Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Quito’

Ecuador 2017 – December 24, 2017

January 22nd, 2018 No comments

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Our last day in Ecuador. Sigh. Today’s tour takes us out to hopefully see condors. There are only 55 in the wild in Ecuador, and the tour takes us to a National Park area where the condors nest.

Our pickup is at 7:00 but this time breakfast is included with the tour. On the way to breakfast, we stop at a location in hopes of spotting a few condors. We did see a few birds, but they were too far away to identify. We take binoculars and scan the cliffs across the river where there is white bird poop marking various outcroppings. Why was I thinking that a condor’s nest would be something easier to observe? Breakfast consisted of eggs, bread, fresh fruit, coffee, and mystery fruit juice; there are a number of mystery fruits here is Ecuador.

While at breakfast, we spotted a few condors, still far away, but identifiable by their flight pattern. After breakfast we drove to a nearby extinct volcano and went on a nice hike. Here we again spotted distant condors, eagles feeding on a fresh kill, a young deer hiding in the bushes, a herd of wild horses, as well as rabbits and finches.
Hike
Hike
Hike
Hike - eagles
Hike - eagles
Hike - deer
Hike - deer
Hike - deer
Hike - deer
Hike
Hike
Hike
Hike
Hike
Hike
The guide asks “Have you been to Banos?” I had just stepped off the trail to take a little break, which was obvious in nature, or so I thought. So I say “Yes, banos”. The group turns and Vicky says, “We haven’t been to Banos.” Confused why everyone is looking my way, when banos is sort of a private deed, I finally realize the Banos must be the name of a town somewhere. Why the heck would they name a town Banos? So instead of going banos with everyone looking I engage in a short conversation with the guide to learn that Banos is a Hot Springs area – I’ll slip away behind the next available bush, thank you.

When we reach the top of the trail we are slightly over 14,000 feet high. There is an awesome view over the lake below us and to the snow capped volcano in the distance. Clouds are continually flowing around the peak with occasional breaks to offer a view of the summit.

After walking down from the hilltop to the parking lot our driver takes us to a high spot in the road where we prepared for a downhill bike ride. Donning our bicycle helmets and getting instruction on the brakes, we were all set. Being practically all downhill there is very little need to pedal. The parts that we did have to pedal were challenging only because of the altitude and lack of oxygen – we are at around 13,000 feet. I am really glad that we did not choose the optional uphill ride to start the trek.

Our bike ride finishes at the restaurant where we had breakfast. Hungry for lunch, we are served chicken with rice and potatoes – they sure do like their starches!
Bike ride
Bike ride
Our driver takes us to the Zaysant Ecolodge – this is the same place where we stayed the first night. The place is family owned and super friendly. In fact, the owners live on the premises and are hosting their family for the Christmas Eve celebrations. As far as I can tell, we are the only “guests”. But the owner goes out of his way to make sure that we feel welcome and have everything we need. He even invites us to join the party but that feels a bit weird.

At dinner it sounds like they are warming up the karaoke machine. They invite us again to join the party telling us that there will be dancing, singing, and drinking as the host is pulling out a large bottle of rum. Coffee is also brewing on the stove, so it seems like it will be an energetic event, but we have to get up at 4:30am to catch our flight in the morning, and my days of staying up all night have long gone. We all decide it would be best to retire to our rooms and get as much sleep as possible. It sounded like the party went on until at least 1:00 am as I was periodically awoken by the dogs barking and wrestling out on the lawn, and I could hear distant music.
Zaysant Ecolodge
Zaysant Ecolodge
4:30 comes way to soon. Coffee is prepared by our friendly hosts who couldn’t have gotten more than a few hours sleep. Promptly at 5:30 our driver arrives to take us to the airport. Another vacation comes to a close. This trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands definitely ranks as one of the best vacations. Where will our journeys take us next year?

Categories: Ecuador 2017 Tags: ,

Ecuador 2017 – December 14, 2017

January 11th, 2018 No comments

Thursday, December 14, 2017

After a decent night’s sleep I awaken to really appreciate the beauty of the surroundings. The woodwork in the room is in its natural form – not milled. I hear numerous birds outside greeting the new day.

