UPDATE#28 08/08 thru 08/11   

Howdy Everybody,

The adventures of 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 through 08/07/09 have been published on the website.  We continue with the latest edition, which is the 9th in the Series covering our Peru and Ecuador adventures.

 UPDATE 2009 #28  08/08/09 thru 08/11/09

At last update, we had just arrived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.



     I was up early trying to get some information and directions from Pablo, the guy that kind of watches over the Hostal El Portal.  He is a really nice guy but I don’t think he is up on all the points of interest around the city.  Basically, he is at the hostal all night, all day, every day.  The owner offered some help but I was having some difficulty getting the facts straight.  After all, these people don’t do these things this way very often and they don’t get many travelers inquiring about these things.  I was able to glean enough info to get us going and was trying to figure out the rest.

     The Saturday market in Otavalo is regarded as one of the most unique and interesting indigenous markets in South America.  The main activities begin very early in the morning with an animal market, then progresses to a general and textile market zone.  Unfortunately, we missed much of the early activity while trying to get there by public transportation.  We needed to transfer at least three times to different lines and terminals.  It was very confusing trying to figure out the details and took about 3 hours or so to get to the northern city. If you plan on visiting this Saturday market, I recommend that you arrive in Otavalo the day before and plan to get a dawn start.

    The central plaza area had a nice, colonial flair. 


     Most of the surrounding streets were taken up with all kinds of merchandise vendors.  From vegetables to textiles to artisan crafts to indigenous clothing, the variety of products was seemingly endless.  It is very interesting to watch commerce taking place in a manner very different from what we are used to.


     Many of the vendors, especially the women, were dressed in the typical style of these local native people.


     Vibrant colors can be seen most everywhere.


     Roasted whole pigs are a culinary favorite in this area.  This one looked very nicely prepared and properly cooked.


     Numerous large pans of hot oil bubbled constantly as the whole fish were frying.  I seriously doubt that they are using the low cholesterol version of Canola oil. 


     Adjacent to the street vendors, the more established storefronts were open for business too.  It seemed like the focus was more toward the temporary sellers today.


     Although it was a bit difficult to find an indoor restaurant, we did have a nice brunch at the café/restaurant of the Hostal Italiana.


     From a terminal-type parking lot in Otavalo, we needed to take a bus to Terminal Carcelén (the new major terminal located in the far north of Quito).  From there, we took another bus to the Rio Coca terminal where we changed buses to the transit system.  Our most recent Moon guidebook did not provide us with accurate or useful information.  It was very frustrating and confusing.


     In addition to the local buses, there are three major rapid transit lines in Quito.  We took the red Ecovia line to the Casa de Cultura (cultural center).  A free concert was scheduled at 6pm.  The performances featured “Music and Dances from 24 Provinces”.  One very popular performer drew lots of cheers and applause.  He intermixed wonderful ballad songs, that everybody seemed to know, with poetic prose.  Much of it was beyond my linguistic skills but we enjoyed the presentation and his smooth, velvet-toned delivery.


     Several different bands entertained with Ecuadorian and Andean styles of music.


     Various groups of dancers glided across the stage in typically folkloric style and costume.


     This group was especially enjoyable with their instruments and tunes of Andean origin.

     After the concert, we walked to a restaurant near our hostal.  S’Panes menu looked a bit like a Denny’s restaurant, however, the food was just okay.  Whatever, it was open, fast, and close by.  Back at the hostal, I sat on the porch and talked with Pablo, the hostal clerk, about the city and interesting upcoming events for the city’s celebration for their Independence Day.  I gained a lot of information, but much of the exchange was difficult to decipher.



     Judy was able to sleep until 7:30am this morning.  Within walking distance, we had found a café restaurant for breakfast.  They had very good coffee and some menu specials for the Independence Day weekend.  The slices of quiche were quite delicious.


     We hailed a taxi to take us to the famed “Teleférico” (cable car).  Actually, we had to hail several different taxis before we could successfully bargain for a fair price.  The meter should establish the regulation fare, however, many drivers would rather quote high, flat rate prices (sometimes more than double) in hopes that travelers wouldn’t know the difference.  Our hostal was located near to the expensive hotel zone by the Hyatt and Sheraton Hotels; therefore, taxi drivers are often successful in bilking those more affluent tourists and business travelers.

     The mostly uphill taxi ride to the gondola cars was further than I had anticipated.  It would have been a real challenge and much too time consuming to have tried to walk.

     Relatively newly constructed, the Teleférico is becoming a major attraction for local Quiteños, Ecuadorian tourists, and travelers. The Teleférico was built adjacent to the Volcano Pichincha and up to the summit of Cruz Loma. The recreation site includes an amusement park, shopping center, food court, restaurants, handicraft shops, go car track, coffee shops, and even a nightclub.

