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April 21st, 2012 | Ecuador

Quito is Quite Nice…!!

We had just one day available to us to see Quito, and there were other things we needed to do too…

Fabio needed his riding boots repaired, and Tom needed to buy a new rain jacket… I was hoping to find a new pair of finger-less gloves, which I prefer to ride with because it makes handling the camera while on the move, much easier….

We hired a taxi to run us around to the various places, and then Fabio left to have some physiotherapy on his neck and shoulder…

Tom and I then took a taxi into town to do some sightseeing…

Our first stop was near the Cathedral where we planned to meet Fabio later that same afternoon… We decided to wait for him before going in, and rather spend the morning strolling about town…

Tom, who is an architect by profession, was just as impressed as I was with the lengths that the city had gone to, to restore old buildings.... Many of them have been painstakingly painted in a variety of pastels colours....

At an elevation of 2 800 metres above sea level, Quito is the world’s second highest capital city, after La Paz in Bolivia… With a population of more than 3 million, it is the second largest city after Guayaquil, in Ecuador…

The main plaza where the government buildings are situated, was thronged with Saturday shoppers, but very few tourists...

Quito’s history goes back much further than I had thought… The area was inhabited by the Quitu tribe as far back as 980 A.D., and after that the Caras Tribe… In 1452, Tupac Inca, led and army of 250 000 warriors against the Caras and defeated them, incorporating present day Ecuador into the Incan Empire…

The Metropolitan Cathedral stands on the edge of the Grande Plaza....

By 1541, the Spanish had taken control of the Incan Empire and Quito became their second most important city in the Americas, after Lima…

They immediately set about building churches and cathedrals in order to begin converting the indigenous Indians to Catholicism… The Indians were press-ganged into building the various churches…

Tom and I in front of the Cathedral... Tom thought the guys we asked to take the photo was just being art-sy....!! I thought he was just plain cock-eyed...!!

Not far from the Grande Plaza, stands the Church and Convent of San Francisco…. Built in 1550, it is an impressive structure that included an art school, a convent, and a gallery where the local and Spanish artists displayed their crafts… It took more than 80 years to complete the construction…

The Convent and Church of San Francisco, named after St. Francis of Assisi...

The main entrance is situated above the plaza where, during the high season, tourists congregate and use as a meeting place...

A service was taking place when we arrived.... The altar and backdrop are an exquisite example of art and sculptures dating back hundreds of years....

We went to visit the art gallery and Convent next door to the main church, walking through two of the seven internal gardens situated in the complex…

The main garden near the entrance... Today the nuns have been replaced by priests in training, and many of the buildings are used by religious groups....

From the upper balcony, where we visited the choir room above the main church hall, we could see down into another of the gardens... I could have sat myself down on a bench and not moved for hours.... A small flock of Amazon Parrots clambered around in the trees....

After being guided through the art gallery, where we were not allowed to take any photographs, Tom and I walked back up the hill to find a place to have lunch and later meet up with Fabio…

A beautifully set of carved wooden doors, on what was a rather small and nondescript church, attracted our attention...

We wandered into this small courtyard looking for a map of the city... I was going to sign up for Spanish lessons, but there just wasn't time...!!

No ferrets for sale here...!! It had taken almost 20 000 km and 8 countries for me to discover this...!!

My lack of Spanish has now become legendary… Until Tom explained that Ferreteria was a hardware store, I had had always thought it was a pet shop that sold exotic animals…!!

After a light lunch, we walked back up the hill towards the Basilica to meet Fabio…

The Basilica is the largest example of Gothic architecture in the Americas…

It was built over a period of almost 100 years, beginning in 1884… It was blessed by Pope John Paul ll in 1985 and finally consecrated in 1988…

Although impressive from the outside, we found it to be rather dull on the inside…!! The $2.00 entrance fee did not allow us onto the ground floor and into the Basilica itself, but rather up onto the 4th floor where we could look down towards the altar almost 100 metres away…!!

We went up another three or four flights of stairs and were able to look out over parts of Quito from on high…

On the top floor, there is a small curio shop that contains an amazing variety of book on Ecuador… Why it is hidden way up there, I have no idea…!!

Not many people are aware that you can climb the stairs to get views of the city, and are therefore unlikely to ever see or buy any of the artwork, postcards and other collectibles on offer there…

The grounds outside the Basilica are rather small, and without a wide-angle lens, you would have to cross two roads to get a full picture of the grandeur of this building....

The main entrance is through this huge archway....

View to the northern limits of Quito.... The town is surrounded by both dormant and active volcanoes....

An example of the renovation of old buildings that continues throughout the old historical centre of the capital...

Our bikes were standing patiently by for the ride into Colombia the following day....

After visiting the Basilica, we wanted to see the place we visited the night before, by day… We could not agree as to exactly where it was and despite asking many locals, we never did find it…!! We eventually gave up, hailed a taxi and went back to Ramiro’s house…

After a short debate, we settled on a route into Colombia, and planned to leave the following morning…

Ramiro would have liked to take us out on a ride to see a few sites outside of the city, but we were keen to be on our way…

The Equator runs just north of Quito and I would have liked to have seen the monument that is built there, but figured we would pass it the following morning, and could stop to take some photos then…

We had a quiet dinner at a local fast food joint, after rejecting the ridiculous price that Pizza Hut were asking for a pizza… Some of the more popular ones were between $16.00 and $25.00 apiece…!!

We were up early the next morning, knowing that we had a border to cross and a big range of mountains to climb before that…

A few cups of coffee had our eyes wide open and our hearts beating faster, ready for the ride to Pasto in Colombia…

Ramiro our host, who had looked after Adrian and Diana on their way down to Peru... Muchos gracias again Ramiro, for putting us up and guiding us around the city....!!

Ramiro had made arrangements to have us met outside Pasto by a few Colombian bikers, and we set off in a light drizzle, eager to get to the border 250 km away, as quickly as possible…

We all agreed that Ecuador was a country well worth visiting and spending more time in… Quito itself had been a revelation to Tom and Fabio, who thought it was the best city thay had visited in South America so far…!!

©GBWT 2012

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