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The Chapel of Man, then engagement ring success!

Quito


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Update from October 2019: Another name for Abya Yala Museum is Museo Amazonico. Still open according to Google Maps. The wonderful jewellery workshop is also still there - also known as 'ARIU Art Jewelry Studio'

The first place we visited this morning was Abya Yala Museum, a small but very interesting museum with lots of artifacts from the Amazon as well as a few archaeological ones from other areas of Ecuador. Highlights included two examples of shrunken heads, various stuffed wildlife (a sloth, an armadillo, a condor and smaller birds), a massive dugout canoe, musical instruments, blowpipes, spears and some photos of Ingapirca, the only major Inca site in Ecuador. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take any pictures.

When we came out of there a guy was practising parkour in front of the museum. We caught a taxi from there to our next destination, La Capilla del Hombre, or 'The Chapel of Man'. This monument and art museum was a creation of Ecuador's most famous artist, Guayasamín, as a tribute to humankind, the suffering of Latin America's indigenous poor and the eternal hope for a more positive future.

It lies in the very suitably named residential district of Bellavista ('beautiful view').

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On the way there we passed through Guápulo district, very hilly and historic. It was beautiful - I'll make sure to come back here for a look-around when I return to Quito next month.

First of all we walked round the outside of the monument, taking photos of it as well as the view and of a statue from the Honduran Mayan site of Copan which was donated to the Chapel of Man by the government of Honduras.

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Then we went inside it to look at Guayasamín's art. We were given a free tour by a guide, just for the two of us; in the process of doing so our guide gave us such a fine example of Spanglish I wished I could have taken a recording of it to play to my students and see if they could spot where the mistakes were. The tour began with a drawing representing workers at the silver mines of Potosí (in Bolivia) in Spanish colonial times. Before the guide told us this I had guessed it might be about the Potosí mines in historical times, so I was pleased when it turned out I was correct. Then Dave noticed a large mural and said it reminded him of Picasso - a few minutes later we got to that painting and our guide told us that it was indeed about the Spanish Civil War and was influenced by Picasso´s Guernica. The art was interesting and very symbolic. Once our tour had finished, we each bought a fridge magnet of our favourite artwork.

After leaving the monument we walked up some stairs to an on-site café, where we had a humita each and shared a quimbolito.

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Then we caught a taxi back to our hostel for a rest before heading out on a very important mission... choosing my engagement ring!

To do so we went straight to an extremely well-recommended jewellery shop called Ari's Gallery in the Old Town, right on the edge of Plaza San Francisco.

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Every piece of jewellery in it is hand made; the owner makes them with the help of five assistants. Most of the jewellery is silver but some are gold and some made from Spondylus shell. The ring I chose is made of silver and patterned with two pelicans and two hummingbirds - no precious stone. I asked if the silver came from Ecuador and it turns out that it comes from close to Chordeleg, a village near to Cuenca that is famous for its jewellery. I'd heard of Chordeleg before. Ari Gallery's owner gets his silver (and I assume his gold as well) from the same source local to Chordeleg as the Chordeleg jewellers do.

When we first arrived the owner's wife showed us round, but then the owner himself arrived. I originally thought that they didn't have any the right size for me, because there was only one of each type displayed (and apparently they don't have any in storage - they only ever have one of each type in existence in the shop) and every ring I was interested in was either too small or too big. They were also a bit too wide for my liking. However, then it turned out that they could tailor-make one for me, so I went for that option! He tried different dummy rings on me to find my size and then I picked the pattern and asked for it to be a bit narrower than the ones on display. They had a book of patterns and it said that the pelican means 'new life and long life' and the hummingbird is a general symbol of 'nature'. I love both hummingbirds and pelicans so I think I would have chosen them even without their given meanings, but I do think these meanings were very appropriate nonetheless.

The owner told us that he could deliver the ring to our hostel tomorrow afternoon for free, so we went for that option.

For dinner we went back to the Argentinian grillhouse we'd visited a couple of days before. This time Dave chose the mixed grill, which arrived piled up and still sizzling on a portable grill. He really liked most of it but unsurprisingly left the intestines! We shared some 'Italian potatoes' (fried potatoes with melted cheese, sour cream and mushrooms) as a starter and for the main I had a steak.

Posted by 3Traveller 16:28 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art pelicans museum dave quito andes ecuador hummingbirds explorations unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_san_francisco Comments (0)

Thermal baths and a landslide at Papallacta

Quito and Papallacta


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Update from October 2019: 'Achiote' is still open and apparently doing well!

Today was taken up with a day trip to the thermal baths just outside the tiny village of Papallacta, about two hours east of Quito.

Our hostel owner told us that the quickest way for us to catch a bus to Papallacta was to get a taxi to the Cumbayá neighbourhood of Quito and then flag down a bus from there, so that's what we did. The bus cost $2.50 each. I had an aisle seat right at the back; on my left was a fellow passenger and on my right was a curtain covering what I assumed was a surface with a load of soft storage items of some kind on it. About halfway through the one and a half/ two hour journey the curtain suddenly moved as someone inside turned over! I assumed that it was an off-shift bus employee getting some sleep.