     The major attraction it is the Teleférico itself, enabling a spectacular view of the city and the surrounding area. On a clear day, one might be able to see more than 14 peaks of the Andes Mountains, sometimes called the “Avenue of the Volcanoes. The cable car commences the climb from about 9,350 feet and reaches almost 13,300 feet MSL on the summit of Cruz Loma.


     Quito is divided into three main sectors; the Old City at the centre, with southern and northern districts to either side. Most of the facilities for travelers are in the northern part, including the airport. Quito's Old City and Historic District is the largest of its kind in the Americas. Having undergone a major restoration and revitalization program in recent years, it is said to have some 40 churches, 17 plazas, and 16 convents and monasteries. It is highly regarded as one of the finest examples of Spanish colonial and Independence era architecture, history, and heritage.


     Fred and Judy at the summit…


     The Teleférico started operations in 2005, offering a spectacular panorama over the city and surrounding mountainous areas.  There are eight cars, each with a capacity of 6 riders.  The ascent takes 8 to 10 minutes traveling from 9,678 feet to13,287 feet above mean sea level.


     Even with all the manmade marvels here, I can’t seem to resist the simple spendor of a beautiful flower…


     Near the base of the Teleférico, an amusement park provides a variety of rides, games, and eating areas.


     As a kid, the bumper cars were my favorite…


     A dual seated cage plummets to the ground at the bungee jump…


     Swing, baby, swing… Up, Over, and Down…


     With helmets and safety straps, the kids were having a great time walking the suspended log…


     We hailed a metered taxi to the nearest station of the transit system.  The Trole line took us the rest of the way into the historic district of the Old City.

     For Ecuadorians, this weekend celebrates one of their most important holidays, Independence Day.  In the next two days, the city will be overflowing with patriotic revelers for this 200th Anniversary.  The country will also inaugurate its newly re-elected President on the historic day.  Throngs of people were already gathering to enjoy the festivities.


     The Colonial architecture and historic buildings in the Old City are magnificent.  This one lines an entire side of the Plaza Grande.


     The delightful central plaza, called Plaza Grande or Plaza de la Independencia, is beautifully designed and maintained.


     Many of the government buildings were open to visitors.  Long lines formed outside with those hoping to see the interior portions.


     The National Cathedral is seen in the background.  An enormous monument dominates the Plaza de la Independencia.  It commemorates the heroes of the August 10, 1809 Independence movement.  On that date, the first cry for independence was given in the Primer Grito de la Independencia.  The initiated movement would free the people from nearly 300 years of Spanish rule.


     Fabulous buildings are everywhere…


     In this colorful building, we ate our lunch at the restaurant, Frutería Monserrat.  The food was excellent.  If you go here, be sure to try the Ensalada de Frutas (Fruit Salad).  As their name might imply, it’s one of their wonderful specialties.


     There are three rapid transit lines in Quito.  This green, electrically powered vehicle runs on the Trole route and is dropping more revelers at the Plaza Grande station in heart of the Old City historical district.


     From the central plaza, we walked up the steep hill leading to the Basilica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow).  With the high altitude of this city, it was a strenuous climb.


     Even though the first stone was laid on July 10th, 1892, it remains technically "unfinished." Local legend purports that when the Basílica is completed, the end of the world will come.


     The Basilica features arched trusses and numerous gargoyles depicting animals and birds that may be found in Ecuador.


     A prominent hill, called Cerro El Panecillo, because of its resemblence to a small loaf of bread, rises more than 650 feet above the surrounding terrain south of Old Town Quito. With its peak almost 9900 feet above sea level, it is a focal point just south of the Old City center.  According to a Jesuit historian, there was a temple from which the Inca people worshiped the sun. Local legend says that this temple was destroyed by the Spanish conquistadores.

     The unique and artistically created Virgen del Panecillo statue is 148 ft. tall and is an enlarged representation of Bernardo de Legarda's “La Virgen de Quito” sculpture that is displayed on the altar of the San Francisco church. The statue is made up of some 7,000 pieces of aluminum and it is renowned as one of the greatest aluminum sculptures in the world. A bronze placard indicates that the monument represents the Madonna as the “Woman of the Apocolypse” as referenced in the Christian Bible (Book of Revelations).


     This is something you can’t do in many places.  You can have the opportunity to walk a narrow plank across the upper portion of the sanctuary’s arched roof, climb some rickety ladders and stairs, and enter the bell tower.


     For the route back down, we took a different street.  Lined with more beautiful buildings, the walk was much less strenuous.


