Quito and the Ecuadorian Andes

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Fri 5 May 2017 02:47

We had almost abandoned the idea of visiting Quito – it was said to be an 8 hour bus ride, and the hotels all seemed very expensive – when a Swiss couple who have spent some time here told us about the Secret Garden hostel.  It appeared very nice, well placed close to the old town, and reasonably priced, so at 7am on Friday we caught the local bus (solid seats – but only 30 cents for 7 kilometres) to the bus terminal for the 8am to Quito.


The journey was interesting – we watched 3 Sylvester Stallone movies, all dubbed in Spanish – which is 3 more than we  have ever watched before and at every stop, vendors came on board selling bread, water or sweets.  We had prepared with sandwiches, snacks and water, but at 1200 the bus stopped outside a building in the middle of nowhere and almost everyone got off.  Sarah followed in search of a loo, to find the locals all queuing up for massive plates of rice and meat, apparently this was the lunch stop laid on by the coach company.


We finally rolled into the northern bus terminal at 5pm – 9 hours after leaving,  and found a taxi to introduce us to the delights of driving in Quito.  An hour and lots of grey hairs later we got to the hostel.  Reception was in the bar on the rooftop terrace, 4 or possibly 5 storeys up (the place was a rabbit warren) which reminded us that Quito is the highest capital city in the world.  The terrace was at just under 3000 meters and we were puffing by the time we got to the top .


The hostel was a pleasant surprise.  We had a double room, with showers just across the corridor, and there were common areas on every level with sofas or hammocks.  The roof terrace was the bar and dining room, with amazing views across the city.  Evening meals were provided for under $5 and breakfasts for $3, and with happy hour between 6 pm & 7pm, everyone congregated on the terrace ready for the meal.  We were again virtually the only people over about

25, but the place was packed and we wondered how all these young people could afford to take 6 months and more to travel South America.


The view from the rooftop terrace at Secret Garden



The stairs to our room


On Saturday morning we walked around old Quito, one of the best preserved historic cities in South America, we almost by-passed the Basilica, as we have seen a lot of churches since we left home, but the outside was so wonderful that we went in and were not disappointed.   



Stunning Plazas and buildings just down the road from our hostel


The exterior of the Basilica of the National Vote – the largest neo-gothic basilica in the Americas




And the interior




Ornate buildings...................................Plaza Grande......................................And a stop in a bright and airy modern café


We had not been able to buy our return tickets at the northern bus terminal, because the return bus went from the terminal at the other end of town, so we caught the local bus (25cents in the turnstile to go anywhere in the city) out to Quitumbe. These buses have few seats so we stood for 55 minutes, as the bus got fuller and fuller, until the doors could hardly close, but still the ice-cream and donut vendors made their way up and down – sometimes two selling the same thing – but there didn’t seem to be any animosity. We came back to the city the same way, but decided we would have a taxi when we had our overnight bags with us.


On Sunday, we had a 6.30 start for our tour with CarpeDM Travel to the volcano and crater lake at Quilotoa.  The journey to Quilotoa took us along the new PanAmerican highway – an amazing 3 lane highway that follows the line of Ecuador’s 84 volcanos, but as the cloud was down we didn’t get to see them, but the views of the valleys and other mountains were lovely.  We had a stop for breakfast in a village just off the highway, visited the most amazing Sunday market in Pujili – selling grains and a huge selection of fresh fruit and veg, and stopped briefly to see a traditional home, before we finally arrived at the crater. The rim was at 3900 meters and the lake at 3500 meters, and we walked down and then back up.  Down was fine, but on the return trip Sarah struggled with the altitude, and was last back  for lunch at the top.


The market at Pujili


Many of the women, and girls, still wear the traditional Andean costume of poncho and hat


Visiting an indigenous family.  The hut behind us was full of Guinea Pigs – supper on the hoof,

in a country where Guinea Pig is a routine part of the diet.



Driving through the Andes


Quilotoa -still an active volcano – though not likely to erupt at present


Since returning to Bahia de Caraquez we have been getting ready to move on, and now have our Zarpe and other documents we need for the Galapagos Islands, 595 miles away.  If the weather holds, we hope to leave on the high tide tomorrow. This evening we had a drink with Phil and Irene from Vancouver who we met in the hostel in Quito.  In one of life’s great coincidences they were on their way to Bahia de Caraquez to check on the apartment they own here.