We were dropped off at the side of the main road and walked about 2.5 km up the hill through and then just beyond Papallacta.

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Once we arrived it was past 12.30 so we went straight to the restaurant and had some lunch first before we got changed and into the first pool we came across.

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Although sunny in Quito, it was almost completely overcast in Papallacta and was quite chilly, so the moment when I first sank into the first hot pool was absolutely heavenly. There were loads of pools; four or five hot main ones (including one that was extremely hot - you couldn't stay in too long, though it was wonderful to be in for five minutes at a time!), a couple of little freezing cold plunge pools and some small, hot footpools. Nearly all of them had a tiny waterfall on one side. All the mountains surrounding us had peaks covered in cloud.

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We did rounds of the pools for over two and a half hours before finally dragging ourselves out, getting changed and walking briskly down the hill in order to flag down a bus to Quito. We managed it in the end, but not without some drama - from halfway down the hill we noticed that the main road, which was at a right angle to the smaller road we were on, was completely filled with an immoveable traffic jam stretching round and out of sight! For a moment we were really worried that we were now stranded, because we saw that the road was blocked off for vehicles going in the direction for Quito...

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Once we reached the bottom, we walked round the corner and saw what had happened - a landslide! Luckily it was a relatively minor one and no vehicles had been caught by it. A digging machine was already in action moving piles of mud and stones out of the road. It cleared one lane's worth of stuff out of the way, watched by us and lots of other onlookers, and then traffic was allowed to move.

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As luck would have it, the second vehicle in the Quito-bound queue was a bus, so we hopped on it with relief. Within five minutes of us getting on, it was dark outside.

Instead of staying on the bus until it arrived at Quitumbe bus terminal in Quito, which would have meant a 40-minute taxi journey from there to the hostel, we got off the bus early at Cumbayá and took a taxi from there instead. This saved us a lot of time. Once we arrived back at the hostel we rested for a bit before going out for dinner. We ate at an Ecuadorian restaurant called 'Achiote'; Dave had a chicken grill with rice, I had fat juicy shrimps in garlic sauce, yuca chips and a salad of chopped cucumber, celery, tomato, pineapple, sliced boiled egg and pale corn.

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I really recommend this restaurant - the food was great and the service was really friendly as well.

Posted by 3Traveller 16:04 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains airport hostel buses dave quito andes ecuador papallacta landslide explorations ecuadorian_cuisine thermal_baths Comments (0)

Pageantry, history and an engagement ring hunt

Quito


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We went into the Old Town first thing after breakfast, looked round the San Francisco Monastery and then revisited Tianguez Fairtrade shop (I showed Dave round the shop a few days ago so he could see all the corridors set within the former catacombs of the monastery, along with the fabulous range of handicrafts) to do a bit of shopping. We had a drink or two at the café as well - I had guanábana juice and a Cola Light and Dave had a hot chocolate and a Coke.

Plaza San Francisco;

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San Francisco Monastery exterior;

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San Francisco Monastery interior;

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Tianguez Fairtrade shop

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Then we headed back to Plaza Grande to watch the Changing of the Presidential Guard! This takes place every Monday at 11 am. There was barely a cloud in the sky all day so I got a little bit sunburnt. We saw the President, Rafael Correa, standing on a balcony, and ceremonial guards variously marching, riding on horses or sitting beneath the balcony playing in the band.

Plaza Grande;

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The changing of the Presidential Guard;

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After that finished, we walked to a narrow street called La Ronda which is lined with beautiful restored 17th century buildings, some of which have colourful flowers in pots on balconies. Several of the buildings have a plaque commemorating an artist, musician or poet who lived there in the past.

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On the way to La Ronda we popped inside the cultural arts centre in Plaza Grande...

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...and crossed a plaza on the edge of the Old Town which had great views of the Virgen de Quito, a statue of an angel which stands of a hill overlooking Quito.

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We had an almuerzo, a set lunch, in a restaurant in La Ronda and then got the Trolebus back to the hostel from Plaza Santo Domingo.

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After a short rest we did some photo editing and then went out round the corner from the hostel to three handicraft and jewellery shops, in order to look for a silver engagement ring, but we had no luck. None of them had very many rings on offer and what rings they did have were all too wide or were colours I'm not keen on. I still had another option up my sleeve, though, in the Old Town. I made a mental note to go there either on Wednesday or Thursday.

For dinner we went to an Argentinian/American steakhouse in the Mariscal Sucre area - delicious, just as I hoped. Dave got excited when he saw that T-bone steak was on the menu - apparently this is banned in the USA because of the way the meat is on the bone.