     A great parade of people in historical dress was wonderful.  Just look at the traditional pride and gleeful smiles that grace these young people.


     Back at the Plaza de la Independencia (Plaza Grande), the setting sun gave silhouette to the Monument to the Heroes and the Cathedral in the background.


     Like kids around the world, this little Ecuadorian girl couldn’t resist playing in the dirt.


     On a stage set at the Cathedral, the National Symphony Orchestra played a wonderful concert for all to enjoy.  Several famous Ecuadorian singing stars added to the evening performance.  An impressive light and sound system amplified the audio and visual effects.  In several places in the plaza, huge screens provided close-up viewing.


       As esthetic lighting illuminated the architectural features, the orchestra played on…


     The massive crowds meandered around the Old City streets enjoying the numerous entertainment stages scattered throughout the area.


     Just look at those beautiful eyes…


     Dancers and storytellers fascinated large crowds of smiling and laughing Ecuadorians…


     At Plaza Teatro (Theatre Plaza)…


     This story tells of a crazy cow (Vaca Loca) that falls in love with a peasant man.  The comedy act delighted everyone and drew lots of cheers and laughter.


     For dinner, we visited El Fornace (The Furnace) restaurant/pizzeria.  In addition to their pizza and calzones, they serve some of the best ice cream dishes that you could imagine.


     When the time came to leave the Old City for the return to our hostal, we had a difficult time finding transportation.  With so many people needing a way out, we thought is strange that the main transit line for that route had already shut down for the night by 9pm.  After walking to a major thoroughfare, we tried to hail a taxi, but they were all full.  We tried to find a bus, but they were all going somewhere else.  I decided that we should walk somewhere else, away from the central area, in hopes of finding a taxi.  With a little hope and some very good luck, we walked in just the right direction and came upon a terminal stop for the Ecovia transit line.  After a relatively short wait in line, we hopped aboard the “Red Line” that would take us to the general area of our hostal.  From the “Parada Casa Cultura” (transit stop), we had only a 20-minute walk to El Portal.  We were very tired and chilly.  At midnight, it was a joy and honor to be the one to give Judy the first kiss of her birthday.




     Everyone else was claiming that all the festivities were for the Bi-Centennial and today’s inauguration of the President of Ecuador.  I am solid in my belief that everything was, primarily, in special celebration of Judy’s birthday and that, perhaps, all of those other celebrations were just mere coincidences.  What do you think?

     It was still quite early when we left the Hostal El Portal and walked about on the adjacent streets.


     Today, my thoughts encompassed a plan to make everything very special for Judy's birthday.  The morning started with a wonderfully delicious coffee, juice, and mushroom quiche breakfast at the Coffee Tree Restaurant.


     We walked to the closest stop for the Trole transit line, taking it to the North Terminus.  I had to ask a lot of questions to find the next connection, which was finally found several blocks from there.


     We boarded a MetroBus and headed for the “Mitad del Mundo” (Middle of the World).  A 100-foot tall monument marks the point where the equator passes through the middle of the earth.  It was this place on the equator that provided the origin of the country’s name, Ecuador.


     A line drawn down from the center of the east-facing stairway and across the plaza delineates the location of the equator.


     From atop the monument, the view of the main walk of statues and museum buildings is impressive.


     The pyramidal monument  is topped by a 15-foot diameter, 10,000 pound globe.  Each side of the building structure faces one of the cardinal directions; North, East, South, and West.


     A museum inside the monument displays the diversity of indigenous Ecuadorian cultures and includes items of typical clothing, descriptions of the various ethnic groups, and offers explanations of their different lifestyles.


     The grounds are artistically landscaped with statues, flowers, plants, shrubs, and fountains.


     The very interesting Insectarium displays a large number of both live and display-mounted insects and crawly creatures that typically inhabit the country of Ecuador.


     Attempting to replicate a small Colonial Spanish town, an area called "Ciudad Mitad del Mundo" (Middle of the World City) has a collection of shops, restaurants, and various facilities to serve the thousands of visitors that come here.  On a metal domed entertainment stage, a popular Ecuadorian band group was rousing the audience to dance and sing along.


     So far, I think we’ve been successful in making this a very special day.  What could be more unique and unusual than celebrating your birthday straddling both the northern and southern hemispheres?



     The way back to the city turned out to be an interesting challenge.  We chose to take the MetroBus line for the return inbound.  The bus dropped us off in the middle of nowhere.  Despite a bit of confusion from the guidebook, we were able to figure out a way back to the Trole line at the Ejido stopping point.  Guess what?  The station and line were temporarily closed because of the Presidential Inauguration events being held downtown.  We walked quite an additional distance around the area park to the Ecovia transit line for continuing transportation to the Old City zone.

