After the Galápagos, I headed back to Quito for a couple of days. I took the TelefériQo up a mountain which overlooks the city. The ride takes about 20 miles and goes up about a half a mile in elevation! Once I got to the top, it was really cloudy, but at some point, the clouds finally parted and I could see a little bit of the extensive city below.
Not much was open because it was a national holiday, the celebration of the Independence of Guayaquil. I decided to head to a giant tourist trap – El Mitad del Mundo – the self-proclaimed middle of the world. The yellow line is supposed to indicate the equator, but really it’s off by more than a few meters. Because I’m a huge nerd, I wandered down the main highway quite a bit and finally found the actual GPS-based equator. 🙂
Before I left, I also stopped in La Capilla del Hombre, the museum dedicated to the work of the Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamín. He was outspoken about human rights violations and his art relies heavily on symbolism. During the personal home tour, one room was full of paintings of Jesus while the next contained a huge glass cabinet of pre-Columbian ceramics depicting different sexual positions. Inspiration can come from all sorts of places I suppose.
Up next was the tourist town of Baños. Some people stay here for a week, but I just popped in for a couple days. The town is beautiful and there are waterfalls everywhere.
I biked about 20 km to see a bunch of the waterfalls outside of town. My two favorites were El Pailon del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron) and Cascada Machay. I had to hike and then crawl through a small cave that was less than a meter high in some spots to get close to the giant Pailon del Diablo. I emerged soaked, but the rainbow was beautiful. Cascada Machay seemed almost elegant in its simplicity.
Next up was visiting friends of mine from Peace Corps Morocco. They own a farm on the outskirts of town and it was definitely one of the highlights of my trip because I got to milk a cow for the first time!!!
In addition, Julie & Luke invited me to learn how to make cheese (in industrial farm-sized quantities). They can make more money in town selling their cheeses than they can selling milk. In the photos below, we’re making manchego. FYI: Hacienda Chan Chan has rooms available if you want to learn about cows, sheep, pigs, turkeys, ducks, chickens, milking, cheesemaking, etc. They were such gracious hosts and are such down-to-earth people. ❤
After a much too short reunion, I headed into the city of Cuenca. The town is full of colonial architecture and is known for making Panama hats. Panama hats were always made in Ecuador, but exported to Panama to be sold because there was more tourism there. People took them home and when others asked about the hats, they said they had gotten them in Panama. Over time, the hats became popularly known as Panama hats. Locally, they are called el sombrero de paja toquilla. As it was a Sunday, there wasn’t that much to do, and I didn’t have a chance to buy a hat or tour one of the many hat museums. However, I did get this shot from the Mirador de Turi looking out over town.