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Quito, Ecuador

Total Pictures Taken: 44

Summary

Facts

Detail

Getting There


Summary

We traveled through Quito, Ecuador three times around our trips to the Amazon Basin (Kapawi Ecolodge) and trekking in the Andes.  Quito has both an ‘old’ town with lots of very old Spanish architecture buildings and churches, as well as lots of poverty, and a ‘new’ town that is more modern and houses most of the major business in the city.  It is one of the highest elevation cities at over 9000 feet above sea level.  We hired a very nice English speaking taxi driver to show us the town on the first day we were here.  Just outside Quito we visited the Equator to get pictures of us spanning the hemispheres.  We wish we had more time in Quito because it seems like a great city, except for the constant smell of car exhaust and generally polluted air!.

Facts (as we think of them)

Currency: US Dollar

Language: Spanish (some English)

Internet connection speed: 33Kbps (free internal direct connection in hotel!)

English speaking TV channels (in our hotel): about 8, including CMAX/HBO

Cost to send 10Kg package to US: $125 DLH, $165FedX

 

Detail

On our first day in Quito we asked the hotel if they had someone to drive us around the city.  We wanted to get the general lay of the city so that we knew where to go on our next 2 layovers there, and we needed to find a store where we could buy binoculars and a jacket for Kristen (she had left the good one at home!).

TWe were introduced to Milton, a English speaking taxi driver employed by the Hilton.  The Hilton hires 'trusted' drivers so that their guests never have to worry about getting ripped off by a taxi.  They also have 24 hour external security  patrol equipped with guard dogs.  Milton was a school teacher in Quito before the government ran out of money to pay for enough teachers, and he had to drive a taxi for a living.  He has been driving the taxi for 11 years, but wants to come to the US to teach, whenever he can get a visa (very long lines around the visa building!)

We first went to the top of a hill at the southern end of the Old (colonial) Town.  The hill, El Panecillo, overlooks the whole of Quito.  From there we saw several of the Andes’ volcanic peaks: Antisana is Ecuador’s 4th highest peak, standing at over 15,000 feet. Milton told us that we were lucky it was such a clear day.  Artisana, and the other peaks, are often obscured by the clouds.  We also had a nice view of Cayambe, Ecuador’s 3rd highest peak, and of Cotopaxi, nearly 20,000 feet high and one of the world’s 3 highest active volcanoes (there is apparently some debate about whether Cotopaxi is actually the highest). 

Also from El Panecillo, we had a nice view of the volcano Pinchincha.  This volcano erupted last spring and dumped 6 inches of ash on Quito.  On top of El Panecillo is a huge statue of the Virgin of Quito, given to Quito by Spain.  The Virgin stands almost 100 feet tall and is visible from most of Quito.

After leaving El Panecillo, we drove through Old Town, stopping at Plaza San Francisco, where the Iglesia San Francisco is located.  This church is spectacular, with the interior almost completely covered with gold leaf.   The church is the largest and oldest in the colonial part of Quito, having been built beginning in 1534.  We then saw the President’s and Mayor’s residences in a very well-kept square bustling with people.

 

qu-city-view-dan-kristen-600.jpg (79232 bytes) Milton, our taxi tour guide, took this picture of us overlooking Quito.
Pictures from the Panecillo, a hill very high above Quito.  This picture shows the Bascilica in the middle of old town, Quito. qu-el-panecillo-view-to-basillica-600.jpg (135707 bytes)
qu-el-panecillo-view-to-cayambe-600.jpg (106229 bytes) Also from the Panecillo, a view across Quito to Mount Antisana.
From a street in old town, looking toward the Basilica. qu-city-street-long-view-basilica-600.jpg (73122 bytes)
qu-city-street-long-view-virgin-statue-600.jpg (59912 bytes) From a street in old town, looking up toward the Panecillo.
Dan straddling the middle of the earth (the equator, that is). qu-equator-line-dan-4-600.jpg (72067 bytes)
qu-equator-sign-dan-600.jpg (73821 bytes) qu-equator-wall-kristen-600.jpg (67270 bytes)
qu-equator-line-kristen-1-600.jpg (76414 bytes) Kristen at the monument at the equator.
 Iglesia San Francisco in old town, Quito. This famous very old church has an interior lined in gold leaf. qu-san-francisco-church-outside-600.jpg (79212 bytes)
qu-san-francisco-church-inside-back-to-altar-600.jpg (107808 bytes) qu-san-francisco-church-inside-side-jesus-600.jpg (120173 bytes)
Out with our friends from Quito, Luis and Rosemary (eating at their favorite Mexican restaurant!). qu-friends-dan-kristen-louis-rosemary-600.jpg (63966 bytes)
 

