Diary/Photo Journal

Week of February 08, 2004 (see Mexico/Central America Diary Index, for first half of week)

We flew into Quito, Ecuador and as soon as we found our hotel, Puerto del Sol (we thought the hotel name fitting), we hit the streets for a tour of the "Old Town".  Old Town consists of streets and neighborhoods that have been thriving for hundreds of years.  Quito is not a city that is under restoration, but rather, a city that has kept itself clean and its beauty has aged well.  Needless to say, Quito is at the top of our list (along with Guanajuato, Mexico and Panama City, Panama), as one of the best cities we have visited thus far.

Our hotel's street
Iglesia Santo Domingo
and its busy plaza
Vendor making
candied peanuts
- YUM!
Boys working hard
Oldest colonial cathedral
in South America - 1562 Iglesia de El Sagrario and its beautiful artwork from the 1700's

Quito loves its churches and its cathedral and for good reason.  We walked for five hours and covered about five kilometers (3ish miles) and found wondrous architecture and extraordinary craftsmanship.  And, it did not hurt that the people were terrifically helpful, openly kind and many spoke English.  As with other sizeable cities in the Latin American countries, there was a large population of small children selling various trinkets and working in food kiosks or shining shoes.  If you ever want to teach your children to not complain about doing their homework or completing chores around the house, send them to someplace like Quito, where they can look into the faces of children their age that cannot go to school because they have to work 12-15 hour days just to make enough to buy food for the next day.

1) Just a typical street corner
2 &3) Iglesia de San Francisco - 1534
with its roof being replaced due to earthquake
damage - and its golden walls and altar
Also, that is that is the original plank floor
4) Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus

We did run into two adorable little sly ones that wanted $1 to take their picture.  We strenuously negotiated $1.50 for their set of colored pencils and taking their picture. 

Our little
but darn
Views of the Basilica - 1926

Inside the Pantheon where the ashes
of the past presidents and other "Jefes"
of the country are laid to rest.  Gerson
talked his way into this very protected

We also wound our way up to the Basilica that is perched on a hill protectively overlooking the city of Quito.  We spent over an hour walking around the enormous and exquisite building and climbing the many flights of stairs and ladders into the upper reaches of the spires.  Because work is still ongoing and a major earthquake retrofitting project is under way, we were able to use the construction accesses into the highest parts of the Basilica.  We even gained entry into the bell tower and while standing literally inside and behind the clocks, we were able to gently ring the bells.

Basilica towers and Gerson in the tower

Gerson going down to walkway on top
of the church ceiling

Enormous (50' diameter) stained glass window

The view from the Basilica was breathtaking and exposed a charming and storied city. 

Views from the
heights of the Basilica

New Town to Old Town

Churches dominate
the cityscape.
I am standing at the upper base
of the top cross of the clock tower - look at the Basilica pic above to
see how incredibly high this was!

We stumbled back into our quaint hotel and regrouped to go out for a typical Ecuadorian meal.  What we found was that Ecuador loves its chicken because we found about every other restaurant specialized in chicken meals and the other restaurants had chicken plates as well.  Needless to say, we indulged in pollo and had an excellent meal.

We had planned on taking a bus to the Equator monument but alas, we wanted to check on the customs process for getting Cindy out of the port in Guayaquil.  We had heard nasty little rumors about our having to have a "Carnet Passage" (a passport for your vehicle) and we found the rumors to be sort of, kind of, well, maybe true. 

The Ecuadorian Consulate said "no", we do not need a Carnet and the Ecuador equivalent to AAA said "yes" we do need to have one.  We also spoke to the shipping company in Panama City and they said "no", the Carnet is not obligatory; however, we also called the shipping company's preferred agent in Guayaquil and the well-informed woman there said a definite "yes", the Carnet is necessary.  Since the agent at Trinity (the shipping company) seemed to be the most knowledgeable and was able to explain the process with clarity, confidence and kindness, we weighed the scales in her favor as telling the truth.

The paradox is, the United States does not issue a Carnet - only Canada in North America and in parts of Europe.  Seeing as the Carnet was only rumored to be needed in Ecuador (and no other countries) and seeing as you usually have to present the vehicle to the source providing the Carnet, we did not get one.  And, if you don't present your vehicle, the cost is near to $1,000 plus a security deposit equal to or greater than the value of the vehicle.  Now, since Cindy is priceless, we could not afford this money being held until we returned to the U.S.

So, what it came down to is this - as soon as we pick up Cindy in Guayaquil, we will probably be escorted to the Peruvian border and kicked out of the country.  With that in mind, we quickly found a local travel agent, booked our flight to the Galapagos Islands for the next day, February 12th, and we spent four days cruising the Galapagos Islands while Cindy was cruising the Pacific.  Cindy was due to arrive on February 13th; however, the customs office is closed Friday thru Sunday and we fly from Galapagos to Guayaquil on February 16th (Monday).  Then, we don't mind being shooed out of the country because we have experienced that for which we came to Ecuador.

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