Posted by 3Traveller 14:36 Archived in Ecuador Tagged dave quito andes ecuador procession explorations changing_of_the_guard unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_grande plaza_san_francisco fair_trade_shop plaza_santo_domingo san_francisco_monastery Comments (0)

Snakes, exotic plants and a stunning city view

Quito and Pichincha Volcano


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In the morning, almost first thing after breakfast, we did something I've wanted to do for many years... we went on the Teleférico, the cable cars, up Pichincha Volcano!

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We went up to 4100 metres altitude. The view you get over Quito from up there is jaw-dropping.

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I was incredibly happy up there; I'd been wanting to come to this particular place for years!

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Once we got back to the hostel, though, and we'd nipped out to a nearby café for a quick lunch and come back again, I started feeling sad about the fact that it was Father's Day yet I was unable to see Dad. We went back out again soon after, though, so I cheered up, especially when I knew it was a place Dad would have enjoyed visiting. This was Quito's botanical garden, set within Parque La Carolina.

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Special mention goes to the rose garden - although the peak of the season was clearly over, enough flowers remained to create a lovely sight - the big orchid house, the koi carp pool, the collection of bonsai trees, the carnivorous plant house and some other individuals such as an arabica coffee bush, a vanilla plant and a couple of young quinine and jacaranda trees. The extremely relaxing atmosphere and beautiful setting were also great pleasures.

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After eventually leaving there, we carried on within the park to the Vivarium, which holds several types of reptile and amphibian, all native to Ecuador.

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We saw an anaconda, some boas, an extremely venomous coral snake, a tree snake, two baby caimen, a green tree frog, some baby turtles, a green iguana and one or two other things. It was very scientifically done and it was fascinating to see them so close up.

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We stopped at a shopping centre on the way back to the hostel and Dave was surprised by the sight of a Radioshack shop... he then had the bright idea of getting an SD card reader there to solve our problem of being unable to look at or save to USB the photos he'd taken since the Galapagos on his camera. So he bought one and then we moved on to a supermarket, where I showed Dave various tropical fruits and bought a big bottle of guanábana drinking yoghurt.

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Posted by 3Traveller 10:46 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains turtles volcanoes dad roses snakes botanical_gardens dave quito andes ecuador Comments (0)

Otavalo and the Line of the Equator

Otavalo, Cayambe, Quitaso Sundial (the Line of the Equator) and Quito


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Day trip today to Otavalo and the line of the Equator.

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On arrival at Otavalo bus terminal I helped two Canadian tourists who didn't know how to get to the handicraft market and had no map - I said they could join me and Dave because we were going that way and I'd been there before so I knew my way around. It was nice to help out. Once they'd left us, Dave and I carried straight on to the animal market. Although people were packing up, there were more animals than when I was there in April with Emma, Kate etc. Llamas in one open-backed truck, pigs being hauled into another, loads of ducklings, chickens, guinea pigs, geese and some rabbits.

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It was a very hot day, so after leaving the animal market we walked along one side of the daily market and then headed to the church to sit inside in the coolness and rest for a little bit out of the hubbub. As we walked in a recording of the famous waltz by Strauss started playing really loudly - slightly surreal given the surroundings. Dave sat down, I moved off to go outside to the public toilets, but then I noticed a girl in a bright pink dress standing at the main doors ready to go down the aisle, surrounded by her family who were also dressed to the nines! There was only a very light sprinkling of people in the pews. We made a swift but discreet exit and sat on a bench outside in the shade, instead.

After I'd been to the loo and we'd both had a bit of a sit down and a drink, we moved on to the handicrafts market. It spread out even further along the side streets than it had done in April. As well as handicrafts, it contained stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, bread rolls, flours, maize, beans and pulses. We bought ourselves a lovely colourful woven holdall each, I got myself some new alpaca gloves and a lovely leather belt with a colourful woven pattern going down the middle lengthways, and Dave got himself two shirts with a pattern on the front.

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After leaving the market we had a quick, very late lunch at a cafe - a humita, a sandwich each and a quimbolito (like a sweet version of a humita, but with an even more spongey texture).

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Then we jumped on the first bus we came across with the destination 'Cayambe' displayed on the front windscreen... the purpose of this being to get to the line of the Equator.

The bus journey from Otavalo to Cayambe took just over an hour and cost only 75 cents. At Cayambe we took a taxi three kilometres down the road to Quitsato Sundial, where I had been before in April. We received the same interesting talk as I had done then (see this blog post here for the details of that), looked round and took some pictures.

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Once we got back to Quito we rested for a bit before going out to a Middle Eastern restaurant for dinner. It was very similar to the shawarma places in Guayaquil. I enjoyed my chicken shawarma wrap but Dave wasn't so keen on one or two of the things he got on his mixed plate. A couple on the table next to us were smoking hookahs provided by the restaurant.

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Posted by 3Traveller 10:11 Archived in Ecuador Tagged market buses dave quito otavalo andes ecuador cayambe ecuadorian_cuisine quitsato_sundial the_equator Comments (0)

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