I guess you could technically say that this is my second time in Quito. That is if you count the night spent at the airport (35km away) on the way to Cuenca. But this is the first time experiencing the city in the daylight and in the city center. It is a truly remarkable and surprising city indeed.
It is a long and narrow city set in a valley high in the Andes Mountains. At about 40km long and only 5km wide, it is a bustling metropolis chock full of history, culture, and colorful people. We were fortunate to arrive at the time of the annual festival to commemorate the conquest by Spain. Granted most find that a sorry excuse for a celebration, thinking that perhaps independence might be a better cause, but it’s an excuse for a party all the same. And party they do. You can’t take but a few steps without coming across a traditional Ecuadorian band with people dancing like no one is watching. The La Mariscal district where we are staying seems to be ground zero for this celebration.
Quito is one of the largest and best preserved Spanish colonial cities in the Americas. As with any developing country infrastructure is lacking and the city is often (always?) choked with traffic. But it is clearly making progress. The new airport and the modern access road would rival anything you’d see in the United States, and probably better than many we have. Even though it sits squarely on the Equator, the climate is always spring-like with cool temperatures and it often rains in the afternoon. We’ve been here two days so far with a guide and a driver and counting today, we have two more. Take a look at what I’ve seen so far.
Otovalo, Cotacachi and Peguche Cascadia
Because our first full day in Quito was on a Saturday we were lucky to visit the Otovalo Saturday market. We hired Francisco as a tour guide and Victor as a driver for the day. It was a steady climb up the mountains for about two hours and the increase in the already high elevation (Quito is already at 7,600 feet) was noticeable. We went through several microclimates ranging from desserts to lush green agriculture farmland. We also passed lakes formed in craters of volcanoes and visited the Peguche Cascadia which is a lovely waterfall not far from the city of Cotacachi.
Cotacachi was a sleepy town made even sleepier since it was a Saturday. We had a leisurely stroll along the quiet streets and it is known for its purveyors of leather goods. Many shops were closed (Saturday) but I enjoyed the serenity. Obviously many expatriates from the United States do too since there is a large expat community living here.
Of course the highlight of this day was the fact that it was my birthday! I had a birthday lunch, complete with birthday cake and candles, overlooking a beautiful crater lake. It was a long, exhausting day, but a birthday to remember that’s for sure. Remember you can always enlarge a photo by clicking on it.