September 1-15, 2011... Ecuador!

No, Anhinga didn’t make the trip -- just the crew.  We flew to Quito to visit family via KLM from Bonaire -- wow -- who knew you could get anywhere from Bonaire?  John and Aleja couldn’t do enough for us to make us feel welcome.  They took us everywhere and guided our individual explorations.  We packed a LOT into 2 weeks and will break it down into 3 blog entries:  Quito and the equator, Tena and the Amazon Basin, and Baños.

Quito is a bustling city 10,000 feet up in the Andes and surrounded by snow-capped peaks.  As sea-level people, it was quite an adjustment.  Not only was it cold (we are used to 90+ degrees -- it got down in the 50s in Quito) but the air really is thin.  We huffed and puffed as we climbed hills and walked up staircases.  We went up the volcano Pinchincha by teleferico to 14,000 ft. to get an overview of the city.

Our trip to Mitad del Mundo on the equator a few miles outside Quito was great -- we really did see how the Coriolus force in the northern and southern hemispheres made water flow in opposite directions.  After lunch overlooking a volcanic crater, John and granddaughter Sarah raced around to work off some of that fantastic Ecuadorian food.

Quito is like an outdoor museum.  The Spanish colonial architecture from the 16th-19th centuries is beautiful, and it is hard to believe that it has lasted through the years in this earthquake zone.  As we walked through the historic center, we didn’t know where to look first -- the ornate churches, the plazas, the balconied houses.  And people use the city -- this is no ‘Disneyfied’ historic center.  People work, go to school, shop, eat, and watch the world go by here.  We went to a dance performance one night at the Teatro Sucre -- another opportunity to experience a beautiful building.  And, everywhere you go in Quito you get another view of the Panecillo, Monument to the Virgin.

We took a tour of the Presidential Palace where our guide showed us the Cabinet meeting room, the State dining room (set for 100 at one long table!) the artifacts left as gifts from countries all over the world, the yellow room (with portraits of the Presidents), and the balcony over the Plaza Grande.  Though the tour was in Spanish, our ear had adjusted enough to the language to make out the majority of the information.  We could feel how a few more weeks of immersion would have made us Spanish speakers as well as listeners.

Every day after touring we returned to John and Aleja’s apartment in the north end of the city, feet aching from walking, out of breath from the hills, but happy with what we’d seen.  We learned the trolley bus system that took us up and down the length of the city, found the food markets with beautiful produce and crafts markets with indigenously-made goods.  Out the apartment’s floor-to-ceiling windows, we were lucky to have views of Cayambe, a 19,000 ft. snow-covered peak.  We could see what makes Quito such a livable and remarkable city. 

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