Week 1: Quito, Otavalo & Mindo

map week1


Quito is high up, really high, like 9,350 feet high. I was out of breath walking up three flights of stairs to my room. But somehow I managed to walk slowly around the Old Town.

First stop was the stunning Basílica del Voto Nacional and climbed to the top to look out over the city. It’s currently being restored and I loved the variety of local animal gargoyles (iguanas pictured below).

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Apparently I was in the mood for art because I visited the Contemporary Art Museum of Quito, the Museo Camilo Egas which is full of his paintings which were part of the Indigenismo movement, Yoko Ono’s exhibition in the Cultural Center, and a convent hosting an exhibit of the Oaxacan artist Rufino Tamayo (who really loved watermelon). I also walked around the streets and enjoyed some delightful street performers and ate some uvillas.



On my way to Otavalo to meet up with an old friend and her family, my phone was stolen, so pictures are a bit sparse from this part of the trip. 😦 Otavalo is known for its strong indigenous culture that has survived successive periods of colonization. It’s also famous for its huge Saturday market. I did manage to try a new fruit I’d never had before: madroños. Ecuadorians walking by had never seen them either. Google says that it translates to the strawberry tree fruit, but this is clearly something different. If anybody has any ideas, let me know.


At El Parque Cóndor, I was introduced to this hilarious looking Stygian owl, got to hold an American kestrel, and also managed to see my first Andean condor (in captivity).



Mindo is gorgeous. So much green. In order to get into the forest you ride the tarabita, a cable car that pulls you across the lush canopy below. I wasn’t early enough to see all the birds, but there were definitely some butterflies hanging around as I was hiking.


I headed for the Santuario de Cascadas and found myself hiking along a river to see these beautiful waterfalls. I jumped in a few times on my way back even though it was a bit cold. The second one (Cascada Guarumos) was my favorite!


Ziplining is always fun and in spite of spending years doing this every summer at Girl Scout camp, they never let us try the mariposa position.


Up next: The Amazon!

6 thoughts on “Week 1: Quito, Otavalo & Mindo

  1. Shauna Steadman says:

    Oh, you going girl. So happy for you. I have a small connection to Quito. That’s the city my X was living in when his new bride murdered him during a trip to Peru. My son had to go there to retrieve his body before she had him reduced to ashes. From what I knew, this is one of the worlds most interesting cities and your blog has proved it. Enjoy your year, you amazing woman. Hugs, Shauna


  2. Glen Botha says:

    Woo hoo. So glad you are finally on your trip and having so much fun. Looking forward to more updates on the wondrous adventures you will be having. Curious, did that zipline position require someone to travel with you?


    • Amber Lancaster says:

      Yes! One because you need a brake hand and two because it’s hard to keep that position unless you have abs of steel or something.


  3. Chalida Anusasananan says:

    Now it’s my turn to live vicariously through you. Already a wonderful start to a great adventure. I’m sure your legs are sore from all the biking and I could imagine climbing up those steps in altitude would be difficult. Your phone stolen? Oh no! I love the pic of the madroños. It makes me miss the rambutan, mangosteen and other prickly fruits of Southeast Asia. Thinking of you lots!


    • Amber Lancaster says:

      It’s part of travel sometimes. I really have no idea what those fruits are… They have big seeds inside like mangosteens. Hope you are having a great year so far and I’ll try to find some more new fruits to share. 😃


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