Visiting the Quilotoa crater from Black Sheep Inn was an easy 45 minute jeep ride. Once at Quilotoa the views were spectacular. We had been thinking we would walk to a neighbouring town Guayama, but decided on the day to take a good look round the crater instead. We walked part way round the ridge and then did the descent. It was pretty steep but the views were amazing.
Our first morning at the Inn was bright and clear – fantastic. We went for an amazing walk to the top of the ridge behind the Inn. Past the llamas, and a donkey, up some narrow goat tracks to reach the top. The outing was a bit more exciting than expected though. We had been warned that you need to take a ‘dog stick’ to scare off any over-excited farm dogs that like barking at passing traffic. Unfortunately on top of the ridge we had a rather aggressive one, who turned out to be the leader of a pack of four – which had us waving our sticks and walking away in a determined manner – and kind of spoiled the ‘nice walk in the country’ ambience. But plenty of relaxing in lovely surroundings in the afternoon so it was easy to get back to a more ‘tranquilo’ state.
I hadn’t really thought about the drive from Quito to Black Sheep Inn, just that it was going to take about three to four hours. So the fabulous scenery on the trip to the Central Highlands was a bonus. Complete with Ecuadorian music and then disco hits of the 70s as the soundtrack. Good driving music in anyone’s language, obviously. And our driver was a local which was handy – it was a pretty windy road as we got closer to Chugchilán, and in a couple of places landslides had rendered the road one lane. After stunning mountain views the last 30 minutes of the trip was slow as visibility was minimal due to the afternoon cloud rolling in.
A post from Not Your Average American alerted M to a different part of Centro Histórico for us to explore. San Marco is near the old centre but has a very different feel as there are still many people living in the area, and businesses are very low key. Many of the houses in Junin Street had tiles with photos of previous inhabitants and some words about their lives. Predictably, M found un bar de cerveza artesenal, Sirka, for us to visit while we were exploring. Sirka is a great location to visit for beers, food (we only tried the hommus, but that was good) and quirky artwork.
Our first introduction to Ecuador’s most famous artist was quite fitting for this post-postmodern world – great t-shirts. Although we didn’t realise until later, the fabulous images were the work of Oswaldo Guayasamin. In Quito you can visit Capilla del Hombre, which is Guayasamin’s home / studio, and a chapel he designed to pay hommage to humankind. This is a wonderful location to visit, not only to view his art but also see his art collection (pre-Columbian, colonial and the work of international artists like Picasso, Goya and Chagal) and his house, with great views across the city.
La Mitad del Mundo is part historic locale, part geographical must go, part kitchy tourist trap. You definitely have to visit if you are in Quito. It is well documented by various killjoys that the site is not quite actually the true equator, which is 240m north of the yellow line – but who cares! Although, I was a bit sad to discover that the whole thing of water moving in opposite directions depending on what side of the equator you’re on is (for small scale operations) bollocks. Since our guide book was published, it seems that there are a number of additional venues besides the Equatorial monument, museum, and pseudo (souvenir shop) village to explore. One of these additions, in the building labelled ‘Francia’, is a museum explaining the history of the scientific expeditions which led to the identification of the equator and proof of the theory that the world bulges in the middle, and not at the poles.
If you’re there at lunchtime I recommend selecting one of the cafes that looks towards the monument, and enjoy watching people’s photo setups incorporating the equatorial line.
I was interested to read a blog article about some research from the US Foreign Service Institute, which suggests that it takes 480 hours to reach basic fluency in a ‘Group 1’ language – like Spanish. Still got a long way to go but most days it’s fun trying.
On Sunday mornings in Quito, a long stretch of road is closed to cars, and cyclists get to rule. Last Sunday we headed out in search of bikes to join in. However, we had forgotten there was a big fun run on, ending at Parque Carolina, so the usual Sunday bike trail was not available. We decided to walk on to Carolina to see what was happening anyway, and discovered that Ave Amazonas was closed and cyclists were out in force, along with roller bladers and a few walkers. We hired some rattlers ($3 p/h) after leaving a passport as insurance. The price turned out to be a bit high as M’s bike blew a tire (as well as getting a tube puncture) about 40 minutes into our ride. A nearby bike mechanic fixed the tube (3 minutes, $1.25) but kindly pointed out that the tire itself was stuffed. A short while later as predicted the tire popped again so we were back with our feet on the ground a little sooner than we had hoped. It was great being on a bike though and seeing so many others getting into it. And being offered bike pumps by helpful locals. Hopefully we will get to try the Quito riding experience again someday.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, Quito has many, many interesting sounding museums and art galleries. One that had been recommended in the guide book, and personally, was the Museo de Arte Colonial in Centro Histórico. If you’re interested in religious art and religious influences on colonial history, you will like this museo, especially the upstairs rooms. I was especially impressed by the escritorios (writing desks) on display, so detailed and beautiful. The building, another old but renovated colonial house, is a lovely setting. Downstairs there was an interesting exhibition about the art school that used to be based there ( I think – no English translations were available). And on the day we visited there was no charge.