Breakfast consists of a yogurt parfait with fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, bread, coffee, and “Tree Tomato Juice”. Apparently there is a variety of tomatoes that grow on trees here, but the juice looks more like orange juice. I look at it with great suspicion as I don’t really care for tomato juice, but decide to give it a small sip. It doesn’t taste like either tomato juice or orange juice, and I like it well enough for a good dose of vitamin C. Our seating for breakfast is in a corner in front of 2 very large picture windows. As we look out we see several hummingbirds visiting the feeder and a brightly colored yellow bird visiting the bushes out in the yard beyond the porch. An empty hammock sways gently; it feels so relaxing here and we have a bit of time that we can enjoy it for a while. After breakfast we walk around the grounds and take a few pictures. Our host soon joins us pointing out the different mountains and landmarks, then he takes us up on the roof of room in the process of being built. From here we have the best view of the Cotopaxi – a snow capped volcano in the distance to the south.
Zaysant Ecolodge
Zaysant Ecolodge
Zaysant Ecolodge
Zaysant Ecolodge
Zaysant Ecolodge
Zaysant Ecolodge
Zaysant Ecolodge
Zaysant Ecolodge
Zaysant Ecolodge
Cotopaxi as seen from Zaysant Ecolodge
Our driver picks us up at 10:00 to take us to the next hotel in the city Quito. Unfortunately our driver does not know where the hotel is much less how to get there. He first stops at a Taxi/Bus depot on the outskirts of Quito and they point off down the main road. Once in the congested city he stops and asks for directions several times to nearby traffic cops or various people. What should have taken 30 minutes took more than 2 hours as we were literally driving around in circles. At least 3 times we pass a school and a familiar bus stop. The Uber driver is frustrated and I need to visit a “banos”. We finally park and start a walk with our bags up a one way street which is not allowing us to drive up, as we make it to the Plaza Sucre we enter a hotel but it is not the right one. Fortunately the hotel clerk points to some flags overhanging the street which are just a block down the way and we make it to the Hotel Plaza Sucre and get settled in.

The staff recommends a nearby restaurant around the corner called La Purisima. Lunch was excellent! We shared a mussel appetizer as well as Vicky’s “salad to share” included with her meal. The “salad” was chunks of cooked pumpkin and potato – not a salad like we traditionally think of. Jason and I each had sea bass, but with different preparations while Vicky had a portion of pork brisket. We all tried a sample of each other entrees and each was very good. After lunch the waiter brought us three shots of sugar cane alcohol infused with coffee, fennel, and some sort of reddish flower, respectively. Strangely, I liked the one with the feathery green fennel stems the best.

The next stop is the pharmacia to stock up on electrolytes. Vicky does not want to have another altitude sickness experience and she is taking all the precautions she can. The Ecolodge was below 9000 feet to give us a night to adjust before coming to Quito which is above 9000. She is also insistent that we each have a liter bottle of electrolytes to consume, not quite to most tasty stuff mind you. We take our supplies back to the room before the group meeting. At 3:00 our group for the next 10 days meets up. There are a dozen of us making the trip to the Galapagos Islands with Intrepid Travel.

The four of us (Chris will be here later in the evening)
Brian and Tori from Chicago,
Joel and Suzie from Canada
Anne from Australia
Pretesh, Louis, and Sapna from London.

After the meet and greet and going over the itinerary we set off on a walking tour of the city. Seeing several sites around the city, we stop at Basilica del Voto Nacional and have opportunity to climb up the Tower of Condors. To get to the tower, we had to traverse a very narrow catwalk and a set of steep stairs to get to the outside area. From there another series of very steep steel staircases gets us to a lookout area that provides a spectacular view of the city.
Quito Astronomical Observatory
Quito Astronomical Observatory
Basílica del Voto Nacional
Basílica del Voto Nacional
Basílica del Voto Nacional
Basílica del Voto Nacional
Basílica del Voto Nacional
Basílica del Voto Nacional
Basílica del Voto Nacional
Basílica del Voto Nacional
Our guide, David, took us to a restaurant which offered some traditional Ecuadorian dishes. As we entered the building, the stairs were lined with police standing at attention. In the room next to our dining area some sort of police ceremony was taking place. Everyone was in full dress uniform and a lady at the center table was wearing a tiara. I have no idea what is taking place, but it is obviously a big to-do.

Jason tried the Guinea Pig. I had chicken that was glazed with a fruit sauce. Many others ordered the potato soup which was served in a bowl with a flame come from rock salt at the base of the bowl. It was quite an upscale dining experience. All of a sudden music blares from the police banquet in the room next to us. People are standing up like this is the national anthem or something and we are not quite sure if we should stand or not.
Guinea pig dinner
Guinea pig dinner
As we are leaving we want to keep up with Joel and Suzie as they had visited this area of town the night before and knew the way back. As we empty out onto the street a police parade is in progress and there are crowds of people on the edges of the street. Fortunately the hotel was just a few blocks right around the corner and I am exhausted. I figure I’ll go ahead and get some sleep before Chris arrives. His flight landed around 7:45 and we figure it would be quite a while before he gets to the hotel. I am pleasantly surprised when the front desk calls around 8:50 to say that he is in the lobby. His driver obviously knew the way. We exchange hugs and head back to our room as we have to get up in time for a breakfast at 6:45 and then an early departure.

Categories: Ecuador 2017 Tags: ,