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).
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!