorations ecuadorian_cuisine traditional_customs Comments (0)

Good Friday Processions, Quito

José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (Guayaquil) and Quito


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While I was working in Guayaquil, Emma, Kate, Mark and Andrew left Cuenca for Baños on Tuesday, spent a full day there and got a bus to Quito yesterday. I spent last night at José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil because my flight to Quito was at 6 am and I thought it would be much easier just to get a taxi from work when it closed on Thursday night than it would be to try and find a safe taxi at 3 am on Friday morning from Alborada.

The flight was uneventful but I did get some good photos of the mountains and a snowcapped volcano near Quito - probably Cotopaxi Volcano.

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The hour-long taxi journey from the new airport to the hostel was also uneventful. I was joining the others at the same hostel where Mum and I stayed in February; I arrived at about 08.30.

The main aim of the day was to go into Quito Old Town to view the world-famous Good Friday procession, which we thought started at midday. We got the Trolebus and duly arrived at Plaza San Francisco, where the procession would begin, nice and early at around 9:30. There were more people than normal around even at that point, including lots of police, and there was a Catholic radio station playing on loudspeakers.

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We were wondering where to stand to get the best view, then noticed that on the raised ground along one side of the square, directly in front of San Francisco church and monastery, people were sitting on the wall with their backs to the main square. This made us think that the procession would probably go along there, so we made a beeline up the steps and found a good position next to the wall. It was wonderfully sunny at that point and there was a really good atmosphere, full of anticipation and preparation.

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From our raised position we had a good view over the square, and on and to the side of the raised area we could see preparations apace; some big wooden crosses propped up in a couple of places, men holding brass band instruments and penitents wearing their costumes of mainly purple robes and purple pointy masks.

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At around 10:30 am we, and everyone else on the raised area, started to be moved by police, which disappointed us because we wouldn't get as good a view from the ground. I think it was because part of the procession was going to emerge from the front of the church. Anyway, we descended into the main part of the square and found a position by a road on the opposite of the square, where lots of people seemed to be congregating. Then we started to see bits of a procession going along one of the other sides of the square, and realised that the procession had started an hour earlier than expected and wasn't going along our road after all!

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The crowd was thick by the edge of the relevant road, but some of us managed to squeeze through to the front (or near the front) and get a few photos. The procession mainly seemed to consist of the penitents (some of whom held crucifixes, pictures of Jesus or Mary etc.), men dressed up as Jesus carrying along the big wooden crosses I'd spotted earlier, and brass band musicians playing a couple of tunes I didn't recognise.

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Kate says that at one point and a couple of times later in the day she saw a couple of the penitents flagellate with ropes tied round their waists, though only lightly by the looks of it so it wasn't harsh to watch; I saw chains dragging from some of the penitents' ankles.

The day then went downhill for a bit because Mark had his wallet stolen. He'd had it in his pocket rather than in a bag. The police didn't speak English but he managed to find a tourist security place nearby so went there. Meanwhile Kate and I found Emma and, when walking along, found Mark at the security place. Kate and I didn't know where Andrew was in the crowds but Emma said that he'd said to meet up at the Trolebus stop if we got split up. With that in mind, Kate and I then took Emma to an internet cafe with phone booths to cancel the stolen cards while Mark stayed at the security place to sort stuff out there. The procession had reached where we were so the crowds were quite hard to fight through...

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...but luckily we found the internet café not far away. I hung around outside Emma's phone booth while she made calls and meanwhile Kate fought her way through the crowds to the Trolebus stop to see whether Andrew was there, but he wasn't so she came back again. Once all the cards were cancelled we went back to the bus stop and waited for quite a while to see if Andrew would turn up, but he didn't so in the end Kate got the bus back to the hostel to check whether he'd gone back there. Luckily she found him nearby the hostel so they came back into Quito Old Town and met up with us there.

Things then improved further, because while Kate was gone Emma and I had lunch, a special Ecuadorean Holy Week soup called 'fanesca'. Once Kate and Andrew got back they had some too but at a a different place. It was lovely - among other things it contained twelve different grains/pulses to symbolise the twelve apostles, half a boiled egg, dried cod, some little hard-baked bread things, a miniature empanada, milk, plantain and vegetable stock. Emma and I didn't get any accompaniments with ours, but the others did; plates of molo mash (potato mixed with milk, cream and possibly garlic and onions, served on lettuce leaves and with half a boiled egg and some spring onion sliced lengthways on top), and a dulce de higo each (a whole fresh fig cooked until lightly candied in a spiced brown cane sugar syrup and served with the syrup and a slice of queso fresco (white softish cheese). Figs are a traditional Lenten food and eggs, fish and cheese are fasting foods, so it was all appropriate for eating on Good Friday.

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After lunch, after walking up a street through which a shrine was moving with lots of people walking alongside or watching from the roadsides...

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...we all went back to Plaza San Francisco to visit Tianguez, an amazing handicrafts shop that I visited with Mum in February. The shop extends into catacombs under the monastery and contains all sorts of handicrafts, pottery, woven items, etc., as well as Ecuadorean coffee and other things. Some of the catacomb passages have interesting information about the traditions and meanings of the items made by particular tribes.

Following this we were all tired so we walked to Plaza Santo Domingo to get the Trolebus back to the hostel.While walking through Plaza San Francisco Kate pointed out that the shrine had ended up in the open doorway of the monastery, and various nuns and monks were standing around on the raised area in front.

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In the evening we had dinner at KFC (only the second time I've been there in Ecuador) and checked our emails.

Posted by 3Traveller 08:34 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains airport sisters quito andes ecuador procession unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_san_francisco fair_trade_shop plaza_santo_domingo traditional_customs easter_celebrations Comments (0)

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