    After spending a while in the historic district and having lunch, we were able to take the Trole transit line further south to the El Recreo terminal.  There, we had to change to another bus to reach the newly opened, southern bus terminal, Terminal Quicumbe.  The guidebook was of no help and attempts to get local directions resulted in erroneous responses because of the unusual holiday changes.  With some difficulty, tempered by a little bit of street savvy, we managed to figure out how to get there to where all major, southbound intercity bus companies depart.  Our purpose here was to gather info and schedules for our planned departure from Quito tomorrow morning.

     With a loose plan formulating, we had no problems making the change connection at El Recreo and continuing on to the La Mariscal transit stop on the Trole line.

     For her birthday dinner, Judy asked to return to the Texas Ranch Restaurant for a Filet Mignon steak dinner.  Once again, we had great service and a great meal.  From there, we walked over to a popular coffee shop, called “The Magic Bean”, for coffee and her birthday dessert. Happy Birthday, Babe, Happy Birthday!

     It was late, we were tuckered out, and, for the sake of safety, we took a taxi back to the Hostal El Portal.  Our friendly and dependable clerk, Pablo, was there to unlock the doors and let us in.  Born in Columbia, but now living in Quito, his unusual style of clothing represents his religious beliefs.

     I am pleased that I was also the one privileged to give Judy that important last kiss of her special birthday celebration.



     Following a 6am alarm, we walked to the Coffee Tree café 30 minutes later.  Although our quick breakfast was good, the prices had risen significantly without the holiday specials.  We picked up our travel bags and checked out of the Hostal El Portal.


      I had considered taking a taxi to the south terminal.  Pablo urged us to use the local knowledge and experience we had learned yesterday to take the public transit system and to save a lot of money.  We walked to Ejido station on the Trole transit line.  A change at El Recreo was needed to continue on to the Terminal Terrestre (land terminal) called Terminal Quicumbe.  Instead of a $20 taxi fare, our transit fare was 25 cents each.

     Arriving at 8:15am, we were able to get tickets for an 8:30am departure on Centinela de Oriente bus lines. 


     Passing Latacunga at 10am and Ambato at 10:45am, we arrived at our destination, the city of Baños, at 11:40am.  While Judy watched our bags from a seat in the garden setting of Plaza Central, I went off in search of accommodations.  After looking at several different places, I settled on the Hostal Grand Rio.  It took some bargaining, but I was able to get a favorable rate in the very nice hostal for only $14 per night.

     We walked all around the small town center area and had lunch at the Mercedes Café restaurant.  The Cathedral near the Plaza Principal has an unusual, black stone construction.  The Basilica of the Virgin of the Holy Water, Nuestra Señora del Agua Santa, is a sacred place of pilgrimage for those who come to give thanks to the Holy Virgin for her many miracles and to ask for her special blessings. Built in neo-gothic architectural styling, the church was constructed from local volcanic rock in the early 1900’s.


     This is a very popular tourist town that caters mainly to Ecuadorians, but pleasantly entertains travelers from all points of the globe.  We thought this tourist train vehicle to be one of the most unusual of its type that we’ve ever seen.  It pulls a train of several passenger gondolas behind it.


     La Cascada de La Virgen del Agua Santa (waterfall) spews its waters down the steep cliff.


     Water from the falls is redirected into these community clothes washing basins.  Local villagers and townspeople gather here to launder their clothes as they have done for many decades.


    Baños, as its name implies, is mostly renowned and famous for the natural, mineral-rich Aguas Termales (thermal waters).  The building below the falls houses the outdoor thermal pools and related facilities.  Although there are several other pool centers in the town, this one seems to be the favorite for its really hot, mineral water.


     A very nice grocery store, 9:9, supplied the groceries for our dinner.  In the hostal’s guest kitchen, I prepared an excellent meal of Spaghetti Bolognese.  Accented with a bottle of flavorful red wine, we couldn’t have enjoyed our evening more.

     The weather today had been cool and breezy with intermittent misty conditions.  Overnight, a light rain sprinkled down on the sleepy town.





       We sincerely hope that you will review the previous years of compilations to give context to the current editions.  Please let us know if you have any special suggestions and thoughts.

     REMEMBER:  The website is now fully active and you can visit it at any time.  You can also review any of the previous logs from the years 2006, 2007, or 2008 and learn more about the crew and their many adventures.  Enjoy.


   You may contact us via email anytime.

Thanks for allowing us to share our life and adventures with you.

Lotsa Luv,

Fred Reed and Judy Law




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