We took a ½ hour drive north of Quito to the Mitad del Mundo (“Middle of the World”). At the Equator, there is a monument, with a museum of indigenous Ecuadorian people inside. There is also a bright yellow line demarking 0 degrees latitude. Of course we, along with hundreds of other tourists (mostly Ecuadorian), snapped several pictures of ourselves straddling and standing on the line!! There was an Ecuadorian band playing and most of the tourists were singing along and dancing. The whole place was very festive. We bought t-shirts to commemorate our visit.

 

Upon our return to Quito, Milton took us to the local mall to buy binoculars (for bird/animal sightings in the Rain Forest and the Andes), a rain jacket for Kristen, who forgot to pack her new Gore-Tex jacket, and English books. Milton negotiated a 12% discount for us on the binoculars and jacket. 

 

We tried to go to dinner at La Choza (Milton’s recommendation) but it was closed, so we went to La Rondo based on taxi driver recommendation. Very good dinner! Great dumplings to start with spicy salsa, corn meal dish, great potato cheese soup, then veal with carrots and mushrooms/potatoes. Our taxi driver waited for us the entire time we were eating dinner because we were in a questionable area ($2 + $5) – the security guard outside the restaurant had shotgun!!

 

After the wine at dinner, we decided to continue things at the hotel casino.  Supposedly, there are only 8 casinos in Quito, and our hotel had one of them.  It was very different than Las Vegas -- down in the basement and most blackjack tables had minimum/maximum bets of 10¢/$1 and  20¢/$2!  There was one high stakes table with a $5/$25, although they allowed bets up to $50. No one was playing at this table, so we sat down.  When we were down to our last $20, we decided to bet everything and, assuming we would lose it, then go to bed.  Unbelievably, we won that bet and started winning like crazy with all our money each time – we ended up walking out with several hundred dollars in less than 2 hours.  All the dealers and security attendants were watching -- of course, none of them spoke English. 

 

While playing, we met a very nice local Ecuadorian couple, Luis and Rosemary.  Luis had studied English in New Jersey for 6 months, and now is in Architecture school in Quito.  After talking and playing for awhile, Luis invited us to his house when we were back in Quito.  He asked if he was our first friend in Quito!!  We did take them out to dinner after the Amazon Trek and they drove us around Quito showing us some of the hot spots.

 

The people at the Hilton were very good to us.  The same attendants were there on all three visits and they warmly welcomed us each time.  They stored our extra baggage between each visit and were extremely helpful with our every need.  They even ordered Domino's pizza for us when we discovered that the Domino's employee did not speak English! 

One major issue with Quito is the ever-present pollution.  The air smells of car exhaust, and lots of time outside makes you search for clean air.  Dan had a very hard time catching a full breath for the entire time in Quito, probably because of the pollution and likely partially from the altitude (See Sao Paulo-Doctor's Visit

 

The other major issue with Quito, though it did not directly affect us, is the political corruption.  Everyone consistently described the government as corrupt.  Supposedly politics is the most financially rewarding career in Ecuador.  Many of the politicians come out of office as millionaires or even billionaires!  This means that very little of the money gets applied to the middle and lower classes.  The majority of people in Quito make $200-$500 a month, but clothes and other staples are similar in cost to the US (e.g., $50 for dress shirt).

Getting There

On our first entry into Quito we were supposed to fly from Santiago after a relaxing day in Santiago.  However, the flight from Rapa Nui to Santiago was delayed 18 hours so we flew Rapa Nui-Santiago-Quito taking about 14 hours of flying/waiting (see also Rapa Nui - Leaving There).   

 

Contacts

Name Contact Info Comment
Hilton Colon Quito

Av Amazona Y Patria, Quito

Tel: 593-2-606663

Very service oriented.  Nice hotel.